Future of Webdesign? Hmm…


I attended the Future of Webdesign Conference , yesterday, here in NYC. I was initially asked to present, on the topic of branding, which I declined. Sure, I would have had lots to say, but I didn’t feel it was a right fit. For a one day conference, you need the best of the best on each topic, at least, that’s how I see it. Instead, I would have loved to speak about ‘how to stay inspired’, blogging, how design sensibility is influenced by upbringing, the challenges of designing in a foreign culture, etc..

Overall, I must say, I left the conference, slightly disappointed. Sure, there were a few good speakers, but the odd venue and bad sound quality didn’t help the overall experience. The conference was held in a side-wing of the Jacob Javits center. The ‘stage’ was put against windows and all morning, we couldn’t see what’s been projected, as the sun was shining right onto the screen. Joshua Davis‘ presentation was my personal highlight, if only I could have seen what he was presenting. No luck. What a high energy, inspiring guy!

Another speaker I was looking forward to was Jeffrey Zeldman. The sound quality during his talk was so bad, that I couldn’t understand a word (!!!) for the first 15 minutes. Luckily they handed him another microphone half way through. Quite a few people got up and left, visibly annoyed.

Not to mention the overall bad start to the conference as they didn’t have name batches for about a third of the attending people and were printing them on an inkjet on site, and no lanyards… On my way home, I was wondering what I would have thought of the day, if it would have been a smooth organization and a better venue.

Bryan, the organizer, kept apologizing for the screen issue and promised that videos of each presentation will be available online. Well, that’s something.

Did you attend? What did you think?

18 Comments leave a comment below

  1. Diminutive

  2. We took the train up from Philadelphia for this, our second Carson event. We were also at the Future of Web Apps in San Francisco last year. That one definitely went more smoothly, but there seems to be this trend in their events of stumbling over the fundamental things. They’ve gotten pretty big now, and have developed quite a brand of their own, and I too felt like this didn’t live up to the expectations they’ve set for themselves.

    The lighting was nice and dramatic in the evening, if only Josh Davis could have presented then!

  3. So, no one was able to see the presentations, as the sun was shining right onto the screen?
    Well, obviously it means the future of webdesign must be very, very bright. ;-)

  4. So, are the presentations and videos of said presentations worth the “conference in a box” deal ($195)? I of course heard about this conference too late, but the topics seem very pertinent to the work that my firm is doing right now. Thoughts from attendees?

  5. That’s funny Ben. A nice way to look at it. Well, in their defence, I have to say that they improvised and put a flat screen up in front of the stage, as you can see pictured above. But I was sitting in the last row, and it didn’t really help. I am sure, people in the first row, center, got to see something.

  6. Wow, thanks for the relief Tina… I had so badly wanted to attend and am so swamped with work that I wasn’t able to get out of the office – now reading what you’re saying about it, I’m not as badly disappointed that I couldn’t make it!

  7. I was at their Future of Online Advertising conference and while the screen was readable and the speakers understandable… the wireless connection wasn’t working. I also hoped at the FOOA they would get some speakers up on stage and let them argue their points… instead we only heard people pitch their view… was a little disappointing.

  8. That screen placement is just screaming trouble to anyone with eyes. It’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have tested it beforehand or at that someone at the Javitts Center couldn’t have stepped in and said something. How long have they been open?

    Thanks for being so honest about it because I’ve been kicking myself all week over not being able to make the trip. I miss NY.

  9. also in attendance. i want to assume the sound and video were part of the package offered by javitts. so maybe not carson’s fault? i enjoyed most of the speakers, even when the topic was exactly pertinent to my work. most of them were well chosen and offered an interesting perspective. i was disappointed with the tech problems, the lack of lunch options, and the timing. i understand they want to fit a lot in, but it left little time for absorption between presenters and no time for networking.

  10. Every year there’s a web conference called WebVisions in Portland (where I live). It’s tagline is “Exploring the Future of the Web”.

