Jan Kraus
22 March 2014Random thoughts4 min read

Thoughts on Smashing Conference, Oxford 2014

Last week I’ve got wonderful opportunity to participate in Smashing Conference in Oxford. It was nice experience, fun trip with friends from creativestyle and I want to share some thoughts and observations from it.

Lasers

Yes, of course this is the most important part of the conference! Joking aside, but really. The show in the beginning was really amazing. Music, combined with lasers animation was created by digital artist Seb Lee-Delisle. I enjoyed the show quite a lot. I’ve also like the improvised speech by Seb, about canvas and animations. It got me inspiring also to play some with the canvas. Maybe I’ll share my results someday.

Tech talks

As usual, Smashing Conference hosted great speakers that were talking about interesting ideas.

  • Addy Osmani talked about state of web components, how we may use them and gave short introduction of Polymer library.
  • I enjoyed Lea Verou’s talk about the color, refreshing informations about the basic and new features of CSS for defining one of the most important aspects of the design. And I really loved her special “live coding” style of slides that added much of dynamic to her presentation.
  • Zoe Mickley did great job presenting CSS flexbox. It was one of the best prepared, focused technical talks on this conference. Zoe gave great examples on how to use flexbox and I think she finally made me to stop complaining about browser support and just start using this new feature.

Design talks

The talks focusing on the design also gave me some fresh look and ideas to improve.

  • Josh Clark talked about designing for multi device world stressing the interaction between them, between moving from one device to another and giving some examples about how we might improve user experience here.
  • Joe Leech explained the psychology behind the perfect design, highlighting some interesting ideas that emotion, thoughts and fears are often responsible for the perception of the design.
  • The mystery speaker from day two – John Hicks – showed us the process and important factors of designing an icon set.
  • I liked very much the speech by Scott Kellum, designer at VOX Media, about the art directed posts. This is the direction I am pushing my blog into, so it was nice to hear thoughts from the person behind great sites like The Verge & Polygon – must see their great Xbox One review!
  • Nathan Ford talked about grids, fluid grids, building grid based on the content and not around.

Inspirational and though provoking

Finally, there were presentations that were inspiring and thought provoking. I value them most, because this is one of the main reasons for me to go to conferences. To stimulate creativity, to kick off the ground, to start thinking in new areas, to inspire and find new paths.

The final talk by Andrew Clark, talked about modern designer canvas. It was a bit nostalgic, sharing his lessons from the past, his tools, values and actions. Some insights about the thought process and inspiration to move forward.

Thoughts

Smashing Conference has great atmosphere. All people around were friendly and eager to talk. Everybody is sharing ideas. There was even pre-conf party day before with some additional small speeches that did not catch to the conference.

But to be said, I didn’t enjoy everything :-) Not all talks were perfect. Maybe I’ve also expected a little more deeper look into details. Guy Podjarny talking about images? I was expecting much more than summary and overview of image format & compression methods. Paul Boag was great host, but his constant jokes about book pitching got tiring quickly. I’ve also didn’t got his talk. Maybe I’m not working in the same world like he is. And I’m quite happy about it. But thats pretty much. Previous smashing conference make a little bit bigger impact on me.

Other highlights

Typekit had great idea to setup little typography & design corner in the chillout zone. It was quiet place to talk and look on the inspiring books from the industry. I’ve found some gems that I didn’t know earlier and now I can’t wait to look deeper into them.

The Old Town Hall in Oxford was special venue. It was looking spectacular inside and has great atmosphere. It was quite similar to the last Smashing Conference venue in Freiburg.

It was a little bit far to travel to Oxford from Kraków but it wasn’t that bad. We’ve got flight from Kraków, to Munich & London. Then using a shuttle bus we’ve got from Heathrow to the Oxford’s center.

Oxford itself is a nice city too. It was looking clean and greenish (even its just early spring now). There were lots of busses so the transportation was always smooth and simple. I really enjoyed stay here.

To wrap things up – Smashing Conference was great experience for me, I would really recommend it to anyone who is a Smashing Magazine reader and is looking for the inspiration in web design & development.

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