An Event Apart: Day Two

This is the second part of my recent trip to Austin, Texas to attend the design conference for people who make websites, An Event Apart. Click here for the recap of day one.

The second day of An Event Apart opened with Jeremy Keith’s talk entitled, “The Long Web.” This gentleman’s speech was chock-full of fantastic information. With the developing world getting the power of the internet in their hands and an increasing amount of people relying on mobile devices as their primary internet connection, it is relieving to hear someone so passionate about communication speak about tactics for building a better web for the future. I know that learning about HTML’s <link rel="prefetch" href="..." /> is going to help on some project of mine.

I’ll probably remember Val Head as the energetic “cat-lady” of the event, but she did provide a bunch of valuable information for a developer like myself. I may have been the only person in the audience who shared the same exuberance for cubic-Bézier curves in CSS animations, but there will be an influx of traffic to the tools she mentioned, like easings.net, once everyone gets back to their daily tasks.

I was also fortunate enough to see Chris Coyier’s talk on CSS prepocessing, which was his first time speaking at An Event Apart. Most designers and developers have probably encountered his helpful tips at CSS-tricks.com. His presentation centered around the benefits of using a CSS preprocessor, like SASS or LESS, and gave solid reasons why we should incorporate it into our workflow, like: combining and minifying multiple sources, the obvious value in variables, and the fact that we’ve already done the hardest part–learned CSS–and preprocessors are merely an extension of the base. A Css++, if you will.

After another wonderful lunch, renowned artist Joshua Davis came on stage to kick our asses and remind us about what it really is that we’re all doing. If we don’t enjoy what we’re doing, it’s just work. When we explore a medium which allows us to create, imagine, and play with seemingly limitless boundaries, work becomes fun. Simply put, this cat nailed it, while wearing a Skate & Destroy shirt in a place bursting at the seams with business attire.

Mike Monteiro was introduced next and he was as captivating as he was eloquent. He spoke not just about dealing with clients, but what our industry is doing wrong when it comes to understanding a client’s needs and designing a perfectly custom solution. “Sometimes inspiration comes when you’re not ready for it,” he said.  It’s our fault that we don’t educate our clients with what it is that we actually do. Our portfolios show what we’re capable of, but we need to interact with our clients at every level to truly understand how and why we’re the best people to help.

Jared Spool closed the event with a great talk about what it really means to be a designer. How design is not just about what the end result looks like, but instead the entire process of creating something that innovates, rather than imitates. His fixation on Apple reminded me of a (mis)quote the late Steve Jobs made, “good artists copy, great artists steal.” When one imitates, the risk is low, but the reward is also low, as well. When one combines other inventions and makes use of others’ concepts in ways not previously imagined, the reward is high. It takes a lot of time and effort to truly innovate in a world full of cheap imitations.

Another night was spent on the town, networking with others from the event. Unfortunately, my evening departure meant that I couldn’t attend the third day’s hands-on workshop, hosted by Luke Wroblewski. Another bit of saddening news was hearing of the family concerns preventing Eric Meyer (of CSS reset notoriety) from participating in the event.

To say that An Event Apart was beneficial is an understatement. Outside of the mountains of information that was transferred, everything about my experience has been positive, from all the snacks and parties provided by the sponsors to walking around the city and connecting with people alike. I’m so grateful my organization allowed me to do something as crazy as drive across the U.S. and stop at an awesome web design and development conference along the way.

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