    I’ve gone for four years and it’s been getting progressively worse. Maybe the problem with these similarly named conferences is that they can’t possibly know what the future of the web will be, so the topics may not be that relevant.

    I’d like to go to a conference titled “The Web Right Now. Stuff you can really use in your daily work.”

    And, this is a bit off topic… but I spent some of my youth in the small Swiss village of Horgen, so reading swissmiss is a fun way to get caught up with the old country. Especially love learning more about Swiss design.

  11. Wow – what a shame! I’ve attended the same conference in London and have to say that the venue there was quite good as was the conference in general. Usually Ryan and his team are super well organized so I’m sure they’ll be just as disappointed with the outcome as you were.

  12. I don’t think it was that bad. There were a few good talks I especially enjoyed Ryan Singer on usability and Josh Davis on inspiration. Other than that there were some good points made during the day, but most other talks felt long. Especially the branding talk actually.

    The organization worked well enough apart from the issue with the sound during the panel discussion. The sun thing didn’t bother me as much.

    Anyway, two good talks on one day means it was one of the better conferences I’ve been to.

  13. I attended (because, well, I spoke), and I have to say that I was also disappointed about the screen being washed out due to the light. But I don’t know that it was FOWD’s fault, they probably didn’t even realize it was going to be an issue. I think they were awesome for offering the DVD’s for free to the attendees, since they weren’t able to get the full experience.

    I have to agree, I thought it was sorta one speaker after another and it was hard to soak anything in, but all this aside, I thought it went pretty well. It was amazing meeting everyone and talking to all the really enthusiastic people. :)

  14. That was the WORST CONFERENCE EVER!!!!!! with the exception of Josuha Davis and the 37 signals and, threadless dude who nearly fainted..I’m glad my company paid for it and not me as i would have asked for my money back…. The branding talk was the worst it felt that she was talking to a bunch of 1st grade kids it was horrible…. The MC of the conference was also horrible what a waste of a day!………overall level of the conference was too basic it was like they were speaking to people who did not even know what the web is…PATHETIC!!!!!

  15. oh also forgot to mention the ILLUSTRATION talk was also horrendous didnt even make any bloody sense!!!!!

  16. I was at FOOA this year and felt it was a great conference…didnt really care about the wireless. I had purchased pass for FOWD but had to bail out at the last minute. From the sounds of it, i didnt miss much. Makes me feel a little better.

    I will say i enjoy the carson shows, and will attend in the future. i hope they scour the net and read up on comments. They are REALLY good people who i support fully.

    The last venue in NYC was Gotham Hall which to me, was much more fitting and convenient than Javits.

    Anyway…whats next on readers’ conference agenda? Any cant-miss shows people hit every year on similar topics? I would through in the InfluxIdeas conference in San Fran. Its more on mainstream advertising & branding than Web specific, but its a great 1-day event i wouldnt miss.

  17. I attended FOWD, and although the sound and glare issues did put a damper on things, I was happy I went. But…I also stayed the second day for the workshops, which was where the real value was IMHO.

    I attended Ryan Singer’s and Joshua Davis’s workshops and they were superb. I’m a big 37s fan, and some quality “in the trenches” time with Ryan was priceless. Similarly Joshua Davis could talk about the bottom of his shoe and keep you totally engaged. He had some of the best stories I had heard in a long time. Extremely entertaining, and the guy had a refreshing view of things.

    I’ve always thought that the presentation format was ironically un-befitting of our industry. The best events I’ve been to invloved workshops or intimate group diners. Interaction and discussion is infinitely better than a “please everyone”, “broadcast” method.

  18. Hey all,

    Thanks for all your comments on the event, they are very much appreciated, good and bad!! These help us a great deal when planning the next one.

    I apologise for the screen issues on the day and i can assure you this will not happen again. I also hope that the video footage which will be ready at the end of the week will go someway to making up for it.