HOW Design 2013 in review: Part two

Monday, June 24, 2013

This is a continuation of HOW Design 2013 in review: Part one.

HOW Design Conference 2013 I am attending the HOW Design Conference 2013 in San Francisco, California. Below are my notes from the sessions I attended on Monday.

9:00 am-10:15 am – 2. Play -
Jessica Walsh, Partner, Sagmeister & Walsh

Find out how important play is—”biologically, in society, and in our personal and professional lives. Jessica Walsh, a multi-disciplinary designer, art director and partner at the New York based design studio Sagmeister & Walsh, will reveal how play formed the foundation of her career”—and the influence it has on her work today.

  • Twitter: @jessicawalsh, @sagmeisterwalsh
  • The more fun and play in my work, the better people respond to it.
  • Two main reasons we’re driven to play as mammals: (1) Play prepares us (increases survival rate); (2) Play shapes our brain development (increases cognitive ability)
  • Play is a state of mind: “Flow states require just the right balance of challenge and opportunity.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain one when we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso
  • You need to have the confidence to fail. Which means you need to have the time to experiment.
  • Persistence is key. Most great discoveries take a lot of time.
  • Creativity is making interesting connections between seemingly unrelated things.
  • Sagmeister & Walsh business partnership: design studio examples
  • Nude promo postcard, Levi’s cogs/gears billboard, etc.
  • Creativity thrives off of constraints.
  • Make your own rules so you can break them.
  • Get off the computer and make shit.
  • Adobe MAX logo project: 24-hour play session broadcast live in Times Square
  • EDP logo and ad campaign: built with four basic red shapes
  • 40 Days of Dating: social experiment
  • The Happy Show exhibition design
  • At an income of around $50K/year, happiness peaks. All needs are met. Increased money is often just offset by the stress of increased responsibility.
  • “The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression.” – Brian Sutton-Smith
  • Now is Better reverse slow-motion video
  • Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

10:45 am-12:00 pm – 6. Creatively Recalculating Your Daily Design Routine – Von Glitschka, Principal, Glitschka Studios
Find out how to correct your course through smart creative risks that’ll move you in new directions.

It’s too easy to get stuck in the uninspiring routine of design sameness. Predictable results, based on a safe creative formula we find ourselves drifting towards too often. We justify it because it’s proven, risk-free and we know the client will be comfortable with it. In this session, Glitschka Studios principal and creativity expert Von Glitschka will encourage you to rock the design boat, jump into the creative waters and capsize your USS Mundane.

  • Twitter: @Vonster
  • (Comes out dressed in a rabbit suit … to get him out of his comfort zone.)
  • The key to avoiding a rut is pursuing creativity outside of your work, for the sake of it.
  • Don’t rely on safe creative formulas. Routine is the serial killer of creativity.
  • Creativity is how you think.
  • Second straight talk to cite this Albert Einstein quote: “Play is the highest form of research.”
  • “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain
  • NSA side story: PRISM logo design (photo copyright infringement scandal)
  • “Confidence is the prize given to the mediocre.” – Robert Hughes
  • Even the best struggle. Creativity doesn’t exist without bad ideas, embarrassment and failure.
  • Common roars of fear: you’re not smart enough, you’re not good enough, you’re going to fail, someone else could do this better, you should find a new job, you suck.
  • Fear paralyzes creativity and will always push you toward routine ways of creativity that are far more comfortable.
  • 5 types of brainwaves
    • Beta: normal consciousness
    • Alpha: state prior to sleep/wake
    • Theta: your subconscious
    • Delta: sleep
    • Gamma: higher mental activity and formation of ideas (insights)
  • Gamma thinking = idea formation
  • Fear suppresses your ability to think and generate ideas
  • Explore creativity outside of work because it’s less fearful, it allows you to be curious, it lets you get used to failing with little or no embarrassment, it’s fun
  • Exercise your curiosity by blowing up your routine and trying new things
  • Easy creative detonation methods: drive a new route to work, leave your work environment to do ideation, do some Lewis & Clarking (exploring), observe the moment, set your favorites aside (and try new fonts/colors/music/culture), collaborate with friends, make drawing a creative habit, have fun!
  • Negative moments are great motivators to create something positive
  • Entertaining creative exercise:
  • Donate your time/energy to at least one good cause per year
  • “Success is a journey, not a destination.” – Arthur Ashe
  • On your tombstone, there will be two dates. But right now, you’re a dash.
  • Download slides PDF:

2:00 pm-3:15 pm – 13. Creative Boot Camp: Generate Ideas in Greater Quantity & Quality in 60 Minutes – Stefan Mumaw, Creative Director, Purveyor of All That Rocks, Callahan Creek
We typically think of creativity as an external force that we don’t control or an artistic talent that we don’t have. The reality is that creativity is a procedural, programmable characteristic of problem solving. Give Creative Boot Camp author and Callahan Creek Creative Director Stefan Mumaw 60 minutes and he will prove it to you. This session reveals the steps necessary to see improvement in your daily idea quotient by elaborating on the key characteristics of daily creative output, identifying the obstacles to effective creative training and breaking down ideation into digestible steps, all the while using short, in-your-seat creative exercises to illuminate key points about behavior, experience and perspective. From serious creative inflection to comedy improv techniques, Boot Campers are taken on a creative journey through practice, philosophy and application. The session is lively and fun, with Stefan’s trademark humor and wit on display.

