March 15, 2007

Bye Bye, South By

Once again we arrive home from a whirlwind SXSW not quite knowing where all the time went. I laughed and learned with good friends I don’t get to see nearly enough, and met so many more new people who will have to tell me their names again next year due to my sieve-like brain. The conference itself seemed to nearly double in numbers again from last year, many panels and events bursting at the seams with attendees. SXSW remains one of the best conferences to meet just about anyone in our industry; if you missed out this year, I really recommend you try to make it next year.

The first panel I was on this year, After the Brief: A Field Guide to Inspiration, helped open the conference on the first day of content. Unfortunately, Cameron came down with the flu and never made it our to Austin. Rob and I soldiered on (accompanied by Flat Hicks) and had a great time. This was Rob’s first speaking engagement and I am proud to say he was wonderful. The panel came off very well and seemed to really spark a lot of thought and inspiration in the crowd. One such crowd member named Varick Rosete actually sketched Rob and I on stage while he was taking notes. Check out Varick’s sketches of us and other presenters. Great stuff! We did you proud, Cam!

The second panel I participated in, Bullet Tooth Web Design, was one of the new 25 minute “power sessions” SXSW tried out this year. To be honest, I’m not entirely sold on these new sessions, as it often seemed like a topic was just getting warmed up when it was time to say goodbye. Regardless, Andy was brilliant and the panel seemed to be a hit (so much that a number of people were turned away because the room was so packed).

For those who couldn’t be there, both sets of slides from the presentations are online, as well as a full podcast and some highlight videos for After the Brief:

Keep and eye out for more podcasts and videos from the conference. As is always the case, there were a number of panels I couldn’t attend, so I look forward to seeing all the podcasts getting posted.

I managed to squeeze in a screening of one film, Helvetica: The Film, and boy, was it good. Clean and rife with good typographic commentary from some of the world’s greatest designers, the film is sure to delight designers and type geeks. Luckily, it happens to be screening in Philly on May 15th at Drexel University. I will definitely be there for a second time around. Rob and I actually managed to meet the director Gary Hustwit while sitting the halls in between panels. He came up to meet us and tell us he enjoyed our panel (even though he had just sorta wandered in with his Film pass). When we asked what he was doing at SXSW, he said, “Oh, I just did a little film. It’s about graphic design.” Rob and I then proceeded to excitedly pelt him with questions for the next half hour. Such is SXSW, you never know who you will run into.

I didn’t get to take nearly as many pictures as I would’ve liked, but I did come away with a few gems, including a shot of Bill Paxton (“Game over, man!”), and some hot “Flap ‘n’ Snap” action. If you don’t know what Flap ‘n’ Snap is, it’s pretty much just what it sounds like: let your face go limp, flap it back and forth as fast as you can, snap a picture mid-flap. Not only does it produce some hilarious results, but it’s quite possibly the least flattering photo you can take of someone. The best part of If you want to try it out yourself, I set up a Flap ‘n’ Snap Flickr group. Get flappin’!

Happy Cog was thoroughly represented, bringing together the Philly and New York crews with all of our dear scattered Cogs throughout the country. It’s rare that we all get to see each others’ glowing faces in person. Thus closes another SXSW (Interactive). Farewell to old and new friends, I hope to see you again soon. Don’t be strangers in the meantime. Thanks to the friends back home who helped out with some wonderful daily photography while I was away. Now, back to work preparing for An Event Apart Boston next week, and a soon-to-be-released secret project I’ve been working on for over a year.

Commentary (26):

1. Brian Warren says… mar 15, 2007 | 3:31 pm

Jason, fantastic hanging with you! Mucho fun. I definitely agree the power sessions are just too dang short. Great work on the panels, I esp. enjoyed Field Guide to Design Inspiration. It was a great SXSW year!

2. Matt O. says… mar 15, 2007 | 3:38 pm

It was cool running into you briefly before the Helvetica premiere. It truly was something special to watch and you could feel the design love permeating throughout the theatre. Hustwit did a hell of a job putting that all together. Everyone needs to try and check it out!

