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A Look Back on the Future of Web Design, London 2014

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Wow, my brain's full. I recently spent two days at Future of Web Design in London and, over a week later, I'm still having trouble wiping this massive smile off my face.

Future Insights has quite a bit of heritage and they've held this conference for long enough (this is the eighth) to know exactly what they're doing.

Little things, like making sure everyone has constant and decent WIFI, are really important, but not as easy as you may think (it's all to do with having enough access points Tash reliably informs me). The catering, the goodies, the continuing games and competitions; these are all things which make attendees feel valued and welcome. And The Brewery is a great venue; having hosted @fowd several times it feels made for the job.

The Speakers

But the real reason we go to events like this is to see the speakers. For two days (and I apologise about the machine-gun flurry of tweets during that time) I was entertained and educated by both familiar and new faces. Some, such as Harry Roberts, Rachel Nabhors, Paul Boag (he recently wrote a book, by the way) Jason Pamental, and Peter Gasston have featured on Tuts+ before. Many others are well known personalities— Sarah Parmenter and Steven Hay delivering exactly what everyone knew they would; rich and engaging presentations. The Rising Stars track (an alternative schedule of talks running parallel with the main stage) featured designers and developers who may not have been so well-known before, but will certainly be on your radar soon. Bonny Colville-Hyde and Todd Motto, for example, gave two of the most memorable talks I sat in on.

Having a choice, two tracks of presentations to pick from, is the perfect way of running an event like this. Being able to tailor the content I watched during the day meant that I could make the most of what was available. The only downside from that, is that you have to choose — I'd have happily watched every presentation on the schedule! Still, videos from those I missed will be available online very soon, and in the meantime we can all check out the slides from each talk.

© Conor MacNeil

What are my take-home points and highlights? I don't know where to begin. Jason's talk on responsive typography made it clear that we need to think differently about the way we implement typography on the web. We can already do more than we actually do. Paul Adams gave us his inspiring perspective on what the web is, what it perhaps should be and what it inevitably will be (hint: start thinking in terms of designing systems, not pages). Paul Boag put forward similarly inspiring thoughts on why we're doing things all wrong, then Stephanie Reiger blew everyone's minds with her insight into the way China "does internet".

What the Future Holds

Above all, I think the take-home message from this year's @fowd is that the web is moving pretty fast. So fast in fact, that several talks contained slides and quotes from earlier talks, because even those on stage were learning and being inspired by being present.

We're the people who are shaping the web and it's our responsibility to make sure we do so in the best way possible. We have to educate ourselves and educate those around us. We need to make sure we have the basics under control. We need to keep open minds and we need to think laterally. We can never know what the future holds, but the way we've been doing things isn't necessarily the way we should be doing them in the future of web design.


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