Looking Back At SmashingConf SF 2022

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As a tall Dutchie living in the far east (usually Hong Kong), Jarijn prides himself on having a good overview of things (at least physically :). At Smashing, … More about Jarijn ↬

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Quick summary ↬ Now that some time has passed since the team returned from SmashingConf San Francisco, we’ve had time to think about the event and wrap up some of the things we all learned.

Last month, we hosted our first offline + online conference in San Francisco. It was also our first in-person conference since 2019, and we were extremely excited — and of course, a little apprehensive — to get back to in-person conferences again. In this article, we would like to share our perspective as organizers and take a look at our upcoming events.

Why We Were So Excited

Over the last few years, we got a lot better at postponing conferences, and we were wondering if we were still good at actually organizing them. Some things definitely felt a bit rusty, but lots of things were back to normal pretty quickly. I think every speaker started with a heartfelt, “I am so happy to be back on an actual stage looking you in the eye,” before diving into their actual talk. Our attendees helped massively by providing proof of vaccination before or during check-in, and the atmosphere was very friendly and festive overall.

June 20 & 21, 2022 was the date of our return to hosting in-person events, and it was a hit!

Attendees at SmashingConf SF
It’s been incredible to see attendees coming back for the first time in years. Some of them even attended their very first in-person conference ever. (Image credit: Marc Thiele) (Large preview)
Attendees at SmashingConf SF
A good conference can’t happen without good networking. Many attendees used it to meet and talk, first time in years. (Image credit: Marc Thiele) (Large preview)

We love bringing people together. And yes, online events are amazing and offer plenty of opportunities for connection. But seeing old friends and new—and being able to give some people a long-overdue hug—was something we all missed very much.

And because Smashing is an all-remote team, we had not seen each other for 2.5 years ‐ since our New York event back in October 2019. And yes, all of us have aged a bit (with less or greyer hairs and more wrinkles and bags under our eyes), but the amount of energy we get from these events is just amazing. We saw many people making new friends, reconnect with old friends, get inspired, eat, drink and mingle — which is just incredible.

The Program of The Conference

Our program consisted of two days of single-track talks, ‘sandwiched’ by two days of immersive workshops. The speakers and workshops provided a strong mix of design and front-end topics. At Smashing, we strongly believe in conferences with a wide range of topics (as you can learn something from every talk), and hence don’t do conferences focused on a single thing (we do that in our community Meets events). Topics ranged from CSS, Design Systems, and UX Writing to learning how to talk again. And of course, there were surprises such as Addy Osmani (as our mystery speaker) — speaking about life lessons rather than web performance this time.

Day 1

Speaker NameTalk Title
Brad FrostCreating Themeable Design Systems
Kate KalcevichScaling Up Accessibility
Robin MarxMarried to HTTP/3
Shubhie PanickerDe-Mystifying Leadership
Miriam SuzanneStyling the Intrinsic Web (with Container Queries, Layers, and Scope)
Elliot Jay StocksTypography for the People

Day 2

Speaker NameTalk Title
Addy OsmaniLife Lessons by our Mystery Speaker
Harry RobertsGet Your Head Straight
Vitaly FriedmanDesigning for Complex UIs
Sophie TahranDesigning with Words
Dan RubinWe Don’t Talk Anymore
Jhey TompkinsTake Your Skills to the Moon with Creative Coding

Besides the program throughout the days, we had some great evening events, starting with the Jam sessions — which were a mix of short talks and mingling — and a legendary Smashing party where we brushed up on our gaming skills (and late 20th-century hits) and of course the dancing to Tobi’s fantastic DJ skills. Early risers were invited to participate in a 5K Golden Gate Bridge run each conference morning, too.

Of course all sessions were recorded, and the videos of the conference will be released in a few weeks, so please stay tuned! 💌

The Venue

This year we returned to the fabulous Fort Mason and really made use of the space. The main conference was held at the historic Cowell Theater. We were lucky to have fantastic weather, and this iconic location ‐ with its scenic views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge ‐ was gorgeous as ever. The workshops were hosted in Fort Mason’s light - filled meeting rooms, giving attendees the chance to deep-dive into design and development topics in a smaller, classroom-style setting.

Workshops Poster
We had over 150 people joining in-person workshops, additionally to the conference days. (Image credit: Marc Thiele) (Large preview)
A picture of Cassie Evans seated in a workshop room explaining SVG animations to a group of smashing folks eager to learn all about the wonderful web
Cassie Evans running an in-person workshop on SVG animation. (Image credit: Marc Thiele) (Large preview)
A picture of Sophie Tahran on stage at the SmashingConf SF 2022
Sophie Tahran speaking about designing with words on SmashingConf SF. (Image credit: Marc Thiele) (Large preview)

Our second location was virtual; this time, we also hosted an online version of the event via our online Vi.to hub. With the ability to follow the high-quality conference live stream from home (or office), ask questions in the chat, and see some light-hearted backstage interviews, this online experience was a great option that we will continue to offer in the future.

Ted Boyer, a Seattle-based designer and front-end developer, has been following the stream remotely and has written about his experience watching SmashingConf SF 2022 online.

DJ Tobi
One and only: SmashingConf DJ Tobi. (Image credit: Marc Thiele) (Large preview)

A Smashing Conference is always designed to be unique in some ways. So of course, on stage, we also have our dear friend Tobi Baldower DJing between the talks, and doing sketch notes in music live. We can’t even imagine a Smashing Conference without Tobi, and he has plenty of fans around the world these days! The energy Tobi has is absolutely incredible, and it always contributes to the atmosphere of the event. You can support DJ Tobi by purchasing his music on Bandcamp (and please do so if you can!).

A picture of Addy Osmani and DJ Tobi on stage with Addy's face covered by his awesome curly hair
Very mysterious indeed: our mystery speaker for SmashingConf SF 2022 was Addy Osmani. (Image credit: Marc Thiele) (Large preview)

What’s Next?

We did some sleeping first, interspersed by some light post-conference admin to wrap things up. And now we are putting the finishing touches on our upcoming offline + online conferences in:

It is really cool to see our team so incredibly inspired to get back to organizing more and even better “hybrid” experiences in the future.

Said it once, but have to say it again: the energy of bringing people together is just fantastic, and working on these events with a great team of amazing participants is something we hope we can do for a looooong time to come. Every SmashingConf has a unique lineup of speakers and workshops, and we do our best to make every talk as valuable as possible.

It goes without saying that we’d be absolutely delighted and honored to meet you there — in Freiburg and/or in New York.

A picture of Charis Rhooda and Ari Stiles sitting in a golf cart
See you again soon! 👋 (Image credit: Marc Thiele) (Large preview)
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