New Year, new conferences

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2017 is going to be packed full of design exhibitions and events, Stephen Holmes suggests that this New Year might be the right time to update the conferences on your schedule

Picasso Labs CEO Anastasia Leng at the PromaxBDA conference explains how the amount of digital information industries collect can now be used to create better products

There’s nothing like a last minute rifle through a wad of old receipts to get you thinking about where you’ve been over the last 12 months.

Having muscled my way through over 50 events of differing topics and themes in 2016, it puts me in good stead to know what makes a good conference — and what makes for a flop.

But if you’ve no time to be swanning around, how do you take the risk of attending events to find the best talks?

Usually costing a few hundred quid to attend [DEVELOP3D LIVE is free – Ed], not to mention the travel and time spent out of office, most people end up at the same conferences year after year as a means of mitigating risk and habit.


Same faces. Same talks. Same queue for a coffee while ruing your choice of footwear.

“To hear another industry’s view of what innovation means — and trust me, I can’t hear that word without slowly and singularly snapping the bones in my fingers — is eye opening”

Sometimes you need to be bold, take a gamble and go to a non-industry event. To hear another industry’s view of what innovation means ruing and trust me, I can’t hear that word without slowly and singularly snapping the bones in my fingers ruing is eye opening.

With the technological limits, tools and budgets often completely different there’s a lot that can be learned, transferred and built upon.

An example was the latter half of the recent PromaxBDA conference in London for television and advertising producers.

The first presentation I saw was from Mimo Brands, which described how marketing no longer shouts about how good a product is anymore, or even how much it costs.

A look at all the supermarket ads from over the festive period backs this up. Not a single one bellowed about how cheap and succulent their turkeys were, but instead featured stories relating to some dreamt up brand message that, in turn, provokes an emotion.

Tangible goods are no longer the front and centre of an advertisement, but instead it must reflect an overall ethos and emotional tie to which consumers now buy into.

Take Patagonia, a US outdoor clothing brand for example. While the masses dropped their prices for a Black Friday bloodbath, Patagonia maintained normal pricing, but donated all the day’s profits to environmental charities.

Commercial suicide? Patagonia is one of the fastest growing outdoors brands in the world, namely because those who love the outdoors love the company’s commitment to the environment.

Another talk centred on social media, and how images are much more important to how we now absorb information.

The company Piccasso Labs has created an algorithmic system that analyses images used in social media marketing to collect huge amounts of data to connect the right product with the right audience.

If the product you’ve laboured over for months is a commercial failure because the marketing imagery pictured it with too few women, or because the man holding it was in the wrong setting, then you might as well down tools now.

There’s scepticism about this kind of data, but the scale with which we all produce online data now — whether by clicking a link to a story on Twitter, or liking a photo on Facebook — means the patterns are real, and can be fed back into nearly every industry, including design.

To visit a new conference or exhibition in 2017 might just be the best New Years resolution you can have: easily achievable, cake and booze are still allowed, and you don’t have to wear lycra/other weird sporting apparel.

My tips are thus:
● Ensure it has more than one focus, that way conversations and questions you come across will pull in more varied views
● Go with a colleague from a different department or a mate with a different agenda, some of the best ideas come when you have a second, slightly different opinion
● Go in open minded, the world is shifting and companies are constantly diversifying into new industries. While you might be working on one type of product today, you might be creating something currently unimaginable next year
● Do some stretches, drink plenty of water, be aware of your personal hygiene — and talk to strangers at every opportunity

Hopefully I’ll see you at an event in 2017 — obviously DEVELOP3D LIVE comes to mind, and should tick all the boxes.

GET IN TOUCH: Stephen Holmes is Digital Media Editor at DEVELOP3D. Shout at him — @swearstoomuch

Now might be the right time to update your events schedule for 2017

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