London is the UK's creative hub, with approximately 30% of the country's creative industries residing in just a few square miles of the nation's capital. As a result we are spoilt for choice when it comes to conferences, workshops, meetups and events aimed at digital marketers, designers and developers.
Over the years I've been to a wide range of events, from small pub gatherings, to full on 5 day trade shows at venues such as Earls Court and the Excel. I typically find the smaller events are the ones I take the most away from and that's understandable as the larger events are having to cater for such a huge audience, that the content of the various talks and seminars are often very generic with only a smattering of top level stats and useful techniques. Conversely the smaller meet ups are usually very specific, with everyone attending from very similar backgrounds such as email marketers, AngularJS specialists or start-up founders and entrepreneurs. The small meets are great for networking with like-minded people, but can sometimes fall foul of evolving into regular social events rather than a place to sharpen your skills and discuss hot new topics, the latest developments and emerging trends. So for me it’s the smaller conferences which always seem to hit the mark by getting the balance right between number of talks, variety, attendee diversity and frequency.
The Designer’s Fiesta happens to be one of these types of events. I’ve been attending for a few years now and in its sixth year this year the Fiesta really feels like its matured. It’s well attended (2014 saw approximately 250 attendees) and has a good number of talks, typically 4/5 per hour over 6 hourly sessions, on a wide range of topics, mostly design trends, new techniques and software features for Adobe CC, but also covering, 3d Printing, web development technologies, business development and strategy and more. There is always plenty of refreshments and cookies available to snack on as well as a nice range of sandwiches for lunch. Plus there’s always the opportunity for a few beers or a glass of wine at the end whilst you network with the speakers and other attendees.
The Designer’s Fiesta is a friendly event and you can sense that the attendees always seem to enjoy the talks, engaging with the speakers and each other on equal terms. I certainly find the speakers are well versed in their topics, deliver their content well and are each experts in their respective fields.
This year I attended a real mix of talks and as business director and founder, was pleased to see a bit more focus this year on business strategy as well as personal development. The session by Michael Graham (@MJBGConsultancy) titled “Playing at a higher level” was a great inspirational experience discussing key elements of our own psychology which we can control to help us be more successful in business and all other areas of our lives. He discussed the three key areas for success; attitude, work ethic and student mentality and got the delegates to answer a series of questions designed to self-asses and set targets.
Michael Murdoch’s talk on “How to get into the creative industry and run an agency” was another great session. He described his experiences from studying design at university, through to his time as a freelancer and then how he set up his company The House (@thehouselondon) and where things are now 6 years on. It was great to hear from another creative, who’s set up their own company, describe their experiences and providing succinct tips and recommendations on how to take the same route.
Lastly, worth particular mention was “Photoshop for UI/Web/Apps” by Adobe trainer Dan Walter Scott (@danlovesadobe). As a full stack developer and designer with almost 15 years’ experience, I always expect there’ll be few things for me to learn, especially when it comes to the tools I use day to day, however Dan offered up a couple of little gems which I’ll be integrated into my workflow post-haste. It’s amazing how you get so used to doing something a particular way and miss new features and workflows in the software you use all the time. Dan’s highlight on the new artboards in Photoshop was very useful and I never knew about the Generator feature (and syntax) which means I’ll probably never need to use ‘Save for Web’ ever again. Thanks Dan!
Of course the other talks were equally as useful and well delivered and I came away this year, as I have done in previous years, with a nice list of things to implement and action. So in summary I’d highly recommend this particular event for all you creative individuals out there and you don’t have to take my word for it; check out the review video for 2014 (and my own mug from 1m11s);