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Generate New York: A Review

This article was first published in net mag issue 281, July 2016.

As a design studio based in the north of England, we’re always looking for ways to expand our knowledge to better compete with the tech hubs in the south. Digital has been a big drive for the studio following our rebrand to ‘Factored’ in January. I’d be lying if I said Generate New York didn’t grab our attention due to its location, but this trip was about giving us direction in what we’re trying to achieve, and providing us with inspiration in what is one of the greatest cities in the world – a big change from our usual base of the small city of Lancaster!

We had high hopes for Generate, and it didn’t disappoint. The conference offered two tracks, packed full of practical skills and project advice from top names including Cameron Moll, Jon Setzen and Matt D Smith.

The themes of design and the importance of UX/UI were evident during the event. However, the overarching messages were around including good design and accessibility practices throughout projects, and techniques for how to handle clients who have the inevitable fear of change.

The day opened with Cameron Moll sharing details of his Authentic Jobs venture, and how he’s refined the experience for users. Moll discussed how the industry should be going beyond responsive design to achieve ‘unified design’. This focuses on creating a cohesive experience, regardless of where the experience begins and ends – a vision often forgotten by many when trying to design for numerous different devices.

Stephen Gates spoke about his experiences at Apple and Citigroup, and how an open dialogue with teams (both client and agency) is the only way to achieve a positive outcome with impact – a point later echoed by Dan Mall. This direct approach has made us think about the attitudes we adopt during projects; working with clients as a team to consider all options, and sticking with our decisions.

One of the most refreshing sessions came from Meg Lewis, who spoke about collaborating with her friends at Ghostly Ferns and how she only works with ‘happy’ people. Her positive approach to business and creativity definitely gave us some food for thought in terms of how we can choose who we work with to help build more positive working relationships.

Throughout the sessions we picked up plenty of useful tips on upcoming software and tools, including plugins for Sketch (such as Craft), and the development of Adobe Experience Design, which many speakers have contributed to.

Was the 12-hour trip of over 3,500 miles worth it? Definitely. We’ve already begun making changes to how we collaborate with clients and our project processes to ultimately improve how Factored works.