Last month myself and Emily had the pleasure of spending a few days in New York to attend Smashing Conference – a two day event put together by the clever folks behind the industry leading online publication Smashing Magazine. Having attended my fair share of web conferences over the past few years, I can confidently say that Smashing was quite possibly my favourite yet.
The event was fantastically put together, and wonderfully organised. The line-up was unrivalled by any other event this year and the attention to detail the team put into the whole programme was phenomenal. If it wasn’t clear enough already, Smashing obviously care a great deal about the web community and it was humbling to witness that in person rather than through the web and social media.
The event kicked off with a laser show orchestrated by Val Head and Seb Lee-Delisle, and a crowd-powered game of “clappy bird” – an interactive take on the game Flappy Bird wherein the audience’s applaud would control the bird. A great way to wake up a room of slumbering geeks. What followed was a series of thought-provoking, insightful and entertaining talks from some of the smartest people working the industry – here are just a few of my personal highlights:
Marcin did a great job at getting the ball rolling with a clever and painfully in-depth (his words, not mine) discussion how to draw the perfect text underline using CSS. The talk used the issue of ugly browser-default text underlines as a case study to explore the lengths we go to as designers to achieve perfection, the difficulties we face getting there, and the compromises we must make. As a fellow perfectionist, Marcin’s talk really struck a chord with me and left me feeling somewhat comforted in the knowledge that I’m not the only one who stresses over the minute details.
A super practical talk about worldwide usage of proxy browsers, why they behave in the way they do, and why we should be paying more attention to them and thier users. Proxy browsers are something we’ve always considered at Mixd, but not something that we fully understand or worry about. After Tim’s talk, I’ll be sure to give a much bigger consideration to the minority audiences who use those browsers when working on projects that target them.
My third time seeing Jon speak, and he never fails to entertain. A whistlestop guide through the works of the artist and illustrator (or ‘doodler’, as he prefers), showing off his creative wit and playful style. Jon’s work in instantly recognisable and clearly expresses his unique way of seeing and interpretation. The talk emphasises the value of having fun with your work, enjoying what you do, and trying to be happy.
A hungover audience of sleepy web designers entered the auditorium on the morning of day two in anticipation of Smashing Conference’s trademark “mystery speaker”. The crowd was quickly brought back to life when Vitaly announced that the speaker was none other than Lea Verou – arguably the most prominent name in CSS and Front-End today. Lea talked about new emerging CSS features, tricks with gradients and SVG, and browser vendors & how we can help encourage them to incorporate new technologies – all through the guise of the seemingly straight-forward task of drawing a simple pie chart on the web.
Managing large-scale front-ends has always been something that fascinates me, particularly as Mixd tends to work with big scaling codebases. Daniel spoke about his role at Etsy and how their front-end has grown over the years and how they have managed to keep control of their ever expanding codebase while still keeping on the bleeding edge of the industry. The talk covered system-wide upgrades, code deprecation, asset pipelines and build systems – all things that we’ve been working hard to improve on recently here at Mixd.
Stefan Sagmeister is nothing short of an inspiration in all fields of design, having displayed his work around in exhibitions the world and worked (with his agency, Sagmeister and Walsh) for clients ranging from Levi’s to Jay Z, his portfolio is certainly one to be jealous of. In his talk Stefan talks about the subject and perception of beauty and how it is represented through the designs of famous artists, designers, and architects.
Smashing Conf NYC really was one to remember, and I for one will certainly be checking out their other upcoming events – and so should you.