Design Thinkers 2013, Day 1

I had the privilege of attending this year's Design Thinkers conference in Toronto as UPPERCASE magazine's correspondent. Over the two-day event, I was able to participate in 14 (!) events & lectures by designers and creatives from around the world. It truly was a remarkable experience, and I am excited to share some inspiration from some of my favourite presenters.


1) Christopher Chapman
Global Creativity & Innovation Director at Disney at The Walt Disney Company
"Innovation & Creativity: Purpose, Passion and PENGUINS"
  • Chapman started as an illustrator - followed a little voice that said "you can do better"
  • "design can change things..."
  • "don't settle!"
  • Chapman interested in the effect of passion + purpose
    • definition of purpose: the reason for which something exists
    • example of purpose: male emperor penguins - spend 115 (!) days protecting an egg to bring life about
  • Chapman's inspirations
    • Walt Disney ("Uncle Walt") + his Imagineers
      • interested in innovation
      • EPCOT centre was originally an experimental, sustainable, multi-layer city
    • Eyvind Earle
      • America illustrator 
      • responsible for the styling, background, and colours of Disney's 1959 Sleeping Beauty 
      • painted every day since the age of 12
  • ultimately, when we help others, we feel better
  • depression, anxiety & stress = a high degree of focus on the SELF
  • compassion/kindness pushes negative emotions away
  • adding the human element changes our perspective
  • extrinsic motivation (ie. carrot on the stick, cash bonuses, etc.) DESTROYS creativity
  • purpose-driven work DRIVES creativity
  • referred to Sagmeister
    • strive to turn your job (9-5 burden, "elephant in chains") into a purpose where it no longer feels like work
    • "break the chains"
  • PIXAR employees are kicked out of the office each day because they LOVE their work
  • Chapman on clients 
    • future conferences need to involve designers + clients - education
    • stop talking at each other
    • bring clients with you on the journey
    • walk in their shoes
    • connect on an emotional level
    • dial up the empathy
  • important to communicate with clients using logic, articulation
  • elevate your title - "graphic designer"
  • body gets dopamine from food, sex, and successful collaborations
  • Chapman's final thoughts:
    • find your purpose
    • follow your passion
    • figure out what it is and chase it
    • find your "egg", protect it, and let it give birth
    • the future is ours - change it
    • no civilization has ever survived comfort
    • necessity breeds innovation
    • innovation -> fulfillment

2) Dmitri Siegel
Vice President of E-commerce & Executive Creative Director at Patagonia 
"Dirtbag Design: Building Patagonia's Brand Experience"
  • Siegel spoke of Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia's founder, and his "fun hog" philosophy (#funhogging)
    • Chouinard was interested innovation & sustainability (before it was cool)
    • developed organic cotton in the 1980s - invested in farms
    • one of the first to recycle polyester
  • Patagonia's new brand reflects Chouinard's values
    • back-to-basics, back to core ideas
    • crowd-sourced catalogues - unfiltered, unedited
    • interested in the "real-time world we're living it"
    • strive to be the "most transparent business in the world" - website shows production factories
  • Black Friday / NYTimes campaign - "Don't buy this jacket."
    • encouraged people to think twice about buying a new jacket, shopping on Black Friday
  • "Worn Wear" campaign - "the stories we wear"
    • focus on used clothes, and the stories of customers
    • old clothes are "better than new"

3) Lara McCormick
School of Visual Arts (NYC), Cooper Type, author of Playing with Type (Rockport, 2013)
Modifying Type workshop

A few great reminders from McCormick:
  • letters have lots to learn from calligraphy
  • revival typefaces can be created using any source material earlier than 1927
  • with type/work/life, always push it up a notch
  • Malcolm Gladwell Outliers + the "10,000-Hour Rule" - the key to success in any field is a matter of practicing a specific task for 10,000 hours
  • practice, practice, practice
My lettering sketches from the modifying type exercise:

And a more refined version:

4) Monotype Imaging 
Allan Haley's "Type Quiz"!

5) Darhil Crooks
Creative Director at The Atlantic
"Print in the Digital Age"
  • The Atlantic "of no party or clique"
    • -published in Boston since 1857
    • -history of big ideas, cultural criticism
    • -current affairs, not news
  • always makes things look as good as possible
  • surround yourself with smart, creative people
  • "Print is not dying. It's in rehab."
    • print will reinvent itself, but will prevail because of the appeal to human senses (see, touch, smell) - the human connection prevails

6) Alex Trochut
Illustrator, designer and typographer (Barcelona / Brooklyn)
"More is More"
  • Trochut on originality:
    • don't be afraid to copy - everyone's doing it
    • we are all "listening and imitating the sounds of others"
Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to.” -Jim Jarmusch, The Golden Rules of Filming
  • Trochut on designing:
    • treat letters as abstract shapes; type = illustration
    • don't be afraid to throw away your best idea
    • as creatives, our process has gone from intensive (limited, focussed) to extensive (abundance, overload) - more to REMIX
    • must be able to access mental database quickly, effectively
  • Trochut on digital vs. analog:
    • digital tools give us unprecedented control; analog tool make beautiful, unexpected accidents
    • precision vs. randomness
    • find the balance
  • Trochut's final thoughts:
    • the easy is comfortable, but ends up being BORING

7) Nicholas Felton
Co-founder of
"Collect + Code: Feltron Reporting"
  • interested in data visualization and tracking personal events and experiences - quantified expressions
  • has been creating personal "annual reports" since 2005
  • Felton on collecting data
    • "Archaeological" approach - collect pieces, remnants
      • -challenges: often incomplete data set, hard to extend, extrapolate
    • Hoarding approach - keep everything
      • -challenges: expensive, addictive, limited
    • Sampling approach - gather data through random samples of self & others
      • -created Reporter app to gather data from self; gave friends slips to input data about him online
      • -best technique - value in incompleteness
  • new element of communication emerging - text, image, ____
  • *reduced choice / limitations / parameters often increases expression and makes us more decisive, productive

Day 2 coming tomorrow!

Thanks again to Janine at UPPERCASE for this amazing opportunity. You can also check out the companion blog post over on the UPPERCASE blog.

All photos property of Christopher Rouleau - please request permission to repost. Thanks!