Altitude Design Summit: Why Blog Design Matters in 2010

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heading to salt lake city

Last week, I mentioned that I was flying to Salt Lake City to attend the Altitude Design Summit. I left for the Altitude Design Summit and Salt Lake City really not knowing what to expect; and admittedly, I was a bit intimidated attending a conference filled with people who spent their time studying good design (really, what does one wear to a conference like this?). 

What I found was a city that was exceedingly friendly; I thought Houston had cornered the market on friendly cities, but seriously, Salt Lake City rivals.  The people at the conference weren't just folks who liked pretty clothes or interesting art; these were people who were committed to good design making an impact on emerging markets, saving the environment and improving the way we communicate -- and that's before I even get to the things I learned that strongly relate to my approach to photography, and may affect the way I use this site as a result.  These were people determined to share what they knew and draw inspiration from each other.  It was all such a pleasant revelation.

Some highlights:

Altitude Design Summit Keynote Breakfast Panel

The keynote breakfast was really great.  Moderated by Heather Armstrong of Dooce, the panel included Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge, Jean Aw of NOTCOT, and Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan of Apartment Therapy.  They discussed why the focus on design was so important these days.  To be honest, I didn't think that I would get a lot out of this session, since I'm not a design blogger but a photoblogger -- and yet, the panel was riveting.  I was particularly interested in Gillingham-Ryan's philosophy behind his site -- that every person, regardless of income, should have the right to live in a place that felt like a refuge, like home, and that good (and even more importantly, inexpensive) design was the path to doing so.  All of the panelists agreed that there was a move toward the understanding that providing good content on blogs should be worth of compensation.  And on a personal note, I loved Aw's comment that, if done well, advertising can be "like the jewelry on your site."

Another great highlight of the conference was the lunchtime keynote -- in fact, it was nothing less than stunning.  Erik Natzke is a digital artist, whose surreal "paintings" positively come to life on screen, and DJ Earworm is a mashup artist, whose musical arrangements completely blow the mind (seriously the top 25 songs of 2009 in one arrangement?  that's MADNESS!).  It was one of the best mealtime presentations I've ever been to -- the entire audience was riveted, even as they munched on their lunches.

And then, beautifully woven through these great talks were panels on design theory (topics like "Can Design Save Social Media?"), and technology ("the realities and challenges of working on the web") and business ("monetizing your site in creative ways," as well as some of the legal aspects of working on the web).  And all of this deliciousness was crammed into little more than 24 hours.

In short, I thought the conference was great, particularly for its inaugural year -- and I was pleasantly surprised that the focus wasn't actually on "design bloggers" as much as it was "bloggers who care about design." So regardless of how you might identify yourself and your blog, the fact is that if you care about the design of your blog, and generally doing the business of blogging with style, run, do not walk, to sign up for this conference for 2011.  You'll be very glad you did.


Karen Walrond is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. Read/See more of her life at


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