Design Thinkers


Last week I had the opportunity to attend day two of Design Thinkers in Toronto. The day was filled with lots of sitting and listening (two of my favourite things to do), as well as some great conversation with my co-worker Bryan and running in to a couple old college friends. All and all a pretty good day.

I’m not going to go into great detail about the speakers I saw, but I will try to summarize what I took away from each one.

The first morning keynote by Robert Fabricant (VP of Creative @ Frog) touched on some great points about collaborating to drive design. What I took away most was that design doesn’t end with a printed page or a screen, it goes well beyond that. Listening to some of Robert’s experiences partnering with UNICEF to design disaster simulations or thinking outside the box to come up with new ways to help people test and treat AIDS in Africa were particularly inspiring.

The next morning keynote was by Michael Gough (VP of Experience Design @ Adobe). Michael talked a lot about creativity and how every is born creative. For some, our creativity is taught out of us, possibly through our education system, or maybe from lack of encouragement. This was particularly interesting to me because I have a two year old daughter. She is incredibly creative, always singing, dancing and drawing. I hate to think that she’ll ever change and I will do everything in my power to help her keep that creativity alive!

The next two speakers (John Kieselhorst and Shawn Peterson) shared their experiences working in smaller agencies. Both touched on the idea of having a mission to create the work environment you want. Having a mission or focus is not something that limits or restricts your work, it can create opportunity. For example, Kieselhorst’s agency Made works for companies that manufacture goods in America. This might seem to limit that number of clients available to them, but it actually ends up attracting the type of clients they want to do business with.

James Griffin’s talk in the afternoon session focused around designing experience across multiple platforms. Although the approach they took to redesign the Thomson Reuters Eikon Mobile app was fascinating, what I took away most was how much impact they had in elevating design within the organization. A small design team (10 or so people if I remember correctly) in a very large company was able to steer the direction of the platform, introduce new processes and give design more presence. Ultimate their team grew to 400+. Very impressive.

The day closed out with two great afternoon keynotes. Morag Myerscough spoke passionately about doing what you love. Her work ranges from custom painted stools, to decorating children’s hospital wings. Her love of design and having an impact on other people’s lives truly came through in her talk.

Finally, Karin Fong walked us through the thought process behind some great title sequences she has designed for hit movies. The challenge of bringing a viewer into a film in a few short minutes is no small task and Karin’s work seems to do the job really well.

In closing, day two of Design Thinkers 2013 was very enjoyable. I’d advise everyone (you don’t have to be a designer to appreciate it) to check out the event next year.



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