Speaking at conferences has been one of the best things that I’ve done over the past decade plus some. Not just the standing on stage doing the talking part, and the traveling to fabulous places (and Scarborough) part, but the coming up with stories to tell and lessons to teach part too.
I gave a new talk on designing inspired style guides last week at Design Exchange Nottingham. It was a really good night, a fabulous audience which was double their normal attendance and I also got the chance to sink a few drinks with my old friend Harry. It’s very likely that I won’t give this talk again in Europe this year, and I wanted to share it with more people, so I’ve written a transcript to accompany the slides.
NB: This page contains 8Mb of images. I’ve optimised them as much as possible, but you probably don’t want to load this page using your mobile data plan.
Flights are booked and visas are in hand* and I’m getting very excited, because in only a few weeks, Sue and I are heading back to Australia to join Espen, Jina and Una, as well as our friends in Perth at the very first Mixin conference.
Do you know where you were or what you were doing exactly ten years ago (next week?) I do. I was speaking at my first, in fact the first Web Directions conference in Sydney, Australia. (I gave a talk called ‘Creating Inspired Design’ and there’s audio of it if you’re interested in listening.)
As I mentioned last week, I’ve written a new talk to help me cope with my obsession with making layouts that are different from what we mostly see on the web these days. It’s called ‘Art Directing the Web’ because in the talk I make the point that we should make different layouts not just for difference sake, but to better communicate the meaning of our content and to tell better stories.
I’ve joked before that unless a conference line-up includes Harry Roberts and Sara Soueidan it’s a Code Of Conduct violation. Or something like that. So oh how I laughed when earlier this year I was asked to join them on stage at Frontend Conf in Zurich, Switzerland.
When we were in Australia earlier this year, we stopped in Sydney to speak at John Allsopp’s Respond Conference and to teach a workshop. A few weeks before those events, John emailed me:
The folks at SydCSS are fantastic supporters of our events, and last year we did a couple of shared events with them. I’ve dobbed you and I to do a short presentation (it will be the night of Respond.)
I’ve always enjoyed attending the Shropgeek (R)Evolution events in the past and been slightly jealous of the people that Kirsty’s asked to speak. This year, I couldn’t be happier that she’s asked me to do the final talk of the final (R)Evolution conference on September 25th in beautiful Shrewsbury.
For someone who hasn’t travelled or done much conference speaking for the last two years, this past three weeks have been pretty busy with both. I’ve spoken at three conferences and hosted two workshops and I enjoyed every one.
I spent last Friday in Brighton attending the tenth, but my first dConstruct. It was a fabulous conference, in an elegant venue, thoughtfully organised by Clearleft and masterfully presented by Jeremy Keith. Every talk was excellent in different ways and all of them had been brilliantly curated by Jeremy, following, loosely in some cases, the theme of ‘Living With The Network.’ I’m writing a new talk and dConstruct was exactly the inspiration I needed.
Last week I came back from a lovely, if too short, trip to the American South that included me giving a talk in Atlanta. It felt fabulous to be back on An Event Apart’s stage and I’m humbled by every invitation. I gave a new talk, ‘A Modern Designer’s Canvas’ about finding your medium, not becoming intoxicated by your tools or a process and following your own, not someone else’s path. I gave it without a supporting Keynote slide deck.
I can’t quite believe I just wrote that, I’m pinching myself to make sure it’s still true. And it is. Next February, we’ll be heading out to Georgia again where I’m speaking once again at An Event Apart in Atlanta.
Today I’m over in Oslo, Norway, giving a talk at Accessibility Day 2013 (Google translated link). My topic is “Designing an atmosphere of accessibility” and I cover how I think focussing on content first as part of responsive design, and in particular working on design ‘atmosphere’ (typography, colour and texture) helps better, more accessible design.
It was lovely to hear Laura Kalbag talk about accessibility at Revolution in Shrewsbury a week or more ago. Especially as I’ll be doing the same in Oslo in a couple of weeks. I’m returning to conference speaking at Accessibility Day 2013 (Google translated link) run by those fine people at Northern Beat. My topic is “Designing an atmosphere of accessibility” and I’ll cover how I think focussing on content first as part of responsive design, and in particular working on design ‘atmosphere’ (typography, colour and texture) helps accessible design.
Then the following day (gulp) I’ll be in Scarborough at #TIDE 2013. I’m looking forward to this event enormously as I finally get to meet my CSS hero Harry Roberts and see a few old friends there too. I’ll be talking about “How to call your client an idiot without getting fired” (no guarantees) which is a lot more serious than it sounds as it’s all about encouraging better client participation in design projects. I’ve given this talk once before and this time, like the last, there’ll be no slides, just me.
It’s been a while and I’m justifiably nervous about both talks for different reasons, but it’ll feel good to be back.
A couple of months ago, Smashing Magazine’s Vitaly Friedman, Marc Thiele and I were talking over email when he asked if I’d fill an open speaking slot at Smashing Conference. I was already hosting two ‘Fashionably Flexible Responsive Design’ workshops there, so I hesitated because, as you might remember, I’m cutting down the number of conferences I speak at and I’d planned to speak at only An Event Apart in Austin this year.
I’ve just come home from a ten hot days in Texas, where I had the honour, again, of speaking at An Event Apart alongside some of the best speakers in the industry. I enjoyed the trip, and especially the conference, enormously.
I’ve spoken at conferences regularly since my first time (again alongside Jeremy and Jeffrey) at @media 2005. (I’d never have guessed then that we’d still be friends, still doing this thing, all these years later.) But in the last couple of years I started to enjoy speaking less and emotional risk/reward ratio that goes with public speaking tipped too much toward risk. So I decided to not speak at all in 2012. That is until Jeffrey persuaded me to speak in Austin.
I’m glad I went. Every An Event Apart conference feels special, but at this one the (unplanned) recurring themes were spooky. My talk was about designing, design process and particularly how our conventional design tools — drawing tools like Fireworks and Photoshop — are not equipped for designing today’s web. They’re ‘Bringing a knife to a gunfight!’ From the website:
In the mid-nineties, when designers started making their mark on the web, they did it with software tools and processes that they’d brought with them from print. But the web’s a different place now than it was ten, five, even two years ago; the tools and processes we’ve relied on for years are no longer capable of properly designing today’s flexible, responsive web. In this session, we’ll find new ways to design that better serve the needs of today’s responsive web, and investigate better, alternative tools and approaches to design. We’ll learn too how new tools and approaches can improve communication between designers and developers and our clients.
I hear that the talk was well received and I had a great time giving it. In fact, it’s definitely helped me to get my speaking mojo working again.