I wanted to ask you, how incredible was the intro scene for that movie? I won’t go into the details as to not spoil it for others who’ve yet to see it… but, hot damn! Could you not get a more beautiful intro—visually and conceptually—for a film about a typeface?

Also, kudos to you and Rob on the design inspiration panel. It was probably the most fun and informative panel I was able to witness and you guys put together one fine show. Best of luck at AEA Boston… wish I could be there to check it out.

3. Varick Rosete says… mar 15, 2007 | 4:19 pm

Thanks for the shoutout Jason! Glad you guys made it through that crazy storm. Can’t wait to hook up again to continue chattin’.

BTW, the Bullet Tooth sketch is up. One of my faves.

4. David Hemphill says… mar 15, 2007 | 5:01 pm

Great seeing you at the EllisLab/pMachine meetup and thanks for that weird energy drink (what was it’s name?)

Your panel was in my top three (I can’t seem to decide which ones take top honors) and was filled with some great info. The Jason/Rob combo was really entertaining while being very inspirational.

5. Vladimir says… mar 15, 2007 | 6:07 pm

Welcome back. Once again, I so sadly wish that I could’ve been there.

6. Taylor says… mar 15, 2007 | 6:08 pm

You got to see the Helvetica movie??? I’m jealous.

By the way, our senior designer here at Emma said that you and Rob’s presentation was VERY inspiring. It’s the main one he’s been talking about since getting back! Good job! Wish I could have seen it!

7. william doyle says… mar 15, 2007 | 9:30 pm

haha… I love the flap n’ snap. It makes you all look totally smashed.

8. Cameron Moll says… mar 15, 2007 | 11:41 pm

Those flap n’ snap pics are downright hilarious! Khoi’s is priceless.

It appears not having me on stage was critical to the success of our, er your panel. I’ve heard nothing but positive remarks from colleagues and others. I suppose I’ve at least got a chance to totally redeem myself at AEA Boston. Can’t wait.

9. Richard B says… mar 16, 2007 | 4:35 am

Great work put in by everyone. Sadly due to crappy budgets I could not make the flight out there to witness the presentations first hand but from the podcast it seemed like a fantastic presentation. Love the part about re-designing the “lost dog” notice in the street. Brilliant.

10. Sam Hardacre says… mar 16, 2007 | 9:57 am

I wish I was able to attend but finances won’t allow me such luxuries, especially having to travel across the atlantic.

Fortunately for me I’ll be attending @media in London this Summer, so hope to catch you there and say hey

11. Colin Devroe says… mar 16, 2007 | 10:42 am

Somehow I never had the chance to say hi to you while in Austin - and I didn’t get to see your panel because I was busy with other things… I heard that you (and your fellow panelists) did a fantastic job. Kudos for filling up the room.

Bill Paxton? How the heck did I miss him and how the heck did you get such a sweet shot of him on an escalator? Wow.

Next time, should there be one, we must party.

12. squeegee19 says… mar 16, 2007 | 2:07 pm

Jason: thank you for a coupla’ things:

#1: posting the preso pdf/podcast

#2: reminding me that I am not the cog of my client; too many (moving target) parameters sometimes just kill every ounce of creative juice I have…

#3: reminding me that I have a sketchbook, and introducing some new inspiration ‘capturing’ ideas here

#4: inspiring me to start a design blog and to do some fun stuff to get that going — even though my own Web site *still* is not done. Inspiration comes first now…

13. steve says… mar 16, 2007 | 2:36 pm

wow - those flap -n- snaps are sick, people look like they’re on some funny stuff, or maybe I am.

Stan you should post shots of the cards like you did last year for those of us that can’t make it there!

14. Jason Santa Maria says… mar 16, 2007 | 3:03 pm

steve: I don’t think I did post shots of the cards, but last year I did post a similar “stack photo”. Or were you thinking of something else?

