Everyday Type

Everyday Type

Interlink Conference 2011: My Wrap-Up

June 17, 2011

About two weeks ago, I was invited to attend Interlink Conference, a boutique conference with some great speakers held at Capilano University in the gorgeous city of Vancouver, BC. I was incredibly impressed with the speaker line-up and felt like each speaker added a great deal to the conference. I left inspired and refreshed about the current directions of the web.

Here are some of my overal highlights of the speakers, mixed with notes, photos, and, where possible, links to their presentations on Slideshare.

(Note: Thanks to Steve Mynett for the photos.)

Denise Jacobs: On–Demand Inspiration

Denise Jacobs at Interlink Conference

Denise Jacobs killing it on stage.

I arrived slightly late to Denise’s presentation because of construction on the highway, but I was immediately captivated. Denise was speaking about creativity and inspiration and focused on the cognitive patterns and brain wave states related to the creative process. Sound heady? It was, but in an extremely accessible way.

One of the most intriguing moments during Denise’s presentation was her interpretation of Jack Chang’s article on habit fields, and how important it is to create environments in our offices and at our desks that are nurturing to our creativity. There’s much more to it than that, of course, but that’s the gist.

Denise is also very into the concept of freeing up creative energy by introducing more diversity into our sources of inspiration (e.g., music and paintings as opposed to Dribbble and Google Image Search). In the same vein, she also suggests spending time with people from different fields. Mix it up.

Her presentation isn’t available on Slideshare yet, but while you’re waiting, you can view a talk on a similar topic, The Art of Disciplined Creativity.

Edit: You can view Denise’s “On Demand Inspiration” presentation on Slideshare here.

Frank Chimero: The How and Why of Design

Frank Chimero at Interlink Conference

Frank Chimero, who jumped into my top five man crushes.

This may not actually be the title of Frank’s talk, because he apparently changed his topic a week before the conference. Frank shared a great deal from his new book, The Shape of Design, which promises to be an incredibly illuminating read, due out before Christmas.

I called my wife during the lunch break, and one of my first comments on the conference was, “If I had driven up from Seattle just for the 35 minutes of Frank Chimero’s talk, it totally would’ve been worth it.” Frank talked a lot about establishing a framework for design, thinking about the relationship between the message (the ‘what’ of design), the tone (the ‘how’ of design), and the format (the ‘why’ of design).

I was stunned by Frank’s assertion that design is not simply problem solving. Why? “When you solve a problem, the thing you produce is an answer,” he argues. “An answer is reproducible and independent of source and context.” Here, he means that both third graders and doctoral candidates in mathematics will arrive at ‘four’ when asked the sum of two and two. However, the source and context of design will change over time. We’ve produced hundreds of answers to the problem posed by ‘chair’ over the past hundred years, and new advancements in textiles will produce new answers in the coming years.

Simply put, Frank was brilliant.

Whitney Hess: The Philosophy of UX

Whitney Hess at Interlink Conference

Whitney Hess on The Philosophy of UX

Whitney Hess was somehow a new name to me, but I’ve since become incredibly interested in some of the work she’s been doing lately. (Hey, anyone Happy Cog hires as a consultant has enough credibility for me.) Whitney’s presentation can be summed up as follows: “User experience is the establishment of a philosophy about how to treat people.” This is where I see a lot of research going in the coming years: how are we connecting people—and connecting with people—through our applications and websites? Needless to say, Whitney will be one of the seminal figures of this movement.

I could try to outline her talk, but unlike most presentations I’ve ever seen, her slides speak for themselves. Whitney was engaging, inspiring, humorous, and thought–provoking. Her career will definitely be worth keeping track of: she’s going to accomplish amazing things.

[Update: Slideshare isn’t cooperating with me, so I’m unable to embed. Here’s the link to Whitney’s presentation: Design Principles: The Philosophy of UX.]

Gavin Elliott: A Better Process

Gavin Elliott at Interlink Conference

Gavin Elliott on the DELI method

Gavin Elliott’s most recent project is happie.st, an innovative new social network based on healthy living habits like eating well, keeping a journal, and meditating. He brought his human–focused design sense to his talk, focusing on what he calls the DELI method:

  • Design by Decision: Everything on the page must have a reason for being there
  • Design by Emotion: Focus on how a user feels as they navigate: texture, type, shape, color, etc.
  • Design by Language: It’s not just about what we read, it’s how we read it. Take care in using language in a design.
  • Design by Iteration: Your first design is never your best piece of work.
Gavin’s talk was a great marriage of philosophy and practicality. Overall very informative and inspiring. You can view the slides here.

Simon Collison: A Dialect of Our Own Design

Simon Collision at Interlink Conference

Simon Collision at Interlink Conference

As much as I enjoyed Simon Collision’s talk, I have to say that it was all but incomprehensible to me. He began his presentation with a montage of scenes from movies and television, and closed by noting that the scenes are all appealing because they share a common visual grammar. I think I can grasp this on an abstract level, but I have trouble applying it practically.

His talk basically got more complex and cerebral from there. Reading back over my notes, I just start getting a headache and have flashbacks of AP Calculus junior year of high school: feeling way out of my element.

In any case, here are the slides. If you can make heads or tales of them, maybe you could email me and explain it to me?


In brief, the conference was extremely well put together, and I was astounded that Shawn Johnston basically put the entire thing together by himself. It felt seamless from beginning to end: from the excellent hospitality to the easy parking, it was everything a web conference should be. I was also impressed by the speaker lineup, and appreciated hearing from a few of the excellent women in our industry. There were a few speakers I didn’t mention here simply because I didn’t necessarily connect with their talks, but they were still excellent speakers. This list includes Elliott Jay Stocks, Sarah Parmenter, and Jonathan Snook.

The Interlink Conference has easily earned its place among the elite international web conferences. Look for it next year, and be sure to sign up early. If this year was any indication, it’s going to be an incredible late spring in Vancouver in 2012, thanks to Shawn Johnston and company.