A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the 2011 HOW Design Conference in Chicago. Four amazing days and 15 inspiring sessions by industry professionals made for an exciting experience. The design conference, presented by HOW magazine, provided a packed weekend full of creativity, management and technology developments in the design field. Each presentation I attended was uniquely fascinating, so I thought I would share a few key thoughts I took away from the conference.
Know your creative process.
Creative academics Glenn Griffin and Deborah Morrison shared their insights and investigations into the creative process. They worked with top creative professionals and asked them to create a visual answer to the question “What does your creative process look like?” Here is one illustration (my favorite!) they shared with us:
[It may be hard to read, but this person's process is: 1. Input; 2. Blend; 3. Tickle (such an appropriate word!); 4. Output.]
The key message in their presentation was understand your process and you can be more efficient, effective and gain self-confidence. The last one hit home for me—if you know that you always doubt and agonize before getting your “big idea,” stop worrying, work through the anxiety and recognize that it’s part of your process. Here are some other points they shared:
– Process is personal. Embrace your idiosyncrasies. Identify your favorite pen, foods, etc. you use in your design process.
– Document your habits and routine. Does time of day, lighting or who’s around you have an effect on your creativity?
– Reflect upon your core creative values. Establish your own “manifesto” to determine what’s important to you.
Innovate and adapt.
Consumers are driven by changing technology. Gail Towey, chief creative and editorial director for Martha Stewart Living, shared how their magazine is taking advantage of apps for the iPad to create deeper experiences for their users. Stories are now told on different levels. In addition to the written (text) and visual (photography) story used by traditional print media, new technologies create the opportunity for video and audio storytelling, providing a more authentic experience.
Assess and reassess.
Consider the consumer at the point of engagement. Think about the consumer’s buying process and focus on what the consumer is interested in at each stage within it. Most users are researching today to buy tomorrow, so it’s important to educate and nurture consumers. A major part of design is establishing trust throughout that process.
Once “done” with your design, reassess. This most obviously applies to web design. Look at your web analytics. What platforms are your users using? What is the user’s navigational flow on your website? Unlike print media, once web design is live, we can reassess, improve and update the design. That’s part of the beauty of the web: if your design or message fails, you can change it.
Designing for the mass market is designing for one person.
Design for your sister, uncle, neighbor, etc. Think of a person you know who fits the demographic and target market you’re designing for. This is a simple (and seemingly obvious) message that stuck with me.
Designers love free swag.
Any down time between sessions was spent at the HOW Design Live Resource Center where various companies parked their booths for the weekend and gave out free swag. By the end of the conference, I had a suitcase full of brochures, swatch books, bags, posters, etc. to bring back to the office.
One of my favorite booths was that of Neenah Paper, which was decorated with bright colors and creative use of fonts. The brains behind the booth was Design Army, who creatively marketed the paper company by using clever, provocative lines like “Get in-between the sheets with Neenah in Chicago” and “Neenah is smooth, rough and available.”
Another notable booth was the Utopia paper booth. They invited two artists, Molly Z. and Chris Gliebe, and gave them blank mural canvases to create something beautiful. In addition to the larger murals, each artist also created a series of note cards and posters (printed, of course, on Utopia paper) that they gave out to attendees.
Chicago, home of the ferris wheel…and so much more.
This was also my first trip to Chicago. Coming from an architecture background, I was excited to finally visit this beautiful city. One of the things I enjoyed most about sightseeing in Chicago was the juxtaposition of Beaux-Arts classicism against modernist steel-glass construction. From Mies van der Rohe to Frank Gehry, it seems that every notable architect has in some way made a mark on this historical landscape. Of course I had to take the obligatory architectural photos. They’re documented here on my personal blog: styleandsyntax.com » chicago2011
HUGE THANKS to Linda and the entire Gunn | Jerkens team for making this possible. It was an amazing experience and I hope I was able to bring back some useful nuggets of information for everyone!