"There's no either/or anymore - digital is part of our creative lives, creating new possibilities and opportunities. But does that mean pre-digital knowledge, expertise and aesthetics are redundant, or is something much more interesting happening as old and new come together in the mix?"
Much of my enjoyment came from the wide variety of expertise on offer from the speakers:
Jonathan Waring - Self confessed type nerd
Jonathan, Creative Director, 3Sixty, came from a pre-digital, traditional publishing background, to the extent that the punishment of his first employer in Germany was to force him to painstakingly lay-out, on a letterpress, a poster for a local company - a task that took 4 days.
His central point was based around this experience - perhaps, with the technology currently at our disposal, we are far too quick to dive into creating, without properly considering our approach and taking time.
I didn't buy into this completely, a bad designer is a bad designer whatever their method. But it did ring true with Ben Bodien's article for 24 ways, suggesting that Web Development is becoming a craft and we should build and hone our tools and techniques over time.
David McGoran, Roboticist, Puppeteer & Dancer
David's talk (he's from Rusty Squid a Bristol based collective) was my favourite of the panel, if only because the (frustratingly quick) flash of his Heart Robot tugged at my heart strings - as I'm sure he intended.
David's argument, passionately put, was that we are base, emotional animals and that technology developers would do well to remember this. Although, how to do this, with emotionless computer screens is a challenge. The Gamificaiton approach is a blunt tool to harness our dopamine rush. But he still made me want to get my Arduino out and make something real.
His talk included illustrations of dancers and performers from the 17-1900's, many of whom developed neutral masks or covers for their faces and expressed all of their emotions through their body and pose. Many robotics engineers, would do well to look back at the library of images these early pioneers created, detailing each and every approach for expressing meaning or emotion.
Another great tangent he explored, was how the technology of Greek Theater was often decades ahead of the military technology of the time. Yet now, performance technology is little more than high definition 3D displays.
One centrally agreed point of the night, from David's talk, is that much of the non-digital technology that is dying, is actually not as old as we think.
Do we really care about the death of newspapers? After all Martin Luther was an avid tweeter 500 years ago.
Baldur Bjarnason - PhD subject: eBooks and interactivity
I learned a lot from Baldur, including the real origin of the phrase "You can't tell a book from it's cover".
In fact books never had designed covers before mass production, for the unwashed masses, came along. Before that, rich society types had their books binded individually and decorated to their tastes.
Baldur also expressed his dislike of the ever popular grid systems and it's modern day equivalent - the Windows Phone 7 Metro design language. Both systems that have taken the emotion and fun out of design, whilst trying to keep a standard blank playing field for all users.
His argument was that Apple products were so loved, because they chose to embrace emotion in design - people enjoy them (Although, personally I find their recent skeuomorphism trend slightly jarring).
Finally, he mentioned many interesting developments in the eBooks arena, the subject of his PhD thesis. Many sounded very useful - standardised hash tags for each page of a book for example - but it couldn't help but remind me of of Nicholas Carr's key arguments in 'The Shallows': we are meant to be reading and consuming information in considered isolation, not skimming the surface and exploring tangents on Wikipedia every 2 minutes.
Simon Johnson - Game Designer
Another talk that made me want to get the hardware out again.
A final point of the evening, regarding the over-prevalence of Victorianism in recent retro 'designs' was amusingly undermined by Simon and David's rather dashing flat caps.