Between the dozens of panels, talks and conversations that happen every day during South by Southwest (SXSW) and the ensuing parties and networking opportunities each night, there was quite a bit to take in in Austin last week. Yesterday I shared some of the highlights and trends that I observed at SXSW 2010, but for me the real reason for attending SXSW is having the opportunity to hear some truly inspiring and fascinating people who work in Design speak in person.
Dan Roam on Visual Thinking
One of first few talks I attended was by Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin, a bestselling book on how to think and express ideas visually. Dan took the last five minutes of his excellent hour-long session to summarize what visual thinking is, and used it to illustrate the history of humanity. Dan has an extremely engaging way of speaking that is enhanced by the live sketching on his slides.
Peter Molyneux on The Emotion Engine
Peter Molyneux is a game maker and the founder of Lionhead Studios and creator of Populous, Black & White and the Fable series. Although Molyneux is often critiqued for not delivering on his visionary ideas that go into each of the games he makes, I’ve always admired his ability to engage players emotionally in gaming experiences, and to challenge their moral views. At SXSW, Molyneux spoke chiefly about the emotional side of gaming, particularly with regard to his upcoming game Fable 3.
He also described the concerns and excitement Microsoft’s new controler-less motion tracking interface dubbed “Project Natal” poses to him as a designer. I could instantly relate to the duality Molyneux expressed around anxiety & excitement when faced with a platform that forces us to re-think how we design. Over the past few years, platforms of like the iPhone, Microsoft Surface and iPad have definitely left us with no shortage of design challenges as we explore all the design possibilities inherent with their form factor.
Wired Magazine on the Tablet
Wired hasn’t been shy about getting into the Tablet space. While I was at first excited to hear about magazines and other publishers getting on board with the iPad and other touch devices, I can’t help but be underwhelmed at Wired’s design execution. Their demo at SXSW with a rep from Adobe felt like a magazine crammed into a tablet, as opposed to content designed specifically for the form factor. I absolutely admire their visual design work in print and am a regular subscriber for that reason, and can understand their desire to reuse content and design from print to web and tablet.
However, their “one size fits all” approach to designing the tablet version in Adobe Air, and attempting to force it into other platforms like Android felt cheap and rushed (and borderline unreadable, from what I could see). Other publishers are sparing no expense to provide readers with a truly new experience, suited for the form factor and taking advantage of the device’s ability to provide rich animations and interactions.