Web designInterview

Christopher Murphy on making ideas happen

Christopher Murphy on making ideas happen

The designer speaks about his upcoming talk at Generate London on 26 September and why there's never been a more exciting time to be working on the web.

Writer, designer, educator and Standardista Christopher Murphy (@fehler) is just one of over a dozen outstanding speakers to deliver talks at Generate London this year. To give you a taster of what's to come, we asked him to outline his talk and tell us what he's excited about at the moment.

What are you going to speak about at Generate?

My talk is titled 'Ideas Are Easy, Implementation Is Hard'. It's heavily drawn from personal experience and explores the challenges we’ve faced while establishing Get Invited, a ticketing startup I recently co-founded. It’s a journey through our product, from idea to reality.

The talk is based on the premise that ideas are, contrary to conventional wisdom, easy, it's the putting them into practice that's the hard part.

The talk explores a number of areas that need to be considered by anyone embarking on digital product design, including:

  1. Ideas. Where do they come from?
  2. Testing your assumptions, through MVPs (Minimum Viable Products)
  3. Funding: Investment vs. Bootstrapping?
  4. Finding elusive customers (by being '10 times better')

As an educator I believe the best way for others to learn is to be completely honest and transparent about the challenges we’ve faced. I’ll be sharing a great deal in the hope that it will help others who are perhaps making their first, tentative steps into the world of digital product design.

What have you been working on recently?

Lots! I'm always spinning plates. Most of my time of late has been absorbed by Break, a design conference I’m running in Belfast in November. Break reflects my teaching ethos, it explores design in the widest sense, "questioning the edges of design".

I hugely underestimated the amount of work that goes into running a conference, but I'm fortunate to have a great team helping me, not least my wife – Cara Murphy – who more than matches my enthusiasm with an unparalleled ability to get things done!

What are the big ideas you're excited about at the moment?

I'm excited about the possibilities that digital product design offers. I've been teaching interaction design now for well over a decade and I don’t think there's ever been a more exciting time to be working in this medium. The web has reached a level of maturity that allows us to really explore its potential as a platform.

That idea – of the web as a platform and an enabler – is hugely interesting to me. I don't believe it's hyperbole to state that we're living in an unprecedented era. The web's connectedness and pervasiveness is enabling us to build things we could never have imagined before. That's exciting.

Tell us about the work you've been doing around mental health in the technology sector.

I'm passionate about raising the profile of mental health in the technology sector. I was really honoured – and surprised – to be shortlisted in The net Awards for my work on mental health awareness. My money was on Chris Coyier – who I had publicly backed in one of my talks in advance of the awards – so I was delighted he won, but it was really encouraging to see mental health issues on the agenda.

I've written a great deal about the challenges we face as an industry and I've been encouraged to see that writing featured in 24 Ways, Offscreen, and numerous other publications. I've also been working closely with the team at Prompt who have been very supportive, enabling me to speak about mental health to a wider audience.

I've spoken about mental heath issues at Brooklyn Beta, Creative Mornings and elsewhere. As someone who has suffered from depression for many, many years, it's been encouraging to see this issue – which is often swept under the carpet – being talked about more publicly.

What do you think makes a good conference?

I'm fortunate to be able to attend a lot of conferences, both as a speaker and attendee. The ingredients for a great, memorable conference are always the same: challenging talks and the opportunity to meet with other like-minded people.

Are there any speakers you're particularly looking forward to seeing at Generate?

All of them!

If I was forced to choose: I always enjoy Jeremy Keith's talks, I'm sure he’ll pose lots of interesting – and challenging – questions; Denise Jacobs is another firm favourite, her enthusiasm is infectious and I'm looking forward to her thoughts on creativity; Elliot Jay Stocks, as well as being a very good friend, is always a fount of typographic knowledge; Gavin Strange is always inspiring and, as someone we've welcomed to Belfast, is someone I’m looking forward to seeing again; lastly, Johanna Kollmann has always interested me, not least her work on Design Jam.

In short, I'm looking forward to all of Generate!

Snap up a ticket to Generate London here!

Words: Tanya Combrinck

Tanya Combrinck is digital editor on net magazine.

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