Something big is coming to Charleston next summer. Something huge. And the guys behind GIANT Conference wouldn't have it any other way. June 11-14, 2014, the Silicon Harbor will host an impressive slate of design industry luminaries at GIANT, a three-day hybrid multi-track conference and workshop for professionals in the niche sector of user interaction and user experience, UI/UX as its known in trade circles.
The terms UI and UX get tossed around a lot by talkers on the interwebs, and people disagree on the what "UI/UX" is, but loosely put, UX is a necessarily broad umbrella topic for how information is communicated digitally, while UI refers to the tactile specifics of what's displayed.
"Everything is an experience," says Anthony Sanders, a senior interaction designer at Benefitfocus and a GIANT co-founder. Whether you know it or not, you interact with the UI/UX decisions that folks like Sanders make everyday.
Operating around the theme of "creating rad," GIANT's stacked line-up of already-confirmed speakers is a who's who of the design world, with a few marquee names that even casual observers will recognize. Ethan Marcotte, who literally wrote the book on Responsive Web Design in 2010; Jared Spool, an early figure in user interface design; designer Aaron Draplin; and content strategist Kristina Halvorson will take the stage in keynote spots during the conference, just to name a few. Even the names (Brad Frost, Carl Smith, Sarah Parmenter) and the companies (Mailchimp, Etsy, Google, Microsoft) found farther down the schedule, who will host smaller breakout and workshop sessions, are household names within the industry.
"The quality has to be as big as the name on the bill," says Sanders, who moved to Charleston in June. Working alongside co-founders Joel Kilby and Christian Manzella, Sanders and the GIANT crew say they hope to eventually grow the GIANT name to be on par with other popular summits such as An Event Apart, the gold standard for high-level design industry observers, which hosts a sold-out series of events across the U.S. that serve as an industry gathering place wherever they decide to pop-up. Charleston is up first in 2014, and if successful, they'd like to spin off similar events in Denver and Seattle, where Kilby and Manzella work.
Sanders is quick to compliment the design community for being so quick to embrace GIANT, nearly a year in the making.
"Once we got Ethan Marcotte and Jared Spool, we knew this was going to be even bigger than we initially wanted it to be." Even some of GIANT's competition has signed on to participate—Greg Hoy, the Philly-based CEO of design firm Happy Cog, which operates An Event Apart, is scheduled to speak on the first day. Sanders was even careful to reserve a handful of spots for Charleston-based speakers from Benefitfocus to SPARC to Blackbaud.
"There was never a time where we ever felt like we were stepping on anyone else's toes. It's just a great sense of community with UX and design folks," says Sanders.
Asked who to see, besides the top names at GIANT, Sanders immediately rattles off a string of speakers on his must-see list: Toby Sterrett from online banking startup Simple; Dan Klyn of Michigan consulting firm The Understanding Group; and Adam Conner of New Hampshire-based design firm Mad*Pow.
"I'm putting my name behind it, so I can say that you're going to have a kick ass time," concludes Sanders.
GIANT Conference sets up shop at the Charleston Music Hall, 39 Rue de Jean, and the American Theater on June 11-14, 2014. A small batch of Early Bird tickets go on sale today at 1pm, with normal sales beginning March 1 at GiantConf.com. Passes can be bought for the conference (two days of speakers, including keynotes), the workshop (one day of smaller, hands-on seminars), or both as a package.