Last week I attended Webvisions Barcelona for the second time - I came away last year with some great inspiration, plenty of food for thought (figuratively and literally) and a few extra freckles, so my expectations this time were high.

The venue again was the beautifully designed IED (Istituto Europeo di Design) which works perfectly for the size of the conference, adding a more intimate aspect which can often be overlooked at other events. Curator Brad Smith looked to have collated a really good mix of speakers, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Here are a few of the talks that really stood out for me -

Innovation culture divide

Nathan Shedroff got things of to a great start by addressing how we can try to bridge the ‘innovation culture divide’ - the space between business and creative. He highlighted how when traditional business tools are used to assess a product or service, they fail to quantify emotional, ‘softer’ qualities, focussing instead on predominantly financial and functional aspects. This divide can be considered the difference between quantitive and qualitative and Nathan advocates that it is design’s job to help build a relationship between the two - “we [designers] are in the relationship business, whether you like it or not.”

Although engaging with innovation, building company ‘good will’ and leadership by design are not new concepts, they have helped design gain a seat at the executive table in recent years. These approaches however are still not the status quo and designers have an important role on every project to try and encompass all aspects into an engaging experience that accounts for both business and creative needs. This is something core to our approach at Clearleft and it’s encouraging to see others advocating this holistic approach to projects.

Getting away with shit

Later Timothy Goodman gave a great account of some of his work and how to ‘get away with shit’. He spoke passionately on finding the thing you love, personal projects and some of the ways he keeps his work current and engaging. Timothy maintains a great expression of social and personal commentary through his work - some of his recent side projects have involved collaborations with Jessica Walsh (Jessica spoke in detail about one of these later on) and it was refreshing to see some real humour and personality underpinning more serious issues. ‘If you want to change your look, change your tool’ stuck with me as a reminder to pause for thought when reaching for the mouse as a default. Oh, that and the “self-empowerment of liking your own posts” - he claims it really does work…

Hit it with a Pretty Stick

‘Hit it with a Pretty Stick’ is Jenny Lam’s mantra, and as a designer, one I couldn’t agree with more. She began by sharing some fairly eye-watering insights on the substantial revenue that design and aesthetics yield for companies that heavily invest in them. She also cited a Stanford research group that has proven design aesthetics are the primary factor in site credibility for users and the effect of ’marketing placebo’ that convinces you items with more premium packaging taste better. All of this helped substantiate the idea of ‘integrity, harmony and radiance’ which combine to shape great design - brand expression in an interface, cross-medium and device relationships and the feeling of awe (the icing on the design cake). Jenny’s approach of considering all the contributing factors in great design from revenue to delight was really refreshing - I’ll be keeping as much of this in mind as possible when I next weald the Pretty Stick.


Matt Haughey spoke about the importance of side projects. Everyone sat up at his warning of “guns and dildos ahead” (all in context of course!), which explained one of his many side projects that continue to shape his life. He shared some quite surprising examples of successes that originated as ‘side projects’. Who’d have thought that Disney Land started as a means to run Walt’s self-built replica model trains?

Matt also talked about the idea of the ‘slow hunch’ - an idea that burns away, sometimes for quite a while before you act on it. Often something “just feels like it could be a thing” and it’s worth trying a few different approaches to try and bring it to fruition. I’m sure many of us have some of these hunches burning away, maybe it’s time to act on one - you never know until you give it a go.

It’s only fair to mention some of the other great speakers - Dan Saffer, Rafa Soto and Ricardo Baeza-Yates amoung others were all on the line up and really helped to shape the well rounded and considered event that Webvisions is. So, another year of inspiration and food for thought, and yes, a few extra freckles to boot. Good work the Webvisions team, I’ll definitely be back again.