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Future Of Web Design: Carsonified

Future Of Web Design: Carsonified

30 April - 01 May 2009

By Robert Urquhart

With inflated titles like ‘ The future of web applications’, ‘The Future of Web Design’, ‘The Fuel Conference’ and ‘The Future of Online Advertising’ this could be seen as capricious advertising on behalf of Carsonified if it were not for the fact that their editorial is so strong, - their guests are mesmerizingly excellent!

I attended their Future of Web conference held in West London on the 30th April. Frankly I was dubious, although I’m extremely interested in the web, spending a large proportion of my day online and having a professional interest in the subject, but I still felt that this was going to be a bit of an ordeal. Was it going to be one long sales pitch led by a brash Californian in a bandana and shades? Or was it going to be so technical that I’d get tangled up completely in the web? To be fair, there was a bit of both but I really enjoyed Carsonified.

Here are my highlights:

Jim Coudal of Coudal Partners

The lucky people that work at Coudal Partners seem to have a lot of fun.

Mr Coudal started off by explaining a game that his staff plays in the bathrooms at work, called ‘booking bands‘.

You take the title of a book and fit it to the name of a band and the result could be something like Megadeath of a salesman’ or ‘Bare Naked Lunch Ladies’ Or even ‘The Agony and the XTC’. The game isn’t purely played for fun as Coudal explains,’ This is a prime example of how the creative mind works, try playing the game yourself and you will see that you will either start with the name of a book or the name of a band, and your mind will race through alternative endings, trying to fit the book to the band or vice versa. You need a starting point to be creative.

Coudal then went on to show a brief that he’d set his web team to market an upcoming conference. Given a technical dream scenario to create in the team had arrived at an extremely simple page design that harks back to pre internet graphic design, borrowing from one-sheet political papers of the 19th Century. This, Coudal explained, was what you could create if you didn’t constantly look at current design and instead listened to the graphic design lessons of the past ‘Looking backwards for a forward design’– to communicate effectively with the minimum of creative decisions beyond the needs of your message. To finish up he then played a film that had the entire audience laughing.

It was a short piece about a man who couldn’t focus on any one hobby for too long. A Woody Allen’esque character, he flitted between bird watching, model railway collecting and pot holing. Coudal said he identified with this character and was proud of the fact. A strange boast for a society that worries about attention deficit disorder, but in the context of creativity this is understandably a potential for good, and Jim Coudal has certainly harnessed his potential for good. Have a look at the site,where there are many distractions including the wonderful Gallery of Online Museums, which has a collection of sites like the ‘gallery of improvised prison escape tools’ and ‘The Virtual Museum of Vintage VCRs’ to keep you entertained for hours.

Mark Boulton of Mark Boulton Design

He was billed as a man whom, in his own words, says “I've got a thing about grids and typography and occasionally ramble on about them to anyone who will listen”.

I was prepared for a bit of a nap. However, Boulton immediately caught my attention by regaling the audience with his manifesto from pre internet graphic design ‘type is language, it’s job is to convey information in writing’. Boulton then waxed lyrical on the age old debate of the widely loathed and ridiculed Comic Sans font.

He used the maligned font as an example of how the internet has given the opportunity to design but unfortunately not the tools. People use Comic Sans because it’s there, if better fonts were available people would use them. He pointed to the use of Times Roman, a font that was designed for print being inadequate for web and on the other hand the excellence of Cambria, a relatively tively new font, being the way forward. This was not merely talk, Boulton is leading research for web developers Drupal to seek ways to integrate the opportunities for good design at the embryonic stages of web development, thereby equipping web users with the tools to make good design decisions.

Talk to design should not be just about the visual impact; good design draws on firm architecture foundations. Robin Christopherson, Head of Accessibility at AbilityNet, neatly summed this up. Christopherson is blind. Using technologies such as screen reading, magnification and voice recognition software, he illustrated that websites should be built to be as inclusive as possible. with a series of practical lessons in good accessibility for web designers. He was totally enthralling, giving the audience a glimpse into another side of the web, one that relies on information being ordered and refined to its core message.

Carsonified is the brainchild of husband and wife team Ryan and Gillian Carson. Based in Bath in the South West of England, Ryan is an entrepreneur and web advocate who has built two successful web applications; DropSend and Amigo whilst Gillian’s background is in publishing, editing Create Online and Computer Arts. Together they have come up with a winning concept in ‘Carsonified’ a web design company and also a community, pushing discussion and furthering industry education on all things web design related.

All text courtesy of Robert Urquhart.


Robert Urquhart lives in London where he is currently the web editor for the city's biggest and most dynamic design event, the London Design Festival.

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