Laura Kalbag

dConstruct 2010

I was a bit skeptical about dConstruct at first. The idea of a conference based on ‘creativity and ideas’ made me worry it might be a bit pretentious but I was convinced by a lot of friends on Twitter that it’d be worthwhile, and they were so right.

I went with a notebook and an open mind. I didn’t want to go all reverse-snob on the pretentious (something I’m generally pretty guilty of being) and be ignorant of learning when I’d paid ££s for the pleasure.

And I ended up writing reams. Well, seven sides of a scruffy notebook, so here are the best bits I remember from each talk for the benefit of my friends who couldn’t be there.


I’ve tried to summarise the main ideas from the talks. If I totally missed the point or didn’t do it justice, I’m really sorry!

Marty Neumeier — The Designful Company

Branding is about how the consumer feels about your product. To differentiate your brand from others, you must be good and different.

Brendan Dawes — Boil, Simmer, Reduce

Collect as much inspiration and information as possible, consider it all and the reduce it down until there’s nothing left to take away.

David McCandless — Information Is Beautiful

Infographics can be used to help us understand and relate to the huge amount of information and data we’re drowning in.

Samantha Warren — The Power and Beauty of Typography

Letters can say more than the words they spell. Picking fonts for a project is like picking shoes for an outfit, you must pick the most contextually appropriate font.

John Gruber — The Auteur Theory Of Design

Much like in film production, collaborative web projects can benefit from an auteur who acts as an arbiter of taste and strives for high quality.

Hannah Donovan — Jam Session: What Improvisation Can Teach Us About Design

We can learn about improvisation in design from improvisation in music. Making sure tools don’t get in the way, we have a structure to follow and roles to keep, to help us free our self-expression.

James Bridle — The Value Of Ruins

We need to make sure information is being kept, given history, value and versions to help us understand its context, the world and protect the information from cultural destruction.

Tom Coates — Everything The Network Touches

The future is in the connectivity of data, up to huge scales such a cities

Merlin Mann — Kerning, Orgasms & Those Goddamned Japanese Toothpicks

Nerd are cool because they really care about something. It’s great to be a nerd because you suck up huge quantities of information. It’s important to ensure you keep the information up-to-date and relevant.

Various points and ideas

I’ve tried to capture some of the ideas from my notes in this mind map thing, in addition/support to the summaries. If you can read my writing, you might find it interesting. I just did it to help cement the ideas in my head as I’m one of those people who has to write something down a million times to get it to stick.

dConstruct 2010 ideas mindmap

Overall conference thoughts

The more people I know, the better conferences always are. It can be pretty hard to get chatting to somebody you don’t know in a room full of people who are stereotypically shy (especially when you’re in a minority of girls and so stick out like a sore thumb!)

I loved Brighton as a destination (pretty easy travel for me) and the venue was very smart. It was a bit tricky to write notes in the darker parts of the theatre but wouldn’t be so hard on back-lit devices (I opted for paper as I’m still really slow on iPad.) It would have been great to charge my iPhone/iPad during the talks as most of my break times were spent out of the venue trying to find non-coffee/tea refreshments.

What I noticed in particular was that there weren’t any questions at the end of the talks. In a way this was good because it prevented the awkward silence that is often heralded with ‘Any questions?’ at other conferences. However, it did give you the feeling of one-way communication. Much more like being at a lecture than being in a lesson.

It was good to see speakers I hadn’t seen before too. I think I’d already seen a variation of Brendan Dawes’ talk at Future Of Web Design, but otherwise the talks and speakers were totally new to me. This was refreshing over some of the conference veterans, because how much do you practice what you preach when you spend your whole time touring a talk?!


  1. crispinheath
    @laurakalbag love the mindmap
  2. The big question… will you go again next year!?
    • Definitely! It's such good value for money.
    • timhastings
      @laurakalbag your #dConstruct mind map is awesome, great job!
    • Justin and Laura,

      These are exactly the goals of dConstruct –; always have been. There are workshops alongside the conference which teach more practical skills-based stuff, but the conference day itself is all about getting people to think outside of their day-to-day work: to inspire, to excite, and (perhaps most of all) to motivate.

      So glad you enjoyed it –; and see you next year!

    • I was a little bit dubious about the conference at first as well.

      By lunch time I was thinking that the Web Directions conference in London was much better. At Web Directions they were talking about technologies that we could use now and running through real life examples, something that gave the dev side of me some excitement to get home and straight to work.

      At the end of dConstruct I met up with my girlfriend who was eager to hear about the day. I started with "Actually the last conference I went to was much better, but…."

      What followed from that "but…." was 90 minutes of explaining my thoughts and ideas and the concepts the speakers discussed during the conference.

      I realised it was an awesome conference, and I think you�re descriptions and mind map are great examples of that.

      • Couldn�t agree more! When there are so many technique-driven talks out there, it can be easy to judge the more ideas-based talks as pretentious when they�re actually really valuable fuel for the brain!