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This term, I am taking a marketing class and an identity/branding design course. Everything that we are taught in these classes is certainly important knowledge, but there is only so much that an author can put in a book. Hypothetical design scenarios are great, but there is that certain piece of reality missing. The AIGA/Gain conference in New York this year was great at filling in those gaps.
From the time we landed in LaGuardia, we were immensely surrounded with design. Design was everywhere. Yes, it was in Ada and on Facebook, but it was in New York like nowhere else.
During the first evening, we fought the rain and walked to the Museum of Arts and Design (identity designed by Michael Beirut of Pentagram). Here were contemporary art and design pieces, many which had been created for the world we live in today.
That evening back at the Hotel, I had decided to go down to the lounge to check my email. Grabbing the last available seat, I ended up sitting next to Brian Jones, one of 30 designers for KAO Brands in Cincinnati. After a couple hours of conversation about what makes good design, we exchanged business cards and he told me to let him know if I was interested in any future internships. Even before the conference started, I met a designer from one of the largest branding firms in the country!
Friday morning the conference began. Trying to express the excitement of the conference to anyone else is a tough task. Essentially it was speaker after speaker giving talks, which sounds rather dull. On the contrary though, the speakers were all great and inspirational. Matthew Duntemann and Anne Mullen were there to speak about the redesign of the Nickelodeon logo. This was especially interesting because we had just been talking about the redesign in our branding and identity class. To hear it straight from the horse's mouth was extremely informative. They had so much insight into what was considered in the redesign. It was very interesting to hear the struggle they had internally with not wanting to let go of the old splat motif in the design. This is yet another topic mentioned in our class, but to hear all the in-house details about the issues was interesting.
There was a speaker who did the entire identity of West Side Story on Broadway, which was very informative on how a designer needed to work and problem solve with a client to produce the final product. There was a designer that spoke about how she graduated with a degree in graphic design and was now making a living creating eating design environments. It was intriguing to see designers use their skill-sets and apply them to the real world. Not everyone graduates and is handed a lead design job at Pentagram. So to hear from website designers, eating designers and in–house designers from big firms was inspirational. If nothing else, I learned that design is not just a skill-set for layout on paper, but a frame of mind for creating.
In addition to all the speakers and slideshows, being in New York City was great in itself. We walked around Times Square and the advertisements were unbelievable. We checked out the M&M store, Swatch and Hershey’s to see the extremely well branded identities of the stores’ interiors. I had even backed into a gallery down town only to discover a Paula Scher original painting in the basement. This was very exciting because I had only seen these pieces during slide lectures.
Sunday night I was exhausted and did not want to do any school work whatsoever. But it got done when class arrived on Monday when I showed-up with a new spark of inspiration and readiness to design.
Junior graphic design major from Hudson, Ohio