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MakingFriends at MakingWeb

Smiley face on the top of MakingWeb logo

That’s me in the corner.

So. Back in Edinburgh, head buzzing with all sorts of information soaked up during two very interesting days in Oslo last week. I’m talking about MakingWeb, of course.

In its second year, MakingWeb is a fairly young and intimate Norwegian conference on design and front-end, this time with a great line-up of designers, artists, psychologists and, of course, developers. The result was a flurry of insights from all sides of the fence (there are always more than two), and the takeaways were many.

I could go on to speak about atomic design or design/development teams, performance budgets or CSS pages – we really covered a lot – but I won’t. See, key takeaway for me this year, wasn’t a particular tool, or a new piece of syntax, or a slightly improved process (although they’re definitely part of it). It was the people. What a great bunch you were. And when I say “you”, I really mean “us”. All of us, working, experimenting, pushing the boundaries and, crucially, selflessly sharing our results for others to learn.

Designing for the web and developing front-end code is fucking hard. There’s a million ways of organising your CSS, there’s mobile first, and mobile last, and retina displays and pixels that aren’t really pixels. There are budgets and bandwidth issues, font-rendering and media queries, all of which can dampen a creative person’s mood. Waterfall. Native apps. Internet Explorer.

The list goes on.

But all these obstacles, all the fences and hoops and bolted doors, were brushed aside during our two sunny days in Oslo. It was not a conference of pessimism (good conferences rarely are) or, dare I say it, realism. It was optimistic. It was rejuvenating. It was celebratory of what it means to work in the constantly evolving field that is the interweb. And it was great.

So thank you, guys, for making my head spin. For being so generous with your time. And for making me get out of bed at midnight to jolt down ideas too crucial to forget.

Specifically:

Thank you Eirik, for being a brilliant host, carefully keeping us more or less on schedule whilst allowing a few extra words of brilliance to seep into our breaks. And thanks for the t-shirt!

Thank you FM and Johan, for kicking off the conference in style. Your thoughts on design – not “web” design, just design – were inspiring, not least your impromptu campaign to show Sverigedemokraterna what being human is all about.

Thank you Vasilis, for introducing me to viewport units. You perfectly articulated what I’ve long been questioning – why do we design pages within pages? Why aren’t we using the whole viewport as our canvas? Why indeed. (Oh, and thank you for being lazy. It’s good to see I’m not the only one).

Thank you Vitaly. Aside from baffling me with your friendliness, your talk was crammed with useful tips and hints. Atomic design, somewhat a theme for the conference, not the least among them.

Thanks Harald and Marius, for your sharing your insights working with Scandiabanken and letting us have a peek at your internal processes.

Thank you Håkon. That the inventor CSS is under 50 and still speaking at conferences about new additions to the language is a humbling indicator of our industry’s age. Our tools are infantile, our perspective is like that of a toddler. But our ambitions and optimism are childlike, filled with wonder and enthusiasm. I really can’t wait to see where we’re headed, and I hope CSS pages will be part of it.

Thank you Wilhelm, for turning the whole conference up side down on day two, contesting some of the wisdom from the previous day. I’m not going to argue whether pixels are good or bad, but I was pleased to see you found a system that works for you – and your clients. It shows us all that there are no rules, and best practice is a guide at best: what matters is how the end product works.

Thank you Seb and Mario – both of your talks were incredibly inspiring and a welcome break from process and unit-discussions. I’m a strong believer in art having a place in the digital realm, and you showed us that to be true.

Thank you Daniel. Having lost faith in Adobe Edge, you’ve tempted me to reassess my views and open, for the first time, the Edge Animate application. I’m sure I’ll find inspiration within it.

Jonas. Although I missed the first few minutes of your talk (courtesy of talkative clients), your perspective on the design/front-end team was very interesting and will feature prominently in our next internal workshop. So thank you.

Thank you Andy. It is only fitting for the final keynote to upend everything else and lift the perspective up from our screens to the bigger picture. You reminded us all that being a good designer is more than learning to use a tool, that good design does not magically happen if only the process is right. That good design happens, for the most part, in our minds, not in the browser, Photoshop or BaseCamp.

Last, but not least: Hanne. Thank you so much for the overwhelming hospitality. You made what would have been a great conference into so much more. I owe you one, just let me know and I’m there.

There. A bit personal, perhaps. If you’re interested in a more objective (and informative) view, check out all the talks, of which only a few are mentioned above, here:

MakingWeb talks

That’ll be all. Thank you and good night.

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Author: Espen Brunborg

Espen can easily ruin conversations with questions about chimneys.

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