Ride the Lightning – Event review

Ride the Lightning (RTL) is an event hosted by the team at AQ in their offices in Azabu. As the RTL team aptly put it, ‘The idea is simple: meet great new people, show off your work, talk about your workflow, get inspired.’ I’ve been attending RTL events for about 12 months now and I’ve never been left unimpressed with the content or crowd.

Usually there are about 40-50 people attending from within the design and tech communities in Tokyo. Hosted in AQ’s downstairs meeting space it can get a little cozy when they have a big turn out, but that just means more opportunities to mingle and network.

The crowd is usually quite diverse with a good mix of creatives, business people and even students from post-grad programs around Tokyo. I’ve found that there are both people new to Tokyo and established expats, as well as a few Japanese attendees. From event to event I see some of the same faces and always a few new ones too, which makes for a friendly atmosphere.

RTL is a great event for networking, there is dedicated time before the talks begin and after to grab a beer and meet some new people. In my experience most people attending are looking to do just that, so it’s a great environment to strike up a conversation with some strangers and learn more about what’s happening in Tokyo.

There are three presentations a night and generally the talks are limited to 5-10 minutes. Time is allowed at the end of each presentation for questions from the audience. I’ve found these talks to always be of a high calibre with really interesting content.

The presenters usually come from similar backgrounds to those attending – creative, development or business. They cover topics such as the following: new development techniques and languages; design and design criticism; and even some more esoteric topics like robotics and telepresence. AQ must put a lot of work into sourcing presenters for RTL because whatever the topics, I always see something different and fresh being presented.

With the small audience at RTL, compared to say Pecha-Kucha, there are some great Q&A sessions after the presentations. I always enjoy the discussions that happen between both audience and presenter and between members of the audience themselves.

Here’s a little more detail about the presentations I saw on September 10.

The first presentation of the night was “Change or Die: What Charles Darwin Taught Me About Web Design” by one of AQ’s front end designers Mathieu Mayer. Mathieu’s talk was quite interesting as he discussed some of his professional challenges in regards to web design that is able to adapt to changes in the future.

For the second presentation Naotaka Harada, front end developer and director of Gaji-Labo, spoke about his different experiences as a contractor and then as a team member. For me it was really interesting to hear Harada-san’s Japanese perspective on this process and see the ways it was similar or different to those of western studios.

To finish the night Charith Fernando, a professor at Keio University, presented some of his recent work in the field of virtual reality and telepresence. This was a very engaging talk which broadly covered both the history and major milestones in the development of telepresence and it’s application in real life.

So if you’re looking to connect with the design and dev community in Tokyo I’d encourage you to head along to the next RTL. Unfortunately they are not hosted on a regular timetable but if you follow them on Facebook(https://www.facebook.com/AQRideTheLightning) and DoorKeeper (https://ridethelightning.doorkeeper.jp/) you’ll get a notification as soon as the next is announced!

Tim O'Hanlon

Tim is an Australian born Communication Designer with passion for applying design and strategic thinking to all of his work. Tim moved to Tokyo in 2014 and has been working as a freelance designer since. In his spare time Tim loves to travel around Japan hiking, cycling, eating and snowboarding.

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