FOWD 09 Conference Notes


My friend and studio-mate Cameron Kozcon was so kind to write up some of the talks at this week’s Future of Webdesign Conference (FOWD) which unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend. Cameron was officially my first ‘swissmiss field reporter’ and he did a fantastic job. Here’s his write up (Make sure to check out the individual Talk Stats!)

DAN CEDERHOLM | Progressive Enrichment with CSS3

Summary:You should enhance your sites with little niceties that only the modern browsers will see because it is nice for them, but other browsers won’t miss it. Some things you can do to enrich a site:

  • Style form elements
  • RGBa for simple color choices. Good for background textures.
  • Drop shadows that don’t hurt.
  • Scaling images on hover
  • Transparent links
  • Adding rotation
  • Fade effects in webkit

Presentation Stats:
Slides: 9
Humor: 5
Fashion: 4
Made Me: Wonder
Hair Intensity: 1
YAY! factor: 7
Physical Intimidation: 7

MIKE KUS | 3 Dimensional Thinking for Web Designers

*Author’s note: Im wearing 3d glasses.

Summary: What is 3 Dimensional thinking? Just a fancy way to say think outside the box and approach web design from new angles. It is very easy to get consumed by all the activity on the web and before you know it you get stuck in web space. You can easily find yourself churning out the same old work and putting drop shadows under anything that moves. You need to make a lifestyle choice to be permanently thinking in a bigger space than just the web space.

Some Tips

  • Be aware of what surrounds you. Designs for a website can begin anywhere. Street signs, nature, etc.
  • Restrict your toolkit – So easy to overdo stuff. It actually makes design decisions easier. (me: should they be arbitrary?)
  • Lie about the brief. Tell the designer you want a poster designed. Keeps them out of web space. Not a practical suggestion, but you can lie to yourself. What would I do if this was a poster?
  • Ban boring web trends from your work.
  • Don’t be afraid to get it wrong. The most ground breaking work is done by people willing to take risks, “It pays to be obvious especially when you have a reputation for subtlety.”
  • Design for yourself.
  • “Could I push this further?” If you can, “DO IT”

– Don’t Design for the web. Just design.
– Be more creative than you need to be.
– Progress and innovation in design requires exploration. Exploration takes risk.

Check out to see the slides in 3d.

Presentation Stats:
Slides: 10
Humor: 5
Fashion: 7
Made Me: Passionate
Hair Intensity: 1
YAY! factor: 10
Physical Intimidation: 4 (including a +1 bonus for being in 3d)

DEREK FEATHERSTONE | Accessibility in a Web 2.0 World

Summary: Derek lists a bunch of accessibility concerns in a lot of popular apps and discusses the scripts and stylesheets they’ve built to deal with them. Most of this stuff you really need to see. Raises a lot of interesting questions about accessibility. Particularly interesting was:

Basecamp To Do list and Accessibility
Basecamp checklist. The controls for editing and deleting a to do item in a Basecamp exist in a nubbin that only shows up on mouse hover. That is very inaccessible if you don’t have a mouse. Derek wrote a script that says: “Anytime you find a nubbin in the page, expose it.” Which although it sounds a bit frightening to say, is quite handy.

Presentation Stats:
Slides: 5
Humor: 6
Fashion: 8
Made Me: Overwhelmed
Hair Intensity: 4
YAY! factor: 7
Physical Intimidation: 10 (2x Ironman triathlete)

ELLIOT JAY STOCKS | Tips & Tricks for designing for the modern web

Summary: A lot of people say “Yeah that stuff is great, but it doesn’t work in Internet Explorer.” but I’m hear to say “Stop worrying and just get on with it.”

Do websites need to look exactly the same in every browser? – NO

Websites are never going to look the same across all browsers. Don’t spend time on an unreachable goal. Embrace the differences.


Usability vs. Aesthetics:
Functionality is very important, BUT don’t underestimate the importance o beauty.
– Beauty is experience’s visual layer.
– Visually pleasing layer = more fulfilling user experience.
– Functionality leads to usage, aesthetics lead to emotion.

Who pushes things forward?
– Tim Van Damme,
– Mike Kus,
– Miguel Ripoll,
– Jason Santa Maria,
– Matthew Smith,

Web Validation
– Validation is irrelevant.
– New techniques won’t validate…
– …And it doesn’t matter. Don’t let it hold you back form using these things on your site. Know the right ways to break the rules. Remember. Validation does not equal conformity to Web Standards.

Call to Action
– Let’s do something new!
– Let’s experiment.
– Let’s move the web away from same old.
– Ensure a good experience for most and a great experience for some.
– Its our duty to push forward thinking development; to make the most of the tools made available to us and our users.
-New css techniques will never go mainstream if designers don’t push them

Presentation Stats:
Slides: 7
Humor: 8
Fashion: 7
Made Me: Super Smile
Hair Intensity: 11
YAY! factor: 8
Physical Intimidation: 0 (lucky a puppy hugging a teddy bear)

The Bard’s Tale of the FOWD Panel Discussion

2: 35pm I’m here before the panel is beginning and as of now I have no idea what this panel will be discussing. Ill keep you posted as the drama unfolds. The Stats for this round will be a bit competitive as each individual is judge in terms of their fashion, physical intimidation, etc. within the context of their neighbors.

2: 39pm Intros by Liz Danzico. She asks if we thought it was about Twitter. It isn’t. Mystery levels high.

2: 41pm Panel walks on stage in slow motion to Europe’s Final Countdown. A designer. An editor. And a Content Strategist. They are going to tackle whether long and short form communication can coexist or do they compete? Mystery solved. Anticipation begins.

