Thoughts on Build 2011

Back for a third year, Build is a week-long design festival crammed full of workshops, lectures, practical sessions as well as the internationally reknowned conference itself - all hosted in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Being my third Build I knew what to expect - at least I thought I knew what to expect. This years’ event was more thought-provoking, more well-rounded and more inspirational than the previous editions.

Here I’ve broken down my experiences to explain some of the engaging conversations discussed and how they’ve contributed to my personal improvement.


The start to my week was an informative workshop - entitled ’Design to Communicate’ - hosted by Simon Collison.

We were challenged to delve deeper into our thinking, understand different perceptions, utilise visual language fully, offer affordance and thus become better designers.

There were some great take-aways from this workshop including establishing a voice for your content that helps build credibility, as well as how we can design systems upfront that can shape the websites we are working on.


The Standardistas

The day started with a friendly reminder of how designers can embark on ’The Journey’ - from the Standardistas.

The Journey encompasses how a novice designer should learn from masters of their trade in order to hold a deeper understanding of said craft and thereby progress to becoming a master themselves. They discussed how we needn’t neccessarily learn from them in their own space, typically nowadays we can follow and learn from afar. Or, as it sprang to my mind, even from the rest of the talks at Build.

Josh Brewer

Josh Brewer followed up with a honest presentation about relationships in design. He stressed how we should engage in a level of compassion whilst designing, as after all design is for people.

Josh also touched upon practical methods we should take full advantage of such as the Golden Ratio, as well as providing examples how they’ve been employed to great effect by #newtwitter and Apple’s logo.

Craig Mod

After the break Craig Mod presented about the future of books and publishing - a subject I’ve little knowledge of. However it was marvelously well-presented and offered numerous insights into the future of publishing formats.

In doing so, Craig informed us of the role we should take with formats such as ePub3 which utilizes HTML5 and CSS3.

Wilson Miner

The next talk, by Wilson Miner, is difficult to describe by any one superlative. Wilson’s message was about how the work we are producing is often more significant than credit given. We should take pride in our achievements, because they’re truly helping the world.

The presentation was perfect. Slow-paced, masterful story-telling, and accompanying visuals for additional impact.

The captivating atmosphere in the room throughout the talk was almost tangible, like some sort of turning point in our minds. Truly moving.

Jason Santa Maria at Build
Photo: Kitty Crawford

Jason Santa Maria

Jason Santa Maria had the unenviable task of following Wilson’s talk, and also lunch. ’On Web Typography’ was a memorable, well-delivered presentation packed with clear and concise advice about web typography.

He discussed considerations we should employ whilst choosing type - something that I often struggle with. Profoundly Jason added that type should be considered in every step as ’if the type is bad, the design fails’.

Jeremy Keith

Jeremy Keith, in the penultimate talk, discussed the problem of data loss on the web in great detail - as well as proposing solutions to take control back.

In what was a highly-passionate address, Jeremy explained how we’re losing valuable information all the time by trusting third-party solutions - with Geocities being a notable example - and how we are the ones who can do something to avert this situation. He floated ideas about self-hosting all of our information in order to safeguard their existence.

Simon Collison

Simon Collison closed the day out with his thoughts on our craft - often with subtle references to the previous talks on the day. Although he didn’t necessarily agree with the Standardistas favoured model, they spoke of earlier, of defining goals - he suggested we should focus on the doing.

Essentially, working on the web, it’s our duty to continue learning and producing high-quality work.