HOW Design 2012 in review: Part two

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This is a continuation of HOW Design 2012 in review: Part one.

HOW Design Conference 2012 I am attending the HOW Design Conference 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. Below are my notes from the sessions I attended on Saturday.

9:00 am-10:15 am – 2. Under the Covers With Chip KiddChip Kidd
Chip Kidd is well known for his book covers for Alfred A. Knopf—they’ve been called “monstrously ugly” (John Updike), “apparently obvious” (William Boyd), “surprisingly elegant” (A. S. Mehta) and “two colors plus a sash” (Martin Amis). Ever wonder how he does it? This is your chance to find out. Join Chip Kidd as he discusses his designs and takes you under the covers to reveal the hows and whys behind the work that helped spawn a revolution in the world of American book packaging. In this spirited, brisk, and well-reasoned presentation, Mr. Kidd focuses on the many different ways we all spend our days and nights in an endless and ultimately futile effort to just keep breathing, stave off the crying jags, and trying to draw pictures of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, before she gained all that weight and became a walking advertisement for what will happen to you if you don’t lay off the Cabernet Sauvignon once in a while. Top 3 take-aways of this session: A squirrel; A wad of moist tissue; A silver thimble of an orphan’s tears.

  • Session hashtag: #HOWcovers
  • The End of Overeating by David Kessler (carrot cake vs. carrots design)
  • Big Nazo avant-garde puppet troupe
  • Fraud by David Rakoff (defaced design)
  • The Mind’s Eye by Oliver Sacks (blurry eye chart-style design)
  • Life Upon These Shores by Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr. (about African-American history and experiences)
  • Adobe student competition Call for Entries poster (oyster design)
  • Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs (six-fingered design)
  • You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs (failed to get a design approved for the book of Christmas stories; sent his kill fee)
  • The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst (British poet in WWI literature; used an unfinished painting as the cover)
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (parallel universe, alternate reality)
  • Batman: Death by Design: wrote an original Batman graphic novel; urban injustice. Inspiration for the book was Penn Station’s destruction in 1963. Jackie Kennedy Onassis saved Grand Central Terminal. For this book, he got to play fantasy architect. New invented Batman villain: Exacto.

10:45 am-12:00 pm – 7. 30 in 60 – Jim Krause and Dyana Valentine
At the core of this fast-moving session are a solid 60 minutes during which you’ll see 30 creativity expanding, career-boosting and potentially life-changing take-home concepts, practices and projects. This fun session will be presented tag-team style by Jim Krause and Dyana Valentine, using words, pictures, diagrams and specific step-by-step instructions. You’ll head home with a notebook packed with inspirational ideas, eye-opening art projects and practical design challenges that can be used to develop and supercharge your creative powers for both on-the-job and on-your-own applications.

  • Session hashtag: #HOWhour
  • 30 in 60 handout:
    1. The art nook. Art happens more often when you keep supplies visible and handy. Art is at the root of design. Don’t hide your supplies away.
    2. Take chances. Wild cards are sexy.
    3. Nice purse, buddy. You can’t use it if you don’t have it with you. What are you packing? Digital camera, notepad and pen, current book you’re reading.
    4. Personal manifesto. I am/I believe in. Say what you mean and do what you say. Align your energy.
    5. Art date. Instructions: Grab friend; make art. Have fun with a camera and a friend. Rivers & Tides documentary about Andy Goldsworthy.
    6. Break the mold. Take three tasks you do regularly and rethink how they are done. Shake up the daily routine.
    7. Be a shriner. Make an at-home shrine that’s devoted to something significant.
    8. Tell me a story. Tell a friend, coworker, neighbor or your dog a story about yourself. Your creativity has a lot to do with who you are. It does need to be about you. Align your energy.
    9. Create collections. Make an ongoing art project around a subject or theme. 365 days of a theme.
    10. Be a design paramedic. Ponder ways of healing designs that hurt your feelings. Soothe your design soul. Fix it.
    11. The five-year plan. They say it takes five years to get good at something. Started yet? The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Five years, begin.
    12. Design that matters. Volunteer to design something for a worthy organization. Pro bono work.
    13. Bite-sized creativity. Short on time? Make mini-masterpieces.
    14. Simple, elegant and clean. Edit that email down to its bare essentials and hit SEND. Clutter kills creativity. Lighten up your correspondence.
    15. Eat good, exercise often, last longer. Brown bag lunch + walk = good design. Michael Pollen: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Gretchen Reynolds: The human body was designed for walking. Walk 20 minutes a day: add about 20 years to your life.
    16. Get naked (in public). What makes you feel scratchy or scared? Do it. Today. Take some risks. Put your brain in survival mode. User your endocrine system for good. Stress yourself some and see how smart you become.
    17. Kill your television. Hey, it’s just an idea…
    18. Let your freak flag fly. After all, “normal” is overrated. What are you really not letting yourself do that you want to do? What are you really good at? Wear your creativity on your sleeve.
    19. Putting creativity in sleep mode. Well-rounded people make better designers.
    20. Resolve a dispute. It’s easier to be brilliant when you have a clean mental house. Or find something to improve. Disputes take up more brain space. Resolve dispute and get back more energy.
    21. How lo can you go? All hail the power of lo-fi art tools like pencils, paint and film. See
    22. Play dress up. Surprising things happen when you mess around with your wardrobe. Dress up to alter your perspective.
    23. Just write. Brainstorm your next life move, or just let words flow using pen and paper. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: morning pages; fill three pages (brainstorming).
    24. Dreams are cosmic presents. Say thank you by writing them down for three days.
    25. Back to basics. Dust off those art history books. And where’s that sketch pad, anyway? The history of art is at the root of art. Look at art history books: Joan Miro and Paul Klee.
    26. Keep it foxy! What part(s) of your life could benefit from a quality control review? Bring foxy into everyday.
    27. Keep on keeping up. Small and regular portions of tech info will keep you in the know. Pick four or five website and visit them once a day. For example:,,, and
    28. Play with strangers. Learn about yourself while learning about others. Enjoy!
    29. Love where you work; work where you love. Tweak your environs as needed. Don’t let your emotions go stale.
    30. Go. For. The. Win. Jam like you mean it and wear your blue ribbon with pride. Awesomeness is contagious. Put yourself in a position to be great by following who you are and what you believe in.
  • Visit their websites for more: and

