DIY Summit!

21 Sep

Last Thursday my classmates and I were lucky enough to have been granted access to a room for the DIY Summit, an awesome virtual conference with some really great masters of DIY.

We kicked things off with Matt Harris, who explained how and why to use WordPress for content management. I remember meeting him when Cindy Li came last April to talk about social networking at Create Here. Matt had some great things to say about WordPress and it’s capabilities not only as a blog-hosting service, but a web-content management system. Matt does fantastic work and has an extensive knowledge of web development. He also has a nifty Southern English accent and brands himself as “the matt harris” (sounds familiar!).

Next up on the docket was the brilliant, (once) blue-haired programming guru, Kevin Lawver. I’ll admit, I was just as lost as I thought I would be listening to him speak. But in a way, that was a good thing; it only lead me to respect his knowledge so much more. He did have some great suggestions for beginners wanting to get started in the world of programming, and reccomended The Pragmatic Programmer as a great book to start the geeky fire burning.
I often get stuck in my creative process. Sometimes it’s in the concept, sometimes in the execution, and sometimes it’s even in the mere completion of a project. Kelly Goto had some really inspiring things to share about workflow and how to get “unstuck.” She laid out a few fundamentals of overcoming that stuck feeling:
• Vision and purpose
• Support and buy-in
• Knowledge and ability
• Collaboration and synergy
• Tools and framework
• Attitude and fearlessness
• Progress and results
She also discussed the theory of yoyu, which is the time between things. She offered it as a time to think, and be in a productive flow.

Mark Trammell & Juliette Melton gave a joint presentation on effective design research, which proved to be really useful. They focused on gaining perspective on the user experience to create a more efficient and effective product; namely, through user surveys. The best advice I’ve ever received on the topic came from Mark: “If I can’t read a user survey in one breath, it’s too long.”

Carla and I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Rubin at the August WERock Summit, and I was so excited to hear him speak about interface design. He had some really fantastically illustrated points in consistency, and compared the websites CNN and Fox News as examples. Everything in a design needs to be relative and consistent. Grids are your best friend, but you don’t always have to obey them. Set them up as a guide, but don’t be afraid to break a box every now and then in a resolved way to create some visual texture. Speaking of texture, being mindful of details in web design to make a page look more tactile will subconsciously give the viewer a sense of personality. Dan also handled his time crunch gracefully, choosing to not skip any content while making his points in record time. Kudos.

Lea Alcantara gave a fantastic presentation on the Art of Self-Branding, which is a specialty of hers. She had some unconventional but totally wise advice on getting yourself out there as a designer. She told us that we are not unique and should not wait to be discovered. It is our job to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the pack and appeal to a niche instead of trying to cast the widest net. She offered us the 5 aspects of a successful brand:
• Relevance
• Creative design brand identity
• Message communication
• Understanding of consumer target
• Consistency
Consistency is key, and your brand should be a representation of you; your entire personality, unapologetically, for that is what allows you to appeal to a niche that will be a great fit for you, instead of being stuck with clients you don’t want or like.

I got a lot of really valuable information and advice from the DIY Summit, and I would just like to take a minute to thank everyone who spoke, Leslie Jensen-Inman for giving us this opportunity and especially Environments for Humans for putting the whole thing on. Thanks so much everyone! It was truly a worthwhile and valuable experience!


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