An Event Apart Washington DC 2020

Three days of design, code, and content

Set yourself apart.

An Event Apart DC is a three-day conference with 17 sessions and an intense focus on digital design, UX, content, code, and more, giving you deep insights into where we are now and where things are going next.

Seating is limited — Register Now!

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Event Schedule

Rachel Andrew

Derek Featherstone

Brad Frost

Dan Mall

Jason Grigsby

Aaron Gustafson

Val Head

Scott Jehl

Mina Markham

Gerry McGovern

Sarah Parmenter

Morten Rand-Hendriksen

Jen Simmons

Preston So

Sara Soueidan

Aarron Walter

Eric Meyer

Jeffrey Zeldman

  1. Arrival Day

  1. Day 1

  2. Attendee Check-in/Badge Pick-up

    Thurgood Marshall foyer, Mezzanine Level
  3. Breakfast

  4. Morning Welcome

  5. Soft Skills are Hard!

    Our resumes promote our expertise with languages, toolsets, and frameworks, but to become truly effective in our organizations, we must also possess so-called “soft” skills. The finest CSS and sweetest Sketch chops in the world won’t get the right product made if you lack listening and persuasion abilities to match. Fear not: that Old Man of the Web, Jeffrey Zeldman, is here to share concepts and exercises that can help even the shyest, most cerebral developer or designer learn to step out from behind the monitor with confidence, and sell their best work ever.

  6. The Mythology of Design Systems

    Design systems have dominated web design conversations for a few years. Just as there’s no one way to make a website, there is no one way to make a design system. Unfortunately this has led to a lot of misconceptions around the creation and impact of this increasingly important tool. Do any of these sound familiar?

    • “It’s too restrictive.”
    • “It limits creativity.”
    • “It won’t work for editorial projects.”
    • “It’ll solve all our problems.”

    Drawing on her experiences building design systems at two highly visible and vastly different organizations, Mina will debunk some common myths surrounding design systems.

  7. Truths and Myths About Animation in our Work

    As an industry we make many assumptions about animation and its role in our work. Assumptions like: You need to be a motion designer to do UI animation, or that animation is just an extra decoration. These assumptions can hold us back from fully appreciating the potential of UI animation and hinder our design decisions.

    In this session, Val will cover common assumptions around UI animation and how understanding each—whether a myth or a truth—can impact your work. Learn how to successfully share motion ideas across design and development; to create meaningful principles around animation for your product; what animation can bring to the table for good UX; how to plan and choreograph multiple UI animations throughout a project; and more. You'll come away with a renewed confidence on how to effectively pull off UI animation.

  8. Remembrance of Tags Past

    As the web enters its fourth decade, we're still chasing the latest shiny techniques and tools like we're candy-fueled four year olds, and our users are too often suffering for it-- not just when we launch, but for years afterward. The past reaches into the present; it's up to us to make sure the present can reach into the future. It's time to start thinking beyond our ship dates and accept that the web is a long-term medium, one that demands more care than we're giving. In this wide-ranging talk, Eric will trace the roots of where we are to illuminate what we're missing, and how we can do better.

  9. Truly Portable Design Patterns

    One of the main promises of design systems is to create a pattern or component once and see it reused by designers and developers throughout your organization. This promise is mostly unrealized. The most common design tools cannot consume our front-end patterns, which are often locked in to a specific framework that may not work for every team or project

    Fortunately, our tools and web standards are catching up with our design system aspirations. New web-based design tools like Framer X and UX Pin make it possible to import pattern library components directly. Even more traditional design tools like Sketch can be now consume pattern libraries. And web components have the potential to become a lingua franca for design systems allowing us to create components that can be used with whatever JavaScript framework your team chooses.

    In this session, Jason will demonstrate how close we are to the promise of design systems by showing how components can flow through our design tools and development frameworks and what challenges remain to be solved.

  10. Leveraging the Superpowers of Layout in 2020

    It’s been three years since CSS Grid landed in browsers, marking a technological seachange in layout on the web. But our processes and thinking patterns haven’t caught up. We’re still stuck thinking about layout like it’s 2012. We need to kickstart our understanding of what’s newly possible. We need practical examples of how to use the power and tradition of graphic design on the web, while still creating work that’s usable, and doable within time constraints. We need a step-by-step process for designing in our new reality. Jen Simmons will do all this, and more.

  1. Day 2

  2. Breakfast

  3. Attendee Check-in/Badge Pick-up

    Thurgood Marshall foyer, Mezzanine Level
  4. Morning Welcome

  5. Designing for Emotion Revisited

    Design for delight was the mantra of the moment when Aarron Walter's best-selling book Designing for Emotion was originally published, but our world has since changed. Though delight remains an important part of designing great customer experiences, today our emotions seem more complex. The companies and platforms we interact with frequently abuse our privacy, breach our trust, and fail to consider diversity in their plans. It's time to raise the bar by designing for a wider range emotions.

