Industry conferences are a great opportunity to learn and be inspired, whilst also meeting with like-minded attendees. With most big web industry conferences being located interstate or overseas, I was excited to learn about Mixin, a conference for designers and developers based right here in Perth.
The Mixin team, including our own Patima, put together an incredible one-day event featuring international and local speakers, workshops, and social events designed to encourage conversation and collaboration. Careful planning and close attention detail, along with world-class speakers, made the inaugural Mixin an event that will have people flying to Perth rather than the other way around for once!
My day began with registration and coffee (of course), in the courtyard of the venue - the beautiful State Theatre Center of WA. After a brief introduction to the genesis of Mixin, it was straight into the talks.
Andy Clarke on Art Directing Web Design
Andy is a big believer in the web as a “vibrant medium for self expression”, and art direction as a tool for enhancing storytelling and creating seamless experiences. His examples of the layout ideas, using typography and frontend development techniques, showed the range of possibilities that can be achieved with design, development and editorial working in tandem.
Una Kravets on Working with Images
Una has incredible energy and passion, which came through in her talk about getting the best out of images on the web. There’s a growing number of image file types, each with their own benefits and drawbacks in terms of compression and file size. With the size of the average website continuously growing, keeping up with these techniques is a must for using images on the web responsibly.
Alice Lee on Pencil Mileage
Alice took us through her own journey from a designer at Dropbox to an independent illustrator, and the “pencil mileage” that went into getting there. As an amateur illustrator myself, it was inspiring and encouraging to hear her tell of her experiences with picking up a new skill and running with it, creative burnout, exploring your obsessions, trying new mediums and embracing being a ‘total noob’.
Joel Califa on Full Stack Anxiety
Joel’s experiences in becoming a “full stack unicorn”, working in design and development and other things besides, struck a familiar chord with me. In such a fast-paced industry, there’s always a new tool, style or methodology to keep up with, and many jobs expect to hire designers with specialist knowledge who can also do everything else as needed. But much of this pressure is internal, and thinking about the big picture and choosing what to learn accordingly can help you grow in a mindful way - without the anxiety. I’m still deciding on what I want to focus on and move towards.
Mike Riethmuller with A CSS Eulogy
Browsers and web technology have come a long way from the early days, and Mike bid goodbye to previously well-loved CSS hacks that have been superseded by new developments and techniques. In particular I was interested in Mike’s approach to completely fluid and responsive typography, which uses maths to create visually harmonious content, regardless of screen size.
Jina Bolton on Designing Design Systems
A design system is a useful tool for maintaining consistency and communication for larger projects and teams. Jina went through their own approach and design system used at Salesforce, and how designers, developers and stakeholders can use them to work together towards a single unified goal guided by their style guide principles.
Espen Brunborg on The Secret Life of Comedy
Espen closed the day’s talks with the role of comedy, storytelling and rhythm in web design. Reaching beyond the monotonous layouts that permeate recent web design, he encouraged us to creatively break the cycle of setting up expectation and reward for website users, to add comedy and enhance storytelling. Choosing the unexpected is a risk, but with the potential for great rewards both creatively and financially for the client.
“You can’t A/B test your way to originality.”
Given the talented individuals involved, the attention to detail at Mixin shouldn't have been a surprise. Right from the leadup, the branding and finesse at every touchpoint was clear. The Mixin team clearly did everything possible to create a cohesive experience, both online and offline, that would make a lasting impression. Side events, such as Collide, the Mixibition, and of course the after party, continued the theme of collaboration and creativity. Whilst these details and extras might be easily overlooked compared to the talks, they create the kind of environment that makes a conference truly memorable - especially for those who design for a living.
The recurring theme of the conference seemed to be a dissatisfaction with the current state of the web - soulless, cookie-cutter templates that have focused too much on algorithms and not enough on humanity. There was a lot to learn about pushing into new territory, both in terms of design and in the tools available to us, even if standards and algorithms still have some catching up to do.
Personally I’m looking forward to implementing these ideas and growing as a designer with the new techniques I’ve learned. Mixin has inspired me to dream bigger, see the value in beauty and look to the future of web design.