Front Seeking to Change the World of Product and Design Conferences

People aren’t just looking for somebody that’s a motivational speaker. They’re looking for real world, in-the-trenches case studies of things that show them how they can actually have a big effect at their company.

Let’s be honest, you’re sick of attending conferences and listening to speakers prattle on about things completely unrelated to your company. You’re tired of spending money trying to further your business, specifically your product creation team, and then coming away without anything tangible to show for it (except for all the conference’s leftover cookies you took home and ate gloomily). You want a conference that doesn’t rely solely on providing professional speakers, but creating an experience that can make a legitimate difference for your company.

This is where Front, the first annual product and design conference held June 17–19 in Salt Lake City, comes into play.

“More than just getting together to hear a speaker, there is this hunger for training,” Front co-founder Wade Shearer said to Beehive Startups in a recent interview. “For the past couple of years, we’ve been talking and making plans for this conference and seen so much interest. So we know this is going to be big and successful. Our plan is that this is going to become the premier product design and management conference, at least in the region, but our hope is for it to become the premier conference nationally.”

Front has a simple enough goal: “to provide cross-functional training and to nurture inter-disciplinary relationships for anyone involved in the creation of products.” We know that Utah features an incredible amount of event options for development, design, product, and startups. What we didn’t know until recently is that Front is seeking to become the first conference that allows all these areas to live peacefully under one roof.

Shearer, along with fellow co-founders Andrew Branch and Ben Peck, spent years building the idea of Front through various events and experiences within the product creation space. The more they interacted with people involved in the product world, the more they realized the opportunity available.

“A year ago we started our own group called the Product Design Association and it has been the best decision we could ever make,” Shearer said. “While before we already had interest in these people, now we officially support industrial designers, product designers, ux, graphic designers, product managers, and even entrepreneurs.”

“A lot of conferences that you go to, it’s just the same old thing. There are these career speakers, all they do is travel around the country, and when you go to these conferences, it’s the exact same thing. The thing that we have learned, people aren’t just looking for somebody that’s a motivational speaker. They’re looking for real world, in-the-trenches case studies of things that show them how they can actually have a big effect at their company.”

Shearer is right — if you want motivational speakers, you’re much better flipping over to ESPN and listening to Lou Holtz slobber emphatically than attending any conference. People want to hear real stories about failure and success, from real people within the industry, not the rehearsed speech of a professional public speaker.

To provide attendees with the most enjoyable/useful experience possible, Front is bringing in a few national product design heavyweights — Peter Merholtz, Founder of Adaptive Path; Marty Cagan, Partner with Silicon Valley Product Group; and Cameron Moll, Founder of Authentic Jobs — and supplementing them with an abundance of local talent.

“We’re bringing in three big names in the space, and then the rest of the 15 people, all the workshop people and the rest of the speakers, are all local people working at local companies that people will recognize,” Shearer said. “That’s on purpose. We’ve done that because this is who people want to hear from…for these speakers to come in and give case studies on things they’re working on, it’s really powerful.”

Interested in the process of product design and development at Pluralsight? Nate Walkingshaw and Gilbert Lee have you covered. Ever wonder what the difference is in the customer journey for men versus women? Backcountry’s Lauren Gray will tell you.

With sponsors including Overstock, Ancestry, and Experticity, as well as notable presenters from (amongst others) Hirevue, Adobe, and Lucid Software, Front is ready to blend the tasty flavor of a Utah product design festival with the scope of a national one. And don’t be afraid to bring your whole company.

“We have some really good group discounts for companies,” Shearer said. “Part of the reason behind that, we’re really hoping that companies will bring their whole team because this is a broader focus here, the point of creating great product is that it requires cross-discipline collaboration between teams.”

If you’re interested in attending Front, visit their website and click on the Register button at the top of the page.

Published 3/31/2015

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