New Adventures - A Review

I’m a conference-virgin, or at least that should be I was a conference-virgin as on Thursday, I attended New Adventures in Web Design, a fantasticly good conference put on but the equally fantastic Simon Collison.

New Adventures aimed to be a series of talks on the future of the web, where it’s going and the ‘new adventures’ we’ll embark on, or at least, the speakers interpretation of the future of the web… or at least that’s how I interpreted it.

Over 600 of us decended on Nottingham for the conference with more than a fair amount arriving the day before to make use of the pre-conference events which including the Erskine Socials Bowling event and Second Wednesday.

I had planned on taking my camera to record the day along with my iPad to take notes but decided against it to travel light. I ended up not taking any notes and concentrating more on the speakers. Only problem being I can’t refer to any notes now as I write this.

The Event kicked off a little late due to the queue heading around the block but Simon Collison kept us all up to date before getting the event started by saying hello and letting everyone know about the day’s events and some other information.

Dan Rubin

Dan Rubin was up first with his talk called The New Language of Web Design. Dan hit on some great points through out his talk but focused on the notion that by using words such as ‘page’ for our sites, we are putting constraints on what we create – and this leads to confusion with our clients. Dan urged us all to think of new words or phrases to give to the things we create, perhaps borrowing from other industries so as to avoid confusion. An insightful talk.

Mark Boulton

I’ve heard Mark speak before but only by downloading a talk from a previous conference. I enjoyed that and I equally enjoyed this talk. Mark discussed creating A New Canon for web design. It followed on nicely from Dan’s talk and touched on a lot of content. The main thing I took from this talk is we should work content out not canvas in. Websites don’t have edges – they only have edges that we create ourselves. If we start with the content and then design from there moulding and shaping the website to suit, this is a better approach.

Sarah Parmenter

I thought Sarah’s talk, Crafting User Experiences was fantastic & engaging and was right up my street. I enjoyed listening to how colour can make a difference in meaning in different cultures and how subconciously, the design elements we create form the route the user takes on the website. It’s the psychology behind the design. Sarah also spoke about the psychology behind wording and used Dustin Curtis’ experiment exploring the power that the language has over clickthrough rates. A study well worth reading. I would have loved to hear more about this subject.

After a quick tea break and a stretch of legs (boy that was needed!) we got back into the talks!

Elliot Jay Stocks

I’ve always been a fan of Elliot, his work & his writing so I was looking forward to his talk, With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility. A talk focusing on the design decisions we make and why we’re doing it. The one quote I took from this (and I’m sure a lot of others did too was “with lots of good design, there’s also lots of shit” which is subjective but also very true. Elliot also talked about why we make design decisions like we do – is it because of convention or because what everyone else does? For example – when we create a form button, why do we add rounded corners, a bit of drop shadow and a slight gradient?

Jon Tan

Jon’s title of his talk confused me somewhat as I couldn’t figure out what it would relate to as it was titled Language and the Lizard Brain. It all relates to the study of the human brain. deep down in the centre is a section called the Amygdala and the job of this little part of pink stuff is to control our emotions. It takes what we see, and converts this into an emotion. He produced 2 very good slides on this subject. The first was a word written in a real soft script typeface called Bello. The word on the screen conveyed warm emotions, a happy feeling which all came from the soft and warm strokes of the font. The second slide was again another word, but this time in a harsh sharp typeface called Graveblade. This slide conveyed hatred and dark emotions.

At this point Jon pointed out that the warm Bello scripted word actually meant hate and the harsh evil looking word meant love. Powerful stuff indeed.

By this point, it was lunchtime and the morning had flown by. I was having fun.

Tim Van Damme

Everyone knows Tim, and a fair few people I spoke to on the day said that they were looking forward to Tim’s talk – Designing on Solid Foundations. He didn’t disappoint. He spoke about how he got started in design – way back when he was producing screensavers for the Nokia 3310. He also spoke a lot about the ‘spark’ we get that spurs us on and to design what we do.

Greg Wood

Greg was up next with his talk – Art Direction & Editorial Design on the Web: Does it Work?. I thoroughly enjoyed this talk (even more so than this slide). Ever since seeing Jason Santa Maria’s art directed posts, I’ve enjoyed the creativeness and love that goes into each article and with more people doing it now including Greg himself, this was a talk I was looking forward to. Greg also included some basic research he conducted (he promised he’ll write a blog post on it at a later date) which concluded that with an art-directed post (done right of course) the reader will pay more attention to what’s written.

