I have never been to a design-only conference. Before this AIGA 2013 Design Conference I’ve always had a good excuse. Not enough time. Not enough money. It’s too far. After attending the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) in Minneapolis, hand on heart, I will never make those excuses again.
More than 1,800 professionals and students came from all across the country to the Minneapolis Convention Center, one of the largest in their 100-year history. Being surrounded by a lot of talented people reminds me why being a designer is the best job on the planet.
How can you tell you’re in a room with designers? Many empty coffee cups. And this was at 4pm.
Before I arrived, I set out some goals for myself before attending more than 16 sessions and listening to 50 different speakers. First and foremost, to recharge.
Being a designer requires a lot of self-care and nurturing. Reading blogs, thumbing through industry and design magazines and even walking to work provide a tremendous amount of stimulation. But nothing compares to being in a room with 1,800 designers. I tell you, it’s a great way to focus.
Parts of this year’s sessions were specifically designed for educators. And although I am not a teacher, my second goal was to boost my abilities as a mentor, one of the most components of being an Associate Creative Director. I wanted to be a better mentor not only to fellow designers but also my peers.
Finally, a design conference isn’t complete without some speeches from true legends. Their words of wisdom and their presentation style have always helped me be a well-rounded designer and leader. And I was blown away: Eric Baker, George Lois, Kurt Andersen, Danny Yount and Aaron Draplin to name but a few. These legends are key individuals from diverse worlds: corporate, design, motion graphics, and sustainability.
In honor of the conference theme I have nugget from each of the 50 speakers I heard from and placed them into the three words representing this year’s theme.
Suzanne Powney of Mississippi State University and Roselynn Newton of Texas State University have incorporated letterpresses in their coursework. Because so many people are visual learners, the interactivity helps the content sink in. This really got me thinking about the role of computers in our work. I am an avid sketcher and for it I feel more connected to my product. As we move more toward digital, I am reminded not to forget my roots. (It also reminds me to start saving money for a letterpress.)
I made this myself! (Just added that magenta 0, really.)
Jennifer Kinon and Bobby Martin Jr of Original Champions of Design (OCD) based in New York also reinforced something we do every day at the CBD: “Strategy and design are inseparable.” At OCD, there are no dedicated account managers, strategists or production managers. They do it all are from start to finish. I find that it’s a wonderful way to stay engaged. Using the two halves of the brain give you effective communications that really do make a difference.
Eve Claxton of StoryCorps presented “Stories and the Art of Persuasion”. A writer presenting to designers? Absolutely. Designers are storytellers and gave me some great insight into telling a good story. She showed us this scene from Mad Men,
then dissected it into these five tips:
- Make it personal
- Keep it short
- Tell the story in a sequence
- Include rich details, but avoid jargon and clichés
- Stay focused
If you couldn’t be there, take a look at my key takeaways in this SlideShare presentation: