The Clearleft founder talks to Craig Grannell about the popular Brighton web design conference and 'playing with the future'
The dConstruct conference, presented by Clearleft, is gearing up for its eighth year. The Brighton event takes place on September 7, with two days of workshops preceding it. Tickets go on sale May 29, priced £130+VAT.
Clearleft partner Andy Budd (AB) spoke to .net about the ethos behind dConstruct and what we can expect from this year's event.
.net: For those who've never been to dConstruct, what's the thinking behind the event and how does it differ from other industry conferences?
AB: Clearleft is really lucky, as we get to travel all over the world, speaking at and attending events. So dConstruct is our attempt to cherry-pick our favourite speakers and highlight the trends we think will be influencing our profession over the coming years.
While other conferences try to educate and inform, dConstruct aims to enlighten and inspire – to challenge the way you think about design and technology as it applies to our industry. It's basically brain candy for a curious mind.
You won't leave dConstruct having learnt a new skill – unless, of course, you sign-up to one of our workshops – but you will come away feeling creatively charged and with a new appreciation of the craft. Not everything you'll see will have immediate value, but the connections that will form as a result will be a constant source of ideas long after the event is over.
.net: Why do you only have one track?
AB: We love one-track conferences because it allows us to introduce you to the very best thinkers and speakers in our field, without having to pad out the programme with average sessions and sponsor slots. It allows us to craft a narrative and create a compelling story that weaves through the day. That way, everybody can have a shared experience as they chat with friends about the conference. There's none of that 'did you see this?' or 'shame you didn't go to that'.
Having the conference run over a single day also allows us to keep the price down and make it affordable. You don't need to get an expensive hotel for the night (unless you want to stay for the free drinks and for Maker Faire the following day) or take more time out of the office than you need. Also, our brains are usually melting after a day of dConstruct, and so any more and you'd need a holiday afterwards.
.net: Do you feel there's a benefit to the location of dConstruct – it not being in a major city and also on the coast?
AB: Absolutely. Brighton is a fantastic location and has long been synonymous with creativity and alternative thinking. This is why so many companies have away days in the city and why our clients love coming down for workshops. It gives you an opportunity to get away from your desk for a day and bask in a more relaxed atmosphere. And the shops and cafes are rather nice too.
.net: What's this year's dConstruct theme and how did you arrive at it?
AB: Design is all about creating future realities, and a big part of the design process is play. So it's fitting this year's theme is 'playing with the future'. We'll be looking at where technology has come from, where it is today and where it's heading, in as inspirational and playful a way as possible.
.net: Does the theme extend to the workshops?
AB: While the conference itself is very theoretical, the workshops are incredibly practical. So it's very much about looking at modern design and development practices for large scale, modular and cross-platform projects. We're covering everything from modular architecture and scalable code to mobile strategy and responsive design.
.net: Are there any speakers you're particularly pleased to have this year?
AB: All of our speakers are amazing and we've whittled them down from a long list of over a hundred to just nine. As such, it's very difficult to focus on just a couple. But if pressed, I'd say I'm super excited to have Tom Armitage this year, as his thoughts and ideas were being constantly referenced by our speakers last year. I'm also looking forward to seeing Ben Hammersley speak. We've been a fan of Ben's work for many years and originally wanted to have him speak at the very first dConstruct in 2005, but he was probably war reporting in Afghanistan or trekking across the Sahara at the time.
net: During the past couple of years, a number of smaller web conferences have appeared. How do you think dConstruct fits into this increasingly crowded line-up?
AB: I think dConstruct is a very different conference to most. We try to get unusual speakers talking about unusual subjects, with a focus on inspiration rather than education. So there are only a couple of conferences attempting to do something similar.
dConstruct is a super-friendly conference, so it's an opportunity for people to meet up with old friends or make new ones. The city of Brighton is also a big draw as you alluded to earlier. Lastly, we've been able to craft an entire month-long digital festival off the back of events like dConstruct. So more and more people are spending the weekend and going to see interactive art shows, geek pub quizzes and the fantastic Maker Faire.