I’ll be honest. My expectations were high. Quite high. Last year’s Interlink Conference was a spectacular showing for the debut of the colloquiam; from the speakers to the hospitality to the organization, Shawn Johnston ran the event like a seasoned pro. Could it have been beginner’s luck?
I think not. This year’s Interlink Conference built upon last year’s success to great effect. The speaker list was again phenomenal, the hospitality yet another step up, and the venue was more central, comfortable, and conducive to inspiration.
Notably, it was clear that Shawn went to great lengths to make sure that the strong female contingent of our profession was well represented. Last year, Whitney Hess, Denise Jacobs, and Sarah Parmenter gave outstanding talks on their respective niches. Similarly, last week, front-end extraordinare Jina Boulton, lettering queen Jessica Hische, and content strategy powerhouse Erin Kissane all shared their wealths of knowledge with our eager ears. (Not to mention UX Magazine’s Lynne Polischuik and writer/content strategist Stephanie Hay, who, rumor has it, conducted excellent workshops earlier in the week.)
The theme of this years conference was craft, and each speaker spoke to how their extreme passion for detail manifested in their choice of tools, workflow, and creative process. This choice of theme felt timely, given the wealth of blog posts and artifacts that have been produced this year with the same concept in mind.
I took furious notes on most of the speakers. What follows is a half-baked attempt to categorize those thoughts into a form that will make sense to anyone but me.
Faruk Ates: Adaptive Humans
Faruk began with the proposition that being adaptive humans is about seeing ourselves as craftspeople. He gave the example of a particular Dutch footballer who, rather than play particular positions on the pitch (are we designers, front-end developers, programmers?), responded to different game situations in a way appropriate to each, rather than being bound by traditional expectations of, say, where on the field a midfielder might engage play.
Analogously, we as web craftspeople must be able to adapt to different projects, drawing from a wide range of skills. our teams can sometimes lack a collaborative organization (i.e., having a “marketing team,” a “development team,” etc. does not necessarily lend itself well to cross-team partnerships). To what extent are we willing to adjust our workflows? Let’s take a look at how we work with each other and within our organizations.
Erin Kissane: Embiggening the Magic of Craft
There has been a definitional problem as the idea of content strategy comes to the fore. Content strategy is system design. We’re not making things per se, we’re making systems that make things.
As we approach our craft, we should be seeking not knowledge, but mastery. Not just good quality, but excellence and a human scale.
How are we thinking about our subsystems? We need to be able to zoom in and out, to gain perspective, to look at both the large and the small scale.
Systems need craft. Humans need craft.
Five proposals for craft: return to the artifact, empower makers (think CMSs), work in craftsperson time (i.e., “humane efficiency”), ship small but excellent, and seek deep wells of knowledge.
Our ideal should be handmade systems. We want a world not of the factory, but of the workshop.
Jon Tan: Revert to Type
According to Jon Tan, we should be designing with web type for impact (grabbing attention) and immersion (absorbing involvement). According to recent studies, differences between good or poor typography appear to have little effect on reading speed and comprehension. There is apparently no empirical difference in how long it takes to read a document when it is set well compareed with a poorly set document.
However, good typography induces a good mood. Though it took almost no difference in time to read a poorly or well set piece of text, the reader will underestimate the time it took to read a well set piece of text, and overestimate the time it took to read one poorly set. In other words, reading well set text is more enjoyable.
Here are some considerations for choosing type to set on the web:
- Check for hinting and optimization for web
- Carefully read EULA’s to make sure type is licensed for web use
- Set the smallest intended text first to make sure it is readable in the given face
- Confirm that the face supports the languages you need
- Confirm that the face supports the OpenType features you need
When checking for usefulness of typefaces, consider setting a piece of text that tests for letter differentiation:
agh! iIl1 O0
The agh! will give you an idea of the character of the face (single or double storey a and g?), the x height, and the ascender and descenders. The iIl1 and O0 will give you a sense of how distinct the glyphs are, and therefore allows you to assess the chances of words being misread because of letter confusion.
Cameron Moll: The Burden of Creativity
What might it look like to acknoweldge the inevitable frustration that comes from being creative, but to come to appreciate and expect that frustration as a part of the creative process?
Creativity should not necessarily be thought of as bringing something into existence that has not existed before. What if we thought of it as organizing existing matter (can be thought of as anything from forking and building on GitHub repositories to simply using the Creative Suite to create something).
T.S. Eliot, after finishing The Wasteland, had his colleague Ezra Pound make edits and corrections. Eliot then published The Wasteland with the inscription Il miglior fabbro, which translates to “The Better Craftsman,” suggesting that the more profound producer of himself and his colleague was Pound, ahving used Eliot’s materials to create something yet better. Who is our better craftsman? For whom are we the better craftsman?
I can’t imagine how much work it is to organize a conference. Shawn Johnston somehow manages to pull off the entire event single-handedly, and has consistently taken great care to ensure an experience that is not only enjoyable, but edifying. He clearly takes great pride in paying attention to the work of the seminal figures in our field, and putting together a program that is as timely as it is informative.
Consider adding Interlink to your conference schedule next year. At the price, it’s a surprisingly affordable investment in the re-envigoration of your web career.