dConstruct 2015

“The first guy made me want to build robots. The last guy made me want to change the world.”

Ashley Nye dConstruct 2015

That’s what I said when we left dConstruct 2015, the absolutely amazing conference on designing the future held at the Brighton Dome yesterday. I always come away from Brighton Digital events feeling inspired. Passion, enthusiasm and excitement is contagious, and we’re very lucky to have such a great community of coders, designers, makers, and doers.

I got to listen to a whole bunch of really great people talk about things they love, things I love, raise questions, highlight opportunities and best of all, make me think.

Also I got to play with lasers, a giant 3D pac-man, send a postcard to my future self 5 years from now, try and fail to make an origami llama/unicorn, and meet some really cool minds.

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So here’s a brief overview of the talks:

  1. Brian David Johnson made me want to build robots. I want a robot I can teach to walk and wave at me because his robot, Jimmy, was just too exciting for words. He made it clear we can DO this stuff. All of us. Why aren’t we building more robots? Why isn’t that part of arts and crafts time at school? I want it to be right up there with playing in the sand pit, learning the times table, and building a robot. Mine would be called Dawn001, and yes, she would wear a cape because “every robot should have a cape”. And her skill and purpose would be to play frisbee, because everyone needs a cape-wearing, frisbee-playing robot.Dawn001 Ashley Nye robot illustrationThe technology is all there, our imagination is the limit. We just need to “change the story people tell themselves about the future they will live in”.
  2. Matt Novak, lover of The Jetsons and the comic Closer than we think! showed us by looking lovingly at past futuristic visions that the future won’t come all at once, and won’t come in the form we imagined.
  3. John Willshire gave an mind-boggling presentation about Metadesign, some really interesting card-sorting style techniques to create rapidly evolving ideas and the advantages of mapping.
  4. Josh Clark showed us why Harry Potter is magical (and even demonstrated some ‘magic’ himself). There is “one goal: the computer disappears into the environment” (Alan Kay) and that is what Clark envisages. A world with a simpler design and a more natural interaction with technology. This would be infinitely more satisfying, more social, and bring us back into the world again. He says we should use “phones to caption our lives rather than frame them”. This is music to my ears. I can’t wait for a world where we can have a conversation in a restaurant again…
  5. Chris Noessel took us through some very BIG problems with the user interfaces in popular sci-fi movies. I laughed, I was entertained, but essentially he’s ruined Iron Man and Star Wars for me. Thanks Chris – the designer in me is enlightened but I still want to believe that Tony Stark is as cool as we are led to believe and not just about to destroy everything around him.
  6. Nick Foster gave a talk on the mundane which was actually very interesting. The word ‘mundane’ used to mean ordinary, normal, even dull to me. Now I realise that ‘mundane’ also denotes ‘of the world’ and that there’s a real benefit to framing your designs in the context of the ordinary world. New products will be placed into an already existing environment. How will it fit in/interact with that? Also, I learnt from Nick the importance of planning for breakages. The thing you design will go wrong. How will you handle that?
  7. Carla Diana showed us some amazing examples of a storybook she designed, with characters that can be 3D printed by the reader. This is just one example of a use for the technology we have to create things to interact with.
  8. Ingrid Burrington made me think. She gave a wonderful talk about resistance, leading onto a whole manner of topics to think about, all framed nicely by the Terminator series.
  9. Dan Hill talked about the major changes taking place because of technology. Technology changes. It changes whole cities, and the way we design. There’s some very interesting developments in the way of transport, in particular train stations and buses driven by demand.
  10. Mark Stevenson spoke passionately about the need to change. There are so many opportunities for change now if only we would do something about it. Everyone needs to listen to this talk. He made me want to change the world. And yes, I’ll offset my carbon emissions because it’s the right thing to do.

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You can listen to all the dConstruct talks at http://archive.dconstruct.org.

Thanks to Clearleft for organising such a brilliant event.

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