One of the best things about being a part of a design team at an agency like ISL is getting the opportunity to grow both creatively and professionally. Our company makes a huge effort to support our team’s growth and encourages employees to attend industry conferences. Recently, I took the opportunity to fly myself out to sunny San Francisco to attend the Future of Web Design (FOWD), a 3-day event for designers, front-end developers, and other creatives working to make the web a better place.

Here are the biggest lessons I learned:

Open Source Design is a (Pretty Awesome) Thing

The talk that inspired me the most came from Garth Braithwaite, a product designer and front-end developer on PhoneGap at Adobe.

Garth discussed the benefits of open source design and detailed some of his work on NightScout, an app developed by parents of children with Type 1 Diabetes to remotely help monitor blood sugar levels (and save lives). By connecting data from a monitoring device called the Dexcom G4, parents can send live updates to their phones and smartwatches.

Garth on the main stage

photo credit to @jina

His advice for getting into open source?

Whether it’s designing a logo for the project, contributing source code, or just adding to the conversation, find the thing you’re most passionate about and contribute. There are also some awesome places you can go to get started.

Side Projects are Stupid… and They’re Supposed to Be

I had been looking forward to being introduced to Tobias van Schneider (and his luscious beard) for some time. Tobias is a German-born designer that recently led the Spotify brand refresh.

His talk focused on how keeping side projects focused around fun and stupid ideas helps people from freezing up and overthinking their work. From Authentic Weather to his own line of beard oil, Tobias has followed through on some downright silly ideas that have turned into (sometimes viral) side projects. Some guiding principles for successful side projects? Let yourself be stupid, ignore everybody (they all have their own ideas and opinions of how things should be), trust your gut, and stay busy.



Web Accessibility is More than Accessible Code

As practitioners of web design and development, it’s our job to make our websites usable, visually pleasing, and accessible – and that doesn’t mean just developers/engineers implementing accessible code.

Jennison Asuncion, Co-Director of the Adaptech Research Network, spoke about how producing accessible content means designing and developing user experiences that everyone, including people with disabilities, can independently consume and interact with.

From touching on resources for sufficient color contrast to walking us through the experience of using a screenreader on, Jennison got me thinking about how web professionals can (and should) improve accessibility across their work.

photo credit to @aryannporwal

In conclusion..

For a first web conference experience, FOWD was a blast and extremely inspiring. If you’re a web professional or have just been thinking about putting yourself out there and learning how we creatives can help impact the world around us, I’d highly recommend attending a conference like FOWD. I’m already planning my next steps of finding and contributing to an open source project, working to make my sites more accessible, and might even be thinking about my own beard oil – well, we’ll see about that last one.

Now get out there and get learning!


*cover photo credit to @heytrisha