The Jago gang sent me off to Amsterdam to observe a series of talks by some of the world’s leading digital experts and creative brains. I reluctantly took the free holiday and three days of inspiration…
Amsterdam is a place I know well, having worked and lived in Holland for a year, so it is always good to go back. It seemed like a fitting location for the Awwwards event as for me, Holland typifies a unique style of design. It’s a country famed for the De Stijl movement; a movement that takes shape and colour to create beauty through simplicity. The landscape in design has changed somewhat since then, but the principles of Dutch design remains to be bright and champions simplicity.
So amidst the tall and informal (wonky) buildings, I found myself in a very grand building indeed: the Royal Tropical Institute (or Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen if you prefer). When entering the building, you are treated to an array of marble and incredibly intricate nature inspired detailing whilst still keeping to the geometry of the exterior.
After chatting with people hailing from Switzerland, New Zealand and anywhere in between it was time to see what the organisers of this event had in store. Instead of talking about every speaker (there were a lot), I want to discuss the three people that inspired, entertained and enthralled me the most.
Joe’s top three
Josh Payton is from the company HUGE. Josh had a ‘talking to your mates in a pub’ presentation style which didn’t detract from the points he was making. His informal ‘no nonsense’ approach made a lot of sense. The fact that HUGE are a very reputable business spanning what seems like 5,000 countries helped give his views substance.
UX was the key topic and how we can push ourselves further as creatives to ensure the users of our websites have a seamless, personal and engaging experience. He talked about personalisation becoming more prominent in web design and is a strong tool to engage a user.
But the best message from Josh was about humanising mission statements. His key example was the difference between Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft’s message is complex and almost scientific. Its so unmemorable that I can’t remember it. Apple’s was simple: “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
The simplicity and power of the Apple example ensure’s that all of their products are pushing what is possible. What an aim!
Greg Barth is an incredible video maker. Absolutely Incredible. However, the reality of this talk is that it didn’t really link to any of the audience in terms of the final product that is made. However, what he managed to do was instil his philosophy on us. By the end of it we all wanted to run to the nearest piece of paper, macbook or wall and channel the inner child we have all inevitably lost with growing up and having to do grown up things like bills and eating olives.
Greg is infectiously curious about how to make objects work in ways they’re not supposed to. His work is abstract, colourful and can only be described as art. His work has captured the imagination of advertisers, musicians and artists in an ever growing portfolio of off the wall almost idiotic beauty.
Greg disorientates you with his work. But what he’s channeling is simple. Never grow up.
My final highlight was Bjarne Christensen from the Danish company Stupid. With an engaging, humorous presentation style, he discussed how to streamline web design projects so that the best possible product is given to the client. A key factor of his talk was managing the ‘afterlife’ of a web design project so that the project doesn’t run at a loss; a well known issue in the creative industry.
So what does he mean by ‘afterlife’? Well by this he means when the project has been built but is continuously amended and amended by client feedback. The more amends, the more cost is implicated to the project. To illustrate his point further, he animated common client quotes to the Benny Hill theme.
So the solution – test with the client. Bring the client in with the process of web design and help them understand the complexity of development. It also gives us as creatives and developers more engagement with the client.
The overlying nation of his lecture was to have fun and set goals.
The Awwwards event concluded with a ceremony crowning the victors of several ‘end of the year awards’. This was a hybrid of the Golden Globes meets awkward camera shy business leaders forced to speak and thank people as quickly as possible.
Once the awards had been handed out, it was time to have a drink or two. I mean the drinks were free so we might have had a few more. It was an excellent end to what had been an incredibly inspiring event. Who knows, in the next few years Ryan might be receiving an award and having to give an exceptionally brief and awkward acceptance speech.