A Magical HOW Design Live 2014

A Magical HOW Design Live 2014

It’s been exactly one month since day 1 of the HOW Design Conference in Boston. Everyone has received their swag, put it away, got back to their regularly scheduled lives, and have probably settled back in to their normal routines and attitudes. Which is why today is a perfect today to relive the conference!

Overall Thoughts

One of the first things mentioned was about finding the magic of HOW. I don’t think the magic is in the speakers or the session topics, it is definitely in the people. The people that attend this conference are some of the most genuine people I have met. When they ask how business is going, they really want to know, it’s not just simple small talk. They also really want to meet you.

Attending conferences, for me, is a lot like college. You go to a session, take some notes, take a break and go to the next. Repeat until they are all done, go back to your hotel room, pass out, wake up and have dinner only to return and pass out again from the exhausting task of filling your brain with knowledge. Except during this whirlwind time, you meet amazing people! I’m always shy and awkward when trying to talk to people but it makes it easier knowing that everyone around you is the same way and just waiting for someone to say, “hey, how are things?”

Each year I focus on one certain thing and work to get the most out of that thing. For example, one year I focused on the Exhibit Hall and I came home with so many paper samples, shirts, and other swag! The next year I focused on sessions that motivated me to become a better manager of my work. This year, I focused on the social aspect. I wanted to attend the bar crawls, dinners, and random meet-ups. I wanted to put myself in a situation where I would have to talk to someone and meet more people. I have to say, it was the best conference for me so far. And I’ve attended six, (including this past one). 

Don’t worry, I did a great job of also attending stellar sessions which brings me to my next section…

(I warn you, I went for 5 days so there is A LOT of content!)

Session Reviews

Comedy Improv Training for Creatives – Stefan Mumaw

I don’t have any notes from this session because Stefan told us that if we wanted to be in a session where we would take notes, we were in the wrong session. This is one that I wouldn’t normally do, but again, my focus was to put myself out there and get into the social aspect of the conference.

  • We did a lot of random activities – one even included hugging random people and another was pretending to be on your honeymoon and changing your mood in an instant
  • At first I was shy and reserved but as the session went on, I found myself frustrated with people that were doing the same! I wanted them to let go of their inhibitions just like I was doing and fully enjoy the freedom of looking ridiculous
Fav Tweets from the session:
  • When you let go of inhibitions, that’s when your creativity thrives
  • Instead of brainstorming and throwing darts, learn to riff off each other – much like musicians do
  • Have more COURAGE in design. Don’t be afraid or care about what others say – it only holds you back


Shut Your Monkey: How to Control Your Inner Critic and Unleash Your Creativity – Danny Gregory

This was all about how to quiet that voice inside – your monkey, that says, “you can’t do this” – based off the standing-room-only session, many people struggle with this.

  • He had some really great points about dealing with the “monkey” and talking to it. Example: you’re working on a huge project and it’s due in 2 hours. The monkey tells you your work is awful and you’ll never make the deadline. You reply to it asking “why?” and calm those doubtful thoughts. I do this sometimes and probably explains why people think I’m crazy…I may or may not do this outloud… 
  • In general, I thought this was a great session and it was nice to know that I’m not the only one!
Fav Tweets from the session:
  • To silence the voice that says ‘you can’t,’ get to work. Pretend that what you’re making is awesome and keep going.
  • Creativity is a lion-feed it with inspiration from walks & travels. Ride the lion away from the monkey-the voice that says you can’t


Malcom Gladwell in Conversation with DeeDee Gordon

This was something new for me. I have never been to a session where two people simple have a conversation about design. I have to tell ya, I kind of liked it! Malcom had so many great gems and since I was able to capture most on Twitter, I will jump to my fav tweets.

