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Notes from a conference.

I spent most of last week soaking up sunshine in Florida, as I’d been invited to speak at Front-End Design Conference (FEDC). In fact, I’ve been lucky enough to speak at FEDC a few times. If you haven’t been, it’s an excellent event, founded by Dan Denney and Cherrie Denney, and now ably run by Gene Crawford and his team at Unmatched Style. One of my favorite things about FEDC is there’s a real sense of community throughout: local meetup organizers and educators connect, and compare notes; independent designers from the area talk about the market, and about their client work; heck, Dan’s mother helps check attendees in. I also got a chance to see some old friends, and to meet some new ones, including Eric Portis and Nicole Dominguez. (If you get a chance to check out our interview with Nicole, do. It’s a good one.)

I had to miss the second day, sadly, but the event was wonderful. If you get a chance to go next year, do.


Since it was their tenth show—their tenth!—I dusted off an old talk, and gussied it up a bit. It’s a talk about designing for a web that’s slower, more fragile, and more broadly accessed than we pretend it is.

I think the talk went pretty well.

What’s more, I finally got a chance to see one of my web heroes speak.

Mina Markham gave an excellent, important talk on creating a design system for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. She shared what she’d learned from working in an incredibly fast-moving environment, and she also shared a small slice of the harassment she’d received because of who she worked for—as well as the harassment she received for being a black woman in tech. If you get a chance to hear Mina speak, do; and if you’re a conference organizer, you should try your darnedest to book her for your next event.

The afternoon before I spoke, I ran a half-day workshop on design patterns.

We had about thirty attendees, including a group of design students. We worked through exercises invented by Charlotte Jackson and Alla Kholmatova, breaking page layouts down into reusable patterns, and establishing clear, sensible names for our patterns. We talked about choosing the best level of granularity for our patterns, reviewed different options for building a pattern library, and discussed a few models for ongoing maintenance and governance.

We also talked about how important it is to ensure your patterns are device-agnostic, and how naming things is, well, hard.

And we had a lot of fun doing it.

I think the workshop went pretty well. Maybe I’ll see you at the next one.


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