SXSW 2010: Fieldnotes

March 9, 2010

So, I’m off to the SXSW Interactive festival in a couple of days, where I’ll be going to lots of talks, meeting people, and appearing on a panel. You should come to that if you’re around on Tuesday. It should be fun.

The panel’s about post-digital design, or what we could and should be thinking about when we can blend physical and digital formats in new and interesting ways. As part of my own preparations and thinking, I (surprise!) made a book.

The idea is, it’s a book to last you the week, through SXSW. A one-time pad for the festival. Customisable. Personal. Travel and accommodation details. You’re probably going to need those a lot:

Maps of Austin – different scales, and several basic grid plans. Useful for scribbling directions on, as well as navigation.

Planning diary. Schedule. All the talks that are happening, alongside your maps and diary. (Yup, that’s what the XML was for.)

I’ve never been to Austin or Texas before, so I stuck Wikipedia’s entry on Austin in there, and the Lonely Planet chapter on Texas (which you can buy and download here – nice). I did get in touch with Lonely Planet to discuss licensing this properly, but we ran out of time. One of the reasons this book is not for sale.

Finally, I wanted to use the book as my notebook for the conference – trying to avoid carrying around a guidebook, and a programme, and a schedule, and notes. (Remember the DIY Classic Notebooks?) There are 70-odd blank pages at the back, together with some helpful suggestions on what to write if you get bored or distracted.

That’s it. Pulled together in a few hours at the last minute despite planning it for ages. HTML -> XML -> InDesign for the talks schedule. Simple PDF resizing for the LP section. Basic-as layout for the rest, with some running heads and page numbers to minimise endless searching. Printed 10 through Lulu – £5 a pop, plus £25 to expedite shipping (because I left it until the last possible moment). Arrived in 4 working days. Done.

More photos at Flickr. More thoughts at SXSW and after. Do drop me a line if you’re going to be around.

[This article is now available in Belorussian, provided by ucallweconn]


  1. Curiously enough, what you did isn’t a million miles away from what Offbeat Guides tried to make a business from: Not sure how successful they have been. I’d say the ability to customize them to the degree you have makes your version *way* more useful.

    Nice work, and if you could somehow get all that inside a Moleskine…

    Comment by DonaldS — March 9, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

  2. Oh man, I would *love* to have one of these with me at Southby. Jealous.

    Looking forward to seeing your panel, James. Sounds like it’s going to be great.

    Comment by Jeremy Keith — March 9, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

  3. Hey Donald – Am aware of Offbeat Guides and think what they do is great – but yes, only about halfway there. Need to be able to drop in other templates too, like diary pages, and import specific useful data, like conference schedules. The basic concept is very similar.

    Comment by James Bridle — March 9, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

  4. James,

    This looks fantastic! I’m the founder and CEO of Offbeat Guides – and I’d love to have a chat with you to see how we can build something that would fit your needs. Drop me a line anytime,


    Comment by David Sifry — March 9, 2010 @ 5:37 pm

  5. LOVE them. really really nice. massive ENVY, I’d be snapping one of those up in a shot if they were on sale. Also v much looking forward to your panel- see you in Austin!

    Comment by Katy — March 9, 2010 @ 6:49 pm

  6. […] is nice. RT @stml Thing that I made: fieldnotebook for SXSW – […]

    Pingback by Twitter Updates for 2010-03-09 — March 9, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

  7. Awesome. Literally.

    Comment by Ben — March 9, 2010 @ 9:43 pm

  8. […] SXSW 2010: Fieldnotes |"The panel?s about post-digital design, or what we could and should be thinking about when we can blend physical and digital formats in new and interesting ways. As part of my own preparations and thinking, I (surprise!) made a book."(tags:books pod ) […]

    Pingback by Warren Ellis » Links for 2010-03-09 — March 9, 2010 @ 11:01 pm

  9. Interested in your session, see ya there! gc

    Comment by Gianfranco Chicco — March 9, 2010 @ 11:33 pm

  10. Nice. Is the paper stock good to write on?

    Comment by Peter Parkes — March 10, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

  11. […] and of course, my panel picks. It won’t turn out as awesome as James Bridle’s SXSW 2010 Fieldnotes book (they’re not for sale! Dang it) but I think it’ll work just […]

    Pingback by Last-Minute SXSW 2010 Planning Guide | Fresh — March 11, 2010 @ 1:52 am

  12. Very nice, looking forward to the panel, I made my own “rough” guide to SXSW/Austin using Instapaper.

    Comment by Daniel Markham — March 12, 2010 @ 4:29 am

  13. […] to ‘a group of software coding friends’ in a piece on Newspaper Club. Meanwhile James made a book I wish I’d had when I went to SxSW last year. Tags: weeknotes Share this […]

    Pingback by Weekend Links « a work on process — March 14, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

  14. Very nice. We are still only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of what cool things can be done to books with POD!


    Comment by Abhaya Agarwal — March 17, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  15. […] SXSW 2010: Fieldnotes | […]

    Pingback by Dressage Tack « — March 23, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

  16. […] Bridle was on top form, talking about his brilliant Fieldnotes SXSW 2010 –, which he put together in just four days using XML and InDesign. Two points he made really stuck […]

    Pingback by SXSW (pt.3) | how to think about the future — April 1, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  17. […] for scheming: ePub & XHTML, Ushahidi or other reporting systems for use in Portland, POD notebooks, more experiments in social awkwardness, electronic music on the iPad, salt-cured […]

    Pingback by A Bright and Stormy Monday « Dyepot, Teapot — April 6, 2010 @ 12:48 am

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