After a long journey by train through the beautiful German landscape, I arrived at Freiburg Hbf (Central Station), where I ran into Vitaly Friedman, one of the co-founders of Smashing Magazine and now, Smashing Conference.  Before assuming everyone here knows what Smashing Magazine is; it’s a design-focused blog that features loads of tutorials and in-depth articles all focused on design and web development. For the first time, this year Smashing Magazine organized its own conference, aptly named, the Smashing Conference.

The Conference

For a first-year event of this size, the conference presented a very professional vibe. Sure, the wifi went to hell as soon as everyone got seated, but hey, that’s more of a conference tradition nowadays. There were 16 talks in total and a set of partners in the hall next to the conference room where we found loads of design and code-related products.

smashing 2 520x342 Smashing Conference 2012    The year of responsive Web design

The Atmosphere

The conference took place at the famous historical Merchant Hall of Freiburg, a superb choice for an event. The building gleamed with a classic German vibe and made you feel part of something special. Though the venue wasn’t particularly large, it made the whole event feel informal enough to ensure barriers to communication were kept at a minimum. Both Vitaly and Marc were extremely friendly hosts and speakers were as one with the crowd. Everyone chatted warmly throughout the few breaks, and while the talks were really impressive and informative, you never felt like you were at this big, daunting event where formality was a must.

Freiburg in itself is also a beautiful city with everything within walking distance. The huge Munster of Freiburg sat directly across from the venue and all the buildings in the old part of the town are designed in the classic German fashion.

The Theme

This year’s conferenced focused heavily on flexibility and responsive design. Most of the design-focused speakers talked about embracing how flexible the web is nowadays, with even more screen sizes and fluctuations in internet speeds than we have ever dealt with before. For designers, it’s no longer acceptable to just focus on the standard width we’ve pretty much accepted. We have to think mobile first, both design and feature-wise, and build our websites out from there, adding additional features as more design space and bandwidth become available.

smashing 4 520x317 Smashing Conference 2012    The year of responsive Web design

The Speakers

Conference speakers ran the full gamut, ranging from top designers to the best programmers. They represented the general theme of Smashing Magazine in the best way possible, with the main focus on design and inspiration, but keeping a healthy touch of programming in there to make for a solid mix.

With Oliver Reichenstein of Information Architects, Mark Boulton, a designer who has worked for major clients, and Josh Brewer, known for his work at Twitter and 52 weeks of UX – needless to say, it was an inspiring lineup. The designers all gave their own vision of the web, design, typography and especially the combination thereof. Josh Brewer had this amazing quote about responsive design and how it’s just getting bigger and bigger:

“If you think responsive’s simple, I feel bad for you son. We got 99 viewports, but the iPhone’s just one.”

Meanwhile, Jake Archibald, Lea Verou and Stephen Hay all giving amazing live demo’s of their respective crafts. For example, Lea Verou blew the audience’s mind with 10 very nifty CSS techniques, that personally made me feel so incompetent at it that I never wanted to write CSS again.

smashing 3 520x346 Smashing Conference 2012    The year of responsive Web design
All in all, it was an immensely successful conference, particularly considering this was only Smashing’s first event. The talks, the beer and the interesting people definitely made me want to go visit Freiburg again next year. A job well done by Vitaly and Marc!