FOWD 09 Review

Such was my enjoyment of Future of Web Design (FOWD) 2008 I decided to attend again this year. As I can tell you’re all on tenterhooks to hear what I thought, here’s my review:

Last year, I went to FOWD as a full-time employee – I didn’t know anyone and although I came away inspired I felt I missed out a lot by not getting involved socially. This year however, I knew a few people courtesy of the Manchester-based meetup group, Northern Digitals. Having people I knew in close proximity to discuss the talks with did make a huge difference and definitely made the time more enjoyable.

Anyway, onto the talks. Some of the talks were great and some weren’t so great. I suppose this is obvious: inevitably, some of the talks will be good and some will be bad. I thought some of the talks gave me some real inspiration and some bored me to tears. I don’t wish to focus on the negative aspects so I’ll briefly get that bit over with.

I felt that some of the lowlights were:

  • Presenters displaying their portfolios when they should have been making a point
  • Presenters having exciting talks ruined by the fact that they were reading the presentation from a piece of paper
  • Sponsors Microsoft, heavily labouring the point with their presentation about their new product Surface

Okay enough negativity, here’s my highlights:

  • Talks that inspired me to go away and think about my personal design process
  • Talks that gave me the fuel to tell clients no and how to explain why
  • Talks that re-opened my eyes to the accessibility issues on the web
  • The open bar at the after party

In particular, I thought the talks by Robin Christopherson, Mike Kus, and Mark Boulton were fantastic and justified the ticket price on their own.


A quick point about sponsorship. FOWD is a sponsored event and allows its main sponsors a small presentation spot. These spots went to Microsoft and GoodBarry. Microsoft’s presentation was dreadful – the speaker was a good presenter but the topic was dull and frankly annoying however I felt that GoodBarry’s presentation was excellent – it was not a heavy handed sales job rather it really seemed to offer something entertaining. Any companies thinking of sponsoring an event in the future would do well to listen to/watch GoodBarry’s presentation for pointers.

The point of conferences

Overall, I felt 2008’s conference was ever so slightly better: Certainly this year there was no knockout talk whereas for me last year’s Designing the User Experience Curve by Andy Budd blew me away and actually changed my thought process but I don’t feel it fair to compare different years to each other – they were different and offered different things but they did have a few things in common:

  • I came away from FOWD feeling inspired – just like I did last year.
  • I have talked incessantly to my (long-suffering) girlfriend about every little detail of FOWD since returning home – just like I did last year.
  • I left feeling part of a community and not like I was alone struggling to make the web better place

Therefore, I conclude that FOWD did its job and there’s a very good chance I’ll attend next year also. It’s also reconfirmed to me that conferences and in particular, presenters can be interesting so in that aspect, it has definitely encouraged me to go to further conferences.

Other reviews from the web

Did you attend this year’s FOWD conference? What were your thoughts?

4 responses to “FOWD 09 Review”

  1. Nice quick summary on the high/lowlights of the conference, like you I feel the same about presentations on past work being pointless and reading from a script, as good as it was, just makes the talk a little less interesting!

    Hopefully be going to at least 1 more conference this year and already thinking about the next FOWD London!

    Nice to meet you and some of the other ND people anyway!

  2. Hi Phil!

    I agree with you that last year’s FOWD was a bit more juicy in terms of content, but I’d say this year I enjoyed it more :)

    Good point on the GoodBarry sponsorship, other sponsors should definitely learn something from them. I’m actually compelled to using their product even if I don’t need it now.

    Thanks for the link!

    • That’s a very good point Yaili. I was also compelled to check out the aforementioned product too – I got a good feeling from the company based on the presentation that made me think that the product could be good but more importantly that the people behind it had the right idea.

  3. Hey hey!

    Aye we had a good time mate. Maybe took advantage of the open bar a little too much, at least I got to wear Ryan’s hat!

    I particularly enjoyed Mike’s talk, it really inspired me to get in Photoshop and just have some fun for myself, instead of it always having to be for clients.

    I’m sure I’ll be there next time.