One More Thing – Preaching to the converted

This weekend I had the pleasure of being one of the guest speakers at the One More Thing Conference in Melbourne. An event designed to bring together aspiring iOS creatives and developers to hear from a rag-tag bunch of successful (and in my case, semi-successful) App entrepreneur speakers.

I use the ‘E-word’ because there was no doubt that each of the speakers were not simply Devs or Creatives.

Each of them had a story to tell which went beyond keyboard punching and pixel-pushing. Each had taken risks, whether in business, leaving existing jobs, chasing an idea or simply ‘having a go’. Every speaker had in some way shape or form been the instigation and inspiration for a singular goal. To create Apps which we were proud of.

I was a little shocked at the company I was keeping. (It was no surprise that I was the last of the bunch to be asked to speak. Though happy to be a hole-filler when the line-up was this lucrative).

Amongst the speakers were such luminaries as Matt Comi (@mattcomi), the visionary behind the runaway game ‘The Incident’, Russell Ivanovic from Shifty Jelly (@rustyshelf) who was smoother than a peanut butter puree on stage, Alex Johnston from Apps Perhaps (@alexjston) whose OzTV App is the most beautifully crafted guide I’ve seen and Jason Morrissey from Alien Blue fame(@jasemorrissey) who gave a passionate and Codral-fuelled talk which left most in the audience with man-masked sniffles.

* I’ve put a link at the end of this article (and here) to the full Speakers list on the One More Thing website. If I had the energy I’d praise them all individually but best you take the time to look into their work – it says way more than I ever could.

I had decided early on that the subject of my talk was going to be “Discovering the Geek in the Designer and the Artist in the Developer” – something which I have been passionate about for many years whilst building Protein from the spilt milk that it was in its early days, to the full-bodied milkshake that it is now.

My notes were extensively outlined to give the audience a ‘shake-up’ of how the gulf between Developer and Designer is a pointless one. A gulf which we need to bridge in order to create digital content that is born through symbiotic relationships and not a divorce-settlements.

At the event, early in the day, it dawned on me that I might be a little late to the party… could it be that the very subject I was about to talk on had already been addressed by all and sundry in the room? It seems that the mobile crowd may have already learnt a valuable lesson from the online community. I’ve struggled for many years to address the issue in the online space that Design and Development should not be exclusive. They are cognitive to each other, they work together – but not apart.

My theory has always been this – A designer, by osmosis, should absorb as much about code as possible without becoming a fully-fledged developer. If, as creatives we study the code, we will see the tapestry which creates clean engineering and in turn see the developer as a fellow artist. Likewise as Developers, we should absorb as much about good design as possible and see the ‘formula’ in the design – in turn understanding that a designer is also an engineer.

The best results (in my humble opinion) always arise through both sides working as one. For sure the best work we have produced at Protein and previously at Blind Mice have been when the company as a whole have enjoyed the experience. You can see it in the work, it bubbles to the surface like a spring that has to flourish. Bad experiences, teams in turmoil, caustic clients always result in work which is turgid, stale and broken. It’s as if software inherits the DNA of its parents.

I was preparing myself to address this at the OMT conference. Pacing the location in Kensington where One More Thing was starting to buzz. (Incidentally the venue itself, Revolt Melbourne, was a treat. A lonesome art gallery in the back end of town, like walking into a Ghost Train Ride which led to a smoky jazz hideaway. A perfect atmospheric setting so much more enticing for the audience than a coiffed auditorium).

As each Speaker took the podium, it was evident that the company with which I was keeping had all, without fail, produced works without the issue I was about to address. Each company and App which was presented was perfectly balanced… Every UI on-screen was polished within a pixel of its life. Each App engineered with more thought and care than a Botticelli.

Each App was a success in its own right and each had a story to tell. A story that the creators labours of love were born through a respect for both art and code.

By the time I took the stage I had reworked my dialogue. Could it be that the mobile community were already aware of this issue? Was I preaching to the converted?

Once on stage and past the first five minutes of ‘cotton-mouth’ I found some sort of rhythm (albeit modern jazz), and took some time to let my eyes adjust to the audience beyond the glaring lights.

The more I spoke, the more I could see that the room already knew what I was talking about: Lots of nodding heads, I can only presume that they weren’t dozing off or listening to the Chemical Brothers on their iBuds.

At the twenty minute mark as I rounded up my plea for iOS designers and developers to rally together in a holy war against the plethora of dysfunctional Apps that are available on the App Store, I felt a sense of elation. The room at One More Thing did not need me to repeat myself – Rather, they were one step ahead of me the whole time.

I came away from Melbourne with a spring in my step, we live in exciting times. The iOS scene in Australia is brimming with a talented community that want to collaborate and create innovative and engaging Apps. I only had to look around at the faces in attendance to see that there were any number of people in the audience that could just as capably given a speech as I did (and I am sure more eloquently).

The rest of the night was spent conversing with my fellow speakers and the audience. There was no competition, no sway, no power play on show such as I’ve experienced at other digital forums. Just a genuine excitement about what the future holds. A community that aspires to build new teams and content through advocacy and collaboration.

Exciting times indeed.

One More Thing had the following inspirational pixel preachers – do yourself a favour and become a devoted Follower to all!