January 2011


In June last year, I was sat at the back of Greg Wood’s editorial design talk in San Francisco. The workshop content itself was really valuable, but the group discussion that followed was a revelation.

Here we were, a large and diverse bunch of designers, developers, publishers, writers and the like, spending a further fifty minutes engaged in a spontaneous debate about the future of web content. The discussion bounced around, and as a group, we were facing tough questions and finding outcomes. It was so progressive, and at that moment I wanted the whole web community to be able to listen in on the things we were saying.

Seven months later, and that inspiring moment brings you all here, to Nottingham, in winter. It sparked my long-held desire to put on a meaningful event specifically for web designers. I couldn’t stop thinking about how special it might be to get a hall full of smart people together for a day of intelligent, thoughtful, ambitious talks and subsequent discussion.

The role of The conference

In many ways New Adventures in Web Design is no different to other events that I consider extremely valuable; specifically events such as Build, DIBI (Design It Build It), EECI (ExpressionEngine conference), and dConstruct. These are brought to us by individuals, small teams, or agencies that do the same work as you and I every single day, and this real-world empathy ensures that we as attendees see our concerns and interests being addressed, year after year.

All conferences have value, but for me, the ones listed above have special integrity as they treat audiences with great respect, and assume a level of intelligence that allows the organisers to program a range of brave topics. The talks may be immediately useful, or they might deliver ideas through analogies or sideways perspectives that make attendees think a bit harder; the fruit of these topics often not truly ripening in our heads until days, weeks or months later.

Still, New Adventures aims to feel different. It’s an experiment and a comparatively affordable one for all of you I hope. The aims are not only to bring incredible speakers and some industry spotlight to this under-served yet historically creative region, but also to facilitate discussion, to ask questions, and hopefully explore outcomes. To succeed, the event has to be built upon relevant and engaging content that a diverse audience of six-hundred can relish. In search of that, we have a carefully curated program featuring ten topics in one day, bringing a fast and punchy program that provides room for the audience to respond to the topics during the debates and beyond.

Maybe the true role of a conference is to investigate new ways of thinking and collectively examine our challenges; to inspire, enthuse, and validate our thinking in broader strokes. The conference hall is not a classroom, and more direct learning is perhaps better placed in workshops — something we may bring you with New Adventures in the coming years.

The paper

Much like the main program, this paper you’re holding is full of opinion. Aside from the essential conference information you need, it contains nine specially commissioned contributions from established designers and exciting new or unsung creative minds.

The brief was simple. “You have one or two pages to speak directly to other designers. There are no rules, and it is your space to deliver your message.” As a result, we have exactly what I’d hoped for.

There are thoughts on design in these pages that I embrace and agree with, but there are also some thoughts that don’t align with my own views. When it comes to something as subjective as design, we can’t possibly all agree on the same things. It’s healthy to have our own ideas challenged or be made to think twice about what it is we value about the discipline. This, for me, is the very spirit of New Adventures, and it bleeds from every contribution in this paper.

The social aspect

A conference like this creates opportunities to try so many things. For this inaugural event, we’ve kept it manageable, and we have a couple of “fringe” events from the fine folks at Erskine Design and Second Wednesday, plus some other giveaways. Importantly, we have a mighty after-party for you all to enjoy and continue your conversations.

These fringe events aren’t just for larks, they’re the ideal opportunity to make new friends, establish potential working relationships, and get things off your chest with people who understand what riles you. Traditionally, they are also about drinking so, by all means, give that your all.

The Inevitable thanks

I shall end by extending my sincere thanks to the ten incredible speak- ers who didn’t hesitate to say “yes” to my crazy late-night emails last Summer. They are the backbone of this event, and they’ve each worked hard to bring us brand new talks never seen anywhere else.

Our fantastic sponsors and providers deserve gratitude from all of us. Their contributions big and small make everything tick. To put on an event like this costs a fortune, and logistically it can be daunting. Our sponsors take the sting out of the whole process, and without the venue staff, technical wizards, and volunteers this whole show would be an embarrassment.

Finally, I’d personally like to thank you for supporting this conference. The UK is heavily represented here today, but we also have a number from the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Ireland, plus a few from Romania, Poland, Australia, and many more corners of the globe. I hope each and every one of you find real value in what we’re doing and will consider supporting our events in the future.


Simon Collison

Simon is a designer, writer, speaker, and director of New Adventures. He's been making digital products for two decades, and believes designers should bear a greater responsibility for what they create, and draw from a more diverse array of inputs.


This article was commissioned for our January 2011 magazine. Like it? View all articles, grab our RSS feed, and subscribe to our newsletter.