Highlights and Reflections: A Recap of beyond tellerrand Düsseldorf 2024

Christian Hohn / May 28, 2024

Hey everyone, on the 13th and 14th of May 2024, it was that time again: beyond tellerrand opened its doors in my beloved adopted home and the most beautiful city on the Rhine – Düsseldorf. I look forward to this event every year like a kid eagerly awaiting their birthday. Why? Because there’s simply no better conference for creative minds.

Audience seated in a dimly lit auditorium with a screen displaying "Good Morning" in neon style.

Photo credit: Christian Hohn

The atmosphere at the Capitol Theater was buzzing with good vibes. Designers, developers, artists, and innovators were present – the perfect mix for exchanging ideas, learning from each other, and gaining new insights.

The weather played along nicely, and the warmth and relaxed atmosphere made everyone feel right at home. Beyond Tellerrand was supported by many interesting partners and guests who all made great contributions. I'd especially like to highlight Storyblok, who sponsored the drinks this year, and the incredibly diligent British artist Rob Draper, who created bespoke hand-lettered posters for a donation to skate-aid international e.V. Additionally, the friendly robots from Jan De Coster added a fun touch to the event.

Entry lanyards listing ticket owner's name and Monday and Tuesday schedules.

Photo credit: Christian Hohn

The talks were excellently curated and varied, yet a common thread was evident. Here are my impressions of the highlights:


Say Something!

by Chris Campe

Chris Campe delivered a moving and inspiring talk. Particularly fascinating was her sign for a protest against right-wing populism and hate, which became a viral symbol of protest. With white letters on a black background, it gained significant attention on social media and at further demonstrations. Chris then provided a step-by-step guide for making such signs on her website, unexpectedly becoming a "protest sign influencer".

Projected image of protesters holding signs with various anti-AfD messages in an auditorium.

Photo credit: Christian Hohn

Looks Great To Me: Getting Past Bare Minimum Code Reviews

by Adrienne Tacke

The Gentle Art of Design Feedback

by David de Léon

Adrienne Tacke and David de Léon gave two different, yet thematically related, talks on feedback culture. Adrienne emphasised the importance of respectful and constructive feedback in the code review process, while David highlighted the need to give design feedback that is issue-focused rather than personal. Both talks offered valuable insights and practical tips for improving feedback culture in teams.

Typographer vs. Accessibility

by Oliver Schöndorfer

This talk was my absolute highlight! Oliver Schöndorfer presented in-depth knowledge on accessible typography in an engaging, entertaining, and witty manner. Particularly interesting were the examples of commonly recommended and used fonts like Atkinson Hyperlegible, Arial, Gill Sans, and Verdana. He pointed out the pitfalls of using these fonts and stressed the importance of considering the context of a font's application, which is highly relevant for me as a UX/UI designer.

Two images of Oliver Schöndorfer presenting on font accessibility. The first slide reads "What the FONT is A11Y?" and the second compares font legibility.

Photo credit: Christian Hohn

The Expanding Dark Forest and Generative AI

by Maggie Appleton

Maggie Appleton's talk was eye-opening and alarming. She discussed the far-reaching impacts of AI-generated content on the internet and society. Using the "dark forest" metaphor, she illustrated the internet as an increasingly murky place where distinguishing between true and false becomes ever harder. This leads to an "epistemic collapse", eroding trust in information. She underscored the need to strengthen critical thinking and media literacy, advocating for innovative approaches to ensure the reliability of digital information.

Two images of Maggie Appleton presenting. The first slide is titled "Cozy Web" with an illustration, and the second shows a humorous social media post of Jesus with crab claws.

Photo credit: Christian Hohn

Now is Better

by Stefan Sagmeister

Stefan Sagmeister presented his latest project "Now is Better", highlighting positive developments in human history. Through captivating anecdotes and personal connections, he showed how long-term data often reveal positive trends, contrary to the typically negative media narratives. His art installations, combining historical art with modern data visualisations, conveyed a powerful, optimistic message. Sagmeister's call for a more balanced perspective left a lasting impression and encouraged a reassessment of media consumption habits.

