In living up to my own mantra of immersing myself in creative things in the name of Creative Relaxation, I created another learning marathon leading up to the weekend. A major part of keeping myself motivated, is creating an environment where I am constantly learning. When I’m feeling overworked, it’s easy to feel apathetic and want to create a cave full of cushions and ice cream, but sometimes I find my biggest motivator is removing myself from routine and learning something new.

This week’s dedication to learning took the form of a responsive design conference, a CSS3 masterclass with web legend Andy Clarke, and an experimental typography workshop with type legend Gemma O’Brien.

Respond is a responsive web design conference produced by Web Directions, and features a mix of both tech and design focused challenges and advice for delivering modern responsive web experiences. For those of you playing at home, responsive design basically refers to how websites adapt to different screen sizes and devices (tablets, smart phones etc) to create the best user experience. Meaning there is a much better way to view websites on your phone than having to zoom right in and scroll a million times to view content, clicking an ungodly amount of accidental links in the process.

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Yesenia Perez giving an amazing presentation on design decisions through the lens of performance.

Having a background in graphic design, I was worried that the tech side of things would fly straight over my head. But what the conference actually did, was give me a more well rounded understanding of the direction of web design and implementation, in order to inform how I should be approaching front end web design. With amazing speakers such as Nabeelah Ali talking about simple responsive typography, Scott Jehl on responsible responsive design and Yesenia Perez speaking about design decisions through the lens of performance, there was an amazing mix of skills, experience and projections about the future of web practice.

To wrap your head around designing in percentages and ratios instead of pixels is kind of a mind-blowing change for a graphic designer. The idea that not everything is exact, down to every position, size and function, is out of our comfort zone of crafting perfectly aligned indesign documents. But this shift may in fact open up the possibilities for a whole new range of user experiences and creative solutions.

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Day 2 was the masterclass with Andy Clarke, whose charm and obsession with chimpanzees is both endearing and infectious. Art Director of Award Winning agency Stuff & Nonsense, Andy knows a thing or two about creating beautiful web solutions while ensuring responsive and flexible website functionality is effortlessly integrated into the experience. (Check out the Stuff & Nonsense site and drag the browser window smaller and larger to see what I mean!)

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Again feeling like I may be out of my depth, I was surprised at how much of the content I could relate to and pick up, even from a designer point of you. The masterclass was full of interesting insights, tips and tricks for creating flexible and responsive websites, and really opened up the dialogue between design and implementation. Andy was able to make the difficult seem manageable, and enforce the need to put creativity before predictability.

BRB, gonna learn how to code now. 

Though feeling like my brain was almost full at this point, Saturday brought the Experimental Typography workshop with Gemma O’Brien that I’d been looking forward to all week. Within seconds of being in the presence of someone so talented, it’s impossible not to transform your tired self into an over-eager sponge, ready to soak up whatever knowledge/coolness you possibly can.

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Focusing less on traditional lettering or calligraphy, the workshop opened up for experimenting with letterforms through a whole range of techniques and materials. Allowing myself to disconnect from the idea of having a polished and clear outcome by the end of the day, meant there was no pressure and exploration was at the forefront.

I drew, cut, scraped, glued, splattered and stencilled. I used thread, ink, paint, sticks, brushes, pencils, clay, doilies and toothpicks. And it was one of the funnest and carefree creative days I’ve had.

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< Insert awesome bagel break at Brooklyn Hide. Errbody deserves a bagel break. >

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Some of my attempts didn’t work at all, and others were more beautiful than I had imagined. The biggest thing I took away from the day, (besides ink stained arms and clothes) was actually the pressure and barriers I put on myself. I always want to do more work, get better, experiment more, but I never know where to start. Now, I’m itching to get art supplies, turn my dining room table into a typography science lab and get lost in experimenting.

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It can be difficult sometimes to muster up the energy to commit to extra activities, but rather than sucking all of your remaining free time, it can actually create more productive and motivated time for your other ventures. Feeling excited and inspired is the best medicine* for feeling snowed under, and you never know what new paths are created in the process.

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*I’m not a qualified doctor.