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AIGA: “Head, Heart, Hand” Conference Report

ImageLauren Hector, Junior, Graphic Design Major

The 2013 AIGA Head, Heart, Hand conference was truly an experience I will never forget. Not only did I have a ton of fun, but I was also really inspired and learned a lot of valuable information.

For starters, my first experience at the conference was the Young and Emerging Designers Symposium. This was one of my favorite features, and it wasn’t really part of the actual conference. Through a series of speakers, I learned a number of things. For instance, by denying yourself possibilities, you may discover other possibilities—ones you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

This was really insightful because sometimes I get frustrated with the restrictions on projects, whether they be from the project itself or because of our limited resources at Ohio Northern. This showed me that these limitations could be a good thing. They teach you to think outside the box, explore new ideas, and push yourself. These restrictions make you a better design thinker.

Another thing I learned is that you should take advantage of your mistakes. You never know when they could turn into something good or beneficial. You just need to pay attention and think creatively—don’t give up on things.

Also from this part of the conference, Maria Giudice taught me some things that I could use throughout the rest of the conference. She said to treat people equally. Whether they are a senior designer or a student, everyone has something to offer. Anyone could teach someone something. We are all equal. This comforted me and gave me the courage to go up and talk to many people at the conference. Putting everyone on the same playing field made everything a little less intimidating.

Maria also told us to focus on being present and to look people in the eyes—even though it is hard, do it anyway. I know this is something drilled into us in public speaking class or any communications class, but it was still just a nice reminder.

One final aspect I really took away from this symposium was a bit of information provided by Faythe Levine. She told us to take a lot of photos and document your work and work process. Make sure you start from the very beginning. This is something more of a personal preference, but I can see the value in starting this habit. I think I am going to try to do this more often.

After the Young and Emerging Designers Symposium, the actual conference started. During each major session, there were speakers that presented their work, knowledge, and insights. Some of my favorite speakers included Nicole Jacek, George Lois, Paulina Reyes, and Aaron Draplin.

Nicole Jacek was just brutally honest. She said things how they are and didn’t sugar coat them, which I really appreciated. She explained that a career in graphic design is hard work. You are not entitled to a career. You have to work for it. George Lois basically told us that you need to have a backbone, defend yourself, and do what you want. It is ok to do your own thing and not always do what people tell you. Be an individual. Paulina Reyes was interesting to me mostly because I really enjoyed her work and her personality. She was down to earth and very personable. Also, the firm she works for, Mother New York, seems like a really neat place to work. They are all about making their mothers proud, which I find to be a great incentive. Finally, Aaron Draplin was really inspiring. He told us to “do good work for good people, say yes a little more than you say no, and work hard and love this ‘stuff.’” Aaron explained that designing isn’t just about making money. It is about doing good for others. This was just really refreshing and inspiring.

Another part of the conference that I really enjoyed was my roundtable session with Michael Beirut. It was fun getting to meet a famous designer. What made this experience even more special was that he took the time to talk to me and answer all my questions. I told him how I often felt overwhelmed by everything. I see other people’s work and just wondered if I am up to par. He told me that this was totally normal and actually a wonderful thing. It makes me a better learner since I am so eager to know everything.

Mr. Beirut also told me that it was perfectly okay not to know everything. In fact, sometimes it was very refreshing when people just openly admit they don’t know something. It made everything so much easier and made getting work done more efficient because everyone gets on the same page. It was really comforting to hear this.

So often I feel as though I am expected to know everything, and when I don’t, I pretend I do anyway just so I don’t embarrass myself. The truth is, as Michael reveled, that it was wonderful to not know things and it shouldn’t be embarrassing at all. It shows that you are human and makes you more personable. I found this to be one of the most helpful hints I picked up at the whole conference. I am definitely going to remember this and start admitting when I do not know. Hopefully it helps me learn quicker and make life easier.

All in all, this was a really successful conference experience. Meeting all these creative people and being surrounded by a fun and creative atmosphere was a wonderful break from Ada, Ohio. I loved the conference so much it was really hard to leave. Nonetheless, it was a great experience and I am glad I had the opportunity to go. I so look forward to the next national AIGA design conference. I bet it will be just as good if not better than this one!