Archive for creative leadership

Hopscotch: A New Kind of Conference

Going to a design conference always brings anticipation and excitement, as I look forward to meeting and engaging with creative people, learning new ideas, and seeing great design. I was in desperate need of some inspiration, and Hopscotch Design in Raleigh, NC, was the perfect antidote. Raleigh is a thriving hub of design and cultural experiences. The number of locally owned restaurants and bars is impressive for a city of its size, and they’re all within walking distance of each other, so if you can’t get into one — which is typical, because of the delicious offerings — you can go a couple doors down and sneak a bar stool. It’s a fantastic backdrop for a design conference.

Hopscotch Design was conceived by Matthew Muñoz and Jonathan Opp from New Kind to merge with the annual Hopscotch Music Festival. Design inspiration by day, music by night. It doesn’t get any better. Now in its fourth year, they’ve managed to harness the best local talent and bring in folks from around the country who are doing incredible things in the design spectrum. There were six different venues within walking distance, so we weren’t stuck in an air-conditioned conference center the entire day. The weather was beautiful, so it was a welcoming way to explore Raleigh and get a little exercise between sessions. Read the rest of the post here.

Jennifer Kinon, Hillary Clinton’s Design Director: What happens when the campaign is over?

Despite the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton had the most memorable branding and social media campaign ever. Michael Bierut’s design of the “H,” started it all, but the campaign branding was carried out by Jennifer Kinon and a team of 16 designers over a 16 month period. She will tell you it was the most grueling and most rewarding experience of her life.

How do you build a brand in one of the most contentious presidential races we’ve ever witnessed, with a constantly evolving news cycle and berating Tweets from the opponent? Here we talk to Kinon about the campaign branding, her team, and what happened when it was all lost in the end.

How did you end up being the person in charge of Hillary’s brand?

I was recruited by Michael Bierut. I had worked with Michael for four years before Bobby C. Martin and I started OCD, and he knew my obsession with creating identity systems. He knew me and how I lead projects, so I was flattered that he reached out and said, “This thing just went live. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. I think you should be the design director.” I was like, “Well, I have a company, haven’t you heard? I have a lot of other things to do.” He’s like, “Well, you should do this instead.” I kind of knew from the minute he called that I would say yes, but it was a long process for Bobby and I to discuss and figure out how we would divide and conquer the world at that point, knowing that we wanted to keep OCD going. We had some of our most exciting clients that we’ve ever had at that time. We couldn’t just walk away from it.

The campaign interviewed a whole pile of people, so I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to get the position. But I got the call back, and when they said yes, I knew that I would say yes, and the rest is history.

It was sort of too good to pass up, wasn’t it?

It is. I often get asked, “What do you miss most about the campaign?” It took me a while to figure out an answer. At the beginning I was like, “Nothing. I’m glad I have my life back.”

But, the real answer is, every day I knew I was doing the most important thing that I could be doing. It was a huge, exciting moment that changed dramatically throughout the experience.

Read the rest of the interview here.

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Joe Duffy: Reflecting on his contentious debate with Tibor Kalman 28 years ago

At the 1989 National AIGA Conference, Tibor Kalman took the main stage and talked about what was wrong with design. He then proceeded to point the finger at an ad Joe Duffy and Michael Peters put in “The Wall Street Journal” as an example of bad design. Duffy, who was in the audience, was stunned and completely caught off guard.

It was unprovoked and unfair, to say the least. After the onstage debacle, Duffy called for a session in which he could respond to Kalman. It was perhaps too little, too late. Kalman’s wrath had already gone viral, or as viral as things could go in 1989. So, Print magazine’s editors invited the two to sit down in their New York office, with Steven Heller as moderator, and published the debate. It’s recently resurfaced online, so I wanted to talk to Duffy today, 28 years after the fact, to get his take on it. Kalman, of course, passed away in 1999, and was feisty til the end.

Duffy is still designing, but his son and daughter—who are his business partners—are mostly running the show at his Minneapolis-based office. He prefers to paint as much as possible.

Tell me what happened at the conference?

Tibor was a different guy. I was in the audience. We knew one another, at least by reputation back then. I think I was on the national board of AIGA at the time. He knew I was going to be there. He took it upon himself to tell the audience all the things that were bad in design, and as a summation he projected this full-page ad that I took out with Michael Peters and said, “Now here is a perfect example of what’s wrong with design,” or something like that.

It was a cheap shot, to say the least. It was like this 12 year old boy on the playground that was jealous, basically.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Debbie Millman: Design Matters & Beyond

Debbie Millman might be the nicest person in the profession. That’s not just my opinion—that’s a fact. I’ve heard that sentiment from many people over the years, and I’ve experienced her generosity firsthand. But don’t let that fool you. She’s no pushover. She’s a vocal proponent of using design and branding to create awareness and action for social causes she believes in. She doesn’t just sit on the sidelines observing the world, Millman gets involved and incites action in others. She’s a leader and a fighter.

