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Notes from Artifact Providence 2013

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Artifact Conference in Providence, RI. It was an amazing experience, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts and learnings from the event.

On Amazing Conferences

Artifact is the best conference I’ve ever attended. Major kudos go out to Jennifer Robbins, Christopher Schmitt, and Ari Stiles who organized the event.

So what made this event so great?

Location. Providence is an amazing, beautiful city. It’s easily accessible from both Boston and New York, it has a great design and development community, and it’s a lot more affordable than some of the larger cities are.

Size. Artifact had less than 200 attendees. As a result, the room had a comfortable vibe. The Twitter stream was conversational and interactive. I got to know many of the people there—many more than I typically do at a larger venue.

Single Track. Like An Event Apart Boston, Artifact had just one speaking track. I never had to decide what talk I wanted to attend (or more often, who I didn’t mind missing). Every attendee saw every talk.

Amazing Speakers. Artifact had an amazing collection of speakers. Some are part of the regular conference circuit. Others were new voices. It was the perfect mix. And just as important, all of the speakers were very accessible, and more than happy to continue discussions between sessions and at the after party.

Long Breaks. Breaks between sessions were around 30-minutes long. This provided some space to both digest the talk you had just seen and allow for extended discussions and networking.

Great Food. The food was amazing. There was lots of it, including vegetarian and gluten-free options. There was a nice mix of healthy and delicious snacks. Coffee was bottomless. Yum!

Ambiance. Artifact was held at the Biltmore, which is gorgeous. The ballroom had so much character. The lighting and layout where perfect. Tables provided amble room, but were still close enough that they invited conversation.

No Vendors. There were event sponsors, and some of the sponsor companies even had speakers at the event. But there wasn’t a vendor expo or booths or anything like that to distract from learning and networking.

On Building Things for the Web

Artifact is a conference about the evolving process of making things for the web. Speakers talked about the changing roles of designers and developers (and how they’re coming closer together), the new deliverables and artifacts that emerge from the process, and how the tools and techniques we use are shifting.

Some notable trends:

  • Designers are getting more involved in the development, and developers are getting more involved in the design. This is a great thing!
  • Wireframes are becoming rough and ugly, and move quickly into an HTML prototype.
  • The role of tools like Photoshop is changing. Style has become separated from form a bit, and tools like Style Tiles and Style Prototypes are replacing high-fidelity comps.
  • The digital style guide—what Dave Rupert calls tiny Boostraps for every client—are becoming an important deliverable that allows the client's in-house team to run with a project after you leave.
  • Along similar lines, Atomic Design is a way forward. Instead of designing pages, we're designing reusable parts and systems.

Artifact had sketch artist Ben Norris in attendance. Ben drew sketch notes of all the talks. They’re so great, I didn’t bother taking notes. Here they are…

Designers and Code and Workflows and Stuff

Talk by Jennifer Robbins.

Notes from designers and code (part 1)

Notes from designers and code (part 2)

Visual Style

Talk by Yesenia Perez-Cruz of Happy Cog.

Notes from visual style (part 1)

Notes from visual style (part 2)

Digital Style Guides

Talk by Andy Pratt.

Notes from digital style guides

Responsive Frameworks

Talk by Jared Ponchot of Lullabot.

Notes from responsive frameworks

Responsive Images

Talk by Dave Rupert of Paravel.

Notes from responsive images

Client Expectations

Discussio with Drew Clemens of SparkBox, Matt Griffin of Bearded Studio, and Kristin Ellington of Funny Garbage. Moderated by Jen Simmons.

Notes from client expectations

The Map & the Territory

Talk by Ethan Marcotte.

Notes from the map and the territory (part 2)

Notes from the map and the territory (part 2)

Responsive Layouts

Talk by Jen Simmons.

Notes from responsive layouts (part 1)

Notes from responsive layouts (part 2)

GitHub for People Who Don't Code

Talk by Christopher Schmitt of Environments for Humans.

Notes from GitHub for people who don't code

Photoshop's New Groove

Talk by Dan Rose of WSOL.

Notes from Photoshop's new groove

Web Fonts

Talk by Jason Pamental of H&W Design.

Notes from web fonts

A New Toolbox

Talk by Kevin Sharon and Sophie Shepherd.

Notes from a new toolbox

The Web & People

Talk by Brad Frost

Notes from the web and people


Thanks to Jennifer, Christopher, Ari, and all the speakers for putting together such a wonderful event!