HOW Design Live | A Designers Experience

So How Design Live 2017 just ended and all the emails I have been getting about it lately reminded me about my own experience at the HOW conference back in 2015.

For those of you who don’t know, How Design Live is a annual conference that brings designers from all over together to network, share knowledge and marvel at everything design related. The 2015 Conference was held in Chicago and Thunderstruck gave both Michael and I the means to attend…. and it was AMAZING!

Although we did not attend the full week, we did head up to Chicago for the end half of the Conference allowing us two full days to listen to expert speakers, designers, and industry leaders. The Graphic Designer in me was beyond stoked to finally be in the same room as some of the designers I obsessed over during college (cough … Aaron Draplin… cough).

At the conference, I attended lectures from amazing designers like Aaron Draplin, Jessica Walsh, and Tobias Frere-Jones. During lecture breaks I spent more time than I am willing to admit browsing the trade show…. because I mean who doesn’t love free swag (especially when it is all design related)? Some of the giveaways I got at the conference still decorate my desk today.

After a weekend of totally geeking out to all things design (and eating amazing food in chinatown) we both came back to work so refreshed and inspired – How Design Live is definitely something every designer should try to experience once.



Here are some highlights I took away from some of my favorite lectures I attended at the conference:

Break the Rules: Release your Creative Anarchist
Denise Bosler |

  • As graphic designers we always hear about thinking “outside the box”. It’s expected of us. But, what “box” are we talking about? Denise says there is no box. Don’t think outside of the box — Just think. The only restrictions you have are the ones you’re making. In order to move beyond the box, both you and your clients need to be pushed. You need to learn how to move away from safe and toward creative anarchy. Your clients need to learn there is more out there than the standard Times New Roman and Corporate Blue. In order to start pushing a client away from safe, you need to first figure out what the creative tolerance of that client is, then Push it. Destroy the Box. There are no rules, no boundaries. Obliterate your fears.


Moving your Career Forward
Phil Cleaver |

  • This session was all about how to get those most out of being a designer. Some of his suggestions included: Design knowing that there are No rules. / Your best resource is your Head. The best inspiration comes from life. Real life. Not a pixelized version of it. / We are in the Service industry, so your job is to make the client happy. Try getting to know your client so well that you develop a natural intuition with them so you are always able to stay one step ahead of them. / Don’t worry about failing. Just always make sure to pick something up from that experience. / Do not give everything away on your website. Use your website as a teaser to get someone interested in your and your work. If you put everything out there, there will be nothing to wow them with when they actually meet you. Let the meeting be the memorable experience. / Most importantly, always be true to yourself.


Play by your own Rules.
Jessica Walsh |

  • Jessica stresses the importance of play in the graphic design field. Play can be anything that challenges you and helps encourage creativity.

  • Know that Good things take time. Sagmeister and Walsh takes 3 months for all projects BEFORE THEY EVEN SHOW THE CLIENT ANYTHING. Get a good sense of the client. Before starting any project, try asking the client for only 3 branding guidelines (attributes describing their brand). Take these and run with them.

  • Play by the Rules: Having self-made rules and constraints for the project give you a guideline to work from. Guidelines do not have to come from the client, in fact making your own rules is better (the client doesn’t usually know what they need) These constraints can help create brand identity and recognition. The best part about making your own rules? You get to break them. Test the limits of your rules and start to modify or break them, this helps to expand the brand.

  • The computer is an amazing tool… but it is just a tool. “Get out there and make stuff with your hands”. This exercises different aspect of your brain so even if your not working on your project, your helping your work by expanding your mind and refreshing your brain.

  • Pay attention to what you love to do when no one is paying for you. Keep doing these things, enrich your life.

Tall tales from a Large Man
Aaron Draplin  |

  • So this guy is amazing to hear speak. He is so passionate about his work it is awesome. This was by far my favorite part of the entire conference.

  • Things I took away from his lecture: You should treat every client the same. A one person start up should be treated just like a multi-million dollar company.  /  Sometimes the best designer is the one who no one knows. Working class designers who did good work for almost no pay are the unsung heros of the graphic design industry  /  Do good work for good people  /  Say less a little more than you say no.

Instead of me trying to summarize, I would encourage you to take a moment and watch for yourself. This video is very similar to what he said at HOW.

Aaron Draplin: “Tall Tales from a Large Man” from Web Design Day on Vimeo.

By | 2017-06-15T11:01:39+00:00 May 26th, 2017|Design|