Whether she’s teaching branding in the graduate program at School of Visual Arts that she cofounded in 2009 with Steven Heller, or interviewing someone for her popular Design Matters podcast, or fulfilling her dual roles as creative director/editorial director at PRINT magazine, she is immersed in the design community, speaking at events all over the world, and serving as an active board member of several organizations. She has also written six books, with more in the works. Her work clearly fuels her soul.

Millman recently left Sterling Brands, where she served as president of the design division for 20 years, working for some of the world’s largest brands. Here we talk to her about her career in branding, the surprise success of her podcast, and what’s next for this adventurous lady.

As someone who’s been immersed in branding for more than 20 years, how have your perceptions changed over the years about brand expectations and limits?

I find the role of branding now incredibly, incredibly exciting. I think that the ultimate goal of the discipline of branding is to reflect the culture in which the brand or the product or the company participates, which evokes a unique composition of sensory perceptions, which in turn create brand tribes. The extension of any one of these sensory perceptions impacts the way we think and act—and the way we perceive the brand or the product or the company. When these perceptions change, people change. I also think movements such as Black Lives Matter, is one of the most important movements to enter our cultural discourse in a long time. Design has finally become democratized, and these efforts are not about anything commercial. They have not been created for any financial benefit. Read the full interview here.

Cindy Gallop: Building the Brave New World of Sex Tech

When Cindy Gallop introduced her social sex start-up concept to a live audience in 2009, she really had no idea what she was getting herself into. She unwittingly tapped into a huge global category, but found it damn-near impossible to get any backing—financial, technical, or social. It was a conundrum of epic proportions.

However, that did not deter her. In fact, if you tell Gallop she can’t do something, it will only strengthen her resolve to prove otherwise. This is a woman who likes to “blow shit up.” Her words, not mine. Having worked in business communications for more than 20 years, mainly with Bartle Bogle Hegarty as the founder and former chair of the U.S. branch, she now runs her own consulting business, as well as her start-ups If We Ran The World and Make Love Not Porn. She knows a thing or two about getting shit done and if you don’t like what she’s doing, then move along. She has no time for you.

This is not a story about sex. This is about one woman’s relentless pursuit to build an entire business category in order for her company and others like it to succeed, despite countless obstacles that would have deterred most sane people. Read the interview here.

“I am doing what I tell other entrepreneurs to do, which is when you have a truly world changing startup, you have to change the world to fit it, not the other way around.”

Jennifer Sterling Finally Gets the Last Word

Having lived and worked on both coasts, Jennifer Sterling knows a thing or two about cultural and political discourse in design. Her illustrative typographic renderings have produced praise and ignited loathsome critiques from her peers.

She experienced a profound backlash in the early 2000s for her design of the now infamous 2001 AIGA 365 Annual. No designer has ever taken such a public beating for their work as she did. And she never responded. Until now.

That catalog sent designers into a tizzy. Today, I doubt anyone would raise a brow. Sterling did what she did best: She created typographic and textural images to create meaningful discourse and showcase the work as it was meant to be seen. But, perhaps she was ahead of her time. People didn’t get it and the reaction was visceral and harsh. Today that book would be a precious keepsake, and anyone featured within would be honored.

It seemed as if Sterling—then in San Francisco—dropped out of the design world, only to re-emerge five years ago in New York. That’s not quite the case. She has continually worked, but she intentionally kept a low profile. She was never looking for the spotlight, but it found her in the ugliest of ways. Despite that, her love for design never wavered and she continued to work with clients like Adobe, Aveda, Gilbert Paper, Hillary Clinton, and more. Her work has been included in the permanent collections of The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Library of Congress, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Museum Fur Kunst Und Gewerbe, Hamburg, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Here, we talk to her about her passion for design and typography, and we let her have the final word on that book she designed more than 15 years ago. Read the interview here.

Jessica Hische on the Art of Procrastination

If it seems like design darling Jessica Hische’s rapid ascent in the design world came easy, she’ll be the first to tell you that she worked her ass off to get where she is today, pulling all-nighters pursuing her passion. And she’s still kicking ass and taking numbers.

Known for her illustrative hand-lettering, Hische has worked for an impressive roster of clients including Starbucks, Wes Anderson, The New York Times, Target, Tiffany & Co., and Samsung. Last year she released her first book, In Progress, for Chronicle Books, which details her exacting process for drawing type. Part information, part inspiration, part eye candy, this is a fun romp through her sketchbook and how she approaches her projects.

Always one to share (or as she says, “over-share”) on her website, Hische offers great advice when it comes to creative burn-out, getting paid, and being productive. Here, we talk to her about her penchant for procrastination and how it’s actually benefited her over the years.

You’re a self-described procrastinator … in fact, you’ve coined the term “procrastiworking.” What does this mean, exactly and how bad are you?

To me, procrastiworking just means putting off the work you’re supposed to do by working on something else [that is also productive / challenging creatively]. It doesn’t always mean putting off work until the last minute—sometimes I procrastiwork by hopping around on different projects in a single day (when I start losing steam on one, I’ll work on another, assuming I don’t have an immediate impending deadline). Sometimes it means rearranging my schedule so that I can fit in passion projects. When I am really fired up about a personal project, I work on it during the work day, and work on client work in the evenings (because I know I HAVE TO stay up to finish it, because of a deadline, versus the personal work).

I do it quite a bit. But the thing that’s odd is that the more I do it the more productive I am. I’m probably more likely to hit a client deadline and make great work if I have bounced around on a lot of things in the process of getting there. Read the rest of the interview here.

procrastiworking

Marty Neumeier on the Transformative Branding Industry

You could call him the boss of brand thinking, with six notable books on the subject and more than 45 years of experience in the design field, or you could just call him Marty—which is what he likely prefers. Branding is under his skin, part of his DNA, and it’s something he constantly thinks about, and rethinks, as consumer habits change.

How did an Art Center drop out become such an enigma in the world of brand positioning and strategy? Well, as you’ll learn here, through hard work, intuition, and failure. Seven years ago he sold his brand design think tank, Neutron to Liquid Agency, where he serves as the Director of Transformation. In this role he helps companies transform themselves through brand strategy.

Neumeier recently updated his bestselling book, The Brand Gap, and retitled it The Brand Flip to account for all the changes that have happened in the past 13 years since the book was released. But he believes the core ideas he communicated in the original still hold true, as he explains below.

How did you become such an expert on Branding?

I’ve been thinking about branding since design school at Art Center. I love the aesthetics part, but surely it’s not important to anybody unless it connects with a business result. It took me a long time to connect the dots and the role for designers to be strategic thinkers.

Back in 1970, a booklet came out called Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind, and it was a little orange booklet you could stick in your pocket. I read it, and was like, “Oh wow, this is what we have to do.” It’s better than all that advertising stuff that had come before. This is solid, logical stuff. I started thinking about the designer’s role in creating a position for a company vs. the competition. The more I thought about it, the more I was able to sell that to clients. I’d say, “I know what you’re trying to do, and this is who you want to be. You need to make some changes, and this is how I can help you.” That was the start of my branding career, but it was a long-time coming. Read the rest of the interview here.

Confidence is Overrated: Debbie Millman’s Road to Success

As the voice and founder of the Design Matters podcast, Debbie Millman has interviewed designers, authors, musicians, photographers and entrepreneurs learning not only the secrets of their successful journeys, but also the failures and rejections they’ve experienced along the way. Her keynote for the upcoming HOW Design Live Conference, which will be streamed live here on Creative Live, is called, On Rejection: A Cautionary Tale of Dreams, Hopes and Rejection. In her talk, she draws from her own experiences of rejection and despair through revealing and sometimes hysterical anecdotes.

Here, we asked Millman about how vulnerability and courage have played major roles in her successful creative journey, along with the disappointments and missteps along the way. She holds nothing back. Read full post here.

Confidence is overrated

Hand lettering by Debbie Millman.

Boost Your Creative Brainpower

Searching for inspiration? Here’s how four accomplished creative professionals come up with all-star ideas.

Generating ideas for new projects can seem daunting, and getting started is frequently a huge part of the battle. Feeling stuck? We talked to Gail Anderson (cofounder of Anderson Newton Design), Will Miller (partner and creative director at Firebelly Design), Andrea Pippins (founder of Fly and adjunct faculty member at the Maryland Institute College of Art) and Ron Thompson (cofounder of Italic Studio) about how they tackle the idea generation process. Based on a wealth of experience, here are their tips:

When it comes to idea generation, beginning is often the hardest part. How do you kick-start yourself?

Anderson: I collaborate with my partner, Joe Newton. It’s great to have someone to commiserate with. He is probably more polite than he needs to be, but it’s good to know that there’s someone there to shoot down my bad ideas as needed. We do a lot of pencil sketches and have copious notes scrawled everywhere, so we typically don’t rush to the computer right away. Both Joe and I really enjoy dissecting a project together, so it’s fun to just sit at our desks and talk about all the possibilities.

Miller: Many times, we push ahead by looking back. Past projects provide many opportunities for good ideas that began to take shape but might not have come to fruition. We also ask ourselves what we’ve seen out in the world that’s exciting — a special print process, a certain type of binding or an interaction we weren’t expecting. If it’s something of interest to the studio and makes good sense for a project, we’ll try and find a way to explore it and make it unique.

Pippins: I typically start writing down words that come to mind when thinking of the topic at hand. It’s usually in a list form or a mind map. I use those words to refine my research for inspirational imagery. I love going to the library to do research, but I also use online resources. I build private mood boards on Pinterest for projects, and collect images that I can use as inspiration and reference throughout the process. Then I start sketching. Most times, those thumbnails are scanned in and used as a base where I build the final design or illustration.

Thompson: Luckily, we don’t begin any project in a vacuum. We have a starting point that is spelled out in the client brief. After listening to our clients talk about the problem they’re trying to solve, we’ll do a deep dive with them to learn all about their industry and their product. This initial research gets us in the right frame of mind for developing our concepts, from which all other ideas and visuals will flow.

Read the rest of the interview here.