Technology Travels

Aerodynamic Efficiency in Paper Airplane Design or Thoughts on SXSW Interactive

This year marked my second visit to Austin, Texas for the South By Southwest Interactive conference. While I very much enjoyed myself and having only attended in ’09 I can tell you that things have changed, perhaps not for the better.

Two years ago I attended presentations almost every hour, nearly all were in the Convention Center, they were all higher quality and it was relatively easy to navigate which I wanted to go to.

This year there was too much. You would scroll through long listings picking out sessions and then realize all of that was just the 2 pm hour. Also, a large number of sessions were offsite in hotel conference rooms. It’s bad enough that to walk from one end of the conference center takes about 10-15 minutes, some of the sessions I wanted to go to were as far as a mile away from the convention center.

To make matters worse, a multitude of the sessions were redundant panels with poorly prepared presenters, the bulk of which were still fixating of the importance of “social media” and other buzz words. The kind of stuff you would already have to be aware of if you’re attending SXSW in the first place. Utter wastes of time. By the end of day one I had pretty much given up on panels to spend time with my friends and meet new people.

The idea of having a conference for “interactive” is beginning to feel short sighted. It’s grown so large and out of control it’s simply untenable. Marketers, designers, programmers and content creators are coming together under the banner of “interactive” while many of these people have little in common. With the common thread of the internet becoming so ubiquitous in American life it seems absurd to blanket everything under one banner.

Imagine if we held a conference for all the industries who use paper in any way shape or form, there would be panels on restaurant menu design, proper cardboard box construction and buzz-worded up bullshit like “aerodynamic efficiency in paper airplane design”. Still many of those things would have about as much in common as the sessions at SXSWi.

At the same time, the split between the Film and Interactive portions of the conference seems more and more arbitrary as the line between amateur and professional continues to blur.

The focus this year for me was less on the panels and more about the partying, networking and actual human interaction. This is perhaps evidenced best by the multitude of panels discussing how to best party at SXSW. I can’t be the only one who thinks this is a bad thing. It seems the label of “Interactive” has taken on a new meaning and it seems to be less about the technology and more about social interaction. The thing is though, if that’s the case, why even buy a badge when I can party for free anyway and get about the same?

Chicago Design General Pop Culture Technology

Planting the Seed

Roman Coppola

Keeping in my ‘seeking out inspiration’ kick, I just registered for the Seed conference with Jason Fried, Jim Coudal, and Carlos Segura on October 29th.

I’m looking forward to it; I hope to learn a lot. I’m also really enjoying networking as of late. I’ve been astounded by the people I’ve been meeting lately, and it started with An Event Apart.

Coming out here to Chicago has been a huge opportunity for me. There is always something new and inspiring going on that fascinates me. So many opportunities to learn.

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a screening of Wes Anderson’s Hotel Chevalier at the Apple Store. The screening was hosted by producer Roman Coppola. Afterward, Roman stuck around for Q&A. The crowd was excellent, and his rapport with them was phenomenal.

While filmmaking is not my field of choice, listening to Roman was very inspiring. He spoke about starting a project, from research to making compromises to achieve a vision. I’m really looking forward to The Darjeeling Limited.

It’s weird, but I spent years in New York, the “cultural center of the world,” and somehow, I missed opportunities like this. I think I’m just more in tune with the world around me today.

It’s exciting.

Chicago Design General

Waking Up

Late last year, I noticed I had lost a few things from my life. I had fallen into a rut; I wasn’t happy. To make matters worse, I’d fallen into a routine, and this routine excluded doing a lot of things that were important to me: Things like designing websites.

Ultimately this discovery lead me to try something drastic and pick up and move to Chicago from New York, where I had spent my entire life until that point. While I miss NY and I miss my friends, I’m happier now, and I’m carving out a new niche for myself here. I’ve missed web design a lot, and I’ve lagged behind. Well, I decided to do something about it, and last month I attended An Event Apart: Chicago with the hope it would get me back into things.

Boy, was I right! Since the conference, I’ve had design on the brain non-stop. I found myself creatively inspired in particularly by Jason Santa Maria, Jeremy Keith, and Liz Danzico.

I’ve been fussing over a site design for this site here for over three years, and it gave me the guts to finally scrap everything I had and start rethinking. I’ve found myself re-energized. The new header graphic treatment is hopefully a taste of things to come as I plan to be a much more active participant in the design community, so stay tuned.