Show and tell

I went to “An interesting day”, and it was interesting

With no clue of what to expect and not knowing any of the speakers, I was open to a big surprise and a lot of inspiration. And oh boy, it did!

An interesting day is a one day conference with a very broad range of speakers, all in the category of tech and art. With speakers like Ida Tin (Co-founder of Clue), Anna Holmes (award winning writer), Tracy Ma (Graphic designer), Zach Lieberman ( Digital Artist, researcher, and hacker), Elise By Olsen and Morteza Vaseghi (Founders of Wallet and Recens magazine), and Joy Mutai (Landscape architect).

It was the first time the conference was held in our beautiful city of Amsterdam, in one of the best (party) locations, De school. Studio Bakken & Bæck (the creative guys behind this event) know how to find extraordinary places: the previous 4 events were on an island somewhere in Norway.
It was weird to be in de School during the daytime, completely sober, not partying, AND actually learning something. But it was the perfect location for it. As usual in de School the vibe was really nice with a lot of open-minded, relaxed and creative people.


Let’s Go!


The mood was already set when the hosting guys Pascal and Simon were running around on the stage and introducing every speaker under the guidance of a live-made beat and a rap.

Then Anna Holmes kicked off with a very interesting talk about how she sees storytelling and how she started with the News site “Topic”. For someone who writes stories, it was very interesting to hear how she preferred images (and videos) before text. The articles they are posting are mostly supported by small video’s and documentaries, but also carefully created photography that are giving more impact to the story. They strive for impactful and relevance content creation.

America was changing, but the media wasn’t
– Anna holmes, why she wanted to create Topic

Ida Tin (co-founder of the app and site Clue) told how she is changing the health industry with the app Clue, with which women can monitor their menstrual cycle and understand what is happening in their body. With more than a million active users, the data they collect and all the users, they can provide enough information on this fairly unknown subject for medical research. Ida’s goal is to always keep the user in mind and learn how to help them in the best way. One of the things that triggered me was that they always put down an empty chair in their meetings and pretend that it is the user, as they play out what they could say.

Make an impact


Another beautiful creative mind is Tracy Ma, graphic designer for The New York Times and Bloomberg Businessweek. She is always searching for that “thin line” in her designs. With radical and edgy designs she was the person to successfully go against all the polished “safe” designs that corporate companies usually search for.

The radical approach and creative drive that she employs to tell the truth through graphic design is something to admire.

To stay with the topic magazines, we’ll continue with the talk Elise By Olsen and Morteza Vasegh gave. Elise By Olsen started the Recens magazine when she was 13 (!) years old. A magazine that is for youth and covers the topics of fashion, photography, music, art, desi, n and politics. The magazine was created against the commercial magazines about beauty standards and gender stereotypes. Morteza Vaseghi is the art director behind the designs and branding of the magazine. One of the controversial things they did is to put the cover always upside down as a joke. Which turned out to be a really good commercial strategy, because the logo always needs to be visible in newsstands (for legal reasons), so their magazine was always put down on the first row of the stands. Their success is partly based on always keeping their magazine playful, not thinking everything completely through and always doing what they love.

When Elise turned 18, it was time for her to step down and let a younger person take over the magazine. Someone that understands their audience. “You can’t run a youth magazine if you are an adult”.

And then something completely different came up


That’s what I loved about this day, the speakers were so different from each other. For instance Joy Mutai, a landscape architect working for UN-habitat. They are trying to make the world a better place, but really. Her goal is to make public spaces in cities better and more functional, because better public spaces = better life quality. They speak with the local people who use these areas every day to see how they want to have their area improved.

But instead of using complicated and difficult maps to let the users address their problems in the area, they teamed up with the company behind the game Minecraft and started the company Block by Block. They use the game to replicate the area so the users can easily edit and make adjustments in the game on how they want to see the public area to be changed. So users can add extra crossings, lights or even whole playgrounds with a few clicks.

Closing off


I met some people during the day and they were all crazy about one guy’s talk in particular: Zach Lieberman. I think the organization was also aware of this, that’s why they saved the best for last.

So, Zach Lieberman. It’s hard to explain in words what this guy does, but they describe it as: “a renowned artist, experimental hacker and one of the co-founders of OpenFrameworks, a C++ library for creative coding. Lieberman is famous for discovering new modes of expression and playing through technology”. So, do you already have an idea about what he does? Well, for me, not really. But little did I know that the developer within me was ready for some great action.

So when he kicked off his talk, he told about his past projects and how he came to the ideas and his sources of inspiration. Back in the day, he started off with Flash animations, and soon after he started learning Actionscript to animate with code (This was exactly how I started, and why I still have a weakness for Flash). But this guy took it to a whole different level. He expanded to C++ and created some really cool interactive installations. For example, the Eyewriter, made for a friend of his who is a great graffiti artist but became paralyzed from the neck down. So they created an eye-tracking device so that he could digitally paint again.

And also used his tracking ideas for a commercial project, creating a font with a car.

He created an App called Weird Type (give it a go, if your phone allows you). He used the AR technology in the phones so you can leave digital messages and art in the real-life world. He encourages people to expand on his own ideas and come up with interesting and new ways of using his products.

Not to show all his projects, I will show you one more interactive installation he created for a book launch. To display the words of the book around a person.

On Instagram, he started a daily challenge for himself to post every day a new video with an animation. Which triggered him to come up with new ideas for new projects. It’s interesting to see how he starts with a small idea of coding a few lines that form a simple symbol, to then evolve into a fully interactive installation.


De School as I know it


Overall, it was an interesting conference with many interesting people and speakers, where a lot of inspiration and creativity was shared. I can’t wait for next year’s edition!

Auto Draft

Carlo Pols

Interaction Designer