SXSW 2009 Wrap Up

This year’s SXSW was a very special experience for me. Many people have blogged about the fact that the “people” are really what makes this conference unique, but this year I didn’t just feel like I left with new networking connections, I felt like I left with friends. Along with the strong the DC community (which attends annually in full force) there were so many people who shared insight and inspiration with me between panels and over brunch that gave me a whole new sense of motivation for the work I do as a designer day to day. In addition to those folks I had a special opportunity to connect with other web educators and typographers to really become inspired on a whole new level. I would like to share with you the details of the 3 most important things I picked up this go around…

The web is about relationships, not just people

Those in the web industry tend to be super motivated work-aholics, and sometimes its easy to feel really alone. I mean not everyone gets what it means to “tweet” or dreams in HTML (its not just me Matthew does too). We each face unique challenges and often turn to each other for comfort over the internet, but getting together face to face over some miso soup at SXSW and sharing our stories can be more revitalizing than anything that can ever happen over twitter.
Jim, Elliot, Matthew, Ian, & Erin
While I really think that these personal connections made a huge impact on me personally, I also think that this year’s night entertainment circuit really helped for meeting new people. While bars and parties are fine, its nice to see the conference get creative…. two of my favorite events were “Pasties and Pastries” a cupcake contest & burlesque show (get your mind out of the gutter, it was totally PG-13) and OK Happy Cog’eoke. What made these parties a notch above others was that they had a theme that gave you something to talk about with the other attendees, making it easy to find common ground with the crowd and connect with folks you may not have run into during the day session.

Web Typography is a robust topic that needs to be discussed more

It is really hard for me to give an accurate explanation of how our web typography panel went down, because for me… it lasted far longer than the 40-60 minutes that the audience saw during the conference. The group had many conversations over the phone in the months before SXSW and while we were unable to all get on the phone at any one time, we all met up the day before our scheduled talk and had animated type conversation that I will cherish forever. The best advice I can give anyone who is passionately obsessed with a specific topic is to organize a conference panel around it, because talking type with these kick-ass web-type guys was just heaven for me. I learned more from our conversations than I ever could have picked up from a book or class… and made friends.

Overall one hour is NOT enough time to fully address this topic. There is so much that didn’t make it into the panel that we debated offline.. there could be a conference just on web typography. On one commenter suggested that we should have had a representative from the font manufacturers and the W3C, but that in itself could be its own panel. Our goal was to motivate web designers to dig in and get more creative with their typography online and to push boundaries. Whether those boundaries be personal creative boundaries, technical boundaries, or the boundaries of what is acceptable within the current state of the industry… that was left up to the audience to decide for themselves.
Taken by Keith Muth
I want to thank Elliot, Ian, Jon, and Richard, who all traveled to Austin (most from as far away as England!) to participate and make this panel absolutely fantastic. I have now included a link to our slides via the website (which honest to goodness was a race to the minute before the panel to put up) , and as soon as SXSW puts our podcast up ( which I hope they will) I will add it to the bottom of this post & the panel site. I want to also point out the wonderful handwritten notes from the event taken by Mike Rohde , you should check out all of his sets… of mostly design related panels, a creative way to catch up on what you may have missed.

We all have a responsibility to be web educators

I was really excited to get to attend the Web Educators Brunch and then head over for the Future of Web Education Panel. The conversations, while a little hectic, was oozing with positive energy as they unveiled the new Web Standards Project Interact curriculum. The site provides a clear clean explanation of why web standards should matter to everyone especially those educating the web designers of tomorrow. There is a lot of fantastic creativity behind this push to help advance our educational system to teach the web in a manor that is current and appropriate… and I look forward to keeping you updated on what the project brings, and digging into the curriculum myself. A big shout out to all the fantastic educators I met at the conference as well.

Feel free to check out my Flickr set from the week here.

Overall this year’s SXSW left me more inspired than ever, but also a little misty-eyed. Its one thing to stay connected online, but its another to actually get to hang out with the folks in person that really dig on the same things you do. Now… to make everyday Rawk as much as SXSW, I am up for the challenge!


  1. — March 24, 2009

  2. — March 24, 2009

  3. — March 24, 2009

  4. — March 24, 2009

  5. — March 30, 2009

  6. — March 31, 2009

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. [...] has me wishing more and more that I had decided to go. One such article is Samantha Warren’s “SXSW 2009 Wrap Up.” Aside from her insider explanation about participating in the SxSW Web Typography panel [...]