Last Sunday, the annual computer graphics convention SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Computer GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques) began in LA. Over the last five days, tens of thousands of computer professionals have attended, all keen to see the latest advances in their field of expertise.
There are literally thousands of conventions like this held all over the world on various subjects. But just how beneficial are they for creatives? We asked our industry panel for their thoughts...
Dan Mall says
"I think they're extremely important! Not only do conventions and conferences allow you to learn about the latest developments in your industry, but it's the highest concentration of specialized peers you could hope for and a great opportunity to get to know like-minded people.
"SXSW was one of the first conferences I attended. At my first year there, I attended a talk by Andy Budd and can distinctly remember him saying, 'Everyone here wants to talk to the speakers. But the people sitting next to you are doing work that is just as great; the speakers are the lucky ones that got chosen to evangelize it this year. Don't miss the opportunity to introduce yourself to the people around you.' I took his advice and turned to the people sitting behind me to introduce myself. It turned out to be Mark Bixby (currently a design manager at Facebook) and Brian Warren (who I've worked with on both full-time and personal projects and currently lead designer at OneHub).
"Brooklyn Beta is a small, friendly web conference aimed at the 'work hard and be nice to people' crowd. Unlike other conferences that specifically focus on craft, Brooklyn Beta is a unique mix of designers, developers, writers, and entrepreneurs, and the environment and schedule are designed to encourage collaboration between those groups."
Dan Mall is founder and director at SuperFriendly. He is also technical editor at A List Apart, and - via his love/obsession for typography - he is also the co-founder of Typedia and swfIR.
Kai Turner says
"For designer practitioners, large conferences serve as a means of communicating the value of good design to other types of professionals, such as those in marketing, operations and technology. However, in terms of gaining insight into developing and growing as a designer, I'm more interested in the smaller, less structured events that emerge from within the designer communities. Particularly in Europe, where it's more difficult to get a critical mass of busy designers together, you're finding new genres of events emerging. For example, unconferences and 'Design Jams' where rather than just listening to speakers, attendees are hands on in creating innovative design solutions in a workshop setting.
"I think TED has also provided a model for crowdsourcing local talks and lectures that collectively amount to an ongoing global conference of sorts where you can dip in and out of lectures as your schedule permits. One such lecture series that I'm very excited about is CreativeMornings - a monthly design talk that Tina Roth Eisenberg started in New York and now has 32 cities around the world participating. It's this sort of near-spontaneous activity, these meaningful distractions from work, that create the random synchronisation collision of ideas designers need for inspiration."
Kai Turner is experience lead at global digital agency Huge in London.
Henry Hargreaves says
"As for photography conventions, I stay clear, I feel they are generally all fart and no shit! There's just someone making a load of money from tickets and booths. They're designed to make you invest in new equipment but after 15 minutes, I'm bored, uninspired and $30 down!
"To be fair, this may have just applied to photography conventions I've been to so am open minded about going to one that proves me wrong!"
Henry Hargreaves is a still life, art and fashion photographer.
Rob Redman says:
"Conventions and expos are a double edged sword for creatives. They are a fantastic way to showcase and/or discover new work and artists, as well as to be amongst the first to delve into new tools and working methods. I've met people at shows that have left me awe struck by their talents and, in a few cases, have been able to form a relationship with them (and some great friendships) where we have ended up working together. This is all great stuff...
"...Here is the 'but'. The shows tend to be sponsored or at least partly financed by the big established software houses, who in turn get most of the ad space and by far the biggest booths (sometimes even complete halls). This is all fine and dandy but it does mean that to find the real innovations and innovators you need to search, and search hard. Some of the most creative people will be sucked up into the major players' teams but there are still many gems to be found."
Rob Redman is a 3D artist and founder of Pariah Studios
So, that's what our designers think. What are your thoughts on design conventions? Let us know in the comments box below...