New Adventures in Web Design 2013 has been announced. The conference will run from January 23-25 and has a line-up that includes Jason Santa Maria, Dan Cederholm, Jessica Hische, Jon Tan, Stephanie Troeth, Tiago Pedras, Tyler Mincey, Seb Lee-Delisle, Andy Clarke, Sarah Parmenter and Steph Hay. Intriguingly, the website bills the conference as the ‘last adventure’, and so .net spoke to organiser Simon Collison about 2013’s event, what we can expect – and his plans regarding new adventures for the future.
.net: For the uninitiated, what is New Adventures?
SC: New Adventures is an intelligent and thoughtful event for designers who work on the web. We kick-start each year with talks, workshops and social events for 650 people in Nottingham.
.net: Why did you devise the conference?
SC: There were two primary motivations when we decided to put this event on. First, we wanted to create a platform for intelligent design dialogue where attendees and speakers are on a level playing field, all working and thinking together to find outcomes and make positive changes personally and as a community. (And have a huge amount of fun too!)
Second, we wanted to give something to the hard-working unsung practitioners in the provincial cities, bursting with creative people but often marginalised. Nottingham is surrounded by populous cities such as Derby, Leicester, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and so on. Many can’t afford to travel to and stay in London, Brighton, European or US cities, and so an affordable, ambitious event close to home is very important to a lot of people.
.net: How is New Adventures different from other web conferences?
SC: New Adventures isn’t entirely unique, but we do manage to deal with important stuff and still have a bloody great party. We feel a great kinship with events like Build, Inspire, dConstruct, Reasons To Be Creative, DIBI and so on. All of us organisers have genuine and positive motivations, and I’m pretty sure none of us do this for financial gain, because really there isn’t any.
.net: Is there any particular theme you’ll be addressing or focusing on?
SC: Because our event happens in January, we aim to reflect on last year’s key themes and provide a platform for ideas that will matter in the year ahead. As always, New Adventures will be an intelligent forum to discuss design and the web. Our approach is to let a few themes develop organically, and be inspired from new directions we notice around the web. This informs our long-list, then our shortlist, and we end up with eight speakers who understand how we work and that we’ll be discussing themes together, looking for overlaps. I then devise a schedule that makes the most of these topics.
But we don’t force a theme; there’s no need. We can have eight intelligent people discussing a range of topics for a diverse audience and yet it can still feel cohesive. What I will say is that with this being perhaps our last event, we want to make sure we really do plant seeds, and inspire the audience to make changes, take bold steps, and diversify or enable others. There’ll be a sense of goodwill, of us working together to make positive changes as individuals and as a connected industry. Also, for the first time ever, we will have some code on screen! Relax, though – it’ll be Seb Lee-Delisle and what he does with code is bonkers.
.net: Although we’re sure you love all your speakers, are there any you’re especially happy to have got involved?
SC: We’re delighted to finally get Jason Santa Maria over to Nottingham. He’s been a huge inspiration for me personally, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with him briefly, and get to know him as a friend. I really think he’s the kind of chap our audience wants to see. I’ve been pestering him for a while. He finally caved in!
It’s also a thrill to get Jessica Hische over. She’s a phenomenal personality, extremely talented, annoyingly productive, and a real inspiration. I also think her jokes and potty mouth will add a great deal of humour to the day. We’ve a few less well known names, of course. After I visited the ESAD art and design school in Porto, I just had to get lecturer Tiago Pedras over to talk about design education. Nobody is excited about his talk yet, but afterwards I think a lot of people will be talking about it.
It’s also great to have Dan Cederholm. We said to Dan: “Will you come speak and not talk about CSS3, please?”. He loved that, and said “yes” immediately!
.net: It’s also interesting to see four women in the mix – is this an indication of a welcome trend (what with a third of dConstruct’s line-up also being women)?
Collison: It is obviously important to us, and any responsible organiser, to be as inclusive as possible. Across our three events, we’ve always featured at least two female speakers. But there isn’t a quota. If five or six women appeared on our shortlist, we’d invite them all. As organisers, we have a responsibility to invite great female speakers, and show up and coming or inhibited designers that the stage can be theirs too. Anyone should be able to make their voice heard if their ideas are interesting.
Some will disagree, but every day I’m pleased to discover more and more female designers out there, and in my experience the ratio isn’t quite as bleak as some would have us believe. That said, there is still a great deal of prejudice, and we’re not just talking about women here. The issue is broader than that, of course.
Put it this way: if we looked at our shortlist and it consisted of ten white males, we’d know we had a major problem, and we’d do something about that. Generally, however, we just get out and see people speak, read a lot of articles, and form a long-list. Then we form a shortlist. It’s fantastic if gender and ethnicity is well represented. If you look at our three line-ups so far, I think it’s clear that we aim to deliver on these principles.
.net: You’ve said this will be your last adventure – what’s the reason behind that decision?
Collison: It is probably the last New Adventures in Web Design. I think it’s the last time we’ll have web designers talking to web designers, on this scale, in that auditorium, about those issues. New Adventures was conceived to bring people together in a marginalised region and have intelligent discussion about issues that affect what we do. One of those key topics was craftsmanship, and whilst we were not the first to discuss that, we do now have numerous European events with craftsmanship at their core. There’s only so many times we can hear the same voices discussing the same relatively straightforward topics with the same audiences.
So, New Adventures in … something else. That might happen. I’ve long wanted to put on an event for designers where the speakers are fashion designers, architects, illustrators, film directors, polar explorers – a real mixture of incredible inspiration. Sir Paul Smith. Shane Meadows. Zaha Hadid. Ben Saunders. Olly Moss… Can you imagine that?
There are numerous other reasons to stop, but they’re boring. It is important that Greg Wood and I don’t become event organisers. This thing takes a good quarter of our year to pull together, and it’s all too easy to compromise our other commitments and our work at Fictive Kin. We’re just two chaps who love bringing people together, but after three events I think we both need a break. Also, our favourite bands stop making music before they become irrelevant or tired, and I respect that.