FFC6 Photo from TomasinoWeb: http://tomasinoweb.org/2015/features/ffc-2016-reinventing-reimagining-design.tw

How Community Shapes an Industry, and 5 other things I learned at Form, Function and Class 6


TL;DR version:

1. Have a good “Interference” guy.

2. For each job you hold in your career, ask “What’s your mission?” .

3. No, Style Tiles are not deliverables.

4. For mobile first, “you have to think of mobile for everything but interface design”.

5. Interface Inventory meetings.

FFC (Form, Function and Class — an annual web design conference) made me think quite a bit about community, and how integral it is to the growth of an industry.

I was lucky to have these little side conversations with the speakers, and get to learn about how the digital industry functions in the Western world (and compare it to how things are, here in the Philippines).

There were 3 particular conversations that hit me:

  • Around the speakers’ table, there was a conversation about community exclusivity:

One of the speakers had shared that he was learning a new coding language online and was asking questions openly, also online. But, unfortunately, his online questions were met with somewhat arrogant answers from the online community.

This anecdote led to a discussion at our table about how community managers or leaders can really drive the tone of a community (whether online or not). Particularly because the new and younger community joiners will model their behavior, and the others who don’t align with their behavior will just leave the group.

This was later echoed by Rachel Nabors in the Q&A, about communities being wary of idolizing people or ideas.

  • I also had a side conversation about some cultural realities about Filipinos.

Like how we are more familial, than “societal”. As a people, we value the smaller, closest affiliated group rather than the larger community.

  • That I needed to ask a speaker about how they apply mobile first. I’m not saying it’s a negative thing that I needed to ask somebody. I love asking for advice. I’ll explain later on (in another post) about why I find it odd that I needed to ask this question, in this particular situation.

Now, back to the actual event. Because this is what it made me feel:

I was in deep awe of the power of community.

It takes work to organize, promote and manage an event. And the Philippine Web Designers Organization does that at least once a year to help grow the local web design knowledge base, and doesn’t earn any profit from it.

I just saw some web design rockstars share what they know wholeheartedly. One of whom I have admired for a while now, for sharing not only a system that could improve the processes of digital practitioners for free, but also for his really open book-writing process.

I saw people who really set aside a substantial bit of their salary for the possibility of growing their skills, and for meeting people who share the same desire to learn.

Photo of attendees, via TomasinoWeb: http://tomasinoweb.org/2015/features/ffc-2016-reinventing-reimagining-design.tw

I was able to listen in on some side conversations about what the digital community is like in the United States. And, well, let me say that it’s pretty surprising that, even miles away (and with really advanced practitioners), you still get the same issues of exclusivity, the need to cultivate healthy group dynamics, and the reality of miscomms between developers and designers. And project managers.

I just want to take a moment and list down some of the most salient things that I learned and that I’m thankful for:

  • Thankful I got to hear someone who has a great deal of experience and passion for the role of animations in a digital experience. Although, what I will never forget is the pro-tip on:

1. The need to have a good “Interference” guy.

And the connection between arguments and omega dogs. I need to never forget that. Thank you,


  • Thankful I got to meet someone from Refinery29!!! But, seriously, yes. And he’s worked at SAY Media, too! (Next dream — Meet someone from Vox.)

Before the conference, I kept wondering what James Cabrera meant in his talk description when he said “recycling design”, but, after listening to it, I found his talk brave and really sensible:

  1. He showed the progression from doing-work-you-need-to-do-even-if-it’s-shameful when you’re starting out, to getting-to-that-point-where-you’re-able-to-transform-work-challenges-into-practical-design-systems. Which is how you get to help publishers scale their websites.
  2. All over the world, content publishers do share the same problems. Advertising clutter, Feature creep. But it’s up to the people who care about the job to innovate within their work.

2. Asking: What’s your “mission”?


. I love that you were able to phrase your main objective (in each job that you had) as a business-driven design mission. We should all learn to be as succinct and strategic as that.

  • Thankful I finally got to meet Angela Chua of Toffeenut Design; I have been reading about her for years, as she’s popularly mentioned on Quora. I’m happy I was able to see her perspective on design, having grown her own independent practice at in the Philippines for years.

She showed me that if it isn’t your scene, you can stick to your guns, do your work and still get a healthy stable of Clients.

  • Honored to have met Holger Bartel, and talk to someone who actually uses Style Tiles at work. I’ve been trying to “make it a thing” for my projects but couldn’t quite get Clients to buy in. So I’m really happy I get to hear real-life advice on it.

3. No, they are not deliverables. I will remember this.

I have too many things that I’ve learned from Brad Frost, since his Masterclass was the meat of the conference.

I will definitely never forget these two:

4. For mobile first, “you have to think of mobile for everything but interface design”.

That was such a pro-tip. Will wait for the blog post on it. And, that one about Beyonce. Noted. And, lastly:

5. Interface Inventory meetings.

That one bit of advice right there was worth a whole day for me.

Thankful I got to listen in on Vic’s questions to

during the “after-party”. Thankful I got to meet kindred spirits who actually found my talk useful (Thank you, Julya!).

Honored to have met the

team — Ia, Mae, Sarah, Kit, Nat, Aceler, Seph, Mark, Ely. You guys are a dedicated, dedicated bunch of people. I am happy the country has you guys. Brilliant pricing strategy for this year, and I am regretful that I only decided to go this year.

Thankful to everyone who asked questions during the Q&A. That was amazing. I didn’t realize how much pressure Q&As were :)) But it gave me a good “north star”:

“On-the-job” learning: As I answered, I would just double-check that each of my answers should have at least one actionable bit of information.

It’s really easy to give opinions.

It’s also really easy to hate things and critique. But to say something constructive and practical. Well, that’s what I would like to hear whenever I ask speakers questions. Although, that could be because I always ask process questions when I attend conferences :))

Thankful, thankful, thankful. I will never forget FFC6. It’ll be one of those pretty memories that’ll be fun to come back to a decade from now.

Hopefully, by that time, we’d all be in great, passion-filled, meaning-filled jobs and lives.

Follow me here on Medium, or on Twitter, for more straight-talking, practical stories about how to plan, execute and apply design research.

To stay updated about what my team is reading, Join Priority Studios’ newsletter for a monthly collection of links we found useful for work.



Angela Obias-Tuban
Philippine Web Designers Organization

Researcher and data analyst who works for the content and design community. Often called an experience designer. Consultant at http://priority-studios.com