The first AIGA Design Conference I attended was in 2005 in
Boston. I left that event feeling so fabulously overwhelmed, jacked
up on creativity and inspiration, that I knew I'd go to another one
someday. When I heard that the 2009 conference
would be in my old stomping grounds of Memphis (I grew up down the
road in Mississippi), it was a no-brainer, I had to go. But this
time I was going as my own company, rather than an employee, and
thus my “notes” were going to be for me. Here are some of the
quotable moments that made me think.
Make/Think day one sketch by Carolyn Sewell.
Right out of the gate, moderator Kurt Andersen stated that
“creativity can defeat habit,” and I was totally hooked. Then he
spewed out gobs of “Make/Think” info about Flickr and Twitter and
off we went. I'll say that having Twitter at this conference made a
huge difference... even if you couldn't get into the affinity
session of your choice, somebody else could and they'd tweet their
notes. You could be everywhere.
And there could be no better ambassador for the city of Memphis
than Al Bell. This guy loves his town. As he should. In one breath
he took us through a musical timeline, with his company Stax
Records playing a major role.
Make/Think day one, part two sketch by Carolyn Sewell.
Stefan Sagmeister was hands-down the superstar of the
conference, with a line of people following him everywhere. His
talk was short and sweet. And then he asked everyone to stand up
and sing along to Beethoven, with words he wrote condemning crap
clients and his own TED talks. Funny and self-deprecating. We would
have listened all night.
Then came Carin Goldberg, whose every other sentence was
quotable. It was tough to keep up. And right when you thought she
was done, she put on some disco music and started to dance, while a
mega-fast slide show of her life's work played out in the
Make/Think day two sketch by Carolyn Sewell.
“20/20” was made up of one-minute presentations by different
AIGA chapters. I can't remember most of them, but I know two dudes
said, “Make badass things,” and I thought, right on! So I scribbled
out everything else.
My first affinity session was Jim Sherraden's talk about Hatch
Show Print. If you are easily offended by dirty jokes, don't go see
him. He's adorable and knowledgeable, but downright naughty—in a
cute Southern way.
Make/Think day two, part two sketch by Carolyn Sewell.
Google's Marissa Mayer let us peek inside the quirkiness that is
Google and informed us all of an Easter egg, the international
setting of “Bork Bork Bork” that translates your searches into the
language of the Muppets' Swedish Chef.
And then Stefan Bucher walked out in the snazziest of snazzy
outfits… a three-piece suit with pink tie. Adorable. And speaking
of adorable, Bucher went through a zillion of his
fancy-shoe-wearing monsters, as well as informing us that “it's
always good to have a little Masonic action” in your designs. I'll
keep that in mind.
Make/Think day three sketch by Carolyn Sewell.
Admittedly, I, along with most everyone else, was moving a bit
slow on Saturday morning, due to all the parties on Beale Street
the evening before. And apparently Nick Law was feeling a bit rough
as well. But his charm and Australian accent helped us all perk
If you had asked me on Friday who Charles Harrison was, I would
have had no idea. But if you had asked me if I had a View-Master
toy as a kid? Hell yeah! Chuck has designed more than 700 products
(including the View-Master) in more than 32 years. Whoa. This dude
is the man.
One of the closing presenters was David Butler, the creative
chief behind Coca-Cola. Yes, he talked a bit about sodas and such,
but his proclamation, “We are the people we've been waiting for,”
was heard loud and clear. And tweeted umpteen zillion times.
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There are three general types or client/designer relationships: boss/worker, friends and partners. All three types have their place, but only one of them offers the potential for truly great design to emerge.
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