Vision Bristol 2014 – Review

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in Design, Events, reviews | No Comments

I went to Vision Bristol 2014 which is a creative/digital/web conference operating out of the Arnolfini in Bristol on the 12th and 13th of November.

This was the first time I’ve attended this conference and mostly went for it to get a better idea of the Bristol creative scene. It’s a great conference by many ‘conference standards’. Some quality speakers, tight organisation and variety of subjects and attendees. The food requires a special mention as it’s the best food i’ve had at a conference and all included in the price!

Rather than talk about every talk I attended, I’d like to focus on three key statements/subjects that re-enforce some of my own theories and thinking and clarify them in a better way that I could have before this conference.

1 – Maintaining your creative campaigns ‘hygiene’

Patrick Collister, who is Head of Design at Google talked around a lot of subjects during the hour, his background, how the industry has changed over the years but what i found particularly interested was the importance on maintaining the ‘hygiene’ of a campaign.

He talked about how campaigns are tackled from an Agency/Freelance POV towards a ‘completion date’ or ‘end of contract’ and that it’s rare that within the contract and fee is a maintenance period to follow the campaign and support any creative needs that arises from the global consumer community.

Speaking as an in-house designer I can speak with confidence that this is often the responsibility of the in-house creatives to maintain the projects after an Agency or Freelancer has ‘left’ a project and goes to further the importance of in-house creatives.

In my freelance career I always factor in a contact period where clients can talk about further creative needs after a project is ‘finished’ but I think that many agencies and freelancers don’t factor this into their project scope. This was Patrick’s sentiment also, that more planning and emphasis needs to be put on maintaining the ‘hygiene’ of any given project especially if it riffs off of user based/response content.

2 – The user vs the web/companies/the world

Peter Gasston of rehab studio talked primarily about the importance of ‘The User’ in the web and how many companies and creatives are willing to not only glaze over user focus but often blatantly tell a user that their preferences aren’t acceptable (such as browser choice or device choice etc) creating a kind of ‘elite web’ where only if you conform to certain parameters you can view their content.

Of course every company has a choice of what to do with their products and services but what i think is often forgotten about the web is that it is a community of users and providers of content with plenty of crossover. As a part of a community i believe we are participating is a larger dialogue in how we build the future and when we ‘cull’ certain people based on either their knowledge, ability and access to devices we create a space where we’re encouraging prejudice.

For a minute, think about what type of user could be using an old device or browser:

– A library or school based service user who has no access to technology of their own (perhaps due to poverty)

– A person with particular accessibility needs (perhaps due to disability or language barriers)

– A person who shares devices with family or with a group and may not always have access to the most ‘optimised’ device (perhaps a parent with children or other dependants)

– A person who travels a lot for either work or personal purposes who may not have stable connections or accessing via a data plan or company device with security restrictions.

– A person who lives and/or works in a rural area where access to devices or stable internet is scarce.

There are many other combinations and situations than the above but those were just to get you thinking along the lines of ‘Do any of the above people deserve to not be able to access the same content as other users?’

When we marginalise people because of their circumstances or even preferences is when we have communication and empathy problems as creators of content.

3 – Design can do good (but its not a limited edition, UV spot glossed, signed, embossed poster)

Michael Johnson of Johnson Banks in London talked at length about the work that his studio does but with a big statement behind it.

We can make the world a better place through providing good design to third sector and charities at affordable prices and by helping these organisations understand the benefits of good, well designed content and services.

While i think many designers/creatives would always prefer to work on projects that help people out as opposed to those that hinder progress many of us have to take on less ethical projects due to wanting to continue eating. Michael is an advocate of balancing your work as well as you can whilst still being able to survive but think a little deeper when you think that limited edition posters to raise charity money will solve problems. The time spent on creating that ‘special poster’ could it be better spent getting down to why a charity isn’t receiving the donations they need to maintain their service and improving their UX or UI or campaign idea that ultimately makes the charity several times more successful with donations than your poster could have possibly made?

Your time and expertise is precious and while it’s ultimately up to ourselves what we invest that in exercise the ability to reflect on an idea and what it’s impact will be and see whether you can do something else with that time and expertise that will do that much more good.