Back from dConstruct 2011

As much as we love the work we do everyday at Spade, we also enjoy taking a step back and reflecting on the future and the evolutions of web design. After so much time spent at the office to launch the company and our clients’ projects, we looked forward to repeating our visit to Brighton this year.

So we (Benoit Vrins and Greg Hoin) crossed the channel to enjoy another extraordinary conference day organised by the lovely chaps at Clearleft. Unlike last year though, a few other people from Brussels joined us on this trip. Namely it was Vincent Battaglia, Ussama Dahin, and Geoffroy Delobel who also bought rounds of pints in the evenings.

Frank Chimero's speech

Frank Chimero’s speech

It was also the occasion to meet acquaintances from last year, and to discover more people, at the event’s before-and-after-parties.

The talks themselves were pretty interesting and covering a wide range of subjects.

The famous Don Norman tickled our critical thinking in his talk about the new paradigms of designing experiences and systems that extend beyond the screen.

Kelly Goto introduced us to lifestyle and emotional research techniques that go further than usability testing, in explaining the reasons behind the behaviours of our users. Her talk was amazingly rich, and we found it a shame that she had to rush when everything seemed so interesting.

Yiibu (aka Stephanie and Brian Rieger) delivered, in a duo act, a thorough presentation on what it takes to deliver experiences that make the grade, despite the persistent acceleration of technical shifts.

Craig Mod‘s poetic vision of the book of the future left quite a few thinking, but it was really a beautifully delivered metaphor. And what better way to describe an unknown future object than to tap into the imagination of those who will take part in it’s design?

Frank Chimero‘s talk revisited a lot of common complaints related to our lack of organisation tools for digital memories. Although it was delivered brilliantly and contained very good points, we still believe the subject would deserve deeper thinking.

Dan Hon made us laugh and think about a lot of things, but again, we’d have loved to see more substance instead if yet another obligatory mention of steve jobs and apple.

In his “transformers” talk, the Dutch Kars Alfrink hit a subject close to home in his introduction: Belgian Borders. In this case, though, it was through the absurd example of the belgium-netherlands border in Baarle Nassau (or Baarle Hertog, depending on which part of this maze you stand…). First explaining the dysfunctions in our systems and their roots (including the recent London riots). Then exemplifying how the design of game rules can transform physical or interpersonal interaction, he hopefully dismisses the gamification model. Instead supplying food for thought on how to establish social rules that can allow us to reuse the city’s spatial and social fabric in better ways.

The two last talks were truly amazing. Matthew Sherret revealed through his own experiments and a look at human traditions, how our pockets’s content will increasingly contain our identities. But surprisingly, how we will expect these objects to become increasingly personal, not only in terms of data. A beautiful and optimistic exploration on data-collecting objects.

The Subsonic submarine sound playground (dConstruct stand)

The Subsonic submarine sound playground (dConstruct stand)

And finally, in his criticism of augmented reality as it is defined today, Kevin Slavin took a very considered look at how we shouldn’t be augmenting our reality through the eyes, but instead try to use other senses to make these experiences truly enjoyable and useful.

Altogether, we were slightly let down by the quality and depth of some of the talks, compared to last year (which was amazing). But this day was still a very enriching and powerful experience, perfectly orchestrated by Jeremy Keith and the Clearleft guys.

We’re already looking forward to next year’s edition, our brains replenished and firing on all cylinders.

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