Make/Think Sketchbook

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.

Thursday, October 8: Day 1


Make/Think day one sketch by Carolyn Sewell

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

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 background.

Friday, October 9: Day 2


Make/Think day two sketch by Carolyn Sewell

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

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.

Saturday, October 10: Day 3


Make/Think day three sketch by Carolyn Sewell

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 up.

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.