  • Twitter: @stefanmumaw
  • Creativity is not artistic at all. You can be artistic and not creative. You can also be creative and not artistic.
  • Creativity is problem-solving with relevance (how well the problem is solved) and novelty (the uniqueness of the solution)
  • Creativity is a skill, not a talent.
  • Book: Caffeine for the Creative Mind
  • Exercise 1: Wildwestios
  • Creativity is not constrained by time. It is constrained by motivation. The issue is that we don’t have the patience to repeatedly solve a problem when we feel we’ve already solved it. But what could the next idea look like? Is it better?
  • Kurt Vonnegut: “Every story has a shape.”
  • What is the shape of creativity, if graphed as a line?
  • Exercise #2: Ultimate Desk
  • We often mistake improvement for innovation.
  • Creative Boot Camp rule #1: Get stupid.
  • What we know is killing us creatively. Take out what you know and solve it again, because I guarantee you the parameters have changed.
  • Exercise #3: The Middle
  • Overcome the restrictions placed upon us in a special way. The more restrictive the problem, the more creative the solution.
  • There is no greater motivator than time. We procrastinate to add the motivator of time artificially.
  • Creative Boot Camp Rule #2: Want the Box
  • We want the creative restrictions. We will impose our own if enough restrictions aren’t given to us.
  • Exercise #4: Comedy Improv
  • Creativity = comedy improv (“yes, and”)
  • You need to be in a brainstorming environment where you are free to say anything, stupid things, without judgement. In our most creative moments, we’re not judging our own ideas at all.
  • Creative Boot Camp Rule #3: Can the Critic
  • Risk embarrassment for that one great idea.
  • Exercise #5: Medieval Happy Meal

3:45 pm-5:00 pm – 18. Shitty Typography on a Cat & Other Ways to Design with HumorHeather Bradley, Creative Director, Cheezburger
Featuring hilarious and not-as-hilarious examples, Heather Bradley, Creative Director of social humor platform (home of the LOLcat, FAIL, and other workplace timewasters) will show you how to use basic comedic principles to transform your visual communication. From image puns to pointed cropping to social media inside jokes, you’ll gain at least 10, though probably less than a million, ways to inject your sense of humor into everything you create. Yes, even that financial planning brochure. Especially that financial planning brochure.

All cats must present valid ID. Laughter prohibited during presentation.

  • Twitter: @heatherxbradley
  • Image macros and Internet memes
  • “Design is serious.”
  • Why should designers be funny?
    • Funny is memorable. It attracts attention, aids recall, attracts brand attention, humanizes your brand through personality, is convincing and crowd-pleasing.
    • Laughter is the social lubricant that builds social communities and loyal audiences.
  • Why might you be avoiding being funny? Fear.
    • Fear #1. Humor isn’t appropriate for my client’s serious or sensitive brand. But humor is a spectrum.
    • Fear #2. What if my client just doesn’t “get it”? The only sense of humor that matters is the target audience.
    • Fear #3. I’m not funny.
  • 11 tips to make your designs funnier
    1. Be punchy. Tell one joke.
    2. Personify your subject. Humanize.
    3. Crop unexpectedly.
    4. Be frank.
    5. Make surprising juxtapositions.
    6. Quit being so perfect. Be loose with your typography, break the grid, be playful.
    7. Seriously, f*ck it up. Wonky things can be hilarious.
    8. Trick the eye.
    9. Bring on the squee! Cuteness will warm up any message. (See: Cute-Fight)
    10. Mess with cliches. Recognize cliches and make a joke about them.
    11. Be sneaky. (Google Easter egg: “do a barrel roll”)
  • Here are some easy ways to screw this up.
    1. Don’t be annoying. Avoid excessive repetiton, staleness, being outdated. (See: Microsoft’s Clippy)
    2. Don’t be banal. Avoid contrivance, blandness, safety to the point of boredom. (See: Women Laughing Alone with Salad)
    3. Don’t forget who you are. Avoid inauthenticity, being out-of-touch, ignorance.
  • Slides will be available at

Continue to HOW Design 2013 in review: Part three »

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