Fav Tweets from the session:
  • Designers and journalists introduce balance into the way people see things.
  • Find ways to capitalize on your own curiosity
  • You have to bring things into harmony, ie: boarding a plane and thinking about the space on a plane (Malcom proceeded to tell us that the way we board a plane is so inefficient because they didn’t think about the space. Instead of boarding first class then the back of plane and moving forward, we should board the window seats, then the middle and then the isles.)
  • By making the task in front of you harder, I have increased proficiency. Slowing down helps to solve problems because you have to think about it – you don’t overlook anything
  • Being disagreeable is someone that is indifferent to what their peer group thinks of them. But in a nice way. Challenge ideas.
  • Innovation requires three things: creativity, consciousness and the ability to take a lot of crap and stuck to your guns.
  • Stop making the cost of failure so high. Try new ideas in smaller ways and grow it.
  • Inverted risk curve: the notion that endlessly adding resources to an equation guarantees better outcomes.
  • On Steve Jobs: He’s really good at stealing ideas. He’s just in a much bigger hurry than you are. If something doesn’t work, he moves quickly to get it right.
  • Complexity lasts longer than simplicity


Debbie Millman Interviews Seth Godin

This was another session where both of them sat on stage and talked about design. Once again, I’ll direct you to my tweets for all the good stuff.

Fav Tweets from the session:
  • The computer does things for you – we all know how to kern. The craft is looking the client in the eye and saying “no”
  • You have to refuse to become a cog in the system, and make it happen despite the adversities against you.
  • Once you are seen as the person who enables great clients, you will get great clients.
  • Design thrives when someone cares enough to create something that touches someone. It does not thrive when it becomes efficient.
  • Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance
  • Dance with fear. You cannot make it go away. When it shows up, say “welcome”
  • There’s a huge advantage to small…in risk and in boundaries. What’s the tiniest thing that I can master?
  • Don’t start by asking, start by giving anonymously and doors will open because your work will speak for itself.
  • By turning off the tv, you will find time to create art that you love. You might not get paid for it, but youre doing what you love – something I am working on. Since opening k.ray design, I have to limit my TV time. Lots to do!
  • Flaw in our culture: you’re never guaranteed it’s going to work-which creates a fraud mentality. Find your edge and own it
  • Confidence vs. Courage: Courage is the key ingredient to do something remarkable
  • How do you create a ‘have to’ out of your art?


A Designed Life: What Were We Thinking? What Are We Thinking Now? – Michael Donovan and Nancye Green

This session had the same format as the others – two amazing designers talking to each other. This one might have been my favorite out of all like this…but I might be a little biased since Michael Donovan is an Iowa State University grad! So proud. 

Fav Tweets from the session
  • Becoming trustworthy and not just selling somebody something goes a long way – Nancye Green
  • In everything you do, bring the value to the party
  • We didn’t do it for the money, we did it for the possibilities
  • They are not clients, they are relationships
  • Keep exercising your brain muscles. If you can’t find passion or creativity in your job, look elsewhere – reason why I started doing things for clients
  • Keep it small. Keep our hands in it. Satisfy curiosity. If we get bored, move on.
  • When you focus on what you want, & do whatever it takes to get there, you have a pretty good shot of getting there
  • Designers don’t come in 1 flavor. Being clear on what you want & what you want to do is critical.


We Are The Stories We Tell – Stanley Hainsworth

Such a cool dude! He showed us journal entries and then told a story about his career based off one of his entries. It was a very cool and unique way to give his presentation. I don’t have a lot of notes from his session only because I was in awe of the work he was displaying.

  • His firm is Tether and when he was going to name it, he said, “I didn’t want to name it after me because I wanted it to be bigger than me – to live longer than me”
  • Stanley has worked for companies like Nike, Starbucks, LEGO, and Gatorade – companies I would love to design for!
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Look for everyone to be a mentor
  • Everyone you meet is a potential client, partner, collaborator, and friend
  • Says his greatest successes came when he took on things that he wasn’t tasked to do.


Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is – Justin Ahrens

I think I have seen him speak at every HOW…and I never get tired of it! His stories are amazing, inspirational and make you feel good about life.

