Andrew Travers Andrew Travers is an interaction designer and researcher. He’s the author of Interviewing for research.

Andrew Travers

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Looking back at looking forward

“Reflecting on a even-better-than-usual dConstruct.”

I’m surprised to realise that this year’s dConstruct was only my third - it’s felt like such a fixture in my calendar. As a rule, I try to avoid returning to conferences. I make exceptions for the exceptional - and dConstruct always happily manages to feel like a conference shining the torch on the path ahead, not (just) at our feet.

As an event, it feels like it’s been growing in ambition and confidence - welcoming those far removed from the narrow worlds of ‘design’ or ‘development’. It was great to see both those whose work I’ve followed for a long time - particularly Ariel Waldman (arielwaldman.com) - and those I hadn’t yet discovered, like the author Lauren Buekes (laurenbeukes.com).

The hit rate at this year’s edition was particularly high, but I’d like to highlight three that particularly worth your time - or, at least - chimed with the things that have been on my own mind recently as a designer.

frog design’s Scott Jenson was so smooth I found myself checking one point if he really did have a clicker for his slide deck. It was great to hear someone of his experience and authority move beyond the usual trite native vs mobile apps debate and focus on what we should perhaps be thinking about instead - how we accept the ability of so many more objects to surface content to our devices, and think about how we reduce the pain in accessing that content. Something better than an app that requires downloading (and, if I might add, doomed to abandonment in nearly all cases), but more flexible than something constrained by the confines of a browser. Spoiler alert: it’s not QR codes. It was a neat distillation of his Beyond Mobile series for frog.

If there’s a more fluent, lyrical designer/developer than Tom Armitage (infovore.org), I’ve not heard them. Tom’s elegant, thoughtful talk wandered through his own software experiments - all manner of Twitter bots, and Foursquare time-shifting and the extraordinary array of toys made for him by his talented father - to muse on what toys mean, how we gain from the process itself of exploring and making them, and the freedom that toys offer us to freely imagine. A talk to make you want to roll your sleeves up and code like fury.

James Burke’s turn at the day’s closing was simply a tour-de-force - machine-gunning an audience with a relentless barrage of ideas, histories and their connections, much as he did during his television career. But it wasn’t just a nostalgic reminder of things past, what he had to say neatly tied together much of what his fellow speakers had touched upon: that when focus too narrowly on our own fields, we’re likely to miss the critical events that will define our futures. Our futures are determined by connections between disciplines, and what they learn from each other, and spark in each other.

This year’s dConstruct was a classic. If you didn’t get the chance to attend, don’t miss the full dConstruct archive for all this year’s presentation, and the past seven year’s worth of content too. A goldmine.