HOW Design Live: Day 1 Recap

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.