Design Thinkers 2014, Day 2

1) Richard Turley
Senior VP of Storytelling, MTV (previously: Bloomberg Businessweek)
"Let's Talk About Me"
  • "Typography can change the world!"
  • on bad clients: "the worse I made it, the more they liked it…"
  • while at Bloomberg Businessweek:
    • Helvetica – hating it and loving it at the same time
    • using – and breaking – the grid
    • constant state of reinvention – question everything
    • balance of serious and funny – can use this to manipulate readers and make them think differently

2) Steve Vranakis
Executive Creative Director, Creative Lab, Google
"Making Technology Matter, and Using Technology to Drive Creativity
  • "must be brave & kind" - listed in a Google Creative Labs job posting
  • make design matter
  • coding = a creative discipline
  • developers = artists
  • code / poetry = right words in the right order
  • break the conventions / structures
  • *importance of PLAY
  • on DevArt:
    • a global art show – all work created completely with code
    • inspiring the next generation of artists
  • DevArt participants:
    • Karsten Schmidt – outcome more important that authorship
    • Varvara + Mar – code is the soul of machines

3) Annette Diefenthaler, Ellen Lupton & Lawrence Zeegen
The Future of Design Education

Q1 What is the most important trait(s) for students leaving college / entering the workforce?
  • AD
    • one core skill more important than multiple - single skill permeates through portfolio
    • don't pretend you can do everything
  • LZ
    • not skill sets, but mindsets
    • must be able to embrace new thinking – looking for innovators who will push the industry forward
  • EL
    • don't duplicate / copy others
    • "nobody's going to be everything"
Q2 What is most important: critical thinking or technical skills?
  • EL
    • there should be no division – skill set and mindset should be integrated
  • AD
    • students must be adaptable and be able to teach themselves, or know how to acquire the skills they need
  • LZ
    • importance of learning both high tech and low tech (analog techniques), as well as learn from each other
Q3 How do you teach less-skilled students (the 90% "non-stars")?
  • LZ
    • educators are responsible for teaching the entire gamut of students, from all skill levels and backgrounds
    • strive for better, not best
  • AD
    • must question metrics – not just about graphic design "hard skills"
    • things to consider:
      • how is the student inspiring / challenging the discipline / industry?
      • how the student having an impact on his / her community?
      • how is the student able to communicate / inspire / teach others?
    • ultimately, educators must embrace diversity of skills and help break down barriers
Q4 Should software / technical skills be the core of design programs?
  • EL
    • critical thinking is more important that software knowledge
    • "teach spelling AND poetry in tandem" - always with an element of FUN
Q5 How important is coding fluency in a world where students are expected to be multi-disciplinary?
  • AD
  • students must have "digital fluency":
    • able to use but not necessarily produce
    • ability to tell stories with existing apps, platforms, tools of visual distribution
Q6 How do you teach students to be "resourceful"?
  • EL
    • make students work within constraints, units, specific parameters – teaches problem solving
    • resilience creates systems that can change
    • design is the most basic form of literacy for both designers and non-designers
    • empower students to do good - either at industry/agency level, or within their community
  • AD
    • time = money; make students execute projects in time constraints
    • find ways to "get to amazing" within 24 hours
    • ("or at least pretty amazing" - EL)
Q7 What are your thoughts on design departments who are changing the course descriptions from "Graphic Design" to "Communication Design"?
  • EL
    • "I will go to my grave as a graphic designer!"
    • "graphic design" connotes discipline, long standing traditions
    • "communication design" connotes business, marketing, PR (yuck)
  • LZ
    • "graphic design" doesn't adequately describe the tasks any more
Q8 What are the constraints of a 3-year design degree? What would you add/change?
  • LZ
    • too insular
    • gap between real money / real time
    • need to connect graphic design with everything else
  • EL
    • too much focus on self, homework, etc.
    • add communal spaces to create a studio experience, encourage peer-to-peer learning, which is invaluable
    • also, make all classes electives…
  • AD
    • most classroom spaces are terrible – feel too "school-like"
    • learning / working environments affect how we think, act, and the quality of our work

4) Ellen Lupton
Curator, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum + Director of Design MFA Program, MICA
"This is your Brain on Typography"

  • narrative storytelling plays a key part in experience design, product design & graphic design
  • story = "whole action of a certain magnitude" - Aristotle
  • narrative is satisfying
  • Vonnegat's story diagram of ecstasy & misery
  • design adds stories to life
  • effective, satisfying uses of narrative in humour:
    • misdirection / deception
    • rule of three
    • delayed answer
  • we crave conflict and the humour that and resolves it – catharsis + cathexis

5) Charles Adler
Co-founder, Kickstarter
"Stories from Vast Fields of Creative Independence"
  • 90s – art had been industrialized, industry was handcuffed by the mainstream
  • early 2000s – new power of the internet: to subvert industry
  • *rules were meant to be broken
  • rules are often temporary
  • it's okay to question everything
  • don't be afraid to ask WHY

6) Erik Spiekermann
Creative Director, Edenspiekermann
"Keeping the A**hole Factor Down
  • "I make sh*t"
  • poster: "Move fast and get sh*t done."
  • life's too short for kerning
  • get rid of redundancy!
  • on Helvetica: "nothing wrong with it, but nothing right with it either"
  • formula for how many books one needs: n+1
  • don't work WITH a**holes; don't work FOR a**holes
  • important to have an agile design process – be flexible

7) Jessica Walsh
Partner, Sagmeister & Walsh
"Creative Play"
  • "player" = a person who plays
  • work should be PLAY
  • contrary to the thought that play is wasteful, it actually:
    • prepares us
    • allows us to practice our skills
    • allows us to fail with fewer consequences
  • play shapes the brain
  • play is a state of mind
  • play deficit can be as detrimental as sleep deficit
  • play's "flow state" is the ideal state to innovate
  • Rules for play:
    • you must have confidence to FAIL
    • you must have dedicated, uninterrupted TIME
  • [quote from poster: "Not everything will be okay, but some things will."
  • play by your own rules
  • constraints are good for play
  • fight for what you believe in
  • *Sagmeister & Walsh only present one solution to clients - take it or leave it
  • *get off the computer and MAKE SH*T
  • do works that feeds your soul, not your ego
  • *acknowledge when work becomes a burden
  • "In the particular lies the universal." -James Joyce
  • re: pleasing everyone "if no one hates it, no one really likes it"
  • pay attention to what you like to do when no one is paying you
  • when in doubt, RISK IT
  • make less pretty crap, make more stuff with heart.

Day 1 here.

A huge thank you to Janine at Uppercase Magazine for this amazing opportunity, and to Design Thinkers for offering the press pass to this event. Thanks!