The New Design conference

By Tarek Atrissi

I am on average speaking every two or three weeks in a design seminar, conference, or school, somewhere around the world. This has always been an exciting part of my work as a designer, because it allowed me to see and experience the design scene in so many different countries and learn from other speakers, design professionals and students. It is a great way for continuing education; for breaking any sort of routine at work; and for sharing my design practice in research and professional work to a wider audience, and be active on a more international design network. Yet, this has imposed a very tiring lifestyle, with never ending business travel; a challenge to keep up with our ongoing projects in my design firm; and a work definition that is very different by all means from any traditional definition of the work of a Graphic designer, and even Art or creative Director. I always knew that this will have to stop at some point, since the rhythm is too difficult to keep up with, and that I will be sooner rather than later retiring from the “speaking tour” and spending happily more of my time within a 50 km radius from my studio. However, my participating at the Design and Technology Salon at the San Francisco Art Institute last April made me believe that this can really become a much easier practice.

Preview from the Virtual Conference showing video of all speakers in different cities, connecting to the design and technology Salon at the San Francisco Art Institute via Adobe Connect Pro. Shown above as well Type Design work of Yanek Iontef.

The conference was mostly virtual, and all three speakers, located respectively in The Netherlands, Egypt and Israel, presented their papers through a live broadcast, and interacted with each other, with the moderator and with the audience in San Francisco not very differently than how they would if they were to be present in a same geographic location. I have participated in the past in “virtual speaking” attempts, but it had always been a technical nightmare, and often did not run very smoothly (mostly sound and interaction with audience), and that is why I had my doubts about the San Francisco Art Institute event. But this was a surprising exception. The Video link participation was an exciting success, and mainly due to a powerful Adobe tool which I wasn’t familiar with: Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional. Adobe Connect Enterprise is an integrated web communication solution for real-time meetings, eLearning, and online presentations that audiences can see and hear anytime, anywhere, though any standard web browser- and enables you to deliver rich and engaging content through live meetings and interaction with others. During the virtual presentation, for example, I was able to upload my presentation for sharing instantly; add any image or slide or file on the spot for sharing; be part of the Video and Audio broadcast with everyone, and more interesting be able to separately speak or chat with the moderator or other speakers, in parallel to the main conference track. Most importantly: it was easy. I connected to the online platform less than two hours before the start of my talk, and was at ease instantly in using its interface and understanding how it operates. I believe that this will be a big trend towards the future of design conferences- but of course a very interesting online method for use in design studios and firms, which are becoming virtual in many aspects: Work is often for clients at the other side of the planet; Creative teams, even small ones, are not longer necessarily in the same geographic location. I know that we- at Tarek Atrissi Design– find it a tool with great potential for our daily communication needs (with our clients and with each other) and we are experimenting further with it. It is worth checking out, in the following page introducing Adobe Connect Pro or in this quick “getting Started guide“.

During the Design and Technlogy Salon, we witness the sun rising first in Tel Aviv at the office of Yanek Iontef; then at the window behind Bahia Shehab’s desk in Cairo; and finally in my own living room in Hilversum, from where I conducted my talk. Between these three cities and San Francisco, we discussed how the need to be global has challenged notions of traditional design practice in the Middle East; How Global design is raising timely questions about what it means to work in the region and consume the visual and if global design is reinforcing stereotypical notions of mideast culture.