An Event Apart Chicago, Day 2: The Two-Weeks-Later Wrap-up

Wow. It’s already been two weeks since AEA Chicago, and I’m just now finding some time to sit down and sum up what I took away from it (yeah, it’s been that kind of two weeks). Anyway, without further ado:

Rob Weychart
, “Design Lessons in Chess” – Having recently discovered a passion for reading about chess, Weychart found some similarities between the ancient game and the design process, which he summed up with the following points:

  • Content is king.
  • Know your history.
  • Think ahead.
  • Don’t get too attached.
  • Act with purpose.
  • Obey circumstance.
  • Principles are your friends. Except when they’re not.
  • The journey is as important as the goal.

Dan Cederholm, “Implementing Design: Bulletproof A-Z” – Cederholm ran through some hands-on tips based on the principles of “bulletproof design” and “progressive enhancement” (rather than “graceful degradation”). Biggest takeaway: websites don’t HAVE to look the same in all browsers.

Cameron Moll, “The In-House Designer” – Co-author of one of my favorite web design books, Moll has an interesting job description: in-house designer for the Church of Latter Day Saints. He quoted the New York Times’ Koi Vinh as having stated that in-house designers spend only 20% of their time on their actual work, 40% on publicizing their work, and 40% building relationships. To build relationships within LDS, Moll instituted weekly and annual design reviews so that everyone in the organization could see what everyone else was working on — this is something I think U of C could really benefit from.

Curt Cloninger, “What Would William Do?” – Cloninger took a look at how William Morris might approach the current sterility and stagnation of design on the web; among other things, he argued for typography being the natural material of the web and that beauty is not mere ornametation but added value.

Finally, Jeff Veen argued in “Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps” that rather than telling people stories, web apps should be giving people the tools to tell their own stories, moving from narration to discovery, from visual cues to interactivity, and from editing to filtering.

So, to sum it all up: An Event Apart was definitely worth attending. The speakers were, by and large, fascinating and inspirational. Being the veteran of not a few academic conferences, I am pleased to say that not once was I bored at this one — perhaps the highest praise of all.

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