MK Geek Night #1 - Wot I Learned (Part 1)

The evening of June 21st was the inaugural MK Geek Night. This single evening, quarterly occurring mini-conference was the brainchild of Richard Wiggins of Pixel Creation and David Hughes.

And a fine brainchild it is too.

This is the first of my "Wot I Learned" series (or at least what I plan to be a series), which will be fuelled by the conferences that I attend and talks that I see.

I'd also like to apologise for the delay in getting this posted, I kinda had a baby last month! Yay me!

Anyway, on to business.

The format for MK Geek Night (#MKGN) included 2 main speakers (one opening, the other closing), 3 five minute sessions in between, plus a platform for anyone to take the stage at the end of the night for 1 minute each, pimping whatever they wanted, be it job vacancies, podcasts, other upcoming events, etc.

N.B. After writing much of this post, I've decided to split it out into separate articles in order to avoid a big long read that could ultimately bore you into a deep depression. So, without further ado, here's my take on the first main talk...

Jon Hicks - Emoticons

First up was Jon Hicks of Hicksdesign, and his talk was based around the re-design of the Skype emoticons. Although icon design isn't really the area I'd look to be involved in, there were still a few useful points that came out of it for me.

One of the most interesting for me was the different variations in size of each icon that was required for different devices on which Skype is used. Mobile phones, tablet and desktop computers and retina displays meant that each icon requiring 5 different sizes, resulting in well over 600 icons in total.

The process was also comprehensively broken down by Jon, giving examples of how icons can't simply be be re-sized to create a smaller version as the details were lost in pixelation. Shrinking an 80px icon down to 16px simply doesn't work. The icon needs to be reworked to give as clear a representation of the higher resolution icon.

I was quite amazed at how much work had to go into a set of icons like this. Hundreds of hand drawn ideas, inspiration taken from Happy Faces biscuits, and my personal favourite, self-portrait photographs of Jon himself making the official WTF face!

Jon also touched on how the internationalisation of icons and how that brings up it's own problems. The example of this was creating an icon for a bow, obviously used more in the Far East than over in Good Ol' Blighty. Creating the icon with the hands down by the sides of the individual represented something completely different to the individual clasping their hands in front of them.

The presentation was then rounded off with a few examples of the animated versions of the icons, created by, the rather talented, Julian Frost.

For a subject that is not something I'd really get involved with at work, or probably in my spare time (I'm just not that great a designer), I found the process that was revealed very intriguing, and can definitely draw a few parallels with some of my own workflow processes, and some that I intend to employ in the near future.

You can download a copy of Jon's slides from his Emoticons presentation here.

If you were there at the very first MK Geek Night, what were your thoughts on Jon's presentation, or even the night as a whole. Are there any parallels you can draw from designing a set of icons to what you do on a daily basis?

Stay tuned, part 2 of Wot I Learned at MK Geek Night will be along soon featuring the 5 minute sessions of James Parker, Kate Kenyon and Code Club.

As long as I don't have another baby of course.