Future of Web Design 2014: A Recap

4 min read
Ben Jordan
  •  Nov 6, 2014
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There are always hundreds of amazing things happening in NYC any given week, but this week was a special one with the city serving as host to Future of Web Design. This has always been one of my favorite conferences, and this year certainly did not disappoint.

New World Stages

The first piece of the puzzle that made this event so successful was the venue. New World Stages is such a cool venue, but its staff is also incredible. It is obvious that they have just over a million events there a year because everything is thorough. Their people are well-oiled machines.

In addition to how the venue was run, the layout made it really convenient to be a sponsor. We had the typical configuration you have at most conferences, but what was different about FOWD was where all the sponsors were located. The handful of sponsors were all setup in the main hallway that had to be utilized by everyone in between sessions. Attendees would stop by after talks and session to catch up and talk about what they just heard. Other sponsors were close by and would spend time chatting while the attendees were in sessions. It created this amazing, common area for community to happen throughout the event.

Speakers and Community

A common mistake I see conferences making is hiding their speakers off in a green room somewhere when they are not speaking. I do understand that there are certain people that are overwhelmed by crowds or are famous enough that setting them free into the open could cause issues. With that being said, that should be an exception to the rule.

People come to conference to learn, connect, and grow. Speakers get on stage and share topics that get people thinking. They leave sessions inspired but typically wanting to know more or to explore a question raised in more depth.

Photo by @hellomighty

When a conference intentionally makes time for attendees to interact with speakers, the quality of the event can only increase. The team at Future Insights made sure speakers were available. They even had speaker hours where attendees could sign up to have one-on-one sessions with speakers. It was incredible to see people off to the side getting questions answered and real value from people they consider mentors. This was one one of the key contributing factors to the community that was formed at this event.

Diversity of Topics

Another item to add to the list of great things about FOWD is the amount of diversity in the topics covered by those presenting. There was a well-struck balance between practical, philosophical, future-thinking, humorous, and educational talks. Some speakers got on stage and got into the details of how to accomplish something, while others talked about best practices. It was something that actually initially concerned me. As I sat at the speakers dinner, talking to my fellow presenters, one thing became apparent. None of these speakers had the same background. Everyone was a creator or maker of sorts, but there were so many different types of designers there. What I thought could make for a broken experience actually made for a more complete experience for attendees.

Photo by wayne.schlegel on Instagram

Bad Wifi is Good

There is one thing that is not bigger in Texas, and that is our basements. We actually don’t really have basements. Growing up in Kansas, I fell in love with basements, cellars, and things of that sort. When I moved to Texas, I was bummed that our house didn’t have a basement and always loved traveling to places with them. New York has always amazed me with how much of the city is underground. This is great for storage, forts, and things of that nature but seemingly horrible for cellular service and wifi.

This was the case with New World Stages. All of the space we used was a few stories underground. No one had cell service and the wifi was spotty at best. I know what you are probably thinking. That sucks. Here you are telling us all the amazing things about this conference, and this sounds like it would have ruined the conference.

That could not be further from the truth.

Unintentionally forcing attendees to take a break from stable internet actually helped people connect. At most conference, you see a percent of people off by themselves at breaks either hovered over their laptop trying to catch up on emails or checking the latest and greatest on Dribbble from their phones. The great thing, is that didn’t happen. People stood around and talked. They traded stories about work and things they learned from the session they just attended. It was sort of magical to watch.

Good Coffee Always Works

We were once again honored to brew Counter Culture coffee at our booth and spent time connecting with attendees while they waited for their cup. This tradition of brewing pour-over coffee at conference has become my favorite. It gives you something to talk to attendees about when they walk up and serves as a great transition into talking more about what each person does, is inspired by, and what they are hoping to get out of the conference. We love good coffee, and we loved talking to all the attendees while we were making it.

If it isn’t obvious yet, we had a really good time in NYC at FOWD. We will be sponsoring FOWD London next year and Ben will be back in the speaking lineup. We would love to see you all there, and share a delicious cup of coffee (or tea!) with you.

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