SXSW Interactive: Amazing from Every Perspective

When we came home from SXSW Interactive last year, we vowed to return. So, this year we came back in full force to soak up Austin’s creative energy, learn from all the brilliant people around us, and, of course, spread the word about creating compelling presentations. The thing with SXSW is that there’s no one way to see it.

No one person could attend all the panels, go to all the surrounding events and exhibits, or meet all the interesting people who flock to the area every year. So, we sent a team. A group of Duartians from almost every area within the company traveled to Austin to take in SXSW. And while we might not have done everything there was to do, we came pretty darn close. Here are our thoughts from five different perspectives, and a video that captures them all.

Mark Heaps, Senior Development Specialist

What was your biggest takeaway from SXSW?

The social media movement, still in its infancy, is finding ways to be more measurable. People want demographics and metrics around a variety of user groups (followers, likes, etc.). We saw lots of technology around this.

In 2012, the buzz for industry was still focused on “storytelling,” and that umbrella shaded a wide variety of services. This year that was still a running theme, but more and more groups were moving into persuasion as a metaphor for their work.

Another insight that was huge for me was that people love SXSW because they get to interact with people, in real life! I think there has been lots of evidence to support the fact our lifestyles are more digital. But when you come to SXSW, it’s a giant mixing pot of people who like to be social, interact, and connect.

What was your favorite talk and why?

Bassem Youssef’s talk was the most inspirational one for me. To see someone have such rapidly growing success in only two years was inspiring. And to top that off with the circumstances under which he and his team built that success was impressive.

Outside of the panels, what was the coolest thing you saw? 

I most loved seeing all the design and art around the city and companies being progressive — like HGTVs mural wall or Microsoft’s party, where they had a live artist painting a graffiti piece while the DJ mixed for the crowd.

There were also some great technologies on display this year. The Aurasma plug-in creates a really interesting format for interacting with mobile devices and print media. There was a powerless mini-mixer for portable audio devices like iPods. And there were a lot of maker, craft, and 3D printer demos going on. That technology is clearly going to be the way of the future once it’s scaled up and refined.

Ashley Faus, Marketing Manager

What was your biggest takeaway from SXSW? 

I think my biggest insight is that people are using technology to make real-life connections. It’s about using your online experience to create a more robust offline experience.

What was your favorite talk and why?

My favorite talk was a 15-minute talk on productivity by Scott Hanselman. He gave actionable tips to increase productivity, and his blunt speaking style really hit home for me. Everyone in the session appreciated his to-the-point delivery and tips. And he saved us time, which supported his message on increasing productivity.

Outside of the panels, what was the coolest thing you saw?

I think the coolest thing I saw was the myriad of vendors offering 3D printing. It reminded me of Alastair Parvin’s TED talk about how we are in an age where we are all designers and manufacturers. You can literally make your own items in your home, and the cost and size restrictions are decreasing quickly. It’s amazing how far we’ve come with technology.

Joe Perez, Video Director and Designer

What was your biggest takeaway from SXSW?

My biggest takeaway was that there are more cameras doing video than I thought. I felt like one out of five people were toting a camera and filming.

What was your favorite talk and why?

I was filming during a lot of SXSW, so a lot of the programming that I went to happened outside of the actual event. One of my favorites was 20×2, an event where 20 people each tell 2-minute stories. Another was a Pecha Kucha outside of design firm Pentagram’s offices. I loved hearing people share their stories in an innovative format.

Outside of the panels, what was the coolest thing you saw?

Two of the coolest things I saw were the see-through, glass DJ mix board at the Microsoft party. That same night we also wandered to nearby party where The Joy Formidable was playing. We hadn’t planned on going, but we all became instant fans.

Oscar Chacon, Senior Designer

What was your biggest takeaway from SXSW?

I learned that people are obviously looking for and yearning for better, more efficient, and more entertaining ways to tell their stories.  So, the presentation industry needs to be way more pronounced at the event.

What was your favorite talk and why?

My favorite talk was called Idea Orphans, with This American Life writer and producer Starlee Kine and author and illustrator Arthur Jones. It was about what to do with all your ideas that have yet to find a home. I felt the most entertained in this talk and was engaged the entire way through. I even felt a little inspired to write, draw, and animate my own short stories.

Outside of the panels, what was the coolest thing you saw?

Definitely the music studio. On our last night in Austin, we went over to our colleague Mark’s friend’s house and he had an awesome studio with all kinds of instruments, and I was allowed to touch them. We put together a little impromptu Duarte jam session. It was great.

Amanda Dyer, Content Developer

What was your biggest takeaway from SXSW?

My biggest takeaway from SXSW was the feeling that if you have an idea or something that you’re passionate about, you need to believe in it and find a way to make it happen. I saw so many different forms of creativity at SXSW — from innovative products like the Breathometer (a breathalyzer that hooks up to your smartphone) to awesome posters, stickers, and even building wraps to performances of all kinds —music, storytelling, and, yes, even formal presentations. It seemed like around every corner there was another presenter, another attendee, another someone putting something amazing out there and taking their creativity to the limit.

What was your favorite talk and why?

My favorite talk was called Metalearning with 4-Hour Workweek author and lifestyle-design guru Tim Ferriss. It was about how to learn things you’ve always wanted to learn quickly by taking alternative approaches. Ferriss is a master at taking a skill, boiling it down into parts, and figuring the best way to learn those parts. One of the things he said that really stuck with me was the idea that genetic determinism is negotiable. It’s the perfect antidote to the voices in your head that say you can’t accomplish your goals because of A, B, or C.

Outside of the panels, what was the coolest thing you saw?

One of the coolest things that I saw outside of the panels was a couple of blocks away from the convention center on Sixth Street, Austin’s entertainment district. Friskies had turned one of the buildings into a giant advertisement by projecting a video of Grumpy Cat (who was arguably the most talked about celebrity at SXSW Interactive) onto the building’s windows from the inside. From the outside, it looked like there was a giant Grumpy Cat staring at you from inside the structure. It was an amazing way to draw attention to the Friskies brand.

Design / Diary / Event / Interview / Question / Video

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