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AIGA: “Head, Heart, Hand” Conference Report

Nicole Bregar, Junior Graphic Design Major

This October, a group of AIGA students from the Ohio Northern chapter traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the Head, Heart, and Hand 2013 National Design Conference. I had the opportunity to be in this group and experience the National Conference first hand. While at the conference, I got a chance to listen to many inspirational figures in the career of graphic design as well as talk to them. I entered into a portfolio review where I received critiques from major graphic designers, professors and students. Following that, I also got the chance to network with potential employers and fellow peers all around the United States. Here are just a few highlights, some inspirational words, my favorite speaker and the portfolio review.

Starting the conference, the Ohio Northern chapter sat in on the Emerging Designers Symposium where four speakers embodying the idea of head, heart and hand gave inspiring speeches to designers. At this opening gathering, I heard my first set of inspirational words to live by in my career as a graphic designer. From the mouth of Scott Stowell, he said, “Denying possibilities opens to other possibilities.” This statement really resonated with me because it made me question the idea that not all ideas or processes are set in stone. As a designer, I know trends, styles and ideas are constantly changing. So when he said those words, I thought perhaps if I deny a trend of style (in the right circumstances), it would lead to another possibility.

Another statement that really stuck with me was one from Micheal Bierut.  He said, “Work on your work and create the best work; be enthusiastic! Look for all different places to work and have a broad taste in design. Hard work and dedication will get you to where you want to be as well as using all your connections.” When I heard these powerful words, I realized he was in the same place that I am now. It made me feel that if I pour my heart and passion into my work, I will be successful someday.

Not only did I receive great advice from different designers but I also sat through a speech of one of the most inspirational speakers of the conference. This designer’s name was Nicole Jacek. This German designer was blunt and in your face but provided powerful insight. She spoke of her struggles to become a designer—how she worked two jobs in order to pay for her schooling in New York—and how she had to sell her a saxophone to pay to print her portfolio. After she got the job working for VITRA, she had this dangerous idea to create a catalog of her firms work and send it to big companies in an attempt to get jobs. With some follow-ups, VITRA ended up landing elite jobs in return. One of the jobs she worked on was a catalog design for the Mini BMW. She test drove the mini from Munich to Istanbul, collecting video, photos and personal experience of the brand in order to design it. After the trip, she flew out from Istanbul and returned to America. Back in New York, she received a call from BMW saying that she never returned the car to Munich. So, she was being charged with theft. Instead of paying the fine or flying back and returning the car to Munich, she offered to make a website for free. BMW took that offer and VITRA created a website for BMW for the Mini.  This story just amazed me because I thought you have to be some kind of crazy person to get around a legal charge like that. After this story, she said “an idea that is not dangerous is not worth it.” To me, this meant that as a designer, if you are afraid to take a chance then you will never actually reach your full potential. It inspired me to take chances with my design, to take my more risk or a more difficult idea, and try it.

Nicole Jacek also made a statement that I will never forget. She said, “it’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.” No matter what major, task or job a person is doing, I believe that we should live by this. I know that I am not the best designer because I am still learning. But, I strive to be better every day. I have a yearning to learn and an excitement to see other works that can motivate me to be a better designer.

Not only did I hear quotes and stories that I can live by for the rest of my life, but I also gained an experience that changed the perspective on my own design career. Along with all these speeches, I had the opportunity to take part in the Emerging Designer Portfolio Review. Here I was given feedback from students, professors and famous designers on my junior portfolio. I got the chance to see other peers’ designs. It gave me a piece of mind to see that they were all around the same level as I was. A moment that I couldn’t believe happened was when Bobby C. Martin Jr. stopped and reviewed my portfolio. Bobby works at a firm in New York called OCD. To put in perspective how big this designer really is, he and his co-partner Jennifer Kinon redesigned Saul Bass’s Girl Scout logo. He stopped to ask me if I purposely matched my outfit to my portfolio. From there he gave me great advice and asked me challenging questions about my career aspirations.

In the end, the Head, Heart and Hand Design Conference turned out to be one of the greatest learning experiences I have had yet. Being around people who were just as passionate about design made my experience all the more memorable. They provided words of wisdom that I can lead my design life by as well as tips and tricks to becoming a better designer. Hearing from designers who have put in hard work and have had successful careers is another unforgettable memory I have. Nicole Jacek taught me many things during her short speech that I will never forget. Finally, getting the chance to get my portfolio judged changed my perspective and confidence of my own work. At the end of the week, I had a wonderful, fun time that was packed with information and inspiration.