    Learn how designers and the companies they serve are developing a more sophisticated approach to emotional design by designing for trust, telling compelling stories, and designing experiences that help a wider audience feel included. And see how emotional design can align to business goals so the way we talk to our colleagues about it is as sophisticated as our process.

  6. Now You See It: Understanding Display

    CSS Layout is all about boxes. We know that some boxes are blocks, and others are inline, and we can change the display type of elements by changing the value of the display property. That property holds the key to much more than this, however. It is the foundation on which all layout is built; the core of the inbuilt CSS layout system. Learning Grid Layout, or Flexbox, without understanding Display, leaves you with a wobbly foundation and more questions than answers.

    The real question isn't "Should I use Grid or Flexbox?" but instead, "How do I want these boxes to behave?" Understanding the interaction between layout methods will enable you to easily create fallbacks for older browsers, and knowing how the various formatting contexts behave unlocks margin collapsing and the behavior of items inside grid or flex layout. By the end of the hour, you'll understand how the display property underpins the layout system we have today, the things coming in the future, and be able to make more informed decisions when deciding how to build any part of your design, big or small.

  7. Designer vs. Developer!

    Designers and developers often have poor relationships, due to bad process. Their interactions are apathetic at best and antagonistic at worst. Designers iterate over rounds of unrealistic comps, leaving a brutally short runway for developers to actually build the product. Developers recoil from the design process, and expect designers to hand them “requirements” that they treat as gospel.

    In this session, designer Dan Mall and developer Brad Frost will duke it out on stage once and for all. Is there a better process that prioritizes collaboration and conversation? Should developers be involved in the design process? Can design systems really create a shared language between designers and developers? Can deliverables and "handoff" be reimagined? Can we finally say goodbye to a traditional waterfall process? You’ve gotta attend to find out!

  8. Performance is Accessibility

    Poor site performance is not just an annoyance. For the average user, it's often a fundamental accessibility issue... a barrier to using and accessing the web. With network speed and stability improving each day, we might think this problem is fixing itself. But recent trends show that performance has actually been getting worse, and that our own practices are often to blame.

    Thankfully, we have great tools today to analyze our site performance, and with careful use of standard web features and patterns, we can regain the resilience and speed our users desire–without the complicated workarounds of the past. In this session, Scott will argue that performance is an accessibility problem, and show how we can prioritize it to improve access for everyone.

  9. Applied Accessibility: Practical Tips for Building More Accessible Front-Ends

    As front-end developers, we are tasked with building the front end of a Web site or application — in other words, we are building the user's end of an interface. This is why it is crucial that we ensure that the front-end foundations that we build are as inclusive of and accessible to as many users as possible. To do that, we must build with accessibility in mind from the get-go. This, in turn, means that the way we approach writing HTML, CSS, SVG and JavaScript might need to change as we take into consideration many factors that affect how (in)accessible our UIs are.

    This talk is a practical one, chock-full of tips for creating more accessible front-end foundations. If writing HTML, CSS, SVG and JavaScript is part of your job, then this talk is for you.

    In this session — a series of macro case studies from real client projects — Sara shares some frustrations, many lessons learned, and a lot of practical tips and tricks for building accessible front-end foundations that you can take and apply in your own projects right away.

  10. Inclusive Design: Thinking and Doing

    Inclusive design is a valuable process that we can use in our journey to make things more accessible for people with disabilities. This applies to all aspects of design — whether you’re designing your latest app or web site, a physical space, or even a meeting. There are some simple steps to take: first, we need to identify barriers to participation so that we can determine who has been excluded, and how they’ve been excluded in the past and present. Second, once we’ve identified those barriers, we can systematically improve our work by creating solutions that get past those barriers. And third, we can continue to learn from people with different disabilities what their needs are, and how we could continue to improve. Ultimately that all leads to creating an inclusive product that meets people’s accessibility needs AND we use an inclusive process to do it.

    In this session, Derek will share stories of success and failure as he worked with teams over the last year to engage with people with disabilities as co-designers, as well as the simple recipe for successfully creating a more inclusive design process.

  1. Day 3

  2. Breakfast

  3. Attendee Check-in/Badge Pick-up

    Thurgood Marshall foyer, Mezzanine Level
  4. Morning Welcome

  5. Practical Ethics for the Modern Web Designer

    Ethics is front of mind these days, especially in the tech industry. The industry ethos of “move fast and break things” has resulted in real harm to real people—ranging from the erosion of privacy to the deterioration of democracy itself. We need an ethics for our industry, of that there is little doubt. But how do we make it happen? How do we incorporate ethics into our design and development work?

    In this talk, Morten lays down a path toward an explicit ethics for web workers, by anchoring the work we do in the capabilities we manipulate in the people we design for, and providing an ethical foundation to stand on when making the decisions that build the future for our users.

  6. To Be Announced

    We’re still finalizing the details on this one — stay tuned!

