Agency perk 1: going to killer conferences. Agency perk 2: co-workers you can spend 72 hours straight with and not hate. Mix those together and you’ve got my trip with Dan Dismounts to the 2017 National AIGA Design Conference. AIGA, the professional association for design, hosts a national design conference every year and this year it happened to be close to home (Hey, Minnesota!). Here are some of my favorite moments and ideas.
DESIGNERS SHOULD BE BUSINESS-MINDED, TOO.
It sounds a little crazy at first – I’ll give you that. The idea came from Bobby Ghoshal, cofounder and chief design officer at Candid. He started by explaining that it’s not just about the user, it’s also about the customer. For designers/creatives to stay relevant and valuable, they need a seat at the business table. Understanding the customer and how the business works will help designers make better decisions in their work.
IF IT ISN’T BROKEN, DON’T AUTOMATE IT.
We all love automation and anticipation in design whether we know it or not. Netflix suggesting new crime shows because you binged all 12 seasons of Criminal Minds? Anticipatory design. Your bank account moving money to your savings account every month so you don’t have to remember? Automated design. We automate a lot of things for the ease of the user, but what happens when automation fails? The more we automate, the less we have to know how to do. Sarah Doody, the founder of the UX Notebook, gave an AMAZING talk on being wary of too much automation. Check it out!
Ashley Ford is a writer for Refinery29. She gave the greatest speech on what it means to take a risk, whether it’s in your life or your job. Her messaged stemmed from examples in her own life – letting her guard down to fall in love and risking professional failure with a book proposal. My words aren’t going to do it justice. You NEED to watch it for yourself.
VALUES SHAPE BRANDS.
A brand is more than a visual identity. Imagine working for a brand whose logo and typeface are completely irrelevant to people. The only product consumers care about is how your work is improving their lives every day. Ashleigh Axios shared her work as the former creative director and digital strategist with the White House during the Obama Administration. Making policy and politics accessible and relatable to the masses is no small feat. Her team’s work included making WhiteHouse.gov responsive for the first time, engaging audiences during live streams of the State of the Union with graphics and accessibility, and creating the first ever Office of Digital Strategy. Her work with the State of the Union address is something that really caught my attention. Every year they improved their strategy, adding graphics and photos to help people better understand what President Obama was saying. All the work they did was an incredible addition to the White House brand at the time, trying to be inclusive and relatable.
ANNIE ATKINS HAS THE COOLEST JOB EVER.
Annie Atkins is a delightfully Irish graphic designer for film. Projects she’s worked on include “The Boxtrolls” and Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. Her talk took us through the many hours of reading scripts, researching the design of the period of the film, and making the style match the director. It’s mind-blowing to take a step back and realize how many elements in a movie the art department designs – any items in an office, newspapers, signs, lettering on a handkerchief, packaging, etc. On top of all the production, you must be meticulous – movie-watchers are waiting to find any errors in continuity or if the dates on the calendar from 1932 weren’t actually correct. Get lost in Annie’s wonderful world here.
Three days of design greatness can’t be summed up in a few paragraphs so here are some more moments and people that rocked my world.
- I got to meet Aaron Draplin not once, but TWICE – talk about star struck.
- Roman Mars hosted the general sessions each afternoon. His deep, beautiful voice graced our ears with episodes of his design podcast 99% Invisible and Q&A sessions with the conference speakers.
- The conference holds a design competition called Command X that brings seven young designers from across the country to present to and be judged by the entire conference and a panel of design legends. Fun fact: I attended a round table with the founder of Command X, Bonnie Siegler.
- Ian Spalter is the Head of Design at Instagram. Here’s his talk on the recent Instagram redesign.