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A new adventure.

I just flew back from New Adventures, and boy are my arms tired is my heart full.

New Adventures was founded by Simon Collison, who ran it for three years: in 2011, 2012, and 2013. As someone watching each show from (quite) a distance, New Adventures was a conference I dearly wanted to attend. And each year, I’d look at my crowded calendar, sigh a bit, and tell myself, “well, maybe I’ll go next year.” But after 2013, New Adventures ended—another opportunity missed, I figured. (And a reminder that I should never, ever trust my instincts.)

But! Last summer, I got an email from Simon. He and Geri were considering bringing the conference back, and asked if I’d be interested in giving a talk. Why now, you might ask? Well, Simon had this to say:

With so many questions hanging over design and designers, and a somewhat uncertain future, we feel the time is right to bring New Adventures back and address that future directly with that audience.

Friends, I now know just how quickly I can reply to an email.

I’d spent the intervening months struggling to write working on a new talk called “The World-Wide Work.” It’s a very different talk from the one I usually give, which you might’ve already guessed from the list of resources I posted. And that’s thanks to Simon: he asked that I try something new this time around—something not related to responsive design, design systems, or GIFs. I’m forever grateful he gave me the permission, the space, the support to try exactly that. (And if you were in the audience, well, I’m grateful to you for listening, for your questions, and for sharing your reactions with me.)

Fast forward to last week, when She and I were boarding a Heathrow-bound plane last Monday, a Keynote deck clutched tightly to my chest. We arrived in Nottingham some hours later, and found it a delightful place to walk around, to go for a run, to furiously tweak slides, to drink entirely too many delicious coffees, to catch up with old, dear friends.

And as for the conference itself? Well. Not only was it in one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever set foot in, but Simon and Geri had curated an intimidating, inspiring lineup—maybe one of the finest I’ve ever been part of:

  1. Rizwana Khan opened the day with a truly beautiful poem, one that—in hindsight—drew a perfect, unbroken line through each of our talks;
  2. Jeremy Keith talked about the need for resilience in digital design, and how we desperately need to approach our work ethically, thoughtfully;
  3. Clare Sutcliffe spoke about her experience as the cofounder and CEO of Code Club, an inspiring organization that helps volunteers run free coding clubs for children across the globe;
  4. Josh Brewer offered a compelling look at why designers should be be given seats at the proverbial table—and at what happens next;
  5. Jessica White gave a thoughtful, excellent talk on building more cross-functional digital teams (hint: it’s about recognizing each human’s unique strengths and needs) (another hint: the talk was excellent, did I mention that already);
  6. Ashley Baxter shared some of her experience creating With Jack, and how she’s worked (very, very hard) to connect with her customers;
  7. Brendan Dawes shared an impressive array of his work, and shared how much of the success he’s enjoyed as a designer has rarely come in quick bursts, but rather from slow, gradual refinement;
  8. Helen Joy spoke deftly, inspiringly about the ethical and human imperatives behind inclusive design; and
  9. Naz Hamid urged us to strive to do better, showing that diverse, inclusive teams can better serve our increasingly global audiences.

If you weren’t able to be there in person, videos of the conference talks will be online at some point soon. In the interim, you can read through write-ups from Westley Knight, Andy Bell, Paul Jardine, Garrett Coakley, and Helen Joy. And for my money, this excerpt from Helen’s notes summarizes the day for me:

It seems we have finally started looking outwards: identifying our responsibility and the associated consequences of our actions. We’re pushing past our early egocentric selves and are moving towards maturity. We’re still making our way along this path, learning from each other as we continue to grow…. The talks at New Adventures showed a significant shift in our thinking and from the feedback, this year’s themes seem to have struck a chord.

It really does feel like we’re on a new adventure, you and I. Our work has never felt more impactful—for better and for worse. Thankfully, Simon and Geri created an event that allowed us to discuss that shift, to share our hopes and our fears, and to consider together where we might go from here.

In short, it was a marvelous day. I’m so honored I got the opportunity to be a small part of it.


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