Smashing Magazine is a recognised magazine that connects three areas perfectly: UX, graphic design and front-end development. Would the conference organised by the magazine do the same?
I wanted to find out for myself, so I went to Oxford, England, for the 2014 Smashing Conference.
Thus I experienced two “firsts” in my life: my first conference in the UK and my first conference organized by Smashing Magazine. I had positive expectations leading up to my trip. My friends had told me excellent things about the previous (2013) Smashing Conference held in Freiburg, Germany.
The mashup of themes – found on the border that lies between coding and designing – was the conference’s strongest point. Two cups of front-end coding, a drop of psychology, an assortment of case studies, a big chunk of mobile thinking, and a pinch of design: Voilà, Smashing Conference 2014!
Workshop / Monday
But what to do? After two hours of wrestling with the list of conference workshops, I chose “Designing For Touch”, with Josh Clark.
I never looked back. The seven hours with Josh were informative, inspiring and extremely funny. Large amounts of data and plenty of fruitful collaboration in small groups not only provided me a suitcase full of information about touch devices but gave me so much more as well. If you want the same, check out Smashing Magazine’s book, The Mobile Book (Chapter 8 – “Design for Touch” by Josh Clark).
Day One / Tuesday
An amazing start – a cool laser show! (Where could they go after that?!)
Let’s focus on the presentations. Addy Osmani started things off with a talk about building a web by using components one can find – everywhere! He was followed by Lou Verou, who demonstrated how to arrange and manage color in CSS stylesheets.
Joe Leech blew the crowd’s mind with the third presentation, Psychology and the perfect design. In impeccable fashion, @mrjoe (as he call himself on twitter) demonstrated the best way to build mental models of how the world works and to apply the models to new situations. After Mr. Leech’s presentation, I will remember two pieces of simple, clever, very useful advice: 1) Match the mental model and 2) Evoke emotion. Been mulling this over ever since!
More in his book Psychology for Designers
Josh Clark served up a second tasty dish with his talk Mind the gap: Designing in the space between devices. Once again, Josh presented a well-prepared topic with numerous examples. Everything was dressed in a gorgeous motif, which gave us sense of wholeness.
Josh’s presentation: Mind The Gap (PDF)
Only two other presentations given that day are worth mentioning: Fabio Carneiro’s guidance about email marketing and Paul Boag’s manifesto that encouraged us to challenge the organisations where we work.
Guy Podjarny and Dave Rupert gave talks that were (imho) a bit subpar for this kind of conference.
Day two / Wednesday
A New Day: New presentations and new experiences. The presentations began with the Mystery Speaker, Jon Hicks, who discussed icon process design. Clear and concise information about the smallest “graphics” found on the Web.
Jon’s presentation: Icon Design Process (PDF)
As with Tuesday, Wednesday’s talks varied thematically and qualitatively. Yet another mind-blower, Responsive Web Typography, as presented by Marko Dugonjić. Ironically, Marko had substituted for the missing-in-action Peter Smart. In this case, I feel that the Smashing Conference coach made a great decision.
Marko’s presentation: Responsive Web Typography
Nathan Ford presented an interesting approach of how to build fluid layouts based on content (not just on a grid). I only missed one presentation, Leveling up with flexbox, presented by Zoe Mickley Gillenwater. Rumor has it that the presentation was very good. Two other presentations get the grade of “okay”: Wilson Page’s description of component approach, as well as Tyler Mincey’s case study of product development at Apple.
Once again, two of Wednesday’s talks were (as far as I’m concerned) poor: Scott Kellum’s presentation and Andrew Clarke’s closing speech.
Amazing end – again a cool laser show!
From a logistics point of view, Smashing Conference was overall excellent. I loved the venue – the Town Hall in Oxford, England. Prior to the conference, organisers did a good job of preparing the necessary information for attendees.
The quality levels for presentations varied across topics.
I can point out only two elements where improvement is needed. First: the one place you would expect great wifi would be a tech conference. This was not the case :) : I experienced some major problems with the wifi that was provided for attendees. The other factor that could do with some improvement were the additional events. This included the party they threw for attendees, as well as the “Jam Session” that was hosted by some local folks.
In summary: I strongly recommend the next Smashing event.Links:
Smashing Conference twitter feed
Coverage of Smashing Conference Oxford 2014Photo: Marc Thiele/Flickr Creative Commons