The first day of Webstock's conference was filled with people telling us we need to produce more and consume only the things that matter to us.
Everyone thinks the way they're doing things is the right way and they ask us to do the same. It's confusing because often the message is 'be yourself by being more like me'.
Still, there's a reason those people are on stage and we're in the audience and it can't just be because they're American. They've each done something extraordinary to be in a position to give that kind of advice.
Clay Johnson began the day with an inspiring talk on being a conscious consumer. The idea being that we create our own environment; if we want fewer stories about Kardashians, we should not reward the sites that rely on page views for commerce by clicking on their link bait.
Jim Coudal told his personal story of building things that matter to him and how it's the best thing he could have done for himself. At the age of 53 he finally learnt to trust his instinct.
Jason Kottke followed that with the story of how he built his own web app, stellar.io.
They were all different talks but the theme was the same: we have the power to make the world we want.
This can sound like a lofty goal, and it's quite a lot to hit people with first thing in the morning.
When we think about being better designers, these are the goals we reach for. We want to make changes and solve problems. There were times during the morning when the room felt more like a self-help seminar than a web design conference.
But the truth is that as designers we spend a lot of time solving small problems. Sometimes these problems are as small as 1pt kerning. We understand these minutiae are important but often we lose sight of how these small actions affect the greater picture beyond the screen we're looking at.
Miranda Mulligan talked about it with design's role in lifting modern journalism and Craig Mod spoke about it with the small changes needed to effect the future of publishing.
It's easy to be eye-rollingly contemptuous of these messages but we'll get a lot more done if we listen to what they had to say and act accordingly.
This post was originally published in the Floate Design Partners blog
I think the problem with any conference talk is balancing the depth of message with actionable items. The reality is, 40 mins ain’t too long to carve out much of an argument for more than a thin slice of ideas.
Contemptuous eye rolling isn’t all bad if it sparks some thinking ;)
I think you’re right, Craig. These things are a strange format, and it’s hard to rise above platitudes. It’s also very easy to look at speakers and try to pick them apart. The thing I loved about Webstock was that every single presentation has great ideas at core. I can’t say that about other conferences I attended.
I enjoyed meeting you, too.
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