05
09
One Comment

It’s a Wrap! Highlights from HOW Design Live Chicago

Written by in Design, HOW Design Live
Photo: @designbyrevel

HOW Design Live is always a whirlwind of inspiration and practical advice, but this year’s conference upped the ante with an incredible roster of presenters … then again, I probably say this every year. But, truly, HOW just keeps getting better, and that is largely due to the curation by Debbie Millman and The Dieline’s Andrew Gibbs. They know the players and they bring them to this conference. Against the Grain reporter Donovan Beery provided some highlights here, so I’m going to talk about the big takeaways I gleened from the event.

Photo: Kelsy Postlethwait @kitemathcreative

Deadlines, what are they good for?

Malcolm Gladwell and DeeDee Gordan had a sort of intimate discussion in front of 2,000 people about deadlines. Gladwell, who hosts his podcast, Revisionists History, talked about the idea of deadlines and just who the hell imposes them.

He used the LSAT test as an example of what’s wrong with deadlines. Using the metaphor of the Hare and the Tortoise taking the LSAT, he talked about how the outcome paints a false picture of who actually is smarter or more capable.

You’re given three hours to take the test: The Hare finishes the test in under three hours, rushing through his responses, and gets 80% correct, whereas the Tortoise only finishes 80% of the test, but gets every answer right. According to the LSAT results, they are equals. He then asks, who would you rather have as your surgeon? The guy who got 80% right or the guy who took his time, and got 100%? I think we know the answer.

But, his argument opposing what he calls “arbitrary deadlines,” unfortunately doesn’t work for most of us in the real world. It’s an interesting theory, but graphic and environmental design isn’t likely to kill anyone (unless it’s a misleading or missing roadway or safety sign), so I think we’re safe meeting those pesky deadlines and doing the best we can with what we have.

Listen to what isn’t being said!

Brian Collins, CCO of Collins, and David Hartman, creative director, Brand Design Lab Target, talked about collaboration and misreading the cues given by the client. Hartman hired Collins in late 2016 to revamp the Archer Farm’s coffee holiday packaging. Collins and his team followed the design brief to a T, and hit all the bullet points in their design, or so they thought.

Feeling overjoyed that they hit it out of the park, Hartman presented the designs to his bosses at Target, only to be shot down at every turn. As Collins recalls, “They didn’t like any of it. Not one thing.” Although the brief had real, tangible targets, the response Collins and Hartman got was very emotive. They wanted romance and history and beauty.

Feeling dejected on a Friday afternoon, Collins and his team had to start over. Fortunately, Jules, a designer at Collins, understood exactly what the client wanted. He said he needed to leave the office for two hours, but when he got back, he’d have the solution—and he did. His response was to illustrate the regions on the packaging, representing the different coffees and where they originated. His concepts were presented to Target officials and approved over the weekend.

Collins and Hartman admitted that they weren’t reading between the lines. They nailed the brief from a practical perspective, but completely missed the emotional cues implied. Even the best designers get it wrong sometimes. They’re human like the rest of us!

Please Stop Rebranding!

Tosh Hall, executive creative director at Jones Knowles Ritchie, has had it with brands redesigning every three years, which is why his presentation was called “Designers, Please Stop!” He pointed to several leading brands that have lost their way and lost customers along the way because of massive redesigns that make no sense.

There’s heritage in old brands, and it’s fine to tweak and update the design every few years when it makes sense, but big overhauls are often a waste of time and money.

He then went on to show his work for Budweiser, and how they retained the lovely typographic styling the brand was known for (in addition to the Clydesdales, of course). But before getting into that, he offered everyone in the session a cold Budweiser, which most people took him up on, myself included, even though most of us were still recovering from the LogoLounge party the night before. Who can resist a free, cold beer? Not me! So as people popped the tops of their cans, Hall took us through the amazing work his firm did in updating and refining Budweiser’s brand, without sacrificing the heritage. Burp! Excuse me. #beerlunch

Logo Meister Bill Gardner and me at the LogoLounge party held at Gino’s East in Chicago.

It’s about community.

This is just a small sampling of what was offered. Every session I attended was inspiring, but the HOW conference is so much more. It’s about community, seeing old friends and meeting new ones, and Sweet Home Chicago provided the perfect back drop. Don’t miss next year’s HOW Conference in Boston, April 30 to May 4.

 

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

  1. 05
    --
    11
    9:05am

    […] / creative people together is an amazing experience. Be sure to check out Emily’s “It’s a Wrap! Highlights from HOW Design Live Chicago” recap for Neenah Paper, as well as her interviews for Moxie Sozo we talk […]