SXSW: Day 2

Kick ‘08

The day started out well with Kick ‘08. (It didn’t hurt that we crashed early the night before.) About 150 people showed up in Palm Park, and almost everyone played. True to Anil’s word, no one was picked last. Team 1 picked some odd name and Team 2 (my team) stuck with ‘Team 2’. It made for great cheers later on as we dominated the game: “Team 2, We’re number one!” Despite the fact that corrupt scorekeepers kept putting the other team in the lead (coughJaycough), we managed to come from behind in the final inning. Check out some of the pics on Valleywag. Oh, and this ridiculous action shot.

Screen Burn

After that, I had to pay an obligatory visit to Screen Burn to satisfy my inner child. Screen Burn is basically an enormous arcade made up of all the newest games and gaming technology. Case in point: four mega HP machines hooked up to 30” widescreen monitors running Unreal 2007 in some ridiculously high resolution. I disappeared in the game for about an hour and a half, walking away with a respectable second place. (Three frags behind the winner.)

Iron Works BBQ

Ask anyone walking the streets of Austin what you should do/see when you’re visiting Texas, and one of the things they’ll all tell you is BBQ. There’s a run-down place on the corner of 1st and Red River Street called Iron Works BBQ that’s just oozing with character and great smells. Jess ordered a pork loin sandwich and I got the beef plate; both were delicious and smoky.

Gruber’s Great Design Hurts Panel

The panels were more hit and miss. I got to nearly all of them late which meant standing for half an hour in the back of a crowded hall. Hard to really focus back there. Jess wasn’t feeling well and headed back to the room and I caught the tail end of John Gruber’s panel, “Great Design Hurts”. A very interesting panel (does John remind anyone else of Josh Groban) but I’m not sure I completely agree with his premise: great design can only come by using the word “no”. He argued that all the great artists are jerks, and that this is a requirement for you to retain artistic integrity and to achieve creative purity.

Maybe I’m more pragmatic than Gruber, but I see web design as a marriage of function and aesthetic. It would be ridiculous to fight for an aesthetic that betrays the function a customer needs. Of course there are things that you die for, but I find myself flourishing within (though often resenting) the limitations set by my customers.

Coudal’s General Theory of Creativity

Finally got a good seat for Jim Coudal’s presentation of his General Theory of Creativity. Who of all people sat down in front of me but Liz Danzico, arguably the best information architect in the industry. The description in the catalog warned that this panel would be a mish-mash of pseudoscience and design theory, and it essentially was. Coudal was fairly engaging and there was enough to glean from the talk to make it worthwhile. His formula for creativity: The power to create associations between two things over like to the third power.

  1. The first power of like is metaphor or explaining an unknown using a known. (That red looks like rusted steel.)
  2. The second power of like is executive summary. (I was like, DUH.)
  3. The third power of like is the hard-to-define ability to choose something in good taste. (I like the blue better than the brown.)


I didn’t last long. Jess and I met the Happy Cog Philadelphia crew over at Moonshine’s for the Ellis Labs party. Had some good talks with Dan Mall, Dave DeRuchie and Mark Bixby about fonts and quality-versus-quantity. Also bumped into Clay Johnson, one of the guys who created Obama’s stunningly-beautiful site. Since there weren’t any seats available and we were about out of steam, we excused ourselves for the evening and crashed at the hotel.