Quick and dirty report on SXSWi07

This is Veerle reporting about my SXSWi 2007 adventures in Austin, Texas πŸ™‚ I can’t really believe that it is over already because it feels like we just arrived in sunny Austin. The flights to Austin via Chicago went very uneventful so that’s a good thing. Returning back home we had a one hour delay in Chicago, but because of favorable winds we made up some of that time. I really had a blast this year and here’s my story if you like it or not πŸ™‚

First day

After a good night sleep we had some extra time to kill before the conference started so we walked around a bit. There is a cool area around the river to walk or sit down and enjoy some warm glows on your face. It’s amazing what that can do to your body, such an energy boaster. It’s at that time I really realized how much I have been missing temps around 23° Centigrade.

The Domain

On Thursday we took a cab ride to a new shopping mall that opened that day for the first time, called The Domain. Like everything in Texas it’s quite big, so we did some shopping. I ended up with some free goodies like a set of cool looking vases from Macy’s. They will look nice on our new furniture πŸ™‚

EllisLab formerly known as pMachine

Talking about pMachine now a company known as Ellislab. I was totally blown away by the magnificent design metamorphose by Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain. This complete re-branding has to rub off some of the greatness, and spread the news about one part of it namely ExpressionEngine. So you can imagine it was the event that I was looking out for on Saturday evening. The pMachine meet-up at the Moonshine grill where we had some good food and drinks. Meeting Leslie Camacho, Rick Ellis (CEO of EllisLab), Derek Jones and Paul Burdick was such a nice and warm experience. It was an honor for me to meet the people behind the tool I love working with. Finally I also got the chance to talk and hang out with the man behind the design as well. The next day we’ve spend lunch together at the Iron Cactus and talked about life and how it came together. Rick you rock for building such fabulous team πŸ™‚ This is what I love about SXSW: meeting people, new people or people you know but never met face to face before. I made quite a bunch of new friends this year, more then last year.

SXSW, the sessions

I have been enjoying and being inspired by some of the sessions that I went to. The only bummer was that this year it seemed that most good sessions had to compete against each other in the morning so that you had like 3 choices and later that day there was nothing really that interesting to attend. The so called power sessions can be a good thing for certain topics but the ones I saw felt like cramped because the speakers needed to rush. A good example of that would be Grids are Good by Marc Boulton and Khoi Vinh. There is a truck load of info to tell and they had to fit it in 25 minutes. I left with a hungry feeling for more because it was so interesting. You can see some of the mockups of this session.

My own session

My own session Design Workflows with Jeff Croft, Bryan Veloso and Kelsey Ruger went pretty well. Didn’t prepare myself really, except for a few notes in the green room. I think if you speak in a panel you just need to have a few bullet points just as a guidance. For the first time I wasn’t nervous and I felt rather comfortable on stage. The only little downside maybe is that I hoped to have talked a bit more about design, meaning more hands-on practical stuff. All in all I guess we all did fine and it was an honor to talk with these panel members. There is a mini site about the panel that contains some resource and interviews with other people about their routines.

My 3 favorite sessions

A Field Guide To Finding Inspiration

On Saturday the session that I enjoyed the most was the one with Jason Santa Maria and Rob Weychert about A Field Guide To Finding Inspiration. Rob and Stan are a good match and I can’t believe how much fun those guys have with all their special costume parties. If you see the slides you’ll know what I mean. Rob also showed Virtual Stan who still makes me laugh every time I see it. You can already listen to the podcast, download the slides or watch a videoclip.

Ajax Kung Fu Meets Accessibility Feng Shui

I already missed Jeremy’s session with Andy Budd called How to bluff your way in to Web 2.0 (video and slides), so I was glad I could attend Jeremy Keith’s other session about Ajax Kung Fu Meets Accessibility Feng Shui with Derek. The conferences before there was always this coincidence that our sessions were at the same time as well. So I was really looking forward to this one all the more because Derek Featherstone is a guy who makes accessibility sound sexy, and I tell you, he keeps you focused. I loved the practical examples they were showing. You actually learn something and even though the subject is rather technical for a designer like me, all of what they were talking about made sense to me. Jeremy has a way of doing that, making something complex sound easy, he does that very well in his book DOM Scripting too.

Web Typography Sucks

On the last day Richard Rutter and Marc Boutlon talked about typography. The title was Web Typography Sucks. The session covered the use of proper characters, vertical rhythm & browser defaults on margins, layout of lists, font stacks & choice of type faces, the relationship between type and grids, and discussion of where typography is in the design, development and production process. To me personally this was the best one of the whole conference with interesting examples. I left with the feeling that I really learned something. Can’t believe it was Richard’s first one as he handled it like a real pro. You can download the slides and see some resources on webtypography.net.

Tip for next year parties

To everyone I talked with, people love going to these parties, but they all find them much too loud. I wonder why they always have to turn up the volume so loud that you can hardly talk to each other. It is rather ridiculous since these events are just about meeting new people and making new friends. Buzzing ears before you go to sleep and loosing your voice because of the shouting is the result you have instead. Somebody should setup a lounge area with comfy bean bags, or like Shaun said, mattresses and ask Miguel Migs to play some San Franciscan chill/lounge tunes. Man I would be SO THERE! Not going into the drinking part and the headaches, this is something you have (or have not) under control πŸ™‚ Oh and this year the people from MediaTemple though it was a splendid idea to create a VIP area where only so called “A list bloggers“, or whatever their criteria was as Important People could enter. Yep, you got it right, with ribbons to close off the area. Plus, you needed a stamp to get in. They offered and I refused, just out of principle because I HATE the fact that it makes me more important or cool than any other person. I’m just Veerle dammit! I wonder what they were thinking here? It got me and Geert annoyed and it left me with the thought that this is just the kind of thing what SXSW is not. It’s about the people and the possibility to talk to everyone, celebrity or not. If this makes me uncool so be it.

Helvetica movie

On the last day I had the opportunity to see the world premiere of the Helvetica movie. Never thought a film about a typeface could be so interesting and inspiring. An immediate urge to play with fonts and sketches was a direct result. If you ever get a chance to see this movie, I highly recommend it.

Podcasts and video

Eventually all sessions that were recorded will end up as a podcast here. The video page is also up now. I will add them to the articles when they become available.

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