Curiosity Beyond Tellerrand

Beyond Tellerrand, Inspiration, Design, Web

Bianca Kastl

Image of the main stage of the beyond tellerrand venue from the inside, the Capitol Theater in Düsseldorf
It's a shame that I attend a wonderful web and design conference series called «beyond tellerrand» since many years and I've never written anything about it. Time to change that.

beyond tellerrand (conference website) is a conference series created and headed by Marc Thiele (personal website) and I've been to quite a lot of them in the recent years, at least eight in Düsseldorf, one in Munich and four in Berlin. Quite a lot.

I usually only attend conferences on a regular basis which are friendly, open-minded, inclusive and inspiring for me – beyond tellerrand is all of that. When I bought the ticket to this years edition in Düsseldorf I didn't really know what exactly the speakers would be, but Marc usually has a good mixture of design, web programming and inspirational topics, a good mixture of well known and sometimes unknown speakers. This years edition was a wonderful mixture as well.

The talks are usually recorded and published after the conference and – since some years – transcribed as well (bonus points for that).

This years main slogan was «stay curious». To make you curious as well, here's my gist of the talks. It's not an accurate summary of the talks, just the things that I took out of them the most.
But stay curious. 🙃A summary of this years topics ans speakers can be found at the beyond tellerrand website.

Talks - Day 1

All Constraints are Beautiful - Charlie Owen

Video coverage on vimeo
Restrictions and constraints seem to limit us. Charlie perfectly showed that this is a quite limited point of view. The limitation to create a story in just six words for example can create wonderful things. So we should really embrace the constraints for the web – like performance, accessibility and so on. They seem to limit us but maybe they just unleash more creative potential.
Progressive Enhancement can be a way to do this. Which is more or less a consumer capitalistic way to create things: build them fast, build them cheap, iterate fast. Why don't we do this in websites?

Humanising Your Documentation - Carolyn Stransky

Video coverage on vimeo
I must admit that I'm one of the worst programmers when it comes to documentation. So I was really thankful that Carolyn showed a good overview about best practices for documentation. Documentation for humans that is really helpful and makes fun using it.
Side effect of this talks: made me think about inappropriate wording in tech even more. There's even a tool to check that: alex.js.

The Power of Metaphor - Mike Hill

Video coverage on vimeo
On the surface it was a talk about storytelling. But it was quite a deep psychologic talk about the real message of movies, about structure, about archetypes, the Dark Knight and the Joker, dinosaurs and children, and also Star Wars.
Mike Hill perfectly broke down movies into their inner message and structure. Stories are not about people, they're about personified psychology. And the shitty stories we tell will create a shitty future.
Bonus points for the fabulous rant about the lack of a deeper message in most blockbusters today. No cookie.

Making Art With Familiar Objects - Red Hong Yi

Video coverage on vimeo
The talk of Hong Yi – also known as Red – was one the inspiring ones. An artist that shows her work and the process that lead to it. Making art of spilled coffee, with basketballs, with socks or chopsticks. Great to see how artists create things and always good to see how they started. I also liked the insight in the asian culture which is often no that visible in our western world.

Never Snap to Guides - David Carson

(No video here, this one is also a bit problematic)
Yeah, it was that David Carson. The end of print Carson. The Raygun Carson. The David Carson, my graphic design professor always talked about. About the rule breaking. Carson is Carson and I think he broke the rule of «not showing explicit bloody pictures in a conference talk».
But what else to expect of Carson? He showed a lot of his work, explained the backgrounds of some parts of his portfolio. Quite insightful, but all in all I got the impression I always had about him in my mind: a relaxed guy that just keeps surfing.

Hard Work, Relentless Dreams and WiFi - Rob Draper

(No video yet)
Rob Draper gave a very personal talk. About his life and about his career. Rob is an illustrator, a hand-lettering artist. He spoke about his career, how he started, how he worked on the road, about the struggle, about instant fame and so on.
Brings these untouchable design heroes down to earth. Hard to summarize, maybe worth a look when the video is available.

Imagination, Desire and the Call of the Future - David Delgado

Video coverage on vimeo
The evening talk on day one is always something special at the beyond tellerrand events. This talk was no exception, although it was a bit different from the recent years. A bit more subtle I would say.
David Delgado is Visual Strategist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and took us on a tour behind the scenes of the art installations und graphic designs they build there.
The main problem they face is to make the invisible or the infinite visible. Very interesting to see their approach. Art that arouses desire for the space. It worked a bit for me I must admit.

Talks - Day 2

I Don't Care What Airbnb is Doing - Stephen Hay

Video coverage on vimeo
In our daily work we always tend to say: »Can we do it like large company?« Stephen Hay tried to break this. Following conventions leaves out the thinking, even worse: following conventions leaves out learning.
You have to leave your comfort zone to learn and to improve.

Data, Design, Code - Shirley Wu

Video coverage on vimeo
Curiosity was a big motivation for Shirley Wu to play with data. Out of curiosity she created some very beautiful data visualizations. In her talk she explained about her process and about some problems she faced.
I think the most impressive thing about this talk was the excellent live coding. Live coding is often a real problem at conferences, but her live coding was just flawless.

The Scoville Scale of Web Font Loading Opinions - Zach Leatherman

Video coverage on vimeo
Zach Leatherman explained some »hot takes« about web font loading. Yeah, icon fonts are dead. You must not use the bulletproof font face syntax from ancient history anymore and so on. A good summary to break with common problems that come from the use of web fonts. For those who want to optimize their font loading techniques definitely a good summary.

Napworking - Dorobot

Video coverage on vimeo
I always got the impression that speakers are extremely experienced when they are invited to speak at beyond tellerrand. That is not always the case. Marc invited Doro from Hamburg, an illustrator and artist to show her work and creative process.
A kind of a cute talk, really. With many creative details und the concept of napworking. Some people are the most creative in the moment they take a nap or go to sleep. Doro explained her process in a very sympathic and funny way.

Flexbox Holy Albatross - Heydon Pickering

(No video yet)
Some people think about solutions that you wouldn't even think of that you ever would need them. So did Heydon. His «Flexbox Holy Albatross» is a flexbox based technique which doesn't require media queries but has some breakpoint style behavior for a typical grid problem: make things stack or display side by side.
Very entertaining presentation of a very specific CSS problem.

Take Back Your Web - Tantek Çelik

Video coverage on vimeo
Tantek closed this edition of beyond tellerrand with his talk about decentralization and becoming independent in the web. Like in the early days, when there were no big platforms that dominated the web at their will.
A good introduction to some IndieWeb concepts and the reasons to do that.


This years beyond tellerrand in Düsseldorf made me curious. Curious about things I usually don't do that often – data visualization –, curious about things that I should do more often – working on my website, watch more movies and think deeply about them – and curious about things I didn't know before. I left Düsseldorf with my head full of thoughts, inspiration, conversations and fun with some old friends, met interesting new people and had a very good time there.

Until the typical post conference blues kicks in. Reality which is sometimes only inside my tellerrand, not beyond.
But who knows, I'm curious about things…

Image of the Rheinkniebrücke in Düsseldorf at night