DesignThinkers 2011 recap

For the last 2 days, I had the privilege of attending my first DesignThinkers conference in Toronto. I have never been surrounded by so much talent and creative energy, and the timing couldn't have been better as I embrace a full-time design career in 2012.

In the interest of the conference's theme - "Let's Connect" - I thought it important to try and share all of the information and inspiration I absorbed in the last 48 hours. Here's a brief summary of my favourite presenters:


George Lois, the "original Mad Man", whose work includes MTV, JiffyLube and multiple Esquire covers, et al.
  • "creativity can solve almost any problem"
  • "if you don't burn out at the end of the day, you're a bum"
  • "design is playing with yourself"
  • "intuition is more important than intellect"
  • it is our job as graphic communicators to "capture the zeitgeist of the times"
  • George's three commandments: 
  1. Reject group grope.
  2. Reject analysis paralysis.
  3. Reject con, create icon.

Robert Wong, Executive Creative Director at Google Labs, previously with Starbucks, Apple, et al.
  • happy wife = happy life
  • 5 positive interactions cancels every negative interaction - be positive!
  • surprise = (empathy + creativity) / expectations
  • "designers will rule the world"
  • "comp the future"
  • "obsess the why"
  • "whoever has the strongest WHY wins"
  • your goal should always be to: 1) help someone, 2) delight someone, 3) or both
  • Google is 90% science, 10% babytalk (literally)
  • on success: "show up and be useful…make a dent…add heart…walk the walk…don't take yourself too f*ing seriously"
  • "technology can empower people…the web is what you make of it"
  • "give awesome powers to others…make others heroes"
  • "mandate recess"
  • "exceed your own expectations"

Allan Haley, Director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging
  • "if you're not failing often, you're not trying hard enough"

Rei Inamoto, Creative Director at AKQA, clients include Nike (Write the Future)
  • "it's not the man that makes the medium, it's the medium that makes the man"
  • "advertising is the price you pay for having an unremarkable product" -Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
  • transform storytelling into storydoing
  • 5 tips for designing a culture of innovation:
  1. Do what wasn't possible 5 years ago.
  2. Solve the obvious in an unconventional way, or solve the unconventional in an obvious way.
  3. Specialization is the enemy of innovation.
  4. If you can't find a way, make one.
  5. Innovation needs a Hacker, a Hustler and a Hipster.
  • "the future belongs to those who create it"

Chip Kidd, Associate Art Director at Knopf/Random House
  • mantras are important; his current one: "B*tch, I don't know your life."
  • "…so I put some sh*tty typography on it (c'mon, it was the 90s)"
  • "figure out how to enjoy your process"
  • "try harder, try harder, try harder"
  • be careful what you wish for


Leland Maschmeyer, Creative Director and partner at Collins
  • "we have a culture obsessed with our own demise"
  • "when there is no vision, people perish"
  • "how can design unite people in devise times around a shared future?"
  • more technology is not necessarily better: the brightest light casts the darkest shadow, there are billions of big brothers surveilling each other
  • in the commons age,"access trumps ownership"
  • fill the world with fascination, with visions that compel us out of our limits
  • "fear doesn't tolerate indifference"
  • "although the world doesn't know what the world will look like - with [designers], they will"

Eric Ryan, founder of Method natural cleaning products
  • "progress is more important the perfection" (best is the enemy of good)
  • "if you can't be the biggest, be the fastest"
  • "the entire day should be a brainstorm"

Jessica Hische, letterer, illustrator, robot?
  • "don't think and execute on the same day"
  • "advocate for the specializers"
  • side projects ("passion projects") can be game changers
  • "make things you like and wish existed"
  • "technology can't (and shouldn't) replace everything"

Steve Edge, "madman, prophet, wanderer"
  • "passion looks after you"
  • "don't wait for that special day to put on your golden shoes"
  • "dress for a party everyday, and the party will come to you"

I hope these ideas inspire you as much as they inspired me. Have a great weekend!