Crazy Day Trip: To NYC and Back for FOWD ‘07

There's a lot going on here at the four labs, and so the four of us attending Carsonified's Future of Web Design conference this year had to make a long day trip up to New York. Fortunately, when it comes to Ryan Carson's conferences, even the sub-par conferences are well worth every resultant hour of sleep deprivation. image I say sub-par mainly because this conference didn't have the polish that we tend to take for granted when it comes to Carson conferences. The venue was large, echoey, and didn't allow for much audience feedback -- if a speaker told a decent joke, audience laughter was swallowed up by the space, and it sounded like awkward silence. The venue was also essentially a glass cube, and the sunlight coming through shone directly on the presentation screen, making speakers' slides nearly impossible to see for much of the day. Ryan Carson did the right thing and is offering attendees video of the conference free of charge. On the other hand, the content of the conference was definitely the high-quality fare you expect. It was action-packed, with no fewer than eighteen speaking spots in just over nine hours. While many of the speakers were familiar faces from the web design / web standards speaking circuit, there were a few who were new (to me, at least), and a couple who really stood out:
  • Elliot Jay Stocks, Carsonified's new Senior Designer, was given ten minutes to make his case for abandoning some of the trendy design motifs we've seen in the Web 2.0 space. He made the most of each of those minutes, and left the entire audience wishing he'd been given a full slot, with an engaging, witty, and eloquent monologue. I'm sure we'll see more of him in the future.
  • Jeffrey Kalmikoff, Chief Creative Officer at SkinnyCorp, did a really great job on his talk, answering questions submitted by users. It was a creative and engaging way for him to deliver a talk on community.
Of course, there were other speakers more familiar to us who made the conference worthwhile. Brian Fling delivered a reworked twist on his mobile talk that always gives a good primer on the basics of mobile development. Our friend Cindy Li gave a good (albeit brief) talk on how illustration can bring a two-way communication with your users to the web in a way few other media can. Jon Snook gave a good overview of some design considerations related to AJAX. And Matthew Patterson from Campaign Monitor talked about the challenges in HTML email, and why we should care -- and we should care. The highlight of my conference, as far as the presentations were concerned, was Keith Robinson and Ryan Sims presenting "Inside the Designers' Studio: IMDb," in which they reworked the popular movie site. The crux of the talk involved the process the two talented designers undertook in the redesign, and I always find it very interesting to see how people actually attack a project. Keith had some technical issues with the remote he was given to advance slides, but the presentation was solid and informative, and was a great anchor leg for the conference. Afterward, Brian and I headed out to engage in the best part of any conference: socializing. We talked with a ton of people in the few hours before our 10pm train back to DC, including one of my long-lost friends from elementary school. These conversations are always great, but the MediaTemple closing party had other ideas for what to do at the end of the day: something involving deafeningly-loud music and crazy lights. I think the MT parties are best either quite late the night of a one-day conference or, better yet, on the last day as a larger conference. We had a great time, met a lot of great folks, and we're looking forward to seeing everyone again at SXSW, if not before!
M. Jackson Wilkinson

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