From April 23-25, FITC held its annual design conference in Toronto. Located in Hilton Toronto Hotel’s conference hall, FITC welcomed its attendees with a goodie bag and a room filled with sponsors such as Blackberry, Adobe and Vitamin T to name only a few, who patiently sat at their booth, waiting to sell you their products or services. Outside the conference rooms (and inside as well, I later discovered), there was little interaction between the visitors. Even when the doors opened and designers poured out of the conference room at the end of the afternoon Adobe panel on day one, very few people seemed to discuss with each other. A sea of zombie creatives washed over the hall with little noise, voices drowned by a queer silence, except for a few isolated groups. It was… strange.
Where did all the noise go?
Conference, even in definition, involves discussion. It was my belief that professionals who usually attend conferences meet not only to listen to their mentors but also to discuss shared interests, solve problems together and interact with each other. Although FITC’s list of speakers was impressive, it failed completely to entice discussion and interaction.
I had originally planned to attend four speeches but ended up only seeing two of them; Frederic Harper’s Responsive Web Design did not have enough seats to accommodate everyone and on the next day Draplin’s presentation conflicted with Moving forward with Flash (or not?) so I had to pick one (I ended up picking Draplin’s Tall Tales from a Large Man). Right after, I watched Kyle McDonald’s How to give everything away. I was pleased by what I saw. However, the venue was very dull in comparison to the speakers invited to present; I was much more impressed by the theatre Montreal Meets had booked for its MMTWO conference where you could clearly see the speaker and the huge screen no matter where you sat.
The two presentations I attended at FITC included neither a discussion nor a question period. In fact, because of the 1-hour time limit and the cramped schedule, the speakers had to rush to conclude their speech. It was a pity, really. From my experience, FITC was a one-way conversation between speaker and listener where no interaction took place. Perhaps in some other room discussion did occur, but I did not have the luck to witness it.
FITC was good but far from great
FITC is heavily promoted and often considered to be THE major design event in Canada. However, if that is all Canada has to offer, I believe we are not setting our quality standards high enough. I have François Hoang from Aoiro Studio to thank for the free complimentary ticket to FITC – without this luck, a single ticket for the event would have cost me $700. Even if I had that amount of money to spend, be sure I would rather spend it on something else than on an overpriced 3-day design and technology conference.
FITC needs to allocate more energy and time into discussions and interaction between designers. It needs to build links and connections. Currently, from what I saw, FITC is not a gathering place at all; it is merely a hall flooded with silent professionals keeping to themselves. It’s a good thing to have the opportunity to learn from other successful creatives but we should also be able to learn from each other. This needs to change.