Not Even Supposed to Be Here...New York Edition
I love New York City. While I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a well-traveled individual, of the places I have been fortunate enough to visit, NYC is at the top of my list. So when a designer’s departure at Envision left us with an unclaimed ticked for Carsonified’s ‘Future of Web Design’ (FOWD) conference this week, I jumped at the chance to pack my bags and head to the Big Apple.
The Importance of Conferences
I recently told the students in my ‘Intro to Web Design’ class at the University of Rhode Island that web design, like most technology-related professions, is an industry that is unkind to those who do not wish to continue learning. Attending conferences is, in my eyes, one critical aspect to this learning process.
While reading books, articles and related websites, as well as practicing new techniques and experimenting on personal projects are all extremely important to that learning process, conferences offer a unique experience that presents opportunities for education, inspiration, fraternization and, if you are lucky, maybe even some relaxation.
A Little Bit of Education
Whenever I return from a conference, I am often asked “what did you learn?” It’s a question that is often difficult to answer. Web conferences are unlike technical trainings common to many technology fields. Those trainings usually end with some kind of new certification or some very specific new skillset that will have been learned.
Web conferences, on the other hand, aren’t typically about certifications. That isn’t to say they aren’t full of educational information, however. This week’s FOWD, for instance, was filled with information on two very hot topics in the web design world right now – HTML5 and CSS3. In fact, the two columns of content many of you are seeing right now (at least those of you with browsers capable of rendering the style) is a piece of CSS3 that I picked up on at the conference.
So while it may often be hard to say exactly “what I learned” in a conveniently packaged way that is accompanied by a fresh new certification, conferences like FOWD are certainly great places to learn.
A Whole Lot of Inspiration
Personally, my favorite aspect of web conferences is the inspirational impact of the events. Seeing some of the excellent work that is presented, through the design of the presentation slides themselves in many cases, is invigorating and the quality of many of the talks is something that gets me excited to get back to the office and eager to tackle my next design project. It’s like refueling my design engine with high-octane awesome.
Seeing how others approach their work and hearing from some of the industry's best and brightest allows me to think about my own work and processes and energizes me to push myself to do even better, more important, design and development work.
Time for Some Fraternization
If the inspirational aspects of conferences are my favorite part of the events, a close second would be the chance for fraternization. I love to meet others in my industry who I can share stories and experiences with, knowing that we will all nod our heads in agreement because we’ve been there too.
I’ve met some very cool people at web conferences, people I’ve maintained contact with long after the events and whom I routinely exchange design tips and feedback with on their work and my own. The chance to build a network like this by meeting absolute strangers who quickly seem like old friends is something no book or web article can offer.
And Finally….Some Relaxation
Bottom line, getting out of the office is nice. Having the chance to spend some time away from the office for a few days and distance yourself from the day to day responsibilities of the job is invaluable. I often find myself so inundated with the daily chores of my work, that it’s hard to take a step back to look at the big picture. Web conferences allow you to do that.
I actually refused to go online during my time in NY for this conference. No checking email, no dropping into Twitter or posting to my blog, no seeing what other sites were up to. No online activity at all…just time to relax and recharge. I called into the office only once and, when I knew everything was being handled perfectly in my absence, I went back to relaxing…and learning, of course.
Get out of the office…it helps.
Thank You, New York!
While I wasn’t supposed to be at FOWD this year, I am happy I attended. Great presentations, excellent people and all of it in one of my favorite cities. I can’t wait to go back to this conference next year, hope to see you there too.