To the Future (of Web Design)
A Conference Recap

This post originally appeared on the blog on November 11, 2015

One of the best things about being a part of a design team at an agency like ISL is getting the opportunity to grow both creatively and professionally. Our company makes a huge effort to support our team’s growth and encourages employees to attend industry conferences.

Recently, I attended the Future of Web Design (FOWD) conference in San Francisco. The conference was a 3-day event for designers, front-end developers, and other creatives working to make the web a better place.

Here are the biggest lessons I learned:

Open Source Design is a (Pretty Awesome) Thing

The most inspiring talk came from Garth Braithwaite, a product designer and front-end developer on PhoneGap at Adobe.

Garth discussed the benefits of open source design and detailed some of his work on NightScout, an app developed by parents of children with Type 1 Diabetes to remotely help track blood sugar levels (and save lives). By connecting data from a monitoring device, parents can send live updates to their phones and smartwatches.

His advice for getting into open source?

Whether it’s designing a logo, contributing code, or just adding a new perspective to the conversation, he recommends finding something you’re passionate about. There are also some great places you can go to get started.

Side Projects are Stupid… and They’re Supposed to Be

I had been looking forward to meeting Tobias van Schneider (and his luscious beard) for some time. Tobias is a German-born designer that recently led the Spotify brand refresh.

He talked about keeping side projects fun and stupid. This way, you can keep from overthinking the work. From Authentic Weather to his own line of beard oil, Tobias has followed through on some downright silly ideas. Some guiding principles for successful side projects? Let yourself be stupid, ignore everybody (they all have their own ideas and opinions of how things should be), trust your gut, and stay busy.

Web Accessibility is More than Accessible Code

As practitioners of web design and development, it’s our job to make our websites usable, visually pleasing, and accessible – and that doesn’t mean just developers/engineers implementing accessible code.

Jennison Asuncion, Co-Director of the Adaptech Research Network, spoke about how producing accessible content means designing and developing user experiences that everyone, including people with disabilities, can independently consume and interact with. From touching on resources for sufficient color contrast to walking us through the experience of using a screenreader on, Jennison got me thinking about how web professionals can (and should) improve accessibility across their work.

In Conclusion

For a first web conference experience, FOWD was a blast and extremely inspiring. If you’re a web professional or have just been thinking about putting yourself out there and learning how we creatives can help impact the world around us, I’d highly recommend attending a conference like FOWD.

I’m already planning my next steps of finding and contributing to an open source project, working to make my sites more accessible, and might even be thinking about my own beard oil – well, we’ll see about that last one.