  • His session was about finding your passion and figuring out why you do what you do – what pulls you?
  • Justin is known for being generous and one of the cool things he is doing this year is Wheels 4 Water. A team will be riding from Boston to Chicago to raise money for clean water. To learn more about his journey, check it out here: www.wheels4water.org (I’m super stoked that I have a signed W4W poster!)
  • There are 4 chambers of Passion: Gifts, Habit, Perspective and Reality
  • To grow, see differently – step outside yourself
  • When you look back on your career, how do you want it to look?
  • The projects we love the most are the ones that match our passions – they are the ones that most align with who we are
  • Make a list of what you want to do and get there. Make the most of your time. Change your reality. – Something that I wish I would have done in January like I did in 2013. I didn’t set goals/resolutions this year and beginning to think I should. I have a lot of things I want to do, I just need to get them on paper and create a plan for them. In 2013 when I did this, I accomplished all but 1 of my goals. 
  • Use your super powers.
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Passion is whatever brings out the best version of you
  • Your gifts are the vehicles to get at what your passion is
  • We become what we repeatedly do. Be what you do. What are you doing repeatedly that’s good/bad? Are these habits helping/hurting your passion?
  • We must act out passion before we can feel it
  • Time is that thing that we want the most, but suck at using. Make the most of your time.
  • Take initiative and create your reality


Typographic Master Lessons – Allan Haley

I love typography so this session really interested me. I love learning about new type, how it is used, and unique ways to rearrange it. 

  • Start with the typeface – it is the glue that holds things together
  • Exploit cliches. Tell a story.
  • It should be appropriate but not necessarily the expected solution
  • Celebrate the craft
  • Graphic Design is problem solving, Typography is an art form
  • Play a game with the type
  • Change the paradigm
  • Build a relationship with the reader – get their attention
  • Don’t put a timestamp on your designs – allow them to cross generations by not falling into trends
  • Make memories by creating consistency, keeping things simple, and make a shape
  • Sweat the details – everything matters
Favorite Tweets from the session (that aren’t already from my notes):
  • Use real handwriting. Handwriting fonts kill the message with their consistency
  • For every golden rule in typography, there’s an equally good reason not to follow it


7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Reaching, Writing, and Living – Maria Popova

She is so fascinating! A really stellar speaker with great insight.

  • Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind
  • Do nothing out of guilt or for prestige or status or approval alone
  • Be generous with time, words, giving credit, and resources
  • Build pockets of stillness in your life – take mental health seriously and sleep
  • When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them – you control your integrity
  • Presence is more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity
  • Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time
  • SHOW UP – no specific routine = success, the only thing that matters is that you have one
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Never easy to say, “I don’t know,” but it’s more rewarding to understand than be right
  • Lack of sleep is a failure of self respect and of priorities
  • Skimping on sleep does not show a great work ethic, but a lack of self respect. Your health is important.
  • Inspiration is for ammeters, the rest of us just show up and get to work! – Chuck Close
  • The act of showing up is the simple persistence upon which any body of work depends
  • Show up with presence. Be there.
  • If how you spent today was how you spent the rest of your days, would you be happy?
  • The best way to complain is to make things


Zooming Into Your Creative Zing Zone – Sam Harrison

I have seen Sam speak before and always enjoy his energy. He did not disappoint! His session was about getting into your zing zone – that perfect moment in your mentality for the most effective creativity and keeping an open, explorative mind. One really cool thing that we were able to do was be apart of a world record! Everyone in the entire room (hundreds of people), blew up a small paper bag and at the same time, we all popped that bag. It was incredibly fun and entertaining! HOW Design Live Record Setter for the Most Paper Bags Popped at Once