Two images of Stefan Sagmeister presenting. The first slide reads "This will be boring," and the second shows a person wearing and revealing a unique, colourful outfit.

Photo credit: Christian Hohn

Stefan Sagmeister presenting a slide showing colorful rectangular objects arranged on wooden boards with nails.

Photo credit: Christian Hohn


Small Technology: Building Tech That Respects Our Rights

by Laura Kalbag

Laura Kalbag shed light on crucial topics like privacy and surveillance in modern technology. She explained how many technologies track our activities, often under the guise of improving user experience. Kalbag stressed the need to take control of our data and resist the unchecked exploitation by large tech companies. Her plea for comprehensible and manageable privacy was a compelling call to action for developers and users alike.

Digital Type, Pre-PostScript

by Ferdinand Ulrich

Ferdinand Ulrich delivered a fascinating talk on the development of fonts before the PostScript era. His research delves into an often overlooked period of early digital typography technologies. Ulrich, a typographer and type historian, showed how computer scientists and type designers collaborated to create systems that encoded letter shapes numerically. His extensive research and interviews with pioneers in this field revealed the significant advancements that paved the way for modern digital fonts. This talk, which maxed out the Geek-Scale, was a highlight of the conference.

Two images of Ferdinand Ulrich presenting slides on typography. The first slide features examples of the letter 'A' and typographic measurements. The second slide displays Japanese characters and their design variations.

Photo credit: Christian Hohn

Designing with Words: Content Design at The New Yorker

by Sophie Tahran

I had the pleasure of attending Sophie Tahran's talk on content design at The New Yorker. As the Director of Content Design, she provided comprehensive insights into integrating content design throughout the design process. Tahran emphasised that content design is more than just writing text; it's about creating useful content that guides users through digital experiences. She highlighted the importance of integrating content design early in the design process to improve user experience, sharing practical examples from her work.

A central theme was the hierarchy of needs in content design, where clear and useful language comes first, followed by consistency and conciseness. Tahran stressed the collaboration between content design and other teams and offered practical tips for crafting error messages and clear communication. Her talk provided valuable insights and practical advice that can be readily applied to daily work.

Two images of Sophie Tahran presenting. The first slide instructs to highlight helpful words in green, confusing words in yellow, and useless words in red. The second slide shows an example with highlighted text.

Photo credit: Christian Hohn

Sophie Tahran presenting a slide that defines content design as "The practice of designing useful content that guides users through digital experiences."

Photo credit: Christian Hohn

No, Seriously, Fuck Engagement: Building a More Human Web

by David Thomas

David Thomas began his talk with a quote from Martin Luther King, emphasising the need to shift from a thing-oriented to a person-oriented society. He criticised the problematic nature of online personalisation and its negative impact on self-image and mental health. Platforms like Facebook promote engagement through emotional content, often leading to hate and misinformation. Thomas advocated for a human-centred internet and called for a redefinition of engagement: measuring how many people we've helped should be the standard. His inspiring talk highlighted the importance of human stories and local initiatives for genuine change.

Two images of David Thomas presenting. The first slide shows a graph labeled "Natural Engagement Pattern." The second slide displays a distressed group of Rohingya Muslims with text about Facebook's role in amplifying hate speech during the 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar.

Photo credit: Christian Hohn

David Thomas presenting a slide with a to-do list: Identify your values, evaluate your work's alignment with those values, and co-imagine the future with those affected by the present.

Photo credit: Christian Hohn

In conclusion, I'd like to extend my deepest thanks to Marc Thiele, whose tireless dedication and passion make this fantastic conference possible year after year. A big thank you also to his wonderful team and all the speakers who generously shared their insights, experiences, and expertise with us. Even though not all talks are mentioned here, they were all worth seeing and hearing and contributed to the inspiring atmosphere. Heartfelt thanks!