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Alexandre Plennevaux
Alexandre Plennevaux

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BTCONF was 🤩🤪🚀 awesome

Last week I attended Beyond Tellerrand, one of the most inspirational and thought-provoking events linking design, art and technology at an affordable price. It left me feeling inspired and energized about my work, design and development practice. I harvested many useful takeaways for my professional but also personal life. Here is a summary if you are interested to find out more.

1/ 🏠 Bring back the personal websites. Make your own, be weird.

Once a very diverse experience built by amateurs and tweakers, browsing the web has become a very uniform and monotonous place. Most online presences are driven by the objective to make money, attract an audience, and success is measured in terms of traffic and quantitative data. Where is the personal website? Sophie Koonin shows us that there are still places where people experiment and find their own interactive tone of voice using their own little knowledge of code to express their personality. A very refreshing and “back to the roots” talk. You can watch it here (and check out my own little personal website).

2/ 🎚️ Achieve a coherent visual hierarchy using typography that scales according to the container.

That talk was mind-blowing but a bit hard to follow for me as it dealt with many typographic concepts that I don’t use very often. Still, it shows that you can now use CSS to scale a headline according to its container’s dimensions and thus have one single css rule that makes all your headlines scale gracefully no matter the device and layout. Watch it here.

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3/ 🤖 ET tu, AI?

Mario Klingemann has been experimenting with AI in his art practice for almost a decade. After some rather humble beginnings, the fast-paced advancements in the field of AI have now become a challenge and opportunity for all of us. In his talk Mario shared his journey, his experiments and reflected on the evolution of AI in the arts. Super interesting and uncanny use of AI in his work. More here.

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4/ 🏯 Meditation with calligraphy.

The work of Japanese calligraphy artist Aoi Yamaguchi. Aoi presented her work and her design process, in which meditation is paramount, with a lot of mental and physical preparation. An ode to being in your doing. Watch here.

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5/ 👩🏻‍🎤 How to be an ultra artist

A talk about resilience as an artist and designer, by Gemma O’Brien. Main take away - don’t just do client work, keep doing what you love every day or you’ll exhaust yourself. Her graphic design work is really beautiful and impressive - watch it here.

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6/ 🐐 Goats and cars: beyond failure

You know how we say learning doesn’t happen without failure ? Over the past decade Thomas Thwaites has created an eclectic range of projects, at the edge of the technologically possible. He talked about some of his work, his narrative design process, his adventures as a goat, and his current project to create a completely Harmless Car, to explore the landscape of guilt. Fun and waaaay outside the box. Really inspiring!

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7/ 🤯 Emotionally fit

Perhaps my favourite talk of the conference. The world is beginning to understand that stress, burnout, anxiety – and, let’s face it, the universal pains of adulting – can drastically affect a company’s bottom line. To be successful today, business leaders and employees need to be emotionally and physically healthy. There are plenty of apps and products that claim to help achieve this, but an effective focus on mental and emotional health must be built from the inside out. Emily Anhalt, a renowned psychologist, shared 7 traits of an emotionally fit leader and had us challenge our defensive impulse when interacting with others. She explored the importance of supporting yourself and your team by developing emotional fitness and gave practical, concrete tips for building a true culture of wellness. You can watch the talk here.

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8/ 蝾 Typography for the non-latin world

One of the co-founders of Google Fonts and its current Design Lead, Tobias Kunisch showed that open source fonts are an important way in which we can provide access to typography for anyone designing and building things on the internet. Especially in regions of the world that don’t use the latin alphabet. New technologies like variable fonts are changing type to be more like software and open up entirely new possibilities in digital spaces.

9/ 👩🏼‍💻 Modern CSS layout

In this session by CSS Wizard Michelle Barker we saw some real-world use cases for container queries, subgrid, the :has() pseudo class (or parent selector) and much more, to build robust, flexible and creative layouts that respond to both content and context. Read more here.

10/ 🤯 Animating the Impossible

Cassie Evans (Greensock but check her cool website) looked at some “impossible” animation challenges and how to achieve smooth UI animations when dealing with DOM changes, responsive layouts, dynamic content and user interaction. The one trick I took away is to avoid browser repaint by animating from the end state to start, instead of the (more intuitive) start to end state. Watch the talk here

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11/ 🌈 Side Quests: Satisfy Your Distracted Self

Random doesn’t need to be intimidating. Sometimes you just need to say “yes” to yourself. Technology artist Hugh Elliott shared how by quickly going from idea to prototype and iterations, he was able to have impact, notably on supporting the LGBTQ+ community in a year-long project involving homemade led devices and photography. One key takeaway is: make things for you, not for likes. A welcome reminder in the age of instagram.

12/ 😒 Past, present and future

I was a bit disappointed with this last talk: usually a last talk leaves us on a high note and energized, but this one felt like watching an old man looking back at his life and rambling about work and the challenges of leading a design studio. Some of his work caught my eyes and interest, but I didn’t really get anything else out of this talk. Well, his interpretation of Radioactivity by Kraftwerk was a nice “blast from the bast” introduction (pun intended).

To sum it up

Once again, the overall atmosphere of the conference sets it apart from other conferences: it’s relaxed, the sponsor booths around the place are interesting, there are people of all genders and many different countries and fields of work: designers, developers, marketing, artists ... The merch is yummy and everyone is super friendly. It feels hand crafted with care so that everyone feels welcome. It brings out the open mindedness and curiosity of looking beyond yourself, into the universe.... beyond the tellerrand.

That's it! Thanks for reading this far, and thank you Marc Thiele for organizing such an inspiring event!

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