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2016 AIGA design conference

This past week I traveled to Las Vegas for the 2016 AIGA design conference. I've attended only one of these before (2011) and it was great so I figured it was due time to go to another. 

Here's a handful (this is long and I'm sorry) of my favourite things from the conference ... and some other things from the week thrown in too just for fun.

Naturally the first stop to note, the day before the conference began.

Naturally the first stop to note, the day before the conference began.

 

Monday

I stayed across the street at The Linq but The Mirage was really my home for the next three days.

I stayed across the street at The Linq but The Mirage was really my home for the next three days.

Badge, schedule, big bag full of all the free stuff, and a free drink. Check.

Badge, schedule, big bag full of all the free stuff, and a free drink. Check.

First glimpse into the design fair.

First glimpse into the design fair.

aiga.org/vote

aiga.org/vote

The magculture booth in the design fair :):):)  I could have spent the whole day in there if I had nothing else to do. Also would have bought one of everything if I didn't have to drag it all home in my suitcase.  I somehow narrowed it down to two magazines.

The magculture booth in the design fair :):):)

I could have spent the whole day in there if I had nothing else to do.
Also would have bought one of everything if I didn't have to drag it all home in my suitcase.

I somehow narrowed it down to two magazines.

This issue of   The Great Discontent

This issue of The Great Discontent

This issue of   Lunch Lady

This issue of Lunch Lady

After a talk about marketing and 'making friends' ... I made some friends on my lunch break.  Ran into a sketchy Vegas version of Mickey and Minnie.

After a talk about marketing and 'making friends' ... I made some friends on my lunch break.

Ran into a sketchy Vegas version of Mickey and Minnie.

One of my favourite things from the 2011 conference was Command X. It's a live design competition where after a tough application period, seven chosen designers under the age of 26 complete three projects in three days and after each one a couple are voted off by the audience after the judges critique the work. The last one standing (think Hunger Games) on Wednesday afternoon wins and gets a pretty decent prize.

As the host, Sean Adams, said, this ought to actually be a reality tv show. Maybe take The Bachelor nonsense off the air and have this instead. 

The first assignment for the seven designers was to create a logo/identity system for Gamblers Anonymous. Here's a few favourites:

Day one was almost done but first: opening reception party with an open bar, free appetizers (tacos), and a lot of meeting and talking to new people mostly.

Truthfully, a good handful of the people I talked to this night were because I needed to share a standing table with them so I could eat my food (priorities). Maybe the low number of standing-only tables is strategic for this reason. In any case, it worked, and I didn't hate networking for once.

Got that copy of  The Great Discontent  signed.  Stay discontent.

Got that copy of The Great Discontent signed.

Stay discontent.

Tuesday

After some deliberation with myself (and a few new friends I met at a standing table that morning while eating an unsatisfying half of a free bagel), I decided on the In-house symposium discussion. 

After an interesting talk about the rebrand of SFMoMA, Tracy Ma (creative director, Matter Studios) started talking about her work at Bloomberg Businessweek and started showing a bunch of examples.

I was definitely in the right place.

Bloomberg Businessweek is magazine design goals. She made some good points in how to make things more "fun" while still actually being designed well.

She talked the whole time about how her and her colleagues at Businessweek were really just friends having fun. They did dumb and silly things, made fun of each other, played games, had bantering ridiculous email chains, and just saw where things went from there. Their work became their play. Their play became their work.

Work together (writer, designer, artist, photographer, etc) to put layouts together. Stock photos are so 1999. Hire your own photographer. Make the shoots fun. Involve everyone if you can. Experiment. All of this will make making a magazine more creatively satisfying.

This. Forever.

This. Forever.

Also in the in-house symposium was a talk by J. Dontrese Brown (director, brand creative, Capital One) and he discussed how to find a purpose in your work as a designer. A bit cliche, but the part of this that stuck out to me most was this:

"Don't just get the brief, take it away to your desk, then present 1-3 options later on and be all 'Voila! Magic! Pick one!'" —J. Dontrese Brown

That's what most designers do. I've done it a lot. I hate it. This is how not to find purpose in your work. Bring clients in early and allow them to be involved. Make things that actually work better ... don't just make it look nice.

