This past winter/spring season I made good on my New Year’s Resolution to get out and be more involved in the local design community once again. One cannot live and work in a vacuum, and Chicago has a great community: due to it’s large size, there are always events or show openings going on. By far the best event, or rather program, I have discovered so far is AIGA Chicago’s Mentorship program.
Event recaps and upcoming happenings
Whew! I can’t believe that this conference went by so quickly! If Saturday’s sessions were all about design strategy and thinking, then Sunday’s were about innovation and inspiration. Some quick thoughts:
Adobecadabra With Rufus Deuchler
This short, little, morning session just highlighted some simple tricks/tips for using any of the latest Creative Suite software. Most notable for me were the Content Aware features in Photoshop: can’t wait to play with those.
Where Ideas Come From and Where They Go
Presented by Stephen Doyle, this session focused on his own work and life observations: very inspiring. Some key thoughts of his that I loved:
- You can’t own ideas. Rather, ideas come from others and from mash-ups of our past experiences.
- A lack of logic in your approach can lead to something logical. (Making as a way of thinking)
- It’s important to convince your clients that your ideas are their ideas.
Power of the Package
Kevin McConkey of Grip Design is one big ball of energy: this was definitely one of the most dynamic sessions I attended. His presentation dealt with packaging trends, with a focus on how to gain more packaging clients. Some of my key take-aways from this one:
- At the intersection of necessity and design is opportunity: great time to be a packaging designer right now.
- Understand your product’s cost margins and the value packaging will add. Then tell a story.
- We can’t design in a vacuum: it takes teamwork to make the dream work.
Publishing to Digital Devices with InDesign CS5.5
Rufus Deuchler also presented this session on behalf of Adobe. The talk centered around producing eBooks on the .epub format and using Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite to create magazine apps for the iPad. I was mostly just amazed at how powerful InDesign is becoming. The only downside that I could see if you could call it that, was that these features seemed to be rather Flash-heavy. Unless I was mistaken?
The Un-Guide to Creativity and Brainstorming
This session with Disney’s Chris Chapman was perhaps my favorite of the entire day. Full of energy, Chris jam-packed the session with studies on how the brain works, how that relates to developing a creative culture, and brainstorming techniques for your creative team. Some key thoughts:
- Wrong answers are the basis of discovery.
- There is a time for brainstorming and a time to be logical: know when to use each.
- Rules [in an office] can create structure, but too many stifle creativity.
Developing Addictive Experiences for the iPad and Other Interactive Tablets
David Link’s session focused on outlining his team’s process for creating both magazine apps and other apps for tablets. It seems that most magazine apps are linear in nature, and as such are being created on InDesign right now. While most other apps are still developed using the established development process. Some notes:
- Print designers making the transition to designing apps need to know and understand how UI works.
- Keynote is surprisingly great for prototyping app functionality.
- There are not enough tablets in consumer hands to make it worth designing for more than one platform. Users with an iPad dwarf the competition.
Today’s schedule on the other hand was a short one: just two panel discussions and the closing keynote. The first panel discussion on fringe trends in the mass market was interesting, but lacked a conclusion. The second one, called Making Your Way in the Digital World, was a lively debate and packed full of good tips and insights into transitioning to interactive design. Finally, the keynote was an energizing talk on how to use your personality traits to influence others, further your career, and sell to/for your clients.
What an amazing weekend! And let me tell you, I can’t wait to do it again!
After months of waiting, the HOW Design Conference hit Chicago this weekend. I’ve been stoked: I’ve wanted to attend for years, and finally had the opportunity to do so now. Although not my first conference, it is my first one of this size, so I thought that I would share my thoughts at the end of each day before posting an over-all wrap-up at the end.
I missed last night’s keynote opener, but made it in time for the opening reception: a great opportunity to see who all was attending, run into some friends, and also check out the vendors. If I don’t happen to win an iPad from all of these vendor give-aways, I….well..I’ll keep using my laptop. 🙁 Today’s schedule, on the other hand, was packed:
Design + Marketing = Supercharge Your Results
Presented by Cynthia Price and Taylor Schena of Emma, this session focused on email marketing and the technical issues of designing for eblasts. Some key thoughts:
- Social media isn’t killing email marketing: it’s forcing it to adapt and evolve.
- When designing/coding for email, think mid-90’s coding: straight-up HTML using tables and in-line styling.
- Always test your design across platforms: Litmus and Email on Acid are good tools.
Creating the Martha Stewart Living Digital Magazine App for iPad
Presented by Gail Towey, this session was different than what I expected. The session description made it sound as though it would focus on designing for iPad/touch screens. In fact, it was more of a behind the scenes look into the brand history of Martha Stewart Living. Nevertheless, there were some good take-aways:
- When designing products for mass market, you must think about the in-store experience in addition to each object’s functionality/design.
- Think about tactile functionality within your app: how can the user interact with the content? Where can you surprise/delight with interactivity?
- Use your app and other media channels to cross-pollinate your content.
- Consider your app’s findability within the iTunes App Store during it’s creation.
Influence in Business Through Design Thinking
Presented by Matthew Loyd of Method, this session focused on the design method of approaching a problem to all aspects of running a business or dealing with a client. I loved this session because I am so interested in the strategy side of our business. A lot of good information, but my favorite bits:
- The way a designer thinks and approaches a problem is typically different from the rest of the business world: we can share these skills and help provide better insight.
- Defining your company’s brand position, will lay the foundations for carrying design thinking into the rest of the business.
- Begin each problem by listening: avoid designing by template as each problem is a chance to learn and bring something new to the table.
Top Secret Adobe Technology Preview
Can I just say how stoked I am for Adobe’s new Muse to come out? I’m curious to see how coders weigh in on a program that is essentially InDesign for the web, but it looks like a great, powerful, new tool. The only downside, as far as I can see, is it’s subscription payment schedule. I’d much rather pay all at once as you do for the rest of the Creative Suite.
Using the Brand Value Pyramid
Although dense with technical information, this session led by Shannon Carter of Cartis Group was highly interesting. The way he approaches a branding problem seems highly logical and effective. Key points:
- Trust between brands and their consumers is developed over time through mutually satisfying interactions.
- A brand isn’t what we say it is: it is what the consumer says it is.
- Brand strategists make sure internal and external perceptions align.
Critiques: Powerful tool or Power Trip?
This session led by Jaime Pescia and Tip Quilter was by far the most interactive session of the day. It also seemed to be the most controversial if other audience members’ reactions are to go by. The two outlined steps that will remove any egos from the critique room and allow ideas and collaboration to flourish. Seemed pretty common sense in my book:
- Trust between team leaders and co-workers drives collaboration and creativity.
- Being a leader means being genuine and also guiding the critique to stay in line with the creative brief.
- Open-ended questions using who/what/when/where open up the dialog and help remove any ego on behalf of the leader.
- Goal is to get everyone to voice their thought-process and guide them towards a better design that is in-tune with the brief.
December 26th marked the launch of Thermos’ partnership with Threadless: finally! I have been dying to share news of this product line since we began developing it this past summer. Preparing for the after-Christmas debut kept us extremely busy right up until the holiday break, so you can imagine how great it feels to finally see them out in store. The products, which are exclusive to Target, include bottles and lunchboxes…with more to come later this year. Get excited.
To introduce the line, this video was produced.
We were also lucky enough to have one of the artists fly in from London to share his design philosophy and process.
Whew! What a winter! I have a ton of news to share and am just now getting back into the swing of things after the holiday rush. Let me start today’s edition of Wednesday’s Weekly Reader with a bit of backstory.
My good friend, Jen, and I had the great idea to host our own designer/illustrator-friendly version of NaNoWriMo this past November. (More on that later…) Rather than spending time writing every day, we decided we would spend at least 15 minutes working on a personal project every day. No rules, no pressure. To hold ourselves to it, we sent each other photos to recap our week each Sunday night.
