Fascinating creative perspectives from the DesignThinkers 2017 Conference

Natalia Lumby.
Natalia Lumby.
Diana Varma.
Diana Varma.

Here, Graphic Arts Magazine columnists Diana Varma and Natalia Lumby report live from the annual DesignThinkers 2017 Conference held November 7 and 8 in Toronto.

Dozens of influential design minds from around the globe inspired hundreds of attendees this year. Now in it’s 18th year, the Association of Registered Graphic Designers’ (RGD) DesignThinkers Conference is the annual hub for creative innovation in Canada. The theme of this year’s conference was Perspectives: Altering your perspective can add dimension to your work and depth to your craft. It can help you see the world from a different point of view. Below are some highlights from speakers who challenged all of us who attended this event to alter our perspectives.

Timothy Goodman.
Timothy Goodman.
Design Thinkers Panel Discussion.

Timothy Goodman: You Gotta Make a Lot of Stuff Before You Can Make Stuff Like Yourself. Timothy Goodman is an eccentric design mind who has many accolades to his name, including working as a graphic designer for companies like Apple, running his own studio in New York City, as well as authoring two books (40 Days of Dating and Sharpie Art Workshop). Goodman creates a lot of stuff. Period. He showed conference attendees his work, much of which was created for himself and not for clients. A number of years ago he sent his portfolio of work to his dream clients (most major magazines in the country) to show off his skills and creativity, which helped him land his dream opportunities (with most major magazines in the country!). He continues to work on side projects and complete work he finds interesting – including giving a voice to marginalized groups and causes important to the betterment of society. A key takeaway from Goodman’s keynote address was that graphic design and the ability to create/produce/make something expressive is the foundation for change. “Making lots of stuff” helps you find your voice as a graphic designer, which then enables you to give a voice to causes larger than yourself.

Susan Weinschenk.
Susan Weinschenk.

Susan Weinschenk: Mindfulness and Micro-Moments. With her PhD in Psychology, Weinschenk often explores the intersection of humans and technology, specifically as it relates to design. In her talk, she argued that one of the fundamental ways to be successful in graphic and user interface design is to understand the “micro-moments.” The micro-moments include small blocks of time in which a decision has to be made or a piece of technology is used. The way to help maximize and succeed in the micro-moments is to design from the perspective of the user. What is the one thing they’re trying to do in that given moment? What does the design and interface need to accomplish to make that micro-moment work seamlessly? Once you have the answer, be courageous and strip out all the unnecessary elements of the design in order for that micro-moment to succeed.

Mike Rigby
Mike Rigby

Mike Rigby: What will we do with this opportunity for design? Much like Timothy Goodman, Mike Rigby inspired us to really consider the power that design has to create change. Rigby believes that design is a transformational force – one that can drive business, change lives, and ultimately make the world a better, more connected place. He entered the stage exceptionally optimistic about design and being a designer. He expressed that design is not only a job, but really a way of being and thinking. Flashing the image of a glass, he explained that optimists think the glass is half full, pessimist half empty, but designers simply see the wrong-size glass! His talk explored the power of brand when it emerges from the internal corporate culture. When tasked with re-branding some really disliked brands, he worked on connecting to the people in the companies to create solutions that were not only authentic, but more representative of the business. He shared some exceptionally inspired work done at R/GA, including the Love Has No Labels campaign (be forewarned, it is a tearjerker) and a Cindy Gallop bot that helps women ask for a raise to improve the gender salary gap. Rigby closed by emphasizing that designers are needed – they hold a unique set of skills to improve the world and connect people.

Sarah Hyndman.
Sarah Hyndman.

Sarah Hyndman: Type Testing. Sarah Hyndman is a graphic designer, author and speaker. Her entrepreneurial spirit really stood out during her talk. She ran a successful studio practice for 10 years, only to realize that her growth and success had moved her further away from what she loved most, which was executing the actual designs. She took a sabbatical and began reconnecting with what excites her. This has resulted in a whole new business that does anything – from research to events with the goal of finding out what impact font selection has on people. Hyndman had the audience select a typeface for a theoretical name tag at the beginning of the talk, and closed the session with a reveal of the personalities of the selected typefaces – with a majority agreeing that there was a match! Like personality test, but for your typeface. This may seem trivial, but it has serious design implications, from making people feel that a product deserves a higher price, down to helping consumers make the right choices for their health. For more information about the topic, you can check our her book Why Fonts Matter.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.