Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pivot: AIGA Design Conference, Phoenix, Arizona

Last month, I attended the Pivot Design Conference, presented by the American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA).

The three day event took place in Phoenix, Arizona at the Phoenix Convention Center, which has a reputation for being one of the "greenest" convention facilities in North America. The building, which spanned both sides of the street, was beautiful. Glass panels brought in lots of natural light.

I especially liked the enormous looking glass mirror that reflected the West atrium and projected the words, "Art is a guaranty of sanity." An interesting thought.

The conference offered a robust schedule of main stage speakers, workshops and smaller sessions, throughout Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It was nice to be able to pick and choose topics that interested me. The smaller venues were first come, first serve though, so I had to make sure to get a seat! 

The main auditorium sessions filled with 1,500 designers from all over and 100+ speakers and guests. Most of the speakers were new to me.

Naturally, there were cool graphics, great visuals and printed materials.

Katie Salen, from the Institute of Play, spoke about gaming and design, particularly within school settings and learning environments. 

Dondeena Bradley, vice president of global design and development for nutrition ventures, at Pepsi, spoke about the importance of communicating nutritional messages better, which is something that design can impact.

Throughout the conference, the "Command X" competition was going on. Designers were selected to take on design challenges and compete for both prize money and the glory of winning. It was fun to watch and vote for your favorite. 

Jonathan Hoefler, typeface designer, famous for designing Hoefler Type, among other well-known fonts, spoke about the need to design type for new platforms. The web, smart phones, electronic readers and other devices interpret fonts differently, thus they need to be designed differently. 

Lesley Mottla, from Zipcar, presented the need to design the entire customer experience, from start to finish. She talked about the innovative ways that Zipcar has changed the how people can rent vehicles.

I really enjoyed the presentation by brothers, Bill and Jim Moran from the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum. 1.5 million pieces of wood type, in more than 1,000 styles and sizes, housed in the original printing building in Wisconsin. They offer tours and printing and members can rent studio time. It was inspiring to take a look back at wood type and "old fashioned" printing, and see how far type has come. 

These were just a few of the many speakers and topics presented at Pivot. An overarching theme woven throughout the conference, was AIGA's "Design for Good" campaign, encouraging designers to impact their communities through design, using our creative talents to address community needs. Also, changing the way we think about "pro bono" which really means "for good." 

Another theme was a shift from designing "things" and "tangible objects" to designing experiences and focusing on the customer journey. Moving from merely functionality, to desirability. Tuning into what people really want, and creating a connection between people and your brand. 

I am really glad I had the opportunity to attend my first big design conference. I met some fellow designers, Amy Kress from Booz Allen Hamilton, and Katie Annis McLaughlin from Hart Associates. It was great to learn what other designers are doing and what their jobs are like. It's inspiring to hear what's going on in the design world as a whole and gain a new perspective as well as a greater appreciation for what I do on a daily basis. It was also pretty cool to be in a room with 1,500 other designers who know what it's like, speak the design "lingo" and understand the challenges and victories we all face. Designers unite!


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