I have a rule about conferences: go once.
Like all rules, it can be broken — usually when Jeremy Keith is involved — but not often.
Last year I went to New Adventures in Nottingham and enjoyed a day in a city I didn’t know, discovering its best coffee, mooching around a magazine store, and most of all spending time with people I hadn’t seen in years and miss hugely.
Given New Adventures’ history, it was an unapologetically nostalgic day. As most conferences are, it was hit and miss in places, but Ethan Marcotte’s quietly devastating finale made it really worthwhile.
I left Nottingham that evening as I’d arrived — happy to have been but with no plans to return. Rule observed.
And then New Adventures did something different.
From the outside looking in, the economics of conferences look hard. Safer to go with the most bankable names, when attendees know what they’re getting. Consequently, some design conferences can be like a watching a reformed band back on tour. You’re mostly there for the hits. But this also means conferences can often flatter rather than challenge an audience and the opportunities for learning — rather than confirming what you already knew — are hard to find.
New Adventures is doing something different this time round. Of the lineup announced so far, I know the names of just two of the speakers, and I’ve only heard one talk before. It’s a diverse lineup, and all are designers but working at the edges of the kind of design I do. And that’s where the learning is to be found.
I want more design conferences to do be like this. So, in January, I’ll be back in Nottingham. Genuinely a new adventure. Excited to be breaking a rule.