A week ago the inaugural, and much-anticipated, Build Conference kicked off in Belfast.
We were delighted to be a part of the lineup, taking the stage alongside a stellar cast of presenters, to deliver a thoroughly enjoyable and event-filled workshop on Getting Started With HTML5 and CSS3. (More on that to follow in a separate post (with free - yes, free - downloadables)…)
As educators based in Belfast with a significant stake in the web design and development industry both locally and internationally, we were looking forward to what Andy Good - Build organiser, and all-round human dynamo - had described as a conference created for “obsessive-compulsive” designers. We had high hopes.
We were not to be disappointed.
Andy didn’t let us down. Build ran effortlessly, largely thanks to a huge amount of effort behind the scenes, both by the human dynamo himself and a dedicated team of assistants, led by the singular Ciaran Madden.
After a day of dedicated workshops, which also covered usability with Andy Budd of Clearleft and accessibility with Phil Strain of Ecliptic, the conference kicked off at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. In the spirit of the conference’s title, ‘Build’, the six speakers - by intention or fortunate accident - covered a cross-section of topics that built upon each other seamlessly into a well-rounded day’s content.
Tim Van Damme kicked the day off with a passionate talk on the importance of ‘Passion’, begun, appropriately with a carefully modified homage to Steve Ballmer’s famous chimp impression: “Designers! Designers! Designers! Designers!”
With the audience primed up for the day, Andy Budd took to the stage ably assisted by Flight of The Conchords. Delivering an excellent presentation on ‘Seductive Design’ (with a few dating pointers thrown in) Andy hammered home some well made points. It was, indeed, Business Time.
The final morning session was delivered by Mark Boulton who introduced the audience to the potential and perils of ‘Font Embedding’ (with an all too brief foray into the tricky topic of car park design). Along with a comprehensive overview of typography’s role on and off the web, Mark stressed the importance of a well considered fallback font stack to minimise the effects of a Flash of Unstyled Text (FOUT), increasingly an issue as web fonts take hold.
Kicking off the afternoon with an epic basketball metaphor, Ryan Sims outlined the importance of practice, destroying ‘the myth of talent’ and stressing that ‘Practice Makes Pixel-Perfect’. His session really got the audience thinking and proved an excellent introduction to the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition (not as dry as you might think).
Asking the question, “Are you a designer or a developer?” Wilson Miner took the audience on a leisurely stroll around the topic of ‘Design/Build’. Introducing himself as, “a designer with code skills or, if the situation requires it, a coder with good design sense,” he made a case for professionals within our industry embracing both skill sets and adopting a hybrid approach.
The closing keynote was delivered by Eric Meyer, a true gentleman and one of the undoubted giants of the web. Speaking on the topic of ‘A More Tangled Web’, Eric demonstrated how ‘The Web Has Won’, illustrating how its simplicity and extensibility has taken the web to every corner of our lives. It was a fitting and appropriate end to a riveting day.
Andy has been rightly praised left, right and centre and he deserves all the praise he’s received. It’s worth rounding up some of the plaudits he has received. They’re certainly well earned and draw out some common themes.
The future looks bright for Build. If the speakers’ lineup is as good as this year’s and the same care goes into the planning, I’m sure a lot more people will be interested in attending.
The fact that it was in Belfast, in my opinion, contributed to its character as a smaller high quality conference. So, I’ll make mine Andy’s words and say that, indeed, Build was, “fucking lethal.” Bravo!
Sam Brown, an “extremely talented jackass” (in the words of Tim Van Damme), states:
Build was [Andy’s] biggest undertaking and he absolutely over-delivered in every aspect – this was especially evident when he got a standing ovation at the end of the conference day.
We could go on.
The praise is well-earned and well-deserved. Andy deserves a great deal of credit for having the self-belief and confidence to bring an internationally respected roster of speakers to Belfast. His work, along with the work of many others promoting similar design events in Belfast, is helping to place the city on the international design map. A place it deserves to be.
Add Build’s star-studded lineup to the numerous recent guest speakers, across the design spectrum that have been hosted at the Art College in Belfast - Nicholas Felton, Poke London and Adrian Shaughnessy, to name but three - and it’s clear there’s a lot going on in the city.
It feels appropriate to close with the words of Mr McMillan (to credit him with his real surname), who states:
We built it, they came…
Indeed they did. Indeed they did. Well done Sir.