The Digital Thinkers Conference, organized by Awwwards, is an event that brings together professionals from the digital design industry. It features a variety of keynotes, workshops, and networking opportunities, aiming to inspire creativity and innovation in web design and user experience. The conference is known for showcasing the latest trends, technologies, and best practices in the field, attracting a global audience of designers, developers, and digital thinkers.
This year, the conference took place at the DeLaMar Theater in Amsterdam on October 12–13. The program, as anticipated, focused extensively on the evolving realm of Artificial Intelligence, providing insights into how to adapt to future changes in the industry.
The conference covered many other important topics too. These included new ways to build complex websites without needing to code, how to handle messy Figma files, branding strategies, and dealing with feelings of imposter syndrome in the tech world.
How to make terrible branded content
The conference began with a talk by Graham McDonnel, focusing on the pitfalls of creating ineffective branded content. He highlighted key examples of what not to do in advertising, such as avoiding irritating pop-ups and overtly aggressive advertising tactics. Instead, he emphasized the importance of storytelling in marketing, advocating for content that resonates emotionally with the audience. McDonnel also stressed the significance of branding that sells a lifestyle, not just a product, and the value of innovation over simply meeting customer expectations. His talk encouraged thinking outside the box to create something that customers might not even realize they desire.
Why chaos in design process isn’t bad
Yu Lu, an accomplished independent designer, delivered an insightful presentation on the often chaotic nature of the creative process. She addressed the modern expectation for designers to maintain impeccably organized Figma files, contrasting this with the reality that true creativity sometimes thrives in a less structured environment. Lu humorously shared her personal record of creating up to 100,000 groups in a single Figma file, providing a relatable moment for many in the audience. Her talk was a refreshing affirmation for professional designers who often navigate through messy design processes. She reminded everyone that design should be an enjoyable and spontaneous journey, not just a rigid, orderly task.
How to take challenges and have fun at the same time
Fredrik Öst and Erik Kockum, from the Swedish brand agency Snask, wrapped up the first day of the seminar with an entertaining presentation about their unique company. They stood out by emphasizing their hands-on approach in a digital-dominated world. A notable example they shared was their creation of a typographic poster for a festival, where they crafted each letter in 3D using wood, on a large scale, and then photographed it from above.
Their talk highlighted the importance of maintaining a fun and engaging work environment. They shared amusing details about their office, like having windows that function as mirrors from the outside, leading to amusing interactions with people on the street during meetings. They also emphasized the importance of originality and adapting to change, advocating for the idea that success comes from not just following others but being ready to evolve with the ever-changing world.
How to overcome impostor syndrome and be kinder to yourself and others
Valerie Fuchs, a senior developer at Wetransfer, delivered an impactful talk on developer imposter syndrome, addressing the challenges faced by those new to coding. She highlighted how the tech industry, often perceived as complex and male-dominated, can intimidate beginners and discourage them from seeking help. To combat this, Fuchs initiated “Cafe Robot, the First Non-Awkward Computer Club,” with the goal of fostering a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone interested in tech.
In her presentation, she shared a collection of stories titled “Tech Imposters Anonymous.” These stories, contributed by various individuals, detailed their experiences with imposter syndrome in the tech industry. The narratives ranged from deeply relatable to humorously enlightening, offering a sense of camaraderie and understanding to anyone who has ever felt out of place or uncertain in the field of technology.
How to take advantage of megatrends and use them for making user-centered design
Jonas Lempa from the Berlin-based digital studio Taikonauten delivered a presentation on how megatrends influence the ways designers solve tasks and how to not get lost in this mass of information. AI, Open Data, Web3, Spatial Computing, Green Tech, and other megatrends can be powerful tools, but in the pursuit of them, it’s also possible to create something irrelevant and useless for users and ourselves. A few years ago, many large companies wanted to create collections of NFT arts to stay on-trend, but ultimately this product fizzled out. In the ideal future of digital products, any IT or social trend should adhere to only one goal: to create sustainable and accessible products for users. And the most important megatrend is becoming accessibility.
How AI won’t take our jobs and how it will impact everything about them
The final speaker at the conference was Peter Smart, who served not only as a speaker but also as the host for this year’s event. As a leader at Fantasy, a team renowned for developing major digital services like Netflix, Spotify, and Google, he brought a wealth of experience to the table. His talk was filled with enthusiasm about AI and its potential in the future of the industry.
During his presentation, Smart excitedly announced a groundbreaking AI technology recently developed by his team. This new application allows users to create complex AI characters with detailed backgrounds and specialized careers. These AI personas can be used to collaborate on projects, or users can create multiple AI characters with various skills to work together. The interaction can be direct or users can let them operate independently.
Additionally, Fantasy is set to release a free toolkit aimed at enhancing brainstorming processes. This toolkit enables users to input their ideas and receive thought-provoking questions in return, fostering deeper thinking without dictating specific actions.
Smart’s talk addressed the common fear of AI replacing human jobs, reassuring the audience that humans will always be essential to operate and guide AI technologies. He emphasized that while work methods may evolve, those who are adaptable to change will find that AI doesn’t replace them but rather augments and enhances their capabilities. His optimistic outlook on AI and the future resonated with the audience, leaving many feeling hopeful and excited about the possibilities ahead.