(This article was originally published in the Belfast Telegraph on 11 Nov 2010.)
I had the honour and privilege to be present at yesterday’s Build conference, an annual (web) design conference hosted in Belfast’s Waterfront venue. Organised by local Northern Irish talent Andy McMillan, Build is one of those conferences that provides nourishment for the design-geek’s soul: cool schwag, great talks, and more Mac logos than I was comfortable with. It even boasted a caffeine monitor that kept track of the amount of caffeinated beverages consumed by conference delegates.
From Click To Tap – Keegan Jones & Tim Van Damme
The first talk was by Keegan Jones and Tim Van Damme who both look and talk like stereotypical web geeks. They spoke about design for mobile, specifically mobile apps, and gave some great tips on how to make the best use of limited screen real-estate and what to keep in mind when you embark on your mobile web/app journey.
More Perfect Typography – Tim Brown
This presentation by soft-spoken – but very intense – Tim Brown appeared to be one of those typical design obsessive things, but sometime halfway through the talk it suddenly clicked for me. Tim Brown makes the case that web design should start with a choice of type, as this not only colours the content (try reading a piece of text in Times New Roman, and then in Comic Sans, and see how different you interpret it) but can also help you scale your entire design. By using your chosen font’s optimal size as a starting point and then scaling up with the use of for example the Golden Ratio (1:1.618) you can create a design that somehow fits well and feels right.
The Shape Of Design – Frank Chimero
Where the first talk was done by typical web geeks, Frank Chimero is a typical design geek – tweed jacket, hip tie, and Apple-addicted. His talk was a somewhat rambling affair about the role of a designer and what the perceived and real added value of design is. It all boiled down to that wearing old mantra that we have to be authentic and real and somehow try to ‘tell stories’, whatever that means. Don’t get me wrong, it was an entertaining talk, just not particularly innovative or insightful.
Adding By Leaving Out – Liz Danzico
I didn’t take a lot of notes during this talk which is very appropriate, as Liz Danzico talked about the power of omission. Liz spoke about how silence can have a lot of meaning and how white space is an active element of a design instead of a passive background. While interesting and thought-provoking, the talk lacked concrete advice – which was probably intentional, as Liz likely meant to inspire rather than lecture.
Conquer The Blank Canvas – Meagan Fisher
Meagan Fisher, a self-proclaimed owl-obsessive, laid out her four-step design process in this talk. She seemed a bit nervous on stage (and who wouldn’t be, being stared at by 300+ geeks and nerds) but she really didn’t have any reason to as her talk was probably the most fascinating and insightful one – for me at least. Not only did she gives us a great insight in to how she manages her design process and deals with each facet, her slides were also the most visually astounding. This talk delivered a double-whammy, as Meagan’s design process gave the audience very useful tips and insights and her slides served as a rich source of design inspiration as well.
Due to other obligations I missed the last talk of the day which was Dan Cederholm talking about handcrafted CSS, but as Dan’s reputation precedes him I have no doubt that it was a superb talk.
While these talks form the core of the Build conference, they only take up one day of what is an elaborate and highly entertaining week full of activities including workshops, a pub quiz, lectures, and even a film showing at Queen’s Film Theatre.
All in all I can say that Build is a conference every self-respecting (web) designer should try to attend. Some speakers have already been confirmed for the 2011 edition, and if you are at all involved in web design I highly recommend you try to be there.