Our trip to New Adventures

By Toward,

January 2013


Our trip to New Adventures in Web Design

It's rare for the whole team to be out of the studio at the same time but now and again something happens that warrants a mass exodus. Last Thursday was one such day as we all attended a brilliant web conference in Nottingham, New Adventures in Web Design.

We all went last year too and I was also at the very first one in 2011. This year's was the last ever (maybe) and it really did finish with a bang. But don't just take it from me. The whole team have noted their highlights from the event —


Throughout the year, there are countless conferences with great speakers – but New Adventures is a little bit special for me. Not only was it the first conference I ever attended, but I also get to listen to what my design heroes have to say. The stand out talks for me were:

Jason Santa Maria

With a name like that, he was always destined for greatness. He shared some great points about his process and the importance of sketching out rough ideas. Sketching should be used as a thinking tool, and should definitely not look beautiful (in most cases).

Jessica Hische

I love typography, and it doesn't come much better than in Jessica's work. It was really good fun, listening to her talk about life/work balance and some of her projects. Good and bad. The talk was brought together perfectly by a striking pair of cat leggings.

They say it's the final chapter of New Adventures. I for one, hope that it's not.


So my one and only tweet at #naconf went something like this:

"Haven't heard anything I didnt already know from #naconf..."

I sent this halfway through the third speaker, I did however append the following hashtags - #blatantlie #tellmemore, and those hashtags throughout the day rang true.

The industry that we are in is diverse, we know that, as designers, developers, and/or owners of companies the list of technologies & skills required to compete seems to be constantly growing. NAconf reaffirmed this by both its range of speakers and the content of the talks, and that for me was what I loved about NAconf, whether it was Jon Tan's enthusiatic stance on typography, the brilliant Seb Lee-Delisle programming on stage or Wayne Hemmingway's opinion on design and its effects both positive and negative. Each speaker had something which made me think, that's why I love this job, and yes I should:

  1. Read more
  2. Stop copying and pasting code and just code
  3. Think about design past just the site I'm working on

Finally and most randomly for me it was Stephanie Troeth's talk which I seem to remember most. Why? Possibly because of its abstract nature but most likely because, it was a topic I never think of or deal with in my 'web designer' position, and for me that is what I loved about NAconf and indeed any conference coming away with a new perspective, new ideas, and inspiration.

New Adventures in Web Design speaker line up New Adventures in Web Design speaker line up


NA Conf 2013 continued its high standard with another stellar lineup. Whilst every speaker had interesting info to disgest, here are some of my highlights:

Seb Lee-Delisle

Seb refers to himself as a 'creative coder' and he certainly showed these skills off. Any preconceptions the audience may have had about how interesting a talk about javascript could be were quickly dispelled. Seb's comic charisma helped to engage the crowd right from the outset and his case studies showed just what can be achieved with code when you think outside the box.

Wayne Hemmingway

Although not directly involved in the web design world, Wayne's life story serves as an inspiration to us all. His insight into how he built up his fashion empire shows what can be achieved with hard work and determination.

Jessica Hische

As well as dabbling in web design, Jessica is a well respected typographer (or 'Letterer' as she likes to refer to it) and illustrator. Amongst her beautiful and broad portfolio of work lie many gems; a particular favourite of mine is her recent work on a series of book covers for Penguin. Oh, and the cat leggings she was wearing ruled.


This year, New Adventures really was an adventure. We battled snow, sleet, hail, slush and blizzards to make our way to Nottingham. We arrived with enough time to dance our way over the icy patches over to a lovely place called the Antenna to watch Rob strut his stuff on stage at the NA Conf warm up event, Second Wednesday. He did an hour long talk about communication, which covered many parts of his book. Personally, I think he did us immensely proud. I've seen him talk a few times now, and this was certainly his best to date. Well done Bertie!

As the for main event, all I can say is 'wow!'. The organisers did an absolutely sterling job, as they did in previous years.

Out of the 9 talks, I liked 4 (Wayne Hemingway, Jessica Hishe, Tyler Mincey, Michael Heilemann), loved 4 (Jason Santa Maria, Jon Tan, Tiago Pedras and Seb Lee-Delisle) and only one didn't quite do it for me (Stephanie Troeth).

That's not a bad result, and here are my personal highlights:

Jon Tan

I think to stand on stage in front of 600 people you need nerves of steel, confidence, but above all a huge amount of knowledge and passion for your subject. Jon Tan ticks all those boxes. He talked about his favourite subject –Type, and boy does he know about it. It didn't feel like he was doing a talk at a conference, more like chatting to friends, covering many areas of type including emotion, technical and visual. I tweeted during his talk that he's like some kind of design scientist, such is his depth of knowledge. Awesome.

Tiago Pedras

This one might catch a few of you off guard, as Tiago is not as big a name in the web world as some others, but I loved his talk. He's a designer and a teacher. His talk was mainly focused on the teaching part. This is something we really struggle with in our industry, mainly down to how quickly things change. Tiago talked of his unique approach of splitting his class into teams, and getting them to spend a whole year building a web based product. The winning team had the honour of being awarded a Golden Coconut. I love this idea, it seems so much better than the traditional modular approach, but still covered planning, strategy, business, maths, design, programming, production, marketing and management. As well as it being a terrific way to build team spirit.

It's probably no coincidence that these 2 guys also had the most beautiful slides.

That just leaves me...

For me the highlight was the whole day. That's a cop out right? No way. Every talk was informative and presented in an engaging way, I left feeling very inspired and I was able to catch up with industry pals, make new ones and even had the chance to give my own talk at a fringe event the night before. If I really have to single out a talk then it has to be Jon Tan's as he always talks about topics close to my heart and I love to hear about the emotion and psychology behind design.

We may have been AWOL for a day but we have already caught up and thew inspiration and knowledge we've brought back with us only makes us better. We're disappointed there won't be another New Adventures conference but what we gained from the last few years has been invaluable.