We love bringing people together from around the world to meet, socialise, share ideas, build friendships, and learn from the experience of others. Most of all I think we love the sense of connectedness and community.

This desire to learn from others and share what we know is one of our core values. It’s also part of our mission to advance the practice and impact of design. Events are in our DNA.

The past few months have been especially hard for us. We’ve had to cancel travel plans, withdraw from speaking opportunities, and postpone several of our own events. It’s funny how much one relies on community connectedness, until it’s no longer there. So we’ve been jonesing for a good online event and couldn’t wait to get cracking with producing one of our very own.

That’s where the idea for SofaConf came from. We didn’t just want to create an online version of one of our traditional conferences. Instead we wanted to create a new event from the ground up, with the online experience in mind.

A big part of the in-person event experience is the location. Both the venue itself, and the city it’s in. We love using non traditional spaces, from dance schools (UX London) to brutalist design classics (Leading Design). Sadly this isn’t something you can recreate online, nor should you want to. But the online environment is equally important.

We’ve spent the last 2 months trialing every online event platform we could, and I have to say that as product people we’ve found it hard to find a platform that suits our needs. Some tools are better than others, but it feels like a market ripe for improvement. Fortunately we’ve partnered up with a relatively new platform who are up for doing things differently. So while they’re not quite there yet, they’re one of the few heading in the right direction. As an agency with UX at our heart, we look for the partners who will work with us on making the most of the customer journey. There might be hiccups along the way, but we work tirelessly to try and get it right for all involved.

Another important aspect of a great conference are the speakers and the content they bring. One of the things I’m most proud of with our events is their curation. If you come to a Clearleft event you know that you’ll be seeing amazing speakers with polished presentations, and an interesting perspective to share. I think it’s this mark of quality that keeps folks coming back to our events year after year.

Each day of the conference focuses on a different theme

So I’m thankful to all the wonderful speakers who have put their faith in Clearleft to pull off our first ever online event.

The last component to a good conference is obviously you, the attendees. After all, without you it would just be a bunch of speakers standing on an empty stage—or in this case talking to an empty online conference room. We’re doing everything possible to make this more than a series of Zoom calls joined together with a loose theme.

Some of the SofaConf speakers

We also realise it’s a tough time for many in our industry at the moment. Many designers, researchers, content writers and product people have had their hours cut, been put on furlough, or found their roles made redundant. At the same time there are a host of graduates about to enter the job market for the first time. Under these circumstances we wanted to make our event as affordable as possible, as well as ensuring we had a some scholarship places available.

The pricing also reflects the fact this this is our first online event, and our reliance on new tech platforms and transfer speeds. We’re working on getting it right, we want it to be the absolute best and we’re really looking forward to getting cracking. As with all new ventures, there may be a tweak or two needed here and there, so please bear with us if there is!

Fortunately, while our operational costs and commitment to paying speakers and suppliers remains the same, our unit costs in the form of venues, catering and AV have come right down, which allows us to play with our pricing. We launched ticket sales with a mega early bird price of £39 +VAT and currently our last chance tickets cap out at a remarkably low £65 +VAT.

To make this work we need to sell a tonne of tickets. Probably 20 times more than we’d normally sell for an in-person event. So we’re going to need the community’s support.

If you’ve been to one of our events in the past, however long ago, and would like to join us, please buy a ticket. If not for you, you can always give it to somebody in need. Maybe a student, a junior designer, or somebody who you know would really appreciate it. We are also able to offer some tickets as part of our scholarship programme. If you’d like to apply for one of these tickets please fill in this short form by Friday 29th May and we’ll be in touch by Friday 5th June with more information.

We’d also be grateful if you could spread the word on social media…

As well as putting on a wonderful event to lift spirits and bring the product design community together, we also wanted to have a positive impact on the current situation. So if you can afford it (and only if you can afford it) we’re suggesting that folks add an extra £7 donation to help support key workers during this difficult time. The uptake has been really impressive with nearly 70% of attendees adding a donation. We’re also looking for an event sponsor to match these donations, so if you’d like to get involved, please drop us a line.

We can’t wait to see you all there...until then...