Fast forward to the beginning of December, and lo! the birth of Jen’s latest endeavor: Seg’s Mints. The stationary line is illustrated by Jen and each piece is unique. She’s also hoping to expand her offering this coming year. In the meantime, be sure to check out her etsy shop!
Continuing the theme of long-overdue recaps, (and certainly not the least of them) is today’s review of the inaugural Two Night Stand event. At the end of September, Bright Bright Great and friends hosted 20 designers for a weekend charette. Honestly, I have been meaning to post this event recap ever since, but that weekend ended up kicking off a busy month and a half for me. I’d say it’s a testament to just how inspiring of an event it was that I ended up putting blogging on hold to instead work on numerous side projects. (more on this to come later…)
The premise to 2NS is pretty similar to Camp Firebelly: throw a handful of designers together in order to tackle a common project under limited time constraints. However, with 2NS the designers were mostly professionals, and the client this time was a start-up brewery. Circumventing any objections to spec work, no files were released to the clients: rather, the clients were free to contact any of the teams should they decide to pursue their design/strategy.
As someone who is still new to Chicago, I loved the opportunity to meet and work with so many wonderfully talented people for a weekend. There is something so energizing about working under these kinds of constraints that force you to look at a problem from an entirely new direction. In addition, it was great working for a small brewery who is as passionate about beer as I am. (Think “connoisseur” when you read that last statement…not “alcoholic”!) In the end, each of the three teams came up with vastly different approaches to Trenchermann’s branding and initial grassroots marketing strategy. It’s amazing what options are available to start-ups operating on a shoe-string production budget. Below are some of the branding materials we (Team Horseplay) came up with over the two days:
Logo was created to invoke a bottle cap silhouette. The brand name is capped by an abbreviated wordmark with a slightly industrial flair.
Bottling and labeling system was designed to be inexpensive, multipurpose, and reusable, as well as easily applied by hand to small batches.
If I have one criticism of the event, it is that I would have liked to work with more of the people there. Although it wasn’t really possible with the direction the group went with, I would have liked mixing it up even further. However, I suppose that isn’t really a criticism so much as wishful thinking. If you are in Chicago or the surrounding area, I highly recommend applying for the second 2NS event that will take place after the first of the year.
One of the best things about Twitter, is the opportunity to meet such fabulous people…that, and I seem to get more industry news through my Twitter feed than through any other outlet lately. So of course, I was excited to hear that Victoria Pater & friends officially launched their all-girl design collective, Quite Strong. Not only that, but it was great to see all of the positive reaction from the Chicago design community as well.
On September 17, the ladies celebrated in style at Edge: complete with taco bar, temporary tattoos, and shaving cream…not to mention, all of the great donations raised for Ag47. Good food, good fun, and good people: it was nice to meet so many people after following them online. Cheers!
The changing seasons always get me in a crafty mood. Luckily, I can now go to Renegade Craft Fair each year: Chicago’s event is perfect timing for some fall inspiration. This year, witty sayings, type-nerd tees, and sewing projects all really caught my eye:
July 15th found me once again in The Post Family’s Family Room for another show opening. This time, the show was Cantankerous Hellfighter, a collaboration between gig poster giants Delicious Design League and Aesthetic Apparatus. As you probably already know, I’m a huge DDL fan. Jason and Billy are really great people in addition to great designers, and it was nice to meet the faces behind Aesthetic Apparatus too.
As for the work itself, it was hard to see where one studio left off and the other picked up. Jason mentioned that each poster was passed back and forth with the printing split between the two studios. The result? A wonderful blend of both studios and some really awesome work.
The paper toys were fun, but I would have hated to cut up the posters myself…guess that’s when you buy two?
Those gold posters on the back wall were my personal favorites: the photo doesn’t really do the metallic ink justice.
All in all, it was a great night.