I have not been to many web design conferences. And still I'm pretty sure they won't get much more impressive than this. I heard some criticism before going. That dConstruct was not very hands-on and you didn't learn much that could be applied directly. That might be true. It is not so much for the hands than for the mind.
First of all, the speakers were extremely talented and professional. Even if you didn't care about the theme of the conference - which this year was "Design and creativity" - you could take a lot away from the talks, many insights as well as amusing anecdotes from fields as varied as typography, filming and musical improvisation. It was a joy to listen and watch the speakers on the stage.
So what about the talks? There were nine of them, each one half an hour long, stretched out over a day.
And there was Jeremy Keith speaking the opening and closing remarks. At the start of the conference he announced that Clearleft, the agency he works for, are hiring a UX person. So if you fancy living in Brighton and are an excellent UX person give it a go! He also announced that the twitter hashtag for the conference was #sausagebap and you will find some tweets under that.
I was going to write about each talk in detail, but I realize I just don't have the time for it, and if I don't write now, I never will. So I will try to do some twitter-style summaries of them. But if you really want a comprehensive overview, the best is to turn to (in this case hand-drawn!) infographics, as we learned at the conference. Check out evalottchen's sketches.
Marty Neumeier - The Designful company:
Be radically different - tell if, apart from that, you are good, from the first reactions to a product. If good, it won't do well to start with, but will pick up soon!
Brendan Dawes - Boil, Simmer, Reduce
A design is best when you can't take anything away anymore. But before that, collect, develop and play, play, play!
David McCandless - Information is beautiful
Graphics make information more accessible. But always has to be in context. US spend most on defence, but not per person! Porridge is most popular cereal, but beaten by miles by toast.
Samantha Warren - The Power and Beauty of Typography
Posters differ from websites. Much colour - and no Georgia! Typefaces are like shoes for your website, if well chosen they take you a long way.
John Gruber - The Auteur theory of design
Auteur is different from author - not restricted to writing; the auteur is making. The quality of a product approaches the quality that the person in charge is capable of recognizing.
Hannah Donovan - Jam Session - What Improvisation can teach us about design
Improvisation is: spontaneous - performing - cooperation - trading parts. You lose yourself in it. Good design is like that
James Bridle - The Value of Ruins
Wow, impressive recount of history. Introducing wiki-race (how many links from random to target page) The edits of wiki page on Iraq war fill several large volumes of books.
Tom Coates - Everything the network touches
Coates also starts with history, Darius's great network of roads. Talk is one of the highlights apparently, but Mrs Durrani drifts off to the land of nod more than once, and cannot report any more. Shame!
Merlin Mann - Kerning, Orgasms & Those Goddamned Japanese Toothpicks
(Can explain the title no better than before) Funny talk and much advice. People outside web community don't understand what you are doing (yes!). Good advice often hurts. Growth hurts.
Merlin Mann talked in an accent that I could mostly understand, and there were loads of times when I wholeheartedly aggreed with what he was saying, but than he got to the point, everybody laughed - and I hadn't understood it. - Although it seems I was not the only one. Apart from this one talk I had no trouble understanding anybody, and as I said they were all great to listen and watch. John Gruber told some really interesting things about Kubrick films.
As somebody else remarked, talk about user experience was notably absent from this conference (except opening remarks by Keith), more power was placed in the hands of the designer again. Ford was quoted twice ("If I had asked people what they want, they would have said faster horses"). It was interesting in that respect though that the talk about the "auteur theory" in which one man informs the whole project was followed by a talk about improvisation and collaboration among more or less equal partners. Unless I missed something. Maybe different cases call for different approaches?
In any case it was great being there!