It took a little over a week to get over my SXSW experiential (and literal) hangover and to sum up my thoughts on the 2010 Austin event. One word sums up my thoughts coming out of this year's festival..."Anticipation".
Remember the Heinz TV spots of the early 1990's, with Carly Simon singing for ketchup. This year it seemed like everyone was waiting for something, but it just didn't seem to show up. Since this was the venue that Twitter and FourSquare debuted in years past, I think the majority of the attendees were "anticipating" more. Instead there was a lot more marketing of Miller Lite beer, Chevy Volt and Monster energy drink, more parties, more free beer and a whole lot more people. Over 6,200 more folks in fact, all anticipating something, some next big thing at SXSW 2010.
Anticipation was also common Twitter theme and with so many birds of a feather together, the Twitter and FourSquare servers seemed to lag during certain keynotes and party hours. FourSquare had to invent a new badge for the experience called a super swarm. This designated that over 250 users checked in to a specific location, like the Frog Design party at MACC on Sunday evening. Everyone was gathering and waiting on something to happen.
Sometimes it pays to look the other way. While most of the crowd was attending keynotes given by the founders and thought leaders of social media, some big news was breaking in some smaller sessions and workshops.
This year three key developments signaled future implications for web interface design that will change the visual future of the web. CSS 3, HTML5 and Fluid Type are what I am talking about. The ability to leverage thousands of fonts will release web design from restrictions and separate creative talent from web generalists. HTML5 will do away with the use of proprietary plug-ins for basic rich media.
HTML5 adds video and audio capabilities to core markup languange with the intention of reducing the need for browser plug-in-based rich internet applications (RIA). And it is being employed now. Big entities like CBS are displaying their content video while Microsoft Silverlight and Adobe Flash are just beginning to do battle. The take-away is that open source code will have the ability to display media that the bulk of Flash and other RIA's are doing now. This spells the end for many plug-ins and the best part is HTML5 is here now and should reach W3C Recommendation by late this year.
CSS3 is still currently under development but many of the recommendations are working in existing browsers. The list of features continues to grow and the ability of designers to use these features to extend web design is exciting.
Consider what a designer might be able to do with just multiple backgrounds. This feature already works in Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari. Don't ask me about IE, but even IE has revealed better CSS controls are on the way.
Jason Cranford Teague might have given the most interesting presentation. I have known Jason personally for over ten years and I can testify that his vision of the future of web development has been uncanny. He was one of the very first to author a book on CSS, and in fact later served as an advisor to the CSS W3C group. Now he is an evangelist for web design and his passion is releasing the artform of typography to the web.
As any designer knows, fontography online is a shadow of what is capable in print, film and other fixed media because of browsers, usage laws and technology. But there are now alternatives to system fonts and type displayed as bitmapped images.
Jason's new book presents three approaches to using a wide variety of fonts in web design and goes into depth in his explanation of just what fontography really is. After being an interactive creative director for more than a decade, I can say with authority that most of the web has become a sea of sameness because of the lack of font variety and the ability to design with fonts.
Fluid web typography will give artists access to over 100 thousand fonts versus the less than 5 that are typically used online. So take a look at embedded open type, license font servers and web-font linking. You just might realize another wave of innovation in web design is already here.
A couple of links worth reading: