Awwwards Conference 2023: HLabs Amsterdam team enjoy inspirational offsite

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The Amsterdam Awwwards Conference did it again. The HLabs team writes up what inspired and delighted us at this year’s event.
21st Oct 2023
7 min read
Hannah Springett, Founder & CEO of HLabs
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Web inspiration and Awwwards go hand in hand. In the last year, we've attended three of their conferences, and been awarded three honouree mentions for our own work on Awwwards.com.

We used our annual Amsterdam offsite this October to find the next inspirational ideas, terrific technology, and creative companies to keep HLabs at the front of innovation.

Here's what we found out from the 4-day trip.

Design systems, deciphering chaos and glorious art direction advice served with comedy & humour

Graham McDonnell kicked off the conference with his talk 'How to make terrible branded content' which highlighted the often-overlooked mistakes that publishers make, drawing from his experience at The New York Times and TIME's branded content studios. Being the first time I'd seen a talk with such a focus on publishers, the takeaways were sent to the rest of our my team right away to compare notes!

Berlin based, graphic designer Lu Yu encouraged designers to embrace chaos and creative exploration, emphasising that design should be about getting messy and having fun.

We explore the future together through our collective imagination, and the future becomes a social dream, woven together by stories.
Alicia Shao

Alicia Shao, in her talk 'Designing for the Unknown' discussed the importance of designing for the future, combining design, storytelling, and system thinking to create optimistic and political futures for all. This talk left us discussing humbling theories for days after. I took the instruction to ask 'what if?' Making sure you remain formulating answers with confidence, optimism and openness.

Lusion Studio showcased their 'shameless' self promotion. We loved it!

Edan Kwan of Lusion delved into the world of creative digital design, emphasising the significance of the unseen elements and creative coding in the digital realm. The main takeaway I took from this talk was their love of experimenting. All this and more is documented in the stimulating experiences showcase: Lusion Labs.

Fredrik Öst & Erik Kockum, the double act from SNASK, closed the day beer in hand by sharing eye-popping design, idea generation revelations, client testimonials, and larger-than-life work. Even with technical difficulties they delivered a comedic presentation with everyone in the audience laughing along with it.

No-Code global takeover, the importance of kindness and indisputable effects of AI

My team tell me this all the time. :P

Ilja Van Eck and Erwin Luijendijk discussed the transformative role of no-code in digital creation, highlighting how it has changed the dynamics between developers and designers.

"How will we ever know if we are good enough?" Valerie Fuchs

Valerie Fuchs debunked myths about productivity in tech and introduced ‘kind code’, emphasising that the era of "10 x developers, ninjas, and rockstars" is over. Check out 'Female Freelancer Developers' here.

"You are someone’s role model"
Valerie Fuchs

Nicolo Miranda explored AI-human interactions, Web3, and VR/AR experiences, suggesting that mastering AI is not just a competitive advantage but a survival skill. HLabs loved hosting Niccoló at the Stedelijk Museum last year for our own private presentation. His work will continue to be on our radar! Read our interview with him here.

"By 2025, 70% of new applications developed by organisations will use low-code or no-code technologies." Cut The Code.

Not all inspiration comes from the conference...

These trips for me have two sides. The conference itself with the talks, speed networking, too much coffee and swag bags, and then the after parties and focussed time with my remote team members.

This year was no different and our Amsterdam team of, Shadi, Creative Director, Deima, Creative Designer and Rick, Senior Motion Designer enjoyed the culture and vibrance of Amsterdam over too many beers and cycle rides. Shoutout to the team for always making me feel incredibly welcome and looked after!

Check out Shadi's 'Day in the life of' blog here and find out what life really is like in this wonderful city as a Creative Director.

Riding across Amsterdam with my team
"Disruption is normal now. Change is fucking inevitable. How it was done yesterday is not how it should be done today. Nothing stays the same and neither should you. The problem comes when change happens and you don't" Mark Shayler.

Saving best till last: Peter Smart had the audience 'totally gagged', terrified yet utterly amazed.

Rather than try and some up all of Peter Smart's closing keynote points on the 'Future of AI' I'll share the trailer here. You'll agree, he knows his stuff!

Looking into the future of design with AI, he suggested how the roles of designers and product leaders are about to undergo incredible changes. Some of it purely terrifying, but mostly, what an exciting time it is for our industry to innovate and change through this new phase.

The most fascinating part of the talk was a live demo of Fantasy's new project Synthetic Humans. HLabs cannot wait to get our hands on this new tool, to help challenge ourselves to ask the right questions to allow for more depth in ideation itself.

My final thoughts...

In conclusion, the Amsterdam Awwwards 2023 conference offered a diverse range of insights, from avoiding common mistakes in branded content to embracing chaos in design and preparing for the AI-driven future of design. It emphasised the importance of optimism, political awareness, and the power of creative exploration in shaping a better future for all. The conference left us inspired and motivated to implement these valuable takeaways in our work and to continue pushing the boundaries of design and creativity.