HOW Design Conferernce 2008 Review

I was fortunate enough to attend my fourth HOW Design Conference May 18-21 in Boston and here are my thoughts about this year’s offerings.

As always, it was fantastic to see my old friends from the HOW Magazine Forum as well as meet new friends in the sea of 4,000 designers that descended upon Boston for 4 days of design knowledge!

Opening keynote session was good, there was some great info there, but you had to work to find it. I think if the presentation of the info was just a bit dry/lacking.

Designed Life was not what I was thinking it was going to be about. My expectation from the description was how we as designers should be designing for the custom product/packaging that customers are beginning to get used to and expect in today’s world. However, I did think that Joe Duffy did have some good info, I think the visual brief is a fantastic idea!

Decoding Design was very dry, however, I think that her book sounds interesting and I will pick it up and maybe it will give a bit more info to some of her concepts and that might tie the session together a bit better for me.

Arriving at Creativity was a dud. I think these guys were trying to be funny like the 3 Dogz presentation, but they just couldn’t pull it off. I had no regrets skipping out on this one.

Visuals and Verbals was fantastic! Great info and presented in an engaging way. Way to go Andy Epstein!

Design Entrepreneur was okay. Sure it is wonderful to see and be inspired by the work of Charles S. Anderson, but I thought this session would explain more of the nitty gritty of how to become a design entrepreneur. I think this session would have been better if Charles had taken his ten points and elaborated on them. Instead of “find a manufacterer (duh!), tell me HOW to find one and HOW to negotiate a good deal for my licensing, etc.

Developing Leadership and Stratetic Awareness, Jeni Herberger gave a wonderful presentation with lots of great information! Excellent speaker, as always.

Lovin’ Your Design Job was pretty good. Good information and the speakers were fun and entertaining. I wish that we would’ve spent more time on the worksheet working out HOW to achieve some of the goals that we started to explore. This session felt incomplete. Perhaps this should have been a two-part session for maximum effectiveness?

Planning, Packaging, and Promoting Yourself as the Product. What can I say? Accomplished logo designer Jeff Fisher gives a great presentation, funny and articulate while passing along good info. Although I still don’t know how he keeps up on all those websites he’s a part of…and despite being heckled by some rude people in about the 10th row on the right hand side, he remained calm and kept his good humor throughout.

Illustrative Design by Von was great. It was great to see his process and he presented the info in a fun and entertaining way (way to go Billy Mays!). From what I could see, people were coming to his session from other sessions.

Closing Keynote. The best session EVER. Bill Strickland is amazing. He was confident without being arrogant. He was engaging, I hung on his every word. The work he does is so valuable and he recognizes that we as designers can help change the world and he’s asking for help. I don’t know about anyone else, but I want to go to work for this man.

Suggestions & Closing Thoughts
Overall, I think this year’s HOW was on par with Atlanta, some dud sessions, but more good ones than bad. Some general thoughts about the HOW conference:
I think that in addition to the tracks (creativity, business, etc), that each session should be labeled for where you are in your career: entry, mid-level, senior. That might help some people better chose which sessions to attend.

Please bring back the printing of the schedule on the back of the name badge! Yes, I know I am free to attend any session once there, but it’d be nice to at least be reminded of what I registered for.

Please make the badges slightly larger next year. They don’t have to go back to their former size, but I like putting all the bcards of my new contacts in their and they simply all don’t fit in that small of a badge holder.

I peronsally believe they can get rid of the handout binder and replace it with a notepad. Still have Corporate Image develop it so that F+W and CI remain friends. The current binder is expensive to produce and we’re wasting a ton of paper on the copied handouts. Not to mention the 5 extra pounds the attendees have to carry around in addition to all their schwag. What I’d like to see is a small flash drive with a PDF or HTML version of EVERY session’s slideshow on it. Put that, a cool HOW branded pen and a nice sketchbook quality pad of notepaper in a trendy HOW branded notebook holder that is portable (like the size of the VEER sketchbooks). And make the notepad/sketchbook a standard size so I can replace the paper and keep the outside binder part for reuse for many years. Bryn/Sarah, et al if you want to learn more about my concept on this, please feel free to contact me, you know where to find me!

I love the HOW Conference, it is the best in my opinion and I truly appreciate all the hard work that the entire HOW gang puts into making this event a success each and every year. Congrats to you all, I hope to see ya in Austin (assuming I can get work to send me again next year. let the crossing of fingers begin!)

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