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