Future Insights Live 2012

Future Insights Live in Las Vegas May 2012 was a blast! I met and hung around with some crazy amazing people, learned a few CSS tools, found out where to look for cutting edge design examples, picked up some tips for choosing the perfect font for your project, listened to recounts of typical and best-practice design process, got interested how people pick conference sessions, and paid attention to what stuff captivated audiences the most.

Conversations about life and work, CSS, projects, and new adventures really stood out for me at this conference. Meeting thoughtful, passionate, inspiring people who are leaders in their field are what really makes conferences like this worthwhile to me.

I went to the following sessions:

  • Keynote – A Happy Grain of Sand – Aral Balkan
  • What We Don’t Know: Accommodating the Unknown User – Chris Coyier
  • A Responsive Process: One Web To Rule Them All – Steve Fisher
  • The Current State of Graphics on the Web – Harish Sivaramakrishnan
  • In Search of What Makes The Ideal Web Font – Laura Kalbag
  • The Future of Design Process – Samantha Warren
  • Keynote – The Real Me – Crafting Honest Customer Relationships – Aarron Walter
  • Building a Dynamic Map Experience – Ross Bayer
  • Symbol Design and User Comprehension – Edward Boatman
  • The Evolution of Client Service – Carl Smith
  • Keynote – Handcrafted Patterns: Designing Flexible Interfaces in HTML5 & CSS3 – Dan Cederholm

Some Session Notes

I paid close attention to the speaker styles and audience reactions because I’m interested in speaking at conferences like this one some day in the future. I noticed people pick sessions based on a super quick scan of the title a lot of the time and any kind of name recognition past that; the first thing can lead to disappointment if the session doesn’t deliver based on expectations. Lesson: make a catchy title, but make sure the title truly reflects the content from a user point of view. Personally, I’ve found that picking (to the best of your ability) based on the speaker’s work and reputation often gets the best results. Beyond that, I always choose making connections with people over attending a session when the opportunity presents itself.

My favorite session was Chris Coyier‘s talk about the unknown user. It was jam-packed with good information, and it had a good pace. People were really interested and asked a lot of questions. It was probably one of the best talks for learning about current CSS tips, tools, and best practies and how to manage those for the future—would you expect anything less form the maker of CSS-Tricks.com? My favorite quote from the talk: “Just ship it using your best judgement and experience as a designer and then be responsive with feedback.” Also, focus on what matters, if you’re arguing about adding a few K of JS while loading 1.7MB of images on a page… step back and take a look at the bigger picture.

Aaron Walter‘s talk was the most inspirational one. It was about building honest relationships with customers and how storytelling affects brand. He showed several short videos about brands he loves and cares about—all with great stories to tell, in a tug at your heart strings kind of way of course. One thing I really liked was that Aaron had a section on his website with a comprehensive list of books, articles, videos, and sources used in his talk ready to go. It was really nice having that as a reference right away.

How to choose the best web fonts for your projects was a great talk by Laura Kalbag. It had a ton of good, basic font facts as well as notes about how established fonts in brands can affect public perception. This means to pick the best font, you not only need to know a font’s personality but also how it has been used in advertising in the past.

Carl Smith talked mainly about how he runs a service-driven company that is built on trust earned over time and that expands and contracts based on need. He’s dubbed it The Jellyfish Model, and when he talked about finding success in a distributed, transparent work environment where each project is lead by the most passionate employee… it spoke to my heart. Carl is very passionate about both his business and people, and I very much enjoyed talking to him between sessions.

Dan Cederholm was fantastic. I have so much respect for his work and writing. Dan spoke about creativity and how we first learn by standing on the shoulders of giants, then by breaking things, and only later develop our own uniqueness. Small detail, but I thought it was super interesting that he was an eventual convert to SASS after resisting for some time. It’s always a pleasure to hear Dan talk.

Speaker Evaluations

The Carsonified conference organizers asked attendees to fill out speaker evaluations online. They had QR codes at each door to scan to get to the evaluation page which was using a bit.ly link leading to a formstack.com evaluation form. They also announced the bit.ly links and evaluation reminders in announcements throughout the conference. However, I found myself wishing for a more open, public speaker evaluation tool like the one Patrick Allaert introduced me to at PHP UK: https://joind.in/

Things I Liked

The people. No question. I seriously loved getting to meet and hang out with some of my design heroes like Chris Coyier, Carl Smith, Dave DeSandro, and Dan Cederholm, not to mention my colleagues Michael Fields and Philip Arthur Moore. I also met and chatted for a while with some of the Adobe developers who were sponsors and who happened to be launching Brackets on May 1st. Brackets is a new web-based, open source code editor based on CodeMirror.

Thinks I Didn’t Like

Almost all of the biz bytes track seemed uninteresting to me (I said almost), but it’s also possible I didn’t give those session titles enough of a chance. I was more interested in the real future of web design stuff. Four tracks seemed like a lot. Both the online schedule and the small printed one that came with conference badges could have benefited from some usability testing. :)

I heard both good and bad things about the workshops, and so I was glad I didn’t opt in. I think workshops are better if they serendipitously coincide with current projects and they’re probably most often best as separate events completely.

I was super disappointed that Hilary Mason couldn’t make it! Her session on machine learning and data mining sounded very cool. By just attending the first two days, I missed out on a few cool Friday sessions including Sara Cannon‘s responsive design talk.

New, Favorite, Notable Links

  • May 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm Chris Coyier

    AWWW. “favorite session” HEARTS.

    That was a fun time eh? See ya around soon hopefully!