  7. User Preference Design

    If we can better meet the individual needs of our users we enable an exceptional superpower to take root; enabling us to create super fans of our sites, lowering customer acquisition costs and raising brand awareness. All in ways that have previously been under-utilised in the skill set of the modern web designer.

    Let’s think about the outlier data, the anomaly use cases and the really tricky “personas” that are rarely more than an afterthought in our current design processes. As scary as it seems, it’s time we put a little more control into our users hands, rather than limiting the web to a one-size-fits-most school of thought.

    Known for her practical sessions at An Event Apart, Sarah will show you real-life case studies as to how she’s achieved great successes with this model of thinking for her clients and well-known brands. As well as practical tips, tricks, and quick-wins that you can take back to the office and take full credit for implementing.

  8. Planning User Interfaces that Adapt to Reality

    A decade into building responsive experiences, you could say we’ve hit our stride when it comes to understanding how to handle variable viewports. Most wireframing, designing, and prototyping tools handle—or at least consider—that screen sizes vary. But adapting our layouts and interfaces to a variety of screen widths is only the beginning; we also need to consider things like network conditions, hardware capabilities (and limitations), interaction methods, and, ultimately, the variability of human existence that requires us to evaluate the accessibility of our products very seriously. Responsive design is only the tip of the iceberg.

    Given that we can't miraculously add more hours to the day nor is it likely we're going to be able to hire scads more people to aid us in this work, how do we even begin to address this reality? In this session Aaron Gustafson will introduce a straightforward way to begin accounting for the varied experiences your users will have: Interface Experience Maps. These simple documents are straightforward to create, easy to iterate, and can quickly become a rallying point for nearly every team that works on your product. Most of all, they'll help you wrap your head around all of the different ways your interfaces need to adapt.

  9. World Wide Waste

    Digital is the fastest growing user of energy and emitter of CO2. In 2019 alone, 50 million tons of e-waste was produced. If one year’s e-waste—just one year’s—was brought together in a single place, it would cover an area the size of Manhattan. More data was produced in the last two years than all the data produced in the entire history of humanity up until then. 90% of that data is not accessed again three months after it is created. In other words, 90% of what we do in digital is crap. What a waste!

    In this wide-ranging talk, Gerry McGovern will give you a waste-reduction plan and an energy-optimization plan for digital. It can be summarized as: less but better. How to minimize your personal, and your organization’s digital footprint. How to clean up the content and the code. How to identify what is not being used and remove it. How to maintain and continuously improve rather than launch and leave. How to plan your digital projects with the environment in mind so that you don’t add to the digital bloat and waste in the first place. How to tap into digital’s potential to support a cleaner and energy-efficient environment.


Early Bird Ends Soon!

Three-Day Pass

April 13-15, 2020

$1,500 through February 17

Your Three-Day Pass includes admission to the three-day Washington D.C. conference , breakfast and lunch on all three days, access to all social events, and schwag.

Monday-Tuesday Pass

April 13-14, 2020

$1,100 through February 17

Your Monday-Tuesday Pass includes admission to the first two days of the Washington D.C. conference, breakfast and lunch on both days, access to all social events, and schwag.

Tuesday-Wednesday Pass

April 14-15, 2020

$1,100 through February 17

Your Tuesday-Wednesday Pass includes admission to the last two days of the Washington D.C. conference, breakfast and lunch on both days, access to all social events, and schwag.

Monday & Wednesday Pass

April 13-15, 2020

$1,100 through February 17

Your Monday & Wednesday Pass includes admission to the first and last days of the Washington D.C. conference, breakfast and lunch on both days, access to all social events, and schwag.

Monday Pass

April 13, 2020

$600 through February 17

Your Monday Pass includes admission to the first day of the three-day Washington D.C. conference, breakfast and lunch, and schwag.

Tuesday Pass

April 14, 2020

$600 through February 17

Your Tuesday Pass includes admission to the second day of the three-day Washington D.C. conference, breakfast and lunch, and schwag.

Wednesday Pass

April 15, 2020

$600 through February 17

Your Wednesday Pass includes admission to the third day of the three-day Washington D.C. conference, breakfast and lunch, and schwag.


Washington Marriott Wardman Park
2660 Woodley Road NW Washington, DC 20008

The Washington Marriott Wardman Park has arranged special room rates with complimentary in-room internet access for An Event Apart attendees, starting at just $209/night. To get these savings, please use our dedicated reservation page or call +1 (800) 228-9290 and ask for the “An Event Apart” room rate.

The newly renovated hotel is located on 16 scenic acres in northwestern Washington DC. It’s just steps from the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Metro station, putting the White House and the rest of downtown DC a quick metro ride away, and the hotel is also a quick walk away from the National Zoo. There is a choice of top restaurants, a fitness center, and a seasonal outdoor pool on premises.

Seating is limited — Register Now!

An Event Apart Washington DC 2020 is proud to be sponsored by: