So, last week myself, Gregg and Thom travelled up to the Digital Thinkers Conference for Awwwards in London.
For those of you who are not aware of Awwwards, it’s a website which showcases and recognizes talent from the best web designers, developers and agencies in the world. We check this daily for inspiration and to see what is happening within the webby world.
The Digital Thinkers Conference was a 2 day event within an amazing venue ‘The Grand Connaught Rooms’, oh and not to mention there was an after party (which we struggled to find even with the help of Google Maps) at the Old Library, Guidhall.
There were 20 talks from some of the worlds most inspirational UX, UI, Virtual Reality, wearable and semiotics designer and developers, so some pretty sick things we were going to learn and see.
When we arrived we were greeted with a welcome pack which included the Awwwards annual book of the best websites around the world. It was great to see ‘Gregg’ our Creative Director with his happy face within the Jury section (he is a judge for Awwwards) as well as seeing ‘Yoyo’ nominated for site of the day last year.
After having breakfast and a few cups of coffee we made our way into the main room ready for our talks. Now I am not going to talk about all 20 speakers because we could be here for a while and it probably makes more sense to talk about the ones that inspired and taught us a few things. If you are interested in seeing everybody who spoke at the event then check it out.
On our first day we really enjoyed the second speaker Andrew Herzog, who was a Designer & Thinker at Google Creative Lab. His talk was called ‘How to keep an idiot busy’ and was not only inspiring but it also made everyone a little jealous of his day job. While working for Google, Andrew spoke about how he led the creative labs team and was briefed to create something new for the Google lobby in their New York offices. Andrew showed us this amazing wall made out of 5880 light-up arcade buttons.
People can come into the lobby and tap on any pixel (arcade button) and interact with it just like a touch screen.
Andrew also spoke about creating a job application idea for people wanting to join the Google Creative Lab program. The team came up with a website which acted as a cover letter to your application and could show what skill you could use with shapes, a text bar and white background. Applicants could design it, code it or even break it. We thought this was a fantastic and creative idea to get people to apply for a job to show off their creative skills. Why not have a play around with it yourself.
Our next talk was from Andre Jay Meissner who works for the Adobe XD team. Andre’s talk started off by showing his carpentry skills and how he had to use many different tools to get the result that he wanted. Our first thoughts were 'what is this guy going on about' and 'how does this relate to the digital world'. Then it finally made sense.
Andre then spoke about the frustrations of how in our everyday design lives we have to keep changing between different programmes such as photoshop for designs, then principle for interactions. He then gave us a demo of Adobe XD (a new programme by Adobe) which allows designers and creatives to do everything in one place. Although in a Beta stage we think this could end up being the tool we will all use as it has been created as a digital tool right from the beginning. We have been trying the tutorials in house and are excited to see how this progresses.
As it was getting close to lunch we were starting to feel a little hungry and restless. This soon changed when Mr Bingo came to the stage. Mr Bingo is an illustrator, artist and speaker and we are all fans of his work here at Yoyo. Mr Bingo's talk ‘How to get the public to fund your daft ideas’ was about how he wanted to create his own book and how he did this using Kickstarter.
Now Mr Bingo didn’t just do this in the same standard way as many people do on Kickstarter. He created a rap video and a reward like ‘#gettingshitfacedonatrain’ which meant 5 groups of 4 would go on a 2 hour train journey and get absolutely pissed with him. This was very random and unique but it worked. His talk also showed his love for collecting postcards, how only ugly people win the lottery and how he no longer does client work and now labels himself as an artist. It was one of the funniest talks we have ever seen and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone at the conference.
Our other favourite talk of the day was ‘Don’t scale up your team, level it up!’ by Benoit Rondeux at EPIC agency. Benoit spoke about the importance of creating the best out of your team and ensuring they have the best skills rather than employing more people. He also spoke about collaboration within the agency and doing this not only with client work but also internal workshops.
This is something we found very interesting as it gets us all being creative and pushing the limits within digital design. This is something that we will be doing more of this year at Yoyo. Before we knew it our first day had ended, so we decided to end the evening by having for a few drinks around London and reflecting on what we learnt.
8:30 the next morning we were ready for another day of inspirational talks (and of course that after party in the evening).
Adrian Zumbrunnen was our first speaker of the day and talking about the technical and social challenges of conversational design. Adrian also worked for Google and so immediately we were interested in what he had to say. Adrian spoke about how we should change forms as users do not want to fill these in. He told us how it is easier to get user's information by filling out one email address field.
A great way to do this is by using bots. Adrian showed us a demo of his website where users interact with a bot, which gave questions and answers in a very human manner and also gave the user everything they needed quickly and easily for a better user experience. Check it out for yourself.
Our next speaker was Paul Boag whose talk was about ‘The User Experience Revolution’. Paul’s talk was very interesting and what really grabbed our attention were the different ways to work better and smarter with your clients to get a great user experience with every project. A great example was getting the project team (clients included) to sit together and list out all the things they would like on the page. Then use a point scoring system to help prioritise the content and if at the end you have used all of your points, then there is your content.
Paul also spoke about the importance of testing regularly especially with customers so everybody gets a real understanding of what customers want and not what you think is correct.
The last speaker of the conference was Seb Lester with his interesting title ‘Peace, Hellfire & Outer Space’. For those of you who don’t know Seb, he is an amazing type designer and calligrapher. His talk started off very random with a video of his pet rabbit but with Seb’s great sense of humour it worked perfectly.
Seb showed us a few videos and images of his amazing calligraphy and type work and jokingly told us how he did not imagine some of the typefaces that he created to be used in things like fishing magazines. Check out this amazing video of Seb’s calligraphy skills.
He also told us a funny story of how he got to work with NASA and how he needed to ask a friend about pricing for logo usage within space.
It was a hilarious end to a fantastic conference. The final part was a prize giving ceremony for some of the best websites of 2016. Resn.co.nz won the site of the year and we all agreed they deserved it, it’s a fantastic site.
To end the event we went on to the after party which everyone was looking forward to (especially Thom as it was a 3 hour open bar). It’s great to see and meet others in the same industry, share inspiration and ideas and of course, enjoy a few celebratory drinks.
Roll on the next one!