I had the pleasure of attending FITC Toronto 2014 thanks to the kind folks at FITC through their Women's Initiative (free tickets are reserved each year for women to encourage and welcome more women to attend tech conferences - to get a ticket, you must submit something to showcase why you should go). See my submission here.
FITC is a 3-day multi-track conference focused on web technology, design and creativity. The theme for this year was 'storytelling'. They had 5 rooms which more or less, determined the type of talks that they held: 1. Inspirational, 2. Web development, 3. Creative coding and hardware, 4. Business, and 5. Unplugged storytelling (this was a smaller room so it made for more intimate, unplugged talks and discussions).
I'd been to FITC before in 2012 but I knew very few people in the community and was more observant than involved. This year I knew a lot more people which meant a lot more time spent with friends, talking over beers and food and taking in all the knowledge and inspiration.
I spent most of my time in room #1 for the more inspirational storytelling or talks that discussed process and lessons learned. I'd been to a couple of the web dev talks and creative coding talks and didn't feel like it was for me, perhaps because I'm more design focused. Plus I tend to want to learn by doing when it comes to development and coding.
There were a few people that I was really looking forward to hearing and they did not disappoint! There were also a couple of speakers that I met and they are as gracious and kind as you would think they are. Here's a list of my favorites this year:
Half of the design firm Sagmeister & Walsh Inc. (with Jessica Walsh), Stefan has had a wealth of experience and is a world-renowned designer. As a designer I was excited to hear him speak. If you don't know him, look him up!
Stefan walked us through his journey of creating The Happy Show - and exhibition that draws on his experiments of finding what makes us happy. He delivered his talk with substance, wit, and humor and was extremely approachable. On the last day of the conference he humored us with some random, very funny stories. It was a nice end to the conference.
2. Sara Blake
Sara Blake a.k.a. ZSO is an incredible illustrator! Her course was the first one I took on Skillshare. Her artwork is absolutely brilliant and unique and I was really interested to hear about her journey and process as a designer and illustrator.
She's able to successfully work as a designer and illustrator, like many, through sheer hard work, determination, a commitment to her work and practice. It was incredible to get to see the evolution of her illustration and walk through her process through a project. It was very insightful and I am grateful to have heard it.
3. Yuko Shimizu
Yuko's talk was a standout and completely unexpected. I have to admit that I didn't know much about Yuko, in fact I had only been introduced to her work very recently. But boy oh boy is she ever talented. Not only that she was genuinely nice and approachable.
After 11 years in the corporate PR world, Yuko quit her job and moved to New York City to go to school for illustration. She graduated from the School of Visual Arts in NYC with an MFA in the Illustration as Visual Essay Program in 2003 and has been illustrating since. She is also an instructor at SVA.
Yuko's story was so unbelievably inspirational. Having realized my true love for illustration and being a bit confused as to where I fit in the Designer/Developer/Illustrator circle, I gravitated to her story and was moved by her talk because I'm struggling to find my identity as a designer and illustrator. But it's not just her story that is amazing, Yuko is a brilliant natural speaker. She speaks as if she's talking to you alone and injects natural humor making her one of the most likable personalities I've met in a long while.
Not to go on and on about her, but let me just end this off by saying I had the pleasure of talking to Yuko at the after party on the last day and to ask her some questions and she took time to talk to me and share more insights and I greatly appreciated that.
If you haven't seen her work - check out her portfolio.
Anton and Irene are a design duo working together at Fi. Their talk discussed how they work together focusing on the UX and design and working on them in tandem at Fi and more particularly their process using the Wacom site redesign as a case study. This was an extremely interesting talk for me. It was fantastic to see someone's process through UX and design for a major brand. Everyone in this industry works differently but it was great to have a look into the nitty gritty of their process from site maps to wireframes to full blown design.
On the last day, Anton and Irene did another more intimate talk about some of their bad client experiences and lessons learned. For anyone working in client-services, this is a gem. It's nice to be able to relate and commiserate with other designers, especially the ones you think have it all figured out, because let's face it, no one has it figured out. We're all just learning as we go.
There were plenty more speakers that I truly enjoyed listening to including
- James White of SignalNoise - I saw him speak in 2012 and his talk gave us a more in depth view of the evolution of his work from a small-nerdy-drawing-kid to a big-nerdy-drawing-adult. I loved geeking out with him on all his inspirations from 80s toys and comics to movies. I also met him briefly at the after party and he's also one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet.
- Jason White of Leviathan (not to be confused with James White above) - Leviathan is a design studio that does incredible work in visual experiences. Jason took us through their process of working on some of the most elaborate, visually stimulating, stage set designs I've ever seen.
- Robert Wong of Google - You know those tear-jerking google commercials? Well Robert and his team of designers at Google is behind all that. They're behind Google's design (including the Google Doodles) which wasn't much of anything until they carved out a space and a voice for themselves not only in Google's marketing efforts but also in their product design. Robert is also a fellow Canadian and hails from Scarborough, Toronto - and you know how we're always proud of our own :) Though he really has a career to be proud of - Canadian or not.
Well that's a bit of my take on FITC Toronto 2014. Aside from the speakers, I also met a bunch of people in and around the community here in Toronto which is always a bonus! I am thankful to the organizers of FITC for allowing me to attend and hope to direct the inspiration that I gained into something worthwhile in my work.