Phoenix Design Week is an annual event, now in its fourth year, that brings together the design community in the Phoenix area with events, exhibitions, and a two-day conference. Forty’s been involved in the event since its first year, and we typically attend the conference as a team. It’s a great event, with a lot of people from the community working hard to make it great.
One of my favorite things about a conference is loading my head with tons of goodies that make me a better designer. One of the worst things is moving swiftly from a conference into day-to-day work, forgetting about the goodies I was so excited about. So in the spirit of one of the presenter’s (Kate Bingaman-Burt) talks, here are my top five moments from the 2012 Phoenix Design Week Conference:
Avoid perfect-scenario website design
Designers tend to create website mockups with ideal scenarios. This looks pretty, but it can “break” when the website owners actually start using the site. Those one-line titles and two-line descriptions that balanced out so nicely can quickly become uneven (which is soul-crushing to a designer!). To account for this, Stephanie Sullivan recommends mocking up a website design with “weird” content so everyone can imagine what happens during normal, “real” use.
Consider the cost (and priority) of browser consistency
As a visual person, it’s tempting to want a web design solution to look the same in all browsers and devices. During a break between sessions, Marvin Forte gave me a helpful reminder that a website will never look exactly the same in all browsers. If a client does wish to pursue an implementation that matches across browsers and devices, it requires a significant time investment. Plus, as the discussion of responsive design swells, we’re realizing that we should spend more time on designing websites based on how people want to digest content, rather than worrying about corner radius in Internet Explorer 8.
Develop a deeper understanding of what makes you tick
We’ve basically become like-aholics online. Instead of superficially liking every third image on the web, Kate Bingaman-Burt offers an antidote: develop a deeper understanding of why you like what you like. By choosing five things that are meaningful to you and exploring why they’re important, you can learn about yourself and your style, as well as develop a more thoughtful approach to designing. This is inspiring to me personally (I figured out my five things!), and at Forty, we’ve talked about using this technique to narrow down a large idea or challenge to five key things that we can focus on.
Understand why change is hard
From the science and psychology sector, Michael Duah explained why change is hard: our brains like to work efficiently, and they work much more efficiently when we’re making it do new things. Our automatic brain prefers repetition, which explains why it can be tough to go to a conference, learn about new things, and then actually put those new ideas into practice. But by setting goals that you expect to accomplish and value highly, change is more likely. Just don’t let your perception that you “can’t” do something prevent you from trying.
Eddie Opara inspired me to approach design challenges with even more questions. He doesn’t stand for doing something just because it’s always been done that way. For example, when a client requested a plain-Jane manual of obligatory content that nobody would ever read, he helped rethink it and delivered a more thoughtful and engaging solution, which helped people actually understand what they should do and why they should care. He carefully considers the best way to deliver his client’s message to their audience, whether that’s through design on paper or a new technology — a great model of someone using design thinking, as opposed to just making things look nice visually.
Here’s hoping that repeating these new ideas will help retrain my automatic brain. And if you attended the Phoenix Design Week 2012 conference, please share your top moments!