2: 44pm Introductions of the panel. There was some debate over the awesomeness of lobster bisque.

2: 46pm Oh snap. Kristina comes guns blazing with a 3 word response to Liz’s “Why do we always thing of long & short form as being in opposition?”. She said, “Because they’re opposites.” The classic rebuttal of the days of yore.

2: 47pm Double snap. Paul Ford uses the same strategy for “We talk about long be slower. Why is that?” Paul – “Because it’s longer.”

2: 48pm Liz relies on a combination of poise and physical intimidation to keep the panel in line. The audience wonders when Jason Santa Maria, silent to this point, will use the same strategy.

2: 52pm “I want to call Jason out on something.” Paul is winding up. Typedia is all user-generated content. How can you hate on that sort of content? Jason finally has his opportunity for the “oh snap.” with a “Don’t generalize” as he takes a contemplative pull from his Sherlock Holmes pipe.

2: 56pm Kristina draws a line. “It is much harder to write short form copy than it is to write long form.”

2: 58pm Paul Ford just said “wrestling”. While he was referring to a problem, the audience can’t help but believe there are some subtle implications for the other panelists. Physical intimidation bonus.

3: 00pm Kristina to Liz “That is a really good question.” You’re damn right it is.

3: 03pm Kristina uses powerful hand gestures to make her points. Physical Intimidation bonus.

3: 04pm Paul says that long form “beats the hell out of” a press release or a tweet. He’s heating up!

3: 05pm Kristina plugs her book. Evidently it is thin. Kind of like a comic book or something like that. She just reused a joke from her workshop that fell flat in the auditorium. I think her joke was a little to long form. Boom.

3: 07pm Jason – “Desktop publishing made everyone a designer. If short-form makes everyone a writer, that could be really great.”

3: 03pm Paul – “I don’t buy universal authorship. It’s just people yelling at us all the time. You have to pick. We can either be a magazine or we can have a conversation with our 25,000 Twitter followers.

3: 03pm (cont) Kristina – “I couldnt disagree more…Paul.”

3: 04pm Paul Ford is in love with someone named Chris Pepper. And feels the need to stop talking.

3: 10pm Paul Ford just uncovered the biggest conspiracies of our time. Zappos is likely “One giant Tentacled Octopus Monster selling us shoes.”. Jokes on you Amazon.

*Author’s note: Or is it? Maybe that’s what Amazon had in mind all along.

3: 13pm Jason Santa Maria gives Geocities a good old-fashioned pwning. Humor Bonus.

3: 15pm We are moving into the lightning round. It involves a bell.

Jason – What do you think about short v. long posts or breaking up a blog post into multiple shorter posts – from Doug

Jason – Great question Doug. Im actually more of a fan of like medium form.
Kristina – Lame.
Jason – Im talking to Doug here.

*Author’s Note: The lightning round was just a little too lightning for this author. You’ll have to wait for the video online.

Summary: Despite the undertones of violence that plagued this panel. The discussion was actually fairly thought-provoking. This debate about the merits and future of long and short-form communication is still at its nascent stage, but I think it will become increasingly important. Looking forward to seeing how it evolves. This was a great start.

Liz Danzico
Humor: 11
Fashion: 11
Made Me: Ponder the Glory of the Universe
Hair Intensity: 11
YAY! factor: 11
Physical Intimidation: 11

Jason Santa Maria
Humor: 8
Fashion: 6
Made Me: Agree
Hair Intensity: 9
YAY! factor:
Physical Intimidation: 7

Kristina Halvorson
Humor: 2
Fashion: 9 (The only one on stage not attending a funeral)
Made Me: Care about Content
Hair Intensity: 8
YAY! factor: 7
Physical Intimidation: 8

Paul Ford
Humor: 8
Fashion: 4
Made Me: Fear for my life
Hair Intensity: 3
YAY! factor: 8
Physical Intimidation: 9

Phew. This was officially the longest post in swissmiss history. Congrats, you made it to the very end. A big warm fuzzy thank you to Cameron for taking all these notes.

(image by jakeprzespo on flickr)

10 Comments leave a comment below

  1. Interesting summary. I enjoy the presentation stats. FYI, Daniel Burka, and a couple of the other summaries are listed twice.

  2. Erin, Yep, just noticed that. I apologize. Should be fixed now.

  3. good work – i tweeted a link to this for UK based designers

  4. Thank you so so so much. Very helpful, even at a glance.

  5. Awesome write-up. Also thanks for using my shot of the stage!

  6. Not to in any way question the stunningness of Liz Danzico, because I too have felt the urge to Ponder the Glory of the Universe when in her awesome presence, but do these stats come off like Cameron has a crush on Liz?! Or is it just that they’re studio mates?

    Cameron, can we have a comment on this?

  7. Well met Jessi.

    In the Director’s Cut, it looked like this:

    Liz Danzico (612A!)
    Humor: 11
    Fashion: 11
    Made Me: Ponder the Glory of the Universe
    Hair Intensity: 11
    YAY! factor: 11
    Physical Intimidation: 11

  8. @Cameron, Oops, I am to blame for omitting the 612A (our collaborative workspace name)

  9. Really?! A “2” for humor?!

    I’m glad you liked my sassy skirt, but c’mon. One flat joke does not an unfunny panelist make. Plus, I’m fairly sure you laughed at it the first time.

    I’m watching you, Koczon. Constant surveillance.

  10. What a great summary of the day :)
    Love the stats!