HOW Design 2013 in review: Part four

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

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

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 Wednesday.

9:45 am-11:00 am – 37. How to Avoid Work – James Victore, Professor, School of Visual Arts in New York
Your work is a gift. This is a radical idea because it changes how you think about what you do. This talk with James Victore will teach you how to work to please yourself first—and in doing so, produce work that is both meaningful and successful for your client.

  • Twitter: @JamesVictore
  • Watch “Burning Questions” video series at
  • Book: Victore or, Who Died and Made You Boss?
  • Sticker: “Feck Perfuction. with love, Victore”
  • This talk isn’t about how to avoid work.
  • “Dead Indian” poster – found his dharma
  • Started in fine art and moved into commercial design, which was “a big mistake”
  • Tombstone: “Here lies Mark. He would have done great work but he had rent to pay.” People, designers included, tend to be cowards.
  • “In the particular lies the universal.” – James Joyce
  • Short film: Your Work is a Gift
  • You work to make yourself happy. If you put your opinion in the work, you’re not working for a paycheck.
  • “The universe will protect you, but you have to trust in it, and you have to make the leap.”
  • Spec work: “Don’t fucking do it. Never ever ever. Don’t fucking do it.”
  • “If you guys have your jobs or clients because you have rent, you’re a slave. Simple as that.”
  • Graphic design: “The pleasant arrangement of shapes on a page.”
  • “Complaining is not conversation. Quit your bitching and quit your job. Damn.”
  • Chris in the studio: “Make it nice or make it twice.”
  • Parodies of motivational posters (series of five) for NYC Department of Probation (DOP)
  • “Criticize in private. Praise in public.”
  • Business strategies and Photoshop tips are important, but they’re not what matters.
  • “Your trust inspires me to do my best work.”
  • Say “No.”
  • In the early days: “Those eviction notices were the cost of my freedom.”
  • New York event:
  • Sticker series: Your work is a gift, Kill the critic, Warrior not worrier, etc.
  • Take This Job & Love It
  • “Cubicle Activism” poster series: our version of Fight Club
  • Stop being a people-pleaser. Say “no” to one person everyday. Stop apologizing or making excuses for your work.
  • Be conscious of the fears in our lives. Check your language.
  • Coffee notes: just make something. Practice making something. Practice telling someone you love them in different ways. Show love through all of your work.

11:15 am-12:30 pm – 38. Idea Execution: How Ideas Are Brought to Life – Scott Belsky, Co-Founder and CEO, Behance
Great ideas only see the light of day when creative people and teams are able to get organized, harness the forces of community, and become better leaders of themselves and others. After years of research, Scott Belsky and his team at Behance have found a series of best practices common across some of the world’s most productive creative people and teams. Scott is the author of the national bestselling book Making Ideas Happen (Penguin Books, April 2010) and, as Founder and CEO of Behance, oversees the world’s largest online platform of creative professionals. In this session, Scott will share insights and practical tips that you can use to push bold creative projects to completion.

  • Twitter: @scottbelsky
  • Most ideas never happen. Even the greatest ideas suffer horrible odds.
  • The Project Plateau: where most ideas go to die. We keep escaping the execution process by starting new projects and leaving old ones unfinished.
  • How do we overcome the idea-to-idea syndrome?
  • Behance mission: To connect and empower the creative world.
  • With the latest version of Adobe, you can connect directly to Behance
  • Book: Making Ideas Happen
  • How do some people and teams defy the odds and make ideas happen?
  • Making ideas happen = creativity/ideas + organization/execution + communal forces + leadership capability
  • Overcome reactionary workflow: an endless stream of online communication (email, txt, social media, IM, voicemail, paper mail)
  • We have to force ourselves to disconnect. Create windows of non-stimulation in your day. At least 2-3 hours per day without screens.
  • Spend energy on staying organized. Creativity x Organization = Impact
  • Organize with a bias to action. The most organized people in the world often use their own homegrown, DIY approach.
  • Measure the value of a meeting in action steps. Have a culture of capturing action steps. Prioritize projects visually (on an energy line … not a time line, but how much energy each one takes). Optimize to surpass your horizon of success (like on the Web: A/B testing). But you can’t change more than one variable at once.
  • Three types of people: The Dreamers, The Doers & The Incrementalists (rotate between the two modes, but they spread themselves too thin).
  • Share ideas liberally. This is hard because we’re never ready. But share with your community. The benefits outweigh the costs.
  • Seek competition. Noah Kalina took a photo of himself everyday for six years, but didn’t act on it until he become competitive with someone else. Hugely popular video on YouTube: Everyday
  • Fight your ways to breakthroughs. Apathy screws over the client. But great leaders fight apathy ruthlessly and make sure teams don’t agree on something that’s unremarkable/boring/inoffensive. Don’t become burdened by consensus.
  • Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest violinists playing a multimillion-dollar violin, was not recognized while performing in a DC subway. We have to be told how good something is. People don’t recognize it.
  • Overcome the stigma of self-marketing. Make sure everyone knows what you’re capable of.
  • Leaders talk last. Silence the visionary! Creative teams disband when members feel underutilized.
  • Value the team’s immune system. The Doers are the immune system, to kill off new things and keep you on track. Suppress the immune system of the Doers by letting Dreamers freely brainstorm at certain times.
  • Push people into their intersection of interests, skills and opportunities.
  • Be the bureaucracy breaker. Ask annoying questions. They keep the ship moving forward. Success: Make your bosses make decisions. By deadlines.
  • Create a meritocracy. Foster attribution to recognize creative talent. Most Behance lead generation is now from Pinterest due to integration.
  • We’ve empowered the masses without discernment. But is the crowd a good judge? Critical mass (how many like something) vs. credible mass (who likes something).
  • Making the Web a data-driven perpetual talent database. We can move beyond reckless “crowd sourcing!”
  • Seek and keep the free radicals. They’re not a demographic, they’re a psychographic:
    • We seek work that is, first and foremost, intrinsically rewarding.
    • We make stuff often, and therefore, we fail often.
    • We have little tolerance for the friction of bureaucracy, old-boy networks, and antiquated business practices.
    • We expect to be fully utilized and constantly optimized.
    • We consider “open source” technology ours.
    • We believe that “networking” is sharing.
    • We insist on meritocracy. We want opportunity because we deserve it.
  • Gain confidence from doubt. Society is very hypocritical. We shun people before we celebrate them. Nothing extraordinary is ever achieved through ordinary means.

I am lucky to say that this was my fourth HOW Design Conference. For my notes from previous HOWs, see 2012, 2011 and 2010. Next year HOW is back in Boston, but a month earlier, from May 12-16, 2014. I hope I will be able to attend. Well, back to Oregon I go.

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