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How to be a Creative Sponge 2

24 Oct 2009


This week I had the great pleasure of speaking at the 3rd Web Developer Conference in Bristol, along with Elliot Jay Stocks, Sarah Parmenter and Dan Donald.

It was only a one-day conference, but I had a whale of time, meeting new folks like Elliot Kember (who shone on the 2 panels he attended), Oliver Ker and the legendary Jon Tan, with whom I’ve had emails and chat but never met in person. I also got to catch up with Ben Hostler, the creative director of Bristol-based agency Beef, who I haven’t seen since I was at Middle School with him… 24 years ago!

The talk I gave was an update of one I gave at @media 2007, ‘How to be a Creative Sponge’. Back then, Flickr was really the only option for sharing design collections online, but a lot has changed since then. We’re now spoilt for choice, but I explained my current system of choice – Evernote. Like Fireworks, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it in the past, but earlier criticisms have been fixed in recent updates. In particular, I’m finding that I can ofter remember text in an image that I’ve saved, so the OCR technology in Evernote makes it easy for me to find items I’ve collected. I would even say it was more effective than a tag.

Download the slides as PDF (27.8mb). I don’t tend to write presenters notes, so I’ve added these afterwards to try and help it make sense. All links mentioned in my talk are available on Delicious under the sponge tag.

I came away with a really good feeling about Bristol – it has a great developer/designer community, in a city that feels friendly and very un-intimidating.

I also came away with a realisation that there is a whole book’s worth of material in ‘Malarkey’s Prank Calls’. Everyone I met seemed to have at least one experience of that delight to share ;)

Icons for Interaction

30 Jun 2009


Last week I had the pleasure of attending @media 2009 in London, where it has to be said, I had the best conference experience I’ve had for a long time. I prefer the more cosy nature of the event – a single track, not too large and overwhelming quantity of people, and simply great talks. I can’t pick one favourite presentation, as I came away feeling really inspired and energised by everything.

It was also the last @media curated by Patrick Griffiths, who is moving on to follow other passions (from next year the conference will be in the able hands of the Web Directions Team). I want to take this opportunity to thank Patrick for encouraging me to talk, and giving the best possible environment to do it in.


After giving the presentation, I realised that there are 2 areas, only touched on briefly here, that should be expanded on: Icon Accessibility and Icon Usability Testing. Those are big topics for another day/talk/blog post, so until then here are my slides for my talk on ‘Icons for Interaction’:

Download the Icons for Interaction PDF (18mb). All links are available on my delicious account, tagged icondesigntalk. My speaking notes are also included in the PDF, hopefully this will be enough to make the slides meaningful.

The typeface I used for this was Comic Crafts Astronauts in Trouble.

From Design to Deployment

21 Apr 2008

Now that I’m back from Future of Web Design, I’ve got a chance to do more of a write-up.

The FOWD sessions were great, with sponsored Microsoft slot aside (“Please make the bad man stop…”). Andy Budd particularly engaged me with his presentation of the “User Experience Curve”, and Steve Pearce from Poke had the slides I wish I’d done. It was the first time I’d heard Paul Boag outside of the podcast, and I think he did a tremendous job of chairing the event.

My first duty of the day was the ‘live Photoshop Battle’ which I had a few misgivings about. The team weren’t keen on the ‘battle of the sexes’ idea, so we’d decided to collaborate in teasing Andy Clarke instead. It was a bit of an experiment, especially in the “people still wandering back in from lunch” slot, but afterwards I think all involved agreed that it didn’t really work. I saw one comment on Twitter that said it was “Cliquey in-jokes” which I think was fair-comment!

I had been asked by Paul to talk about the nitty gritty end of design – taking a design through to launch, which I was concerned would be teaching people to suck eggs. After all, this would be the bread and butter of everyones everyday work.

For those of you that weren’t there, I decided to do this via Cheesophile- a demo site to highlight a few of the choices we have make while creating a website. It was never intended to cover such things as dealing with Content Management Systems (where would you start?!), fluid vs fixed or ems vs pixels. In 50 minutes, you have to focus and I wanted to cover some topics like excluding certain browsers from seeing CSS, typography tips and image creation. Yes, it did turn into a bit of a Fireworks advert, just be glad I didn’t go on about how much I love Coda!

In the end, I realised that I had cut out about 15 minutes of the talk. Not intentionally, but once I got up there, I found I wasn’t looking at my notes and missed a few key points I wanted to make!

So, here are my slides (21.9 MB PDF) for the talk. The demo page of Cheesophile is also live, with the accompanying files available to download (includes the layered Fireworks PNG files). Cheesophile is far from perfect – it’s not bulletproof and lacks some basic things (like a search field) that you would expect from a site, but it is what it is – a demo for the purpose of the talk.

URLs mentioned in the talk:

I missed out on the last 2 talks, and the post-party as I felt as rough as 2 badgers – but I was really sad to miss out on meeting people that evening. The following day was not only my son Daniel’s 5th birthday, but it was our 10th wedding anniversary, so it was definitely time for the family!

Many thanks for the kind comments about the talk. If you have any constructive feedback, positive or negative, please leave a comment. I feel that I am gaining my confidence as a speaker, and I’m genuinely interested to hear any suggestions on how to improve.

Finally, as the PDF doesn’t include the movie clip, here’s the scene from Father Ted that was used in the talk!

Cabel Sasser: Coda Confidential

02 Apr 2008

I spent a thoroughly fulfilling hour last night watching Cabel Sasser’s presentation for C4 on how Panic started, developing my favourite tool Coda, and generally interface and icon design. I’ve never heard Cabel talk before, although I got an impression of his voice from his blog, but the reality was better than I had imagined.

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