From Designer to Developer – Talking at Design Stuff Cardiff

I’ve realised this has turned into quite a long post, somewhere between loads of photos and quite a few words, I’ve written a piece about my adventure in doing the talk and a bunch of advice on how I deal with performance…feel free to read on…

It was a sunny Sunday morning, I was on my way to visit my friends in Weston Super Mare, whilst crossing the Severn bridge, my phone started ringing it was Dan AKA Dandidthat from Design Stuff CDF. We’ve been friends for a few years now, so it wasn’t strange for him to be dropping me a line, the conversation went, something like this:

Me: “Morning brother, what can I do for you?”

Dan: “I have a massive favour to ask. You can say no if you want, but you would be saving my bacon if you say yes.”

M: “If I can help, you know I will.”

D: “When one of the speakers for the next Design Stuff has cancelled, and I’m hoping…you did say you fancied doing one any way…”

M: “I know where this is going, just spit it out.”

D: “Will you do it? Be warned its in just under 3 weeks.”

I guess you know by the title that I said yes.

I had originally been pencilled in to talk in November, and I had decided I wanted to talk about the differences between being a designer and a developer, having spent a reasonable number of years in both roles. My idea was to do a brief overview of how I made the transition and then talk about the differences between the roles, splitting it roughly 30 – 70. However, with a short deadline to get it thought through, written, slideshow made and a few practice runs, I decided to switch the numbers round and make it a more personal story with a bit about the 2 roles on the end, making it more 70 – 30.

By the time I had thought this through, we had arrived in Weston and I decided to forgot about it for now and meet my friends 8 week old daughter.

A few days later, I had my first thinking session (in English this means going for a long bike ride or run, sometimes both), after 2 hours, I had a fairly clear overview in my head of structure and a few of the marks I wanted to hit. A few days later, after  another good thinking session I have a rough plan clear in my mind.

I decided the sensible thing to do was get some post it notes and a good pen and start making a mess.


Yes, I am fully aware this isn’t a mess, also how awesome is the print! Regardless, these were my marks that I wanted to hit.

Any time I have to speak in public, I prefer to ‘verbally write’ things, my using a recording app on my phone and just talking. I’ve always felt that the second I try and write what I want to say first, it never sounds natural and I will just make a mess of the talk by trying to read it, rather than understanding what I’m saying and it sounding more natural.

My first draft was almost 40 minutes long, and considering the talk was only supposed to be 20 – 30 minutes, some editing was required. I listened back to my recording and made some amends to the order and how long I dwelled on parts that seemed important in my head, but on reflection, could be more summarised.

After some post it juggling, I fired up the recording app and started again.

This time I came in around the 30 minute mark, felt satisfied and decided to call it a day.

DSC_1395My second night I decided to think about the slides I wanted to use, so I got a different colour post it note and stood in front of the picture frame and started talking again. This time, pausing and adding notes to represent images as I went.

Now I felt like I was looking at a mess, but a mess that made complete sense to me! I spent there rest of my evening trawling through my 3 external hard drives to find the images I knew I had, but didn’t exactly remember where they were. Not exactly a riveting evening, but necessary. It was this night that I discovered over the last 12 years I have taken over 100,000 digital photos! That averages at almost 22 a day…incase you were wondering.

Night four was spent piecing photos and words together into a slideshow, then making notes up as a prompt to my forgetful brain.

DSC_1408Night five was a rehearsal evening, I only went over it twice to confirm that I had my time frame right with everything I intended to say. Both dry runs came in around 25 minutes, oddly I managed to miss things I planned to say in both rehearsals. There is no escaping it, this is a risk when you aren’t reading from a script/extremely rehearsed. I was neither, but I didn’t really have time to be either and Design Stuff is generally an informal event, so it is not something I needed to worrying about.

This brings us to the big night!

Dan asked me to arrive around 6, which gave us enough time to do a quick technical test, a chat with Spin the Yarn Productions and meet everyone else involved in making the event happen. They were all lovely, which really helped set any nerves at ease.

There are always 2 speaks at each event, and my partner in crime for the evening was the lovely Sarah Edmonds. She was talking about sketch books, and how much she loves them! As you may or may not know, I’ve been in bands for years, and in the case of almost every gig I’ve ever played, the rule is, locals go on first. Sarah had travelled from Brighton, so this meant I volunteered to go on first.

The doors opened and the venue slowly started to fill up, so I decided to turn my phone off to get my head in the right place and be social with the people who were coming, rather than tweeting them and not talking to them.

I’m not going to dwell on how my talk went for a few reasons:

1. A few years ago, I was told by a musician friend, Mike Borgia, “There’s the gig you played and the gig they watched.” and I’ve learnt to stick to this. Everyone said I did well and…

2. The talk was filmed! So I can be critical on my own time (keep scrolling to watch).

Here is a selection of photos from twitter and instagram…


Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 09.53.58 Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 09.54.16 Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 09.55.19 Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 09.56.13

I will admit, I’ve not been the biggest user of social media over the last year or so, but I will show you quite how much it went crazy during and after my talk….this will open in a new window…If you ever want to feel loved on social media/develop new followers etc. stand in front of a room full of social media savy people, talk about something you care about and just wait for you phone to explode.

Sarah’s talk about sketch booking was great. I’m not someone who draws/sketches, as lets face it, I’m a web developer, my brain just isn’t wired that way…but you know, I think I will try to be less adversed to it in the future.P1070116

One of the nicest things about doing this talk was a chance for both speakers to give away a copy of a book that related to their talk. I gave away one of my favourite books, Danny Wallace’s “The Yes Man”. I’ve written about my love affair with this book on countless occasions across many platforms, but it was amazing to meet someone because I was giving her one of my favourite books, who had not read it, tell her how much it had genuinely changed my life and why, listen to her story and tell her how I hoped it could have such as much of a positive effect on her as it did me. I hope you enjoy it and it helps you take some chances in life and achieve things because you “say yes more”.

In conclusion…

Design Stuff Cardiff, is a great monthly event, its a friendly place to meet other like minded people in a non-networking fashion. So I would whole heartedly recommend paying it a visit, when (not if) you get the chance.

If you feel like you have something you want to say about design, this is a great platform to do it. A small room can often be quite intimidating, but this is a friendly and receptive small room, who arrive with open minds and listen with an enormous amount of respect, even when a talk starts with a story about pouring pickled onions in your pants…

I’ve been in front of enough audiences in my time to know how rare and special this is and I’m grateful that I was asked to talk. I enjoyed it so much, I’m already planning a second one.

And finally…

Here is my talk!

Michael Partridge – From Designer to Developer from Design Stuff Cardiff on Vimeo.

08. October 2014 by Michael Partridge
Categories: Changed my life, Design, Personal | Leave a comment

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