Every year, we look forward to connecting with fellow designers and influencers in the design, user experience and technology industries and discuss what’s happening, trends and what the future of the web will look like. This year Hi Interactive Digital Experiences’ team attended the Awwwards Conference in Amsterdam. The event was much more than a showcase of the speakers’ work: it was a call for designers to understand the purpose of what they do, the power of design and the possibilities of joining our talents for a better world. We also made valuable connections and we’re thrilled to share with you our top takeaways from the event.
Technology and human connection
"Hold hands, not phones" - Sofija Stanković & Teodora Stojković (TEYOSH)
"Is anything we produce detrimental to our human connections?" - Sentence by Ben Sauer, presented by Andre Jay Meissner
It's incredible how far the limits have come in terms of what technology is capable of. As humans we are using it to amplify ourselves and our relations in unimaginable ways. As designers we frequently envision technology to simplify (or even replace) human actions. The promise of a easier and unobjectionable environment where your actions will take place sounds great for anyone. Imagine a "good" human amplified... technology can only be a good thing, right? What can go wrong? We aren't flawless humans and we should always question ourselves: "how harmful can be whatever I'm designing for the people?"
Steal and share ideas
"Steal" - Daan Klaver (BiA)
One of the presentations that meant the most to me as a designer was the one by Daan Klaver (Founder/Creative Director at Build in Amsterdam). Among the strong and inspirational ideas of his presentation there was this funny slide where he stated, simply, “Steal”.
What he meant (and what I believe in) is that everything we make is always influenced by something or someone else. This doesn't mean we're copying our peers, but that everything influences our work: the people around us, the places we visited, what we read, what we see, and the people we look up to. Our work is observation, comprehension and evolution.
Ultimately, there is no place for individualism: the best design is made by joining different voices and sharing ideas.
We are our own brand
"No Layers." & "You are your own brand." - Daan Klaver (BiA)
Listening Daan Klaver saying that shouldn't exist layers in a studio or agency it really resonated with me. He refers to the hierarchy and job positions inside a team or agency. Everybody has their unique skills and all should collaborate and work towards the same goal, where it is a project or the future of the company. Having layers, he explains, brings too many downsides and creates a certain friction between colleagues and co-workers.
Being our own brand, as a professional or an agency, it is our responsibility to sell and to showcase just that type of work we want to continue to create in the future. If we sell and promote work that we are not happy with, we will attract more equal work. It's a vicious circle which ends up being a huge demotivation factor.
"We work perfectly together because I'm the one who complicates, and she is the problem solver." -Sofija Stanković & Teodora Stojković (TEYOSH)
As a team, all being problem solvers doesn't bring anything new or innovative if we solve just the clients’ problems. There should be, like the natural laws in our reality, balance between chaos and order. That being said, we must create new problems and ask questions to find new and creative solutions that makes us push boundaries and be truly innovative.
Small details matter
"I'm really 'peaky' about small details." - Louis Ansa
We all know that if we spend too much time on the details, we can compromise all the project process, but details really matters. If we consider them in the beginning, the process and flow of a project, for example, will have room and time to fit them in. That makes us, as designers and creators, proud of the work we have done and really satisfied about the final product. Paying attention to the details we will inspire others to be 'peaky' too and surely the client will return because their product was unique and tailor-made.
A unique experience for each type of user
"Activating all the human senses and create a unique experience for each type of user". - Claudio Guglieri
Creating relevant and engaging content is definitely one of the biggest challenges of our generation. That's because we consume so much information every day in our smartphones, computers, tablets, social media, ads and so on. On this talk, Guglieri showed us how to use the best resources available to grab users' attention: Auditory cognition, Touch, Vision, and Interaction. Only by combining a strong concept with proper implementation, we can activate all the human senses and create a unique experience for each type of user.
Think in flows, not screens
How can we make a difference when creating solutions for our clients? We must stand out with experiences that go the long way. One of the most important things to think about is Motion.
"Motion is at the core of everything we should be doing as designers" - Peter Smart (Fantasy)
We just need to show our clients how this really affects the work, the experiences and their customers' connection with the products that we create together. "Think in flows, not screens" and create an impact on the users that will make them love your digital experiences.
Designing for the Deaf
"Design for the deaf and everyone actually", "Sign Language is not universal", "Solve for one, extend to many" - Marie Van Driessche
Marie Van Driessche show us how sign language is an intrinsically different way of communicating and how to make a website accessible for Deaf people, but actually for everyone. Sign language is not a visual representation of written language. It's a visual-spatial language, without a natural written form.
Websites are a very visual medium and we might think that they will work for people who are Deaf. Marie told us a personal and entertaining story about things we’ve never realised, such as the four-dimensional language, the pros and cons of video captions, the recognition of exclusion and the importance of inclusion.
Always start with a why
During the conference a couple of points piqued my interest, so here are a few of my favourite quotes to help sum up the main ideas:
"Is it good?" - Andre Jay Meissner
Andre was talking about the real quality of the product. You have to think critically about your product when you're designing it.
"Should designers become personal trainers and train their customers?"
"Focus on increasing efficiency and accuracy of what we can do within a comfortable range." - Claudio Guglieri
Fact that we all know, but sometimes we don't do it.
"You need a great brief that is mainly constituted by existential threat and exponential opportunity" - David Vogel (AKQA)
This is David’s number 1 principle.
“Don’t forget to adapt.” - Jean-François Chainé & Dust Leblanc (Locomotive)
The speakers were talking about the second chapter of their Meaningful Environments principles. We need to adapt to the specificity of the project to understand it and have the right context to create new solutions.
“Always start with a Why?” - Daan Klaver (BiA)
Daan Klaver was talking about one of Build in Amsterdam’s principles in any project.
“Context is everything”, “Show us a hamburger menu and you’re fired”, “Support decision moments”, “Convention is just a permission to try better.” - Peter Smart (Fantasy)
Peter was talking about the Experience principles he follows.
You are a brand
"The legibility of your typeface matters" - Claudio Guglieri
For me as a type designer this was the best presentation. Claudio gave us great insights and an excellent and well designed presentation.
"You are a Brand"- Daan Klaver (BiA)
I like the fact that you can turn yourself into a brand by working on what you like outside you work life routine and that could lead to something great in the future.
"Don't Pitch"- Daan Klaver (BiA)
The best advice I've heard in the event.
Go beyond the obvious
"We go into the space of what people dream about, where their ambition is. Go beyond the obvious." - David Vogel (AKQA)
Taking part of the Awwwards was, indeed, to enter a space where one goes beyond the obvious, it was a way of being able to see and listen to different thoughts. It gave us the opportunity to dream, to grow and to do more work and do it better.
"Different backgrounds lead to different value systems. If you want to break people out of their value systems, grow." - Gert Franke (Clever Frank)
It reminded us of why we chose design as a life goal. Being able to exchange ideas with people that have different cultures, values and projects, enabled us to understand our own ways and paths. It helped us define our own future.
"All children are born artists. The challenge is to remain one when you grow up. Creativity is extremely important for our future." - Martijn van der Does (Wonderland).
It's good to feel that the future is in our hands! And once again, we brought back our soul filled with inspiration for our forthcoming challenges. Thank you Awwwards!
Inspiration to think outside the box
At the Awwwards Conference we had the opportunity to meet in person and to listen to people we only had seen through the screen. Professionals who served as role models for years and inspired me to produce creative content, always thinking on the human side of things. By providing us this tangibility with the best creatives in the area, Awwwards inspired us to improve and to think outside the box. And, who knows, to be right next to them at the next event, this time inspiring others from the stage.