Mid-day snack. Packaging design on point. I am not ashamed that I buy food based on the design of the package.

Mid-day snack. Packaging design on point.
I am not ashamed that I buy food based on the design of the package.

I signed up for a roundtable (about ten people) discussion with Michael Bierut (a partner of Pentagram). Somebody asked about the Clinton logo and its process. I drew this logo that night in the hotel room because I remember him saying they wanted to make it really easy for anyone to draw…

Gemma O'Brien . Typographic art genius. This picture is a page from from the latest   The Great Discontent   and more or less sums up what she talked about at one of the general sessions on Tuesday afternoon.

Gemma O'Brien. Typographic art genius. This picture is a page from from the latest The Great Discontent and more or less sums up what she talked about at one of the general sessions on Tuesday afternoon.

"Technology is encouraging us to move away from the written word." —Gemma O'Brien

So, draw on more walls and maybe other things too ... like barf bags.

spewbagchallenge.tumblr.com

She also painted a live mural piece called Adaptation over the three days of the conference. 

Floral drink, floral carpet.

Floral drink, floral carpet.

"So many patronizing comments about young designers this #AIGAdesignconf. Let's give our future speakers, leaders, and follows more credit." —Ryan Fitzgibbon

I walked through the plethora of student portfolios and met a handful of very ambitious college aged adults. It wasn't that long ago that I was in their position so meeting and seeing the work of my peers was really fun and most of all, inspiring.

Fancy hot dog at  Haute Doggery  for dinner Tuesday night. This is Vegas.

Fancy hot dog at Haute Doggery for dinner Tuesday night. This is Vegas.

Washed that down with a ice cream cookie sandwich.

Washed that down with a ice cream cookie sandwich.

Wednesday

Craft symposium. 

I liked all the things.

It started with Matt Willey (art director, NYT magazine). "And you, sir, have my best attention. The British accent helps," I thought as soon as his talk began.

His ability to take up the majority of magazine page real estate with type that is almost illegible and get away with it is super. Someone asked him how this is possible and his answer was, "work with a good editor." To elaborate, he basically said the team knows what he can do and good communication is key. If there's something he wants to try, they'll let him do his thing.  (pictures from  @mrmattwilley  via Twitter)

His ability to take up the majority of magazine page real estate with type that is almost illegible and get away with it is super. Someone asked him how this is possible and his answer was, "work with a good editor." To elaborate, he basically said the team knows what he can do and good communication is key. If there's something he wants to try, they'll let him do his thing.

(pictures from @mrmattwilley via Twitter)

Then David Heasty walked us through restaurant branding for Sauvage in NY. The shapes came about from literally cutting up different colours of paper over a period of a few weeks around their office, arts and crafts style. These shapes ended up as the main brand staple to the very retro art deco interior feel of the restaurant.

I enjoy this brand. So much that I followed the restaurant on Instagram even though I don't live anywhere close to NY and will probably never eat there. 

People always forget that a logo and a brand are different things. People want a logo and that's all they care about but your logo is a very small part of your brand. Work to build a consistent brand, not a logo.

In the last general session before wrapping up the conference with the CommandX finale, Amos Kennedy Jr. talked. Apparently, people don't like change. 

"Change is like trying to get a W and an A in wood type close together." —Amos Kennedy Jr.

But change is good. Change is necessary. 

Overall a good few days of professional development and most of all rediscovering my talent, craft, and passion ... which is always nice. 

Conference done, back to the Linq.

Conference done, back to the Linq.

Wednesday evening stroll down the strip.

Wednesday evening stroll down the strip.

Just a little light reading from   The Great Discontent   poolside Thursday morning—not a bad way to end the conference.

Just a little light reading from The Great Discontent poolside Thursday morning—not a bad way to end the conference.

Malary Cloke