Two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to attend AIGA's Make/Think national design conference. It was a great experience that was as fun as it was inspiring. The theme of the conference (Make/Think) focused on the designer's dual role of both making artifacts and solving problems with creative thinking. It also provided multiple opportunities to engage in both activities. Here are a few of the things I learned at Make/Think:

You can do anything that you want. Really.
As I heard Stefan Sagmeister describe the things he learned from his year-long sabatical in Bali, it occured to me that the solutions to a design problem really can beanything. So often we model our work after existing solutions that we limit ourselves in what we can achieve. Watch Sagmeister describe the Casa da Música identity (skip to 10:00) to see what I mean.

Making things is fun, and I need to do more of it.
Before the conference, I had been thinking that I needed to draw more. For me (and I imagine it to be the same with most designers), my love for art and design began with drawing as a child. Drawing anything and everything for the pure joy of drawing.

At the conference, I got a chance to draw for the joy of it by participating in Stefan Bucher's workshop on how to draw ink-blot monsters. My end result wasn't nearly as cool as Stefan Bucher's monsters, but the experience of drawing was what I needed.


In the same way, participating in the Hatch Show Print letterpress workshop provided the joy of making something beautiful with the simple elements of wood, ink, and paper. As a designer in the digital age, it was a great reminder to step away from the computer every once and a while and just make something.


"Our approach to design creates the value."
This quote comes from perhaps the most impactful speaker I heard at Make/Think: David Butler, the vice president of global design at Coke. He challenged his audiences to take a holistic approach to design – thinking about the system within which a particular design or product exists instead of narrowly focusing on the minutia of design.

It was great food for thought and was fascinating to hear about how those ideas have played out in real life at Coke. It also has me thinking about the different systems which I work within and how those can be leveraged for greater value through design. Be sure to check out the recent Fast Company article featuring David Butler if you haven't already.

Connect. As the rest of our design team has unfortunately found out by experience (obviously I think this was Joseph's motive in sending me), I could literally discuss for hours the different people, experiences, and ideas I encountered at Make/Think. So, as this is a blog post and not a book, let me close with some pictures and end with an open invitation for designers and non-designers to connect with me if you want to hear more.

Stefan Bucher presenting on the main stage


A slide from the Hatch Show Print affinity session


3 floors worth of designers


Main Street