  • The design you do is important – it is meaningful, magical and sometimes medicinal
  • The zones of your life:
    • ZigZag: anxiety and fear – low creativity
    • Zing: moving forward – high creativity
    • Zombie: comfort zone – low creativity
  • Fundamentals for your zing zone: explore, experiment, exhale, examine, and express
  • What fundamentals of your creativity aren’t you using?
  • Zone in to focus, zone out to daydream
  • Connect the dots and make connections – be aware of where you are
  • Seek the unfamiliar
  • Watch with intent
  • Pitch ideas and catch ideas
  • Try to make every day an experiment – take risks
  • Keep examining your life
  • Inhibit your internal inhibitors and ignore external inhibitors 
  • Rank your creativity in Personal, Work, Social and Family to check it and reevaluate using Stop, Start, Continue – does it inspire you or tire you?
  • Express your creativity by teaching – know how to sell your ideas
Favorite Tweets from the session: 
  • When we stretch out and apply our creativity, we release “imprisoned splendor”
  • There’s nothing more damaging to creativity than entrenched success.
  • Are you filling your life with work or are you filling your work with life?
  • We’re taught how to talk and how to read but not taught how to listen.
  • Creativity is a team sport
  • Exploring is all about paying attention
  • Experiment. It allows you to be kinder to yourself when you make mistakes.
  • Nothing creative comes from always playing it safe
  • Inhibit your inhibitors. Make a difference in someone’s life and it will make a difference in yours.
  • Ignore the external inhibitors and your creativity will move into the zing zone
  • Do you play? Do you allow your inner child some liberties? There’s a difference between being child-like and childish. Allow your inner child to play but not take over.
  • Creativity = Play + Pressure
  • Make time to zone in and focus, but make time to zone out and daydream/be creative. Allow your subconscious to exhale
  • How are you expressing your creativity? Be a walking example of what creativity is.
  • Selling is a transfer of enthusiasm. Know how to sell your ideas and express your creativity


We’re Not Here to Make Sense – Able Parris and Mark Pollard

This session was one that had little tidbits of great information, but I couldn’t hear a lot of it so I didn’t really catch what the whole thing was about. 

  • The work is temporary, the impact is permanent 
  • Make yourself uncomfortable – keep learning
  • The only thing you can control is your process
  • Do it on purpose
  • If change is constant, why is it so hard?
  • Ask questions
  • Collaboration ain’t everything – not having it is
  • Allow yourself to be you
  • Humanity is a skill
  • Design for next year
  • Be proud of your weirdest idea
  • Maybe the opposite is the answer
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re stagnant. Do what scares you to grow. You CAN do it.
  • Design for next year. What will the internet look like next year? How will people interact?
  • If you’re just concerned with skills & output, you’re missing something. Respect each other & remember that humanity is a skill.


To Sell is Human – Dan Pink

We are all in sales. No matter what you do, at some point in time during the day, you have to sell an idea or a product to someone. He spoke about how we view sales people and how it has changed. Now people have information at their fingertips and before, they HAD to go to the car dealership or travel agency to learn about something. The buyers are just as, if not more, knowledgeable than the sales people. I even found a golden ticket under my chair and received a free copy of his book!

  • 3 qualities for effectiveness (new ABCs of selling)
    • Attunement: see the wolrd from someone else’s perspective
    • Buoyancy: stay afloat in the ocean of rejection
    • Clarity: curate info
  • Problem solving -> problem finding
  • Ambivert = the type of person that sells the most. Someone that is not an introvert or extrovert, but more in the neutral territory
  • Self talk needs to change to “Can you do this? If so, how?”
  • Add minor negatives
    • A positive statement followed by a weak negative increases positivity – you have something to compare
  • Make it personal – put a face on your work. Imagine the client’s product from one of their customers. What would it look like if the customer was there?
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Buyers have to beware because sellers have more info. It’s information asymmetry
  • We’ve gone from a world where buyers have little info & options to having many options & all the info – now it’s sellers beware
  • The very best artists are problem finders. People need you when they don’t know what their problem is – not when they do
  • To prepare yourself before a big meeting/event, ask “can you do this” rather than saying “you can do this.”
  • When adding a weak negative to positives, you give people a comparison: “It’s not that bad compared to all the great things”
  • Make it personal. Put a face on your work in the sense that you see the product from the customer’s eyes


Sales & Self-Promotion Strategies for Creatives – Jen Lombardi

This was a great session! Whether you are an in-house designer or run your own show, these are all great things to know. And going to this after Dan Pink’s session worked out perfectly.

  • What are you selling and do people want/need it?
  • Find a specific need
  • Discover what will be profitable
  • You are selling you
  • Don’t compete on price – compete on something else like, personality, accuracy, or time management
  • Who are you selling to? Target industries, project types or specific people. Get to know your ideal customer
  • Set goals!
Favorite Tweets from the session:

(phone died during this session so they are short and sweet)

  • Knowing who you don’t want to work with is equally important.
  • Don’t cold call, virtually stalk first. Know your contact.
  • When contacting a potential client, email should be short and sweet & include a call to action


How Design Enhances Business Strategy and Total Value – Nathan Shedroff

Definitely put myself in unfamiliar territory with this session. It was about the business side of design and how organizations can add value by adding value to their company culture. 

  • Goodwill value = a dollar amount above market value
  • Strategy = what should we offer, tatic = should we offer it
  • The qualitiative value creates customers – emotional, identity and meaningful values
  • You need qualitative and quantitative understanding
  • Relationships are the only values that exist
  • Total value = everything that goes into a company – emotions + finances
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Value emerges within experience
  • Experience is strategic – therefore design is strategic
  • Experience creates value. Those companies who focus on total value create more if it, more often.
  • Design is a plan for action 
  • Designers & customer service reps usually know the customer needs but are never invited into the conversation about market strategy


Christine Mau

She’s so amazing, the title of her session is just her name. 

  • When you don’t differentiate, a brand is just a quality promise to the customer
  • Play to win
  • No boundaries! Get out of your own way
  • Mundane projects are an opportunity
  • Use perspective to change a negative to a positive
  • Dare (Strategy)
    • How you’re going to achieve your dream
  • Dream (Vision)
    • This is the “what” that you want to achieve
  • Dance (Culture)
    • This is the “who” you need to achieve it
  • Have courage to stand up and join in
  • Play to not lose – go big or go home
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Mundane projects are not am obstacle but an opportunity
  • You can’t win big if you only make a small change.
  • When you see a lone nut doing something great, have the courage to stand up and join in


= Break for the Freelancer Showcase =

I show my portfolio every year and love it! I think its great to hear what other people think about my work. Some people love it and some people let me know how I can improve certain things. This has pushed me to think differently, go outside the box, and remember to pay attention to the fine details. This year I was able to meet a lot of really awesome people. Some were looking for designers and some were just looking at work. This was a great addition to my HOW Live experience!


How to Start or Grow a Unique Biz, Passion, or Idea with Little To No Start Up Money – Johnny Cupcakes

He is such a cool guy! He has a lot of energy and crazy ideas and definitely knows how to sell them. 

  • Strange is good – it sets you apart
  • Spend an arm and a leg to buy more arms and legs
  • Good packaging design doesn’t get thrown away
  • Do something different
  • Sell the experience
  • Collaboration is advertising for both parties
  • Don’t rush
  • Say thank you
  • What makes you unique?
  • Take risks
  • Put money you make back into your business and invest in new things
  • Your website and business card is the extension of your personality
  • Be happy by doing what you love

No tweets from this session due to the fact that my phone battery decided to take the night off


= Pixels of Fury – Shutterstock Party = 

Stopped by Pixels of Fury party that was hosted by Shutterstock and had a great time with great people and the photo booth! This is one event that I forced myself to go to because I wanted to be immersed in the social side of HOW. After being at Pixels, we went to a local bar and the HOWies took it over. (sorry to the locals!) Intermission was a great place to hang out, talk to people about the conference and enjoy drinks. When removed from the conference scene, you get to know people on a different level and I think that’s what I enjoyed the most. Learning about their life, their careers, and hearing their HOW stories. 


Perfectly Imperfect – Dana Tanamachi-Williams

Love, love, love her work! Absolutely amazing person and speaker. She talked to us about her experiences and being perfectly imperfect. She creates typography from chalk and has been featured in O Magazine, did a wall for Tommy in one of their retail stores and created works for many other amazing organizations.

  • Teachability matters
  • Seek out teachable moments
  • Play
  • Create for the sake of creating
  • Unplug to create unique designs – she doesn’t look online for inspiration because she doesn’t want to create something that someone else has already done
  • Flourish your skills
  • Keep drawing and keep making things
  • Who is flourishing because of the time, skills, and resources that you have?
  • Its ok to not bail on your full time job as soon as your dream is gaining traction – it gives you the options to say “no”
    • SO happy someone said this! A lot of the time the speakers tell you to do what you love and drop the 9-5 job. While I would love to do that, I’m not ready to let the stability go
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.
  • To encourage = to put courage into someone
  • Unplugging is the best way to create unique work
  • When you keep your day job, you only have to take the opportunities that fit your dream best
  • Continue pushing your limits with work that inspires you
  • People won’t know what you’re capable of unless you show them
  • Self initiate your labors of love.


Becoming an Idea Witchdoctor – Stefan Mumaw

Once again, another energetic session by Stefan! We did some creative exercises and he told us about how we can become amazing creatives. 

  • You can always reach higher – we stood up and he told us to put our arms in the air as high as we could…and then told us to reach higher and everyone’s arms moved up
  • Change the answers – go to absurd first and then pull back
  • Be more novel – get closer to absurd than ordinary
  • Creativity is a process, not a talent
  • Change the rules so you can see something else
  • Add restrictions – when you make it more difficult, you become more creative
  • Change the problem – we didn’t invent the problem, we invent the solution
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Creatives are an infinite well of ideas. You can always reach higher. There are always more ideas to come
  • Problem solving with relevance and novelty = creativity
  • If there is no problem, you can’t be creative
  • As we make the problem harder, we become more creative. Change the problem.
  • To kids, rules are changeable.
  • By solving problems, most people come at it from the ordinary/typical…try coming at it from absurdity first 
  • Find the most absurd idea for your problem and pull back. Much easier to go that way than push forward


Learn by Doing and Have Fun Doing It – Jim Krause

He spoke about small design projects that you can do with items you already have. A lot of his projects are outside and not on the computer – which is something everyone should do!

  • Remember to leave things alone and take breaks
  • Harness the power of restriction
  • Make a date and create
  • Direct a mini movie – it doesn’t have to have a story, just an idea
  • No excuses! Everyone has 10min to spend on something creative
  • Take pictures that are so wrong, they’re right – change the rules
  • Make an instant photo studio and play with lights and your camera settings
  • Stuff gets real on paper – there is no undo. It’s a great way to connect your brain to your eyes and hands.
  • Make kid stuff – like paper mache
  • Do and Learn


Design As Idea – Bob Gill

If you read anything from this post, I sincerely hope this is it. This guy was absolutely fantastic! He had common sense about design and told it with a ‘grumpy old man’ attitude. (Reminded me of my grandma) He was entertaining and told amazing stories. He told us everything in our life was dopey and that if we ever said we had a concept, he would throw us out the window. The Big Bang is a concept, we’re not smart enough to have concepts. He applied for a job with Paul Rand, and Paul Rand told him to stay in the business. This guy has done phenomenal things and is a true Mad Man. I love that I was able to hear him speak! 

  • Nothing in your head is worth anything because of culture 
  • Counter culture by finding new experiences
  • Your life would be more interesting if you had more opinions – ALWAYS have an opinion!
  • The best way to get a visual image is to never think of a visual image
  • Clear thinking comes from honesty
  • Practice solving problems
  • The next time you get a job, have no idea what it looks like
  • Listen to the statements – it will design itself 
  • Only show one idea – you can’t trust the client to pick the right one
  • Know that you might not be the best designer for everyone
  • Have a partner and push each other by feeling like the other is smarter
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • The challenge with trying to be original is the culture in which we live. “It’s brutal.”
  • For every 100,000 graphic designers, 99,000 don’t get it. It’s like basket weaving & that, in my opinion, isn’t work for grown-ups
  • Counter the effects of culture (steering your design ideas) by going out and looking for new experiences.
  • Have no idea what the next big thing looks like – there’s nothing in your head worth anything bc someone else put it there
  • Once you find an interesting statement, listen, and it will tell you what it should look like, independent of culture.
  • Experiencing life leads to great design. Use common sense & observe until you have something truthful.
  • Sometimes you are just not the right designer for the job. Don’t convince. Stay true to you.
  • I’m begging you to have an opinion about something! It stretches your mind. Have an experience!
  • There’s no formula. I don’t know… just be brutality honest with yourself.
  • Spend every waking moment redoing your portfolio
  • The inside people have it worse than the outside people. That’s why I’ve never had a job.


Putting Together and Pitching a Digital Portfolio that Lands You Work – Diane Domeyer

Great tips about creating an online portfolio. I am constantly working on updating mine and trying new things with the layouts. 

  • You have 20 seconds to grab someone’s attention
  • Things to keep in mind: easy navigation, descriptor, and images
  • Making work, makes work – go create
  • Keep it simple
  • Include stories behind the work
  • Focus on making a connection
  • What are you doing outside of the workplace? What are you really passionate about?
  • Craft it for the viewer
  • Sample should illustrate the types of projects
  • Stand out but remain professional


Defining Your Personal Brand: Why Are You? – RiCardo Crespo

This guy had so much energy! It was great to hear him speak and tell his stories. This session was all about why you do the things you do and what makes you, you.

  • Purpose: why you are you
  • Responsibility: how you do
  • Action expresses priority
  • Why do you matter?
  • Whats your promise?
  • Think big, talk small
  • Whats your default? What comes naturally?
  • Exceptional people show you why they are
  • Resonate with your “guests”
  • Don’t just be the best, be better and keep moving
  • Be continually better – surround yourself with smart people
  • Applied credibility: what do you do so well consistently?
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • A good designer is more than the execution of skills
  • If, 9 times out of 10, you’re asked to make the logo bigger, you’re not communicating effectively.
  • The key to life is right on our phones: the shuffle symbol – are you ready for this?!
  • Projection is related to the other end of the bridge which is perception
  • Your purpose is the collective of your audience’s perceptions and expectations, validated by the desired experience
  • Do you need your job? Or does your job need you?
  • Black belt syndrome is holding someone back just enough so you can still be top dog. Stop it.
  • Being able to say 10 words in 2 is a science–it’s an art form.
  • Design for the actual problem not what people assume is the problem.
  • Don’t ghost. Ever. Be at the meeting. Stop texting or emailing. Being a ghost is being there, but not really there.
  • Be bold, be audacious, but use smaller and simpler words.
  • Every day, bring the HSF (holy shit factor)


Basic Principles of Identity Design – Sagi Haviv

He spoke about different identities he worked on and how they came to that conclusion. He has worked with large companies as well as universities on their branding.

  • Show the design idea in applications – app, books, banners, pen, etc
  • Does it matter if you like the logo right away? You’re looking for something to last a long time – think long term
  • Criteria for good design: appropriate, memorable, and simple
  • A logo doesn’t tell a story – it is the essence of the brand
  • Don’t underestimate your client
  • Presentation is everything
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • When you see good design, it’s never love at first site. You want your logo to live long, doesn’t matter if you like it right away
  • The logo is a vessel … People project their feelings of the company on to the logo.
  • A trademark gains meaning and power over time! We think of a logo as a flag: bold – distinctive – memorable.
  • Your logo is the tie you wear into a meeting. Your brand is what people say about you after you’ve left.


= Neenah Paper Closing Party = 

Always a good time! This year’s theme was, “Your Design Superpower.” There were a lot of different super heros – both creative and ones that you know. Drinks, food, and very fun people make for a great night! I both love and hate going to the Closing Party – love because its always a good time, hate because I know that means HOW is almost over. 

Thanks to Neenah Paper for another successful party!


Creating a Business Action Plan – Corwin Hiebert

This session was good for both my full time job and k.ray design. Planning and organization are always great things to do in any position and I wanted to gain more ideas on the subject. Even though I am already pretty organized, its always nice to hear other ideas. 

  • Make your bio better – why should clients like you?
  • Force yourself to take make next steps
  • Have a Think and Drink – time where you can present your business ideas and collaborate with someone
  • Insert deliverables
  • Stay accountable and productive
  • Clients come from great relationships
  • Work on your priority items first – give your items a status: top, neutral, and low
  • Set reminders
  • Collect questions and answers
  • Living the dream is hard work
  • Build an environment that gets you organized, keeps you focused, and limits your narrative
  • Identify you primary objective
  • Assign due dates
  • Treat your business like a project
  • Create your momentum
  • Remove chaos and mystery
  • Define success
  • Items for a great business plan:
    • Have a perpetual clarity about your business
    • Become familiar and imitate with your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to your business
    • Describe and connect with your unique brand – your logo is not your brand
    • Define and research your target market and audience 
    • Build and tweak your business offerings
    • Plan and implement your marking mix
    • Establish your pricing approach
    • Get in touch with your finances 
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Work on your business, not just in your business -Michael Gerber
  • Get intimate with your SWOT analysis. Always be evaluating.
  • Pursue marketing activities you’re interested in. If you say, “I really need to start blogging” you shouldn’t be blogging 
  • Define success and always establish next steps when thinking about your business
  • Create a matrix of awesomeness


A Celebration of Authenticity: What I’ve Learned about Brand Minimalism – Andrew Gibbs

Andrew is the founder of the Dieline and fascinates me. A few speakers at the conference have been right around my age and they always intrigue me. I wonder what my life would be like if I took my parents up on the idea of starting my own firm after college. Would I be a HOW speaker? Would I be wildly successful and work on things for O Magazine? Or be featured in multiple publications? Who knows…but its fun to think about. Right now I have the drive to become something great. After college my focus was sleep. Andrew took us through his experience as he started the Dieline and found a passion for packaging design.

  • Critical thinking + Simplicity = Effective communication
  • Secret to brand minimalism: celebration – keep the core of the brand
  • Be true to your brand, and yourself
  • Becoming an expert really does take 10,000 hours – dreams don’t work unless you do
  • It takes a ton of research and inspiration
  • Fake it til you make it
  • Design = perception
  • To be your true authentic self, you have to be relevant
  • The era of complexity has run its course
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • I went to art school because I never wanted to run a business. – A.Gibbs
  • Brand minimalism is communicating in simplified forms 
  • Good design is authentic – it is true to the brand. Good designers are authentic – they are true to themselves


Design and Happiness – Stefan Sagmeister

This was the closing of HOW and what a way to end the week! He spoke about happiness and how people find it and the way we interact. We watched videos of people in the Happy Museum and a video of him trying to talk to strangers on the street. At the end of the session, we sang a happy song to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

  • Levels of happiness:
    • Joy/pleasure
    • Satisfaction
    • Fulfilling potential
  • Factors affecting happiness:
    • Activities/something new
    • Life conditions
    • Genetics
  • Worrying solves nothing
  • Be more flexible
  • When you seek out the things you really want to do, you increase happiness and well-being
  • Negativity bias = you see the negative over the joy
  • NOW is better
  • Be thankful
  • Have humility
  • Before you sleep, ask: What worked today?
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • The only things that can make you happier: marriage, friends, & religion. Money, location, race, & age do not matter
    • They did a study and found out that a rich person is no more or less happy than someone that is poor. Same for race, age and where people live.
  • All of us are pretty awful at figuring out what will make us happy in the future.
  • This life would be much richer if I’d be willing to risk more.


Photo Gallery

Images of Boston, the conference center, events and my session notes.


Thats all, folks!

If you read through everything, thank you! I hope you enjoyed the HOW recap as much as I enjoyed the conference. If you can, attend the HOW Design Conference in Chicago next year. It is an phenomenal experience and one every designer should have. The people are genuine, the conference speakers are entertaining and knowledgeable, and the sessions are inspiring. It really is the happiest place on earth and very magical. Sounds silly, but thats the best way I can describe it. 

Thanks for reading!


Pssst…one more thing

This is what #HOWLive inspires, crazy cool projects like this poster created by Noel Dolan:


Download the poster PDF


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