Thanks to everyone for the kind comments about the panel! I am so happy that we could help inspire all of you!

15. Catherine says… mar 16, 2007 | 3:24 pm

It was great to meet you and the Happy Cog crew - you guys are a kick-ass bunch!

16. bandelin says… mar 16, 2007 | 4:22 pm

i listened to the one podcast jason, and I while i think you guys did great, the part I think I enjoyed the most was rob bombing while trying to explain whay you were named stan. I supposed the animated punchline did make up for it though. :3

17. Jermayn Parker says… mar 17, 2007 | 12:25 am

Thanks man for the reviews and also slides and information. I dont get a chance to go to these so I rely on the slides and reports etc.

So thank you

18. Lea says… mar 17, 2007 | 2:06 am

It was great to finally meet you! You and Rob did such a great job in the inspiration panel. I also caught the one you did with Andy — hilarious (also, I love Snatch).

19. Jim Jeffers says… mar 17, 2007 | 5:16 am

I really enjoyed when asked why you go through so much effort to do creative work that is intended for only a very small audience for some of the examples you gave, as if there was not much of a reward or payoff, that you responded by stating the reward was in creating the work itself. That was really refreshing for me to hear. Great presentation.

20. Ian Muir says… mar 17, 2007 | 12:43 pm

After the brief was great.

You should check out for some great flap n slap.

21. David Sleight says… mar 18, 2007 | 2:36 am

I swear some of those Flap n’ Snaps look like stills from “Dawn of the Dead”.

22. Mike Stickel says… mar 18, 2007 | 2:15 pm

It was great hanging out with you again at southby, hopefully we won’t have to wait until next year to do it again. Now you’ll have to excuse me while I ponder what your year long project is and download the video/podcasts of your panel I missed.

23. Laurie says… mar 20, 2007 | 6:20 pm

I was really disappointed by the Design Inspiration panel. The examples were beautiful and fun but how do I apply that to my professional jobs? I can find inspiration for my friends’ birthday invitations but it’s not really applicable for designing a public library web site or a law reference site, for example. I felt like you guys filled the room on your names alone and when it came to deliver the goods, you were like a couple of giddy high school boys talking about how you promoted your candidacy for class president. And yet again at the Bullet Tooth presentation, fantastic visual presentation but the content was seriously lacking. Jason, you re-directed every question to your partner. I respect your work Jason, but I expect you to walk the walk. I’m not going to be popular with your buddies, but it had to be said.

24. Jason Santa Maria says… mar 20, 2007 | 6:52 pm

Laurie: We actually did have some slides of professional work in the After the Brief presentation, but some of them were cut for time, and some of them were Cameron’s and were cut because he couldn’t make it to SXSW (due to catching the flu). I’m sorry we didn’t meet your expectations, but I implore you to look past what’s directly in front of you. Inspiration is a fluid thing, and although we didn’t show you an exact map to getting inspired for a particular type of project, we showed you the different ways that we find inspiration. And for us, those are the same methods we use to gain inspiration for personal projects, and for professional client work. It’s all the same for us, and that’s what we were trying to convey.

25. Dave Rau says… mar 26, 2007 | 11:55 pm

So I missed the panel with Stan and Rob to see something I had less knowledge about, but I caught the podcast and it was really well executed; I’m confident we can attribute that to thoughtful preparation. You guys were really smooth.

For some time I’ve wanted to make a site that would act as a visual database of inspiring images. I too have collected a semi-large catalog of inspirational bits.

And in a strange moment of serendipity I decided to bare all and unveil my (partial) secret stash of analogue goodies. (all images should be loaded at original scale to make any sense of them.)

So I keep thinking, how can some of us share these resources; share good inspirational bits? Maybe we could build a site that would share iphoto libraries; or is that lame?

26. Jason Santa Maria says… mar 30, 2007 | 5:11 pm

Dave Rau: It would indeed be cool to have a good way to group brainstorm and share inspirational things, all online. Hmmm, there is definitely something to that idea…