7 min read

Generate Conference 2013 – Recap

Generate Conference gave you the choice to choose which speakers you wanted to see, enabling you to make the most out of the speakers on show. This is the first conference I had been to which operated like this, and in my personal opinion it worked really well. Luckily none of the speakers that I wanted to see conflicted, so it turned out to be a great day.

Starting off the conference was Oliver Reichenstein, who is the main man behind Information Architects. He gave an interesting talk on how we as web designers and humans, are messy. Stating that we should make informed decisions to structure our websites and content, to prevent us adding to this ever expanding mess.

We then headed over to see Ian Wharton, a creative director from the great AKQA. His talk gave us a small insight into the AKQA way of doing things, and some of the values which make them a truly great design firm. Ian spoke about ideals such as creating meaningful ideas that endure, content that has to be useful, usable and delightful and making sure that any concept or idea is relevant to the client and what they do. He also talked about investing in great talent, to ensure both clients and staff are happy and producing or receiving well thought out work.

After that insightful talk, we then moved onto see Elizabeth McGuane, the director of content strategy at FleishmanHillard. As a content strategist her talk was primarily based towards how well structured content before the design phase can help boost productivity, and also create a greater end result. Personally this is something I’ve been working on as an upcoming designer, so this talk really reached out to me.

Following on from Elizabeth was John McFaul, who is a freelance designer, consultant and brand ambassador. John is also the founder of McFaul Studio, a multi discipline design studio situated on England’s South Coast. John’s talk focused on bringing personal passions into your own working life, and finding a healthy balance between the two. He referred to this as “life is like riding a bicycle”; where you must find balance in order to keep on moving. I thoroughly agree with this metaphor, as my personal life directly correlates to my working life. Whether it’s drawing inspiration from daily events, or finding personal solutions that can be implemented into how I problem solve when designing. All in all this was a great speech, and it’s comforting knowing that no matter where you are in the industry, life is not always grand.

Next on the agenda was Syd Lawrence, a speaker that I was unfamiliar with. Syd is the co-founder of We Make Awesome Sh.It, a developer advocate at Twilio and an all-round nice guy. Syd’s talk was titled ‘Have fun for profit’ and addressed some of the values he likes to hold within his business. Syd is all for personal development in the work, stating that having time to work on non-work related projects is key for innovation and development. For example, taking half a day to learn something new, try out new programs, or simply dive into something completely foreign to you. I thoroughly agree with this as sometimes you can get stuck in a rut, where the only techniques used are ones that are relate to your current project.

Following on from Syd, was Aardman’s senior designer Gavin Strange. Gavin gave an energetic talk on what he does at Aardman, and also other projects he works on outside of work. One thing I liked about his talk was that he admitted he wasn’t the best of designers in his early career, but personal development has given him the chance to be working where he is today. Gavin and I share interests in many things such as designer toys, a passion for urban design, an involvement in the skateboarding/bike scene, and originating from Leicester! He runs Fixed N Chips, a bike race/social activity focusing on the passion for riding, design and a tight knit community. It was great to hear from someone working in the same industry with similar interests, and it was an inspiring talk.

Next up was the great Mike Kus. Mike is a Graphic Designer/Illustrator who converted over to Web/UI design. Ever since I gained an interest in Digital Design, I have looked up to Mike Kus. His speech ran us briefly through the Mixd website design, which personally I love. Informing us on some of the decisions that were made in the design process, and how he created a design that perfectly matched the principles of Mixd. Mike also covered how building websites should be purposeful and tell stories communicating ideas with personality, to make the user feel involved, and want more. He then ran us through his Carsonified design, which I have always admired. It was great hearing from Mike, and his talk has increased my admiration for this work.

Following Mike, we moved on to two members from the great design house Fi. Irene Pereyra, who’s the global director of UX and also Anton Repponen, the global Creative Director of Fi. Their talk ran us through an in depth, behind the scenes look at the creation of the USA Today website they produced. Their talk covered how the project started, right through to the end result. It was great to see some of the processes that went on at the great Fi, and it was really insightful to hear about some of the problems and solutions that arose on such a large scale project. The website is truly a piece of art, and inspired me to carry on trying to progress myself to work at that level.

Up next was Jonty Sharples, who is the Design Director at Albion. His talk was named ‘Arrogance and confidence within design’, in which he spoke strongly against arrogance within design. Designers shouldn’t get complacent and produce lazy work; we should take responsibility for, and make sure everything is perfect down to the last detail. We should look at how we can make our next project as great as we possibly can, not just off the back of the outcome of a previous project. Also, function should be as important as design, because at the end of the day functionality is key. All in all a great talk, very inspiring.

Wrapping things up was Mark Boulton, a multi-talented designer, who founded Mark Boulton Design. He spoke about their process when working on the Cern website. Cern are a European Organization for Nuclear Research, currently working on the Large Hadron Collider. Mark outlined how they iterated the design process to keep things nice and simple.

All in all Generate Conference was a great day, and I will definitely be returning! Many thanks to Adtrak for sending us down.


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