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How Interactive Design Conference Recap Pt. 1

Last week I was lucky to attend the How Interactive Design Conference in Chicago. When I heard it was here, I had to jump on it. Even without the hotel and airfare the price was pretty hefty (~$900) but worth it. This conference was primarily for print designers, learn-it-yourself web designers, or other areas like marketing, branding, etc who want to learn more about web design. I came in hopeful, but not really expecting to learn much, and came out feeling completely empowered. My challenge now is to pull out the take aways from each session because there were so many good nuggets of information that it would be impossible to share them all.

Session One – What You Need To Know To Be An Effective Web Designer

Patrick McNeil, author of the web design Inspiration books, kicked us off with what he called “an overview” of the world of web design. The meat of his 3 hour discussion was about the concept of user centered design which is just another word for the web design process (Define > Concept > Design > Develop > Deploy). He spent most of his time on the first two stages: Define and Concept. The define stage often gets looked over most, but is arguably the most important phase. Without a good plan, you are left guessing and often forced to go back and rework several times after testing or feedback. notebook   The take aways: Spending ample time in the define stage will save both time and money later on. The basics of defining requirements, scope, user demographics, writing personas, using case scenarios, flow charts, and site maps all provide valuable details that help you  make better design decisions. If the research isn’t done, assumptions are made and proven wrong upon testing. Testing Tools From Patrick: Charts – Visio, Omnigraph, axure Card Sorting – Optima Sort, UXsort Surveys – Google doc, wuffoo A/B testing software – Optimizely Heat maps testing – Crazy Egg The Hot topics and Trends:  1) Skeumorphic design vs flat design – going from high realism  in the interface to flat. 2) Mobile First design and how it influences design for desktop. 3) slide out panels (some more successful than others) 4) Story telling – Using the web to tell stories instead of loading sites down with information like a brochure Patrick’s Future Trends: Patrick believes flat design will die out because with less detail comes more potential of just looking generic, paving the way for more interesting things like higher video integration into websites. Gestures will become a huge part into mobile web and design for desktop will become secondary to mobile.

Session Two – How To Turn Your PSD Documents into Web Pages

Chris Converse’s talk about turning PSDs into websites was probably the most raved about talk, and in my eyes, the most useful. Chris spent 3 hours showing different methods including traditional slicing methods, using some new powerful Photoshop creative cloud tools including Photoshop Generator , which helps save time exporting assets from a PSD. Quite possibly more mind-blowing was his demo on Adobe Edge Reflow, a new software that helps you create responsive websites without code. Definitely check out these new features for creative cloud an if you don’t yet have creative cloud, get it. It just makes sense, you pay a low monthly subscription and get access to every piece of adobe software that will continue to improve and update.

 Keynote – Re-Inventing Yourself, Or How to Go Back and Be Who You’re Supposed to Be

James Victore concluded an information packed day with his keynote about getting back to the designer you want to be. He told a personal anecdote about his successes and more importantly the price of his creative freedom. I had only ever heard him speak in college on a documentary about his work, so I had been really looking forward to it. He definitely lived up to his reputation for being a true artist inside and out. The audience had been so focused all day, I wasn’t sure how much more information we could take but when James stepped up on the stage and started sharing his story, peppering in some colorful language the vibe of the room changed, allowing themselves to enjoy his talk. His message was that even though he had become very successful in the beginning of his career, it wasn’t easy to get there. He spoke of how his rent money had been the price of his creativity, causing him to constantly be evicted. After his success, he spent a huge chunk of time in the middle of his career doing work just for the security of a paycheck, and lost a sense of himself. He got comfortable and started noticing the signs that he had fallen off course. He said it’s when “… your body begins to chafe, when it feels uncomfortable in your skin, that’s a sign…” This was my reaction: Creatively-Driven_bodythatchafes2 It wasn’t until he let the influence of three important people in his life change his attitude and allow him to get back to making art that is meaningful to him. His last piece of advice came from the poet Rumi, “Set your life on fire and seek those who fan the flames”. RUMI2 I think we all have a little of James Victore in us; that burning artist that just wants to do meaningful work. The challenge is finding the courage to sacrifice comfort for your true passions. It’s something I myself have been struggling with this past year. Working in-house, at times feeling like a glorified production artist, and wishing I had the moxie to take the leap and be a true freelancer. We have to ask ourselves how much we want it and be willing to lose everything in order to achieve our goal. Only then will we really have enough of what it takes to accomplish our “dharma”, or purpose. Follow James Victore’s advice and “get off your ass and make art!” And so concludes part one of my recap of the How Interactive Conference 2013. Check back in a few days for Part 2. Check out #HIDC for tweets from the conference.

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