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AIGA: “Head, Heart, Hand” Conference Report

Kaitlin Bondra, Senior Graphic Design Major

The first session I attended at the conference was by Collen Corcoran. She was the lead designer for CicLAvia, an event that created a temporary park by removing cars from Los Angeles city streets. Ms. Corcoran faced an uphill battled but she was determined to close down LA streets in order to bring families outside of their homes and give people a break from the stress of car traffic. CicLAvia created a network of connections between neighborhoods, businesses, and parks with corridors filled with fun. Ms. Corcoran, a community activist designer, was a true inspiration. Her perseverance made her one of the many professional designers and session speakers I learned valuable information from.

For me the National Design Conference was inspiring and nerve racking. I was surrounded by hundreds of professional designers who were at my disposable and it was all up to me to introduce myself. At first I was shy, which, if you know me at all, I am not a shy person. While listening to Maria Giudice, Facebook Product Designer, she made everyone stand up and give a stranger a hug. This settled all of my fears. Ms. Giudice taught me that everyone at conference was equal and had something to offer others. This made me think of professional designers and famous designers as individuals who love free paper samples, pantone colors and debating the pros and cons of the new Adobe Creative Cloud as much as I do. I no longer looked at them as superior. I was a DEO, Design Eccentric Officer, the same as most of the other conference attendees.

The Conference focused on the holistic design process—head, heart, and hand. Each conference session speaker focused on different aspects of design. The first session, Emerging Designers Symposium, Scott Stowell spoke about his designs for Patagonia and how he designed for the responsible economy. He explained, “Design is an active verb. As designers, we often have trouble describing what we do. Depending on whom you ask, these are some of the responses that come to mind: strategic thinker, problem solver, maker of stuff, intuitive thinker, playmaker on the computer and constructor of ideas.” He elaborated on the importance of paying attention and how designers cannot see the future but we can make the changes. Another speaker, Fayth Lavine, taught me restrictions were good and if you cannot come up with new ideas, slow down. This was important for me to understand because in school, I am always at a constant high-speed to get everything done.

Be your authentic you, was the theme for Sean Brennan’s session on designing for Generation Y. His speech was insightful because he helped me realize the behavior and habits of my generation. He spoke about a specific design mentality and how we need to design to meet those needs. Mr. Brennan said, “The question of Generation Y is who am I? This was because we have a paradox of choice and defined success for ourselves. Generation Y is not a demographic, it is a mindset and everyone in other generations are adopting our behaviors. Bertuccis, an east coast restaurant, was rebranded by Brennan and became 2 Ovens. Mr. Brennan showed us his step-by-step design process and how he created an environment directly correlating to Generation Y by making the experience of dining a friendly opportunity—valuing experience over stuff. It was interesting to see the entire design process—from observational research to the final stage of interaction in the environment—in order to understand design in a real-world setting.

Allan Peters, the senior creative director at Target, explained his design process and the concepts behind the famous target holiday ads. He ensured me everyone fails and failure was about the ideas developed along the way. Eric Baker gave insightful information on how everything changes the world around us and we needed to be interested in what hasn’t been seen. He kept saying, “The color of truth is gray.”

Leylas Acaroglu gave us information on the harsh truth of sustainability. “We should not use the word sustainability, it scares,” she said. Ms. Acaroglu spoke about how we just think about waste and ignore anything else—which in turn creates a worse problem. This directly related to the transition design session and how designers will lead a societal transition towards a more sustainable future. These speakers provided valuable information for my senior capstone that I am currently working on.

Participating in the emerging designer portfolio review was the most important aspect of conference. I learned and developed the confidence I needed to present my portfolio in interviews. I was able to receive feedback from countless professional designers who had constructive criticism and inspiring comments about my work. By the end of the review, I did not want the night to end. I was excited and enjoyed sharing my work and receiving feedback from professional designers.

Also, having a round-table with Michael Bierut allowed me to understand the importance behind a design portfolio. He said, “Everyone’s work is good. I always ask if the project implied or taught them additional information about a different subject outside of design.” I really enjoyed meeting a famous designer and getting to speak with him one-on-one, and of course, sneak a picture with him as well.

Finally, I was able to meet and hear from my favorite designers. Bobby Martin and Jennifer Kinon, Original Champions of Design, explained how they gave a new approach to Saul Bass’s Girl Scout logo. They taught me about meaning from what a design represents. As a designer, we need to awaken, distribute, investigate, and observe. Mr. Martin spoke about, strategy being design and design being strategy.

I thoroughly enjoyed the creative atmosphere and conference experience. As a senior design student, the conference was incredibly valuable and inspiring for my future. The knowledge helped my current studies and played a role in my capstone. I am so thankful I was able to be apart of the conference and see the design scene in Minneapolis.