The Industry Comes at You Fast

4 min read

Only eight years ago, I secured a minor in graphic design without taking a single UX/UI class. In 2018, I realized if I wanted to remain a relevant designer in 2019 and beyond, I better know how to design for the world wide web.

Being a savvy Internet user since securing my Xanga profile in 2002, and having spent 12+ years studying design principles, it seemed like I had a leg up on the layman coming into the industry (more than the law student turned UX/UI designer in my online course, at least). So, like any great web designer, I printed out my course syllabus and three-hole punched it for the binder I purchased specifically for my online course about digital design. I was a natural.

Since that course, I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of a larger, very talented team that brings websites to life. When I saw Awwwards, a site I visit frequently for inspiration and guidance in web design, was hosting a conference with big names from places like Dropbox, InVision, Airbnb, Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Glossier… I knew it would help me push my boundaries.

After two days surrounded by industry leaders in the epicenter of tech, my head reeled with ideas and thoughts well above and beyond web design (but don’t worry, boss, I learned plenty about web design too!) Here are some of my favorite takeaways from my favorite talks, pulled from notes I took on my computer (not in a paper notebook! PROGRESS.)

Who Will Build The Next Million Websites | Vlad Magdalin, Webflow

Only 0.25% of people know how to build something (almost) everyone knows how to use. Although talent is equally distributed, opportunity is not, so Webflow strives to push the definition of “accessible” – they believe it’s not just an important thing to consider for users, but also for creators.


Vision, Research, and Data | Maykel Loomans, Glossier

A designer’s job is to make and enable “informed decisions consistently” using data, research, and our opinions. They must all be present, working together to inform and support one another. If you have an opinion, you need data and research to back your opinion up. If you have data, you need research and an opinion to do something with it. Therefore, your research informs your opinion and makes sense of your data. When all three of these work together, we enable users to make informed decisions with our interface.


Designing a Community | Dan Cederholm, Dribbble

Initially, Zuckerberg was reluctant to sell space on Facebook to advertisers because he didn’t know what it was yet. (My, how the times have changed!) But it’s not by accident we’re seeing more Facebook ads for boutique clothing shops and the most mediocre of American dining options than we are status updates from our real-life friends. Zuckerberg never forced users to use his platform in any way other than how they wanted. We asked for a “like” button and we got a “like” button… which then grew into multiple quick emotions to select (because we’re never satisfied). Point being, Zuckerberg let the users define and create the platform on their own. He enabled us to do what we naturally wanted to do.


Collaborating at Scale | Emilia Dallman, Facebook

Creating in a silo feels nice, but creativity feeds off collaboration. For effective brainstorms, you need to make sure you’re creating a space balanced between vulnerability and autonomy. Each individual needs to feel safe enough and powerful enough to share whatever comes to mind.


Something Very Strange Is Happening | Alex Cornell

My biggest takeaway from the whole conference was that the way you say or communicate something is just as powerful as what you’re saying. This isn’t a new idea (Marshall McLuhan coined the adage “the medium is the message” in 1964), but it’s telling that the completely unconventional talks by Pablo Stanley from InVision, Haraldur Thorleifsson from Ueno, and Alex Cornell, formerly of Facebook, were the ones that really stuck with me.

Candidly, they’re the reason I made those cute little quote images seen throughout this post! Because the talks that taught me the most weren’t just snippets of information. They were experiences and stories. And maybe that’s what makes all this so exciting to me. Web design offers some powerful tools for what are very human pursuits—ones like telling stories, sharing experiences, and the creation of something new.