Veerle Pieters

Next up was Veerle Pieters with Unravelling the Mysteries of Inspiration. Veerle (who I always thought had long hair?!) spoke about where her inspiration comes from and how that transpires and works in with her workflow – how she goes about producing the colourful work that she does and where her inspiration comes from.

Something that rang true with me was that Veerle moves away from her screen for inspiration. She’ll look through printed books or go to furniture design (physical design) to inspire her to create digital design! I like it!

Andy Clarke

One talk I was looking forward to was Andy’s. Having recently finished (and enjoyed) his new book “Hardboiled Web Design” I was interested to hear what he had to say. His talk, entitled Once Upon A Time On The Web, spoke about story telling on the web, and how we can cut and carve the experience we’re creating to form a story and direct the users of the websites we create. His talk involved a lot of comic book slides & references to how comics can help tell a story with the direction of the individual comic illustrations. An insightful talk that didn’t dissappoint.

Brendan Dawes

Brendan Dawes rounded off the speakers with his talk Produced For Use. An inspiring talk which didn’t really talk much about the web but more as design in general. He spoke about his MoviePeg product he designed & produced along with other great little idea’s he has had & made. Brendan is a very funny man and should have his own TV show. His talk got a hell of a lot of laughes, and was the perfect closing talk to round off the day (and lighten the mood after a LONG day).

Unfortunatly, I couldn’t make the after-party due to work commitments but from all accounts, it was a great success!


I had a fantastic time, I met some great people and I learnt some great tips from the speakers. I can’t wait to put some ideas into action. I can’t wait to collaborate with some cool people and build some cool stuff! And I can’t wait to go again!

The format of the conference (which I know Simon had talked about previously) was good. The Q&A sessions where good too. I perhaps would have enjoyed the talks a bit more had they been longer. Some of them seemed like they needed another 15 minutes or so to explore other ideas.

One of the attendees, Sam Hardacre (Nocturnal Monkey) sketched out each of the speakers talks for uBelly which can be found here. Not only is Sam a talented illustrator, these sketches prove a great memory jogger for the talks! Do check them out.

The only bad thing on the day? The uncomfy seats around the back of the auditorium… but we can’t blame Simon Collison for that can we?

If you attended, I’m sure you had a great time. If not, Simon is planning on getting video from the talks online mid-February which I am really looking forward to!


Simon, if you read this – thank you for putting on such a fantastic event. Dan, Mark, Sarah, Elliot, Jon, Tim, Greg, Veerle, Andy & Brendan, if you read this – thank you so much for your inspirational talks.

What a wonderful day!


  • 14 Mar 2011 11:10:05

    We’ll see the big T try out new money making schemes in the future. I think the only way they can gauge user reactions is to push it that little bit too far. I haven’t seen anyone say, ‘Gee I like the #dickbar’.

    With so many millions of users even they know there’s little competition. It’s not like there’ll be a mass exodus over a trending topic bar. I’m not sure what it would take for the masses to leave twitter though.

  • 14 Mar 2011 11:27:48

    Oh I agree, there won’t be a mass exodus, but friends follow friends. If your friends moved to another service, you’ll likely follow them. Then you’re friends will follow you, and it slowly begins to happen.

  • 16 Mar 2011 17:37:37

    I went on a proper disconnect-from-the-internet-for-a-week holiday recently, and when I came back I discovered that my days were more productive if I didn’t read twitter. No social network can be worth your productivity, right?

    So I’d lost interest in Twitter. I still use it, but more as a way of contacting people in my line of work, than as a news feed.

    This kind of sabre rattling from Twitter just makes me even less inclined to launch the damned client. It’s not as big a loss as you might think, once you realise what you could do with the time you save…

  • 16 Mar 2011 21:37:53

    @Graham – I shudder to think what productivity is lost due to twitter.

  • 17 Mar 2011 14:28:50

    I found myself expanding on the time saving benefits over a couple of pints last night. I started writing it up here, but it’d have taken your comments off topic so in the end I wrote a new post…

  • 17 Mar 2011 15:23:50

    Funnily enough Graham, I’d just read that; and I must say that that exactly describes me! First moment I’m left to my own devices in any social situation (pub, bar, mates etc), the iPhone comes out and I’m scrolling away on twitter or Mail.

    It’s more to do with not looking like ‘Billy No Mates’ by appearing to be replying to emails or a text message. It’s also to avoid the akward staring into space I do if I’m left at the table on my own.

    Nice idea on the Mi-Fi & iPod!

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