2:00 pm-3:15 pm – 12. What is ‘Good’ Design?Christopher Simmons
Designers frequently describe themselves as problem-solvers. You apply your creative talents to finding new and appropriately innovative solutions to common questions, like articulating a corporate brand, connecting with an audience—or even just selling the most widgets. But there are problems larger than brands, consumers and widgets; there are needs as fundamental as equality, water, peace, justice and hope—and those are the issues that require “good” design. In this session, Christopher Simmons will take a look at how designers are, can and should approach design problems with the quadruple bottom line in mind. You’ll head home with the tools you need to make five small changes that will help you become a “good” designer.

  • Session hashtag: #HOWgood
  • “Good” design is: Design that serves a higher purpose, socially, culturally.
  • What is design? “A plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose.” – Charles Eames
  • Good: strategy, composition, content, outcomes, goals
  • So, what’s good?
  • Triple bottom line: the intersection of people + planet + profit
  • Client-audience = message-receiver. Add designer as a contributor, then add context
  • Quadruple bottom line: the intersection of all four: client + audience + designer + context
  • Supporting (examples):
    • Vote and Vax campaign
    • One Planet, One Chance – UN lobby installation with bean bags = carbon emissions
    • Mentor Youth
    • The Echo Park Time Travel Mart
  • Seeking
  • Organizing (examples):
    • Southern Exposure 30th Anniversary
    • Livestrong, etc. bracelets and AIDS ribbon
    • Occupy Wall Street/99 – posters
  • Teaching (examples):
    • REALM Charter Schools – identity; but went further to help them succeed
  • Reacting (examples):
    • Guerrilla marketing
    • Advertisers think you’re stupid – Love, Victore
    • “Everything is OK” caution tape
  • Celebrating (examples):
    • Obsessions make my life and my work better
    • Pennies (35K) on the ground – installation
    • Stern Grove Festival posters
  • People + planet + profit = triple bottom line (but you’re leaving out the contributions)
  • Design change in the past 20 years has been very incremental, unlike previous 20-year periods.
  • People + planet + profit + profession = quadruple bottom line. (Profession means passion/a bit of ourselves/art/whimsy/accountability.)
  • 80%/20% (analytical/intuitive) rule – As designers, we can explain 80% of a design the other 20% is we don’t have to answer for, and that’s what makes it unique and pushes boundaries. We thought it was a good idea. (For client work, always work with the top person who can make the decision.)

3:45 pm-5:00 pm – 15. The Alternative Design Career – Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit, UnderConsideration
Husband-and-wife team Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit have worked and lived alongside one another 24 hours a day for the past five years running – a graphic design business with nearly no clients – from the (dis)comfort of their own home. They’ll share what it takes to run a small business, balance life (with two kids) and work (with one intern), survive without clients, and generate content for blogs, books and conferences day in and day out. You’ll learn how to: work independently; manage the highs and lows of projects and cash flow; set – and meet – goals and deadlines.

  • Session hashtag: #HOWhome
  • Brand New is one of my favorite design blogs, so I was eager to hear the Under Consideration backstory.
  • This was an interesting session about their lives and finances as they’ve grown together over 10+ years. Showed how they have balanced income with expenditures. They have increasingly worked less for clients and more for themselves on their own projects over the years. Started out working for corporate/design firms (like Pentagram) in New York City; started a family; launched and grew their freelance design and blogging businesses; moved to Austin, Texas; wrote and published design books and launched their first conference, Brand New Conference.
  • You need a strong backbone to get what you want.
  • Big freedom comes with big risk.
  • Taking risks needs good planning.
  • Planning finds the balance between big dreams and paying the bills on time.
  • As far as becoming a popular blogger: Being provocative gets you attention.

Continue to HOW Design 2012 in review: Part three »

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