Design Week Vancouver Blew.

Last week, I was at Design Week Vancouver, sponsored by Icograda and the GDC. It was a fantastic event—two days of alternating inspiration and provocation on design’s value in our current culture.
There were a lot of personal gleanings—and sometimes the event’s speakers blew my fragile mind—but mostly I’m left with a glittering bag of silver gems that I’d like to share. These mostly derive from five different speakers, all of whom connected me to a deeply personal drive to do better work for better clients in better ways.

  • If you can’t do surprising, delightful work, it’s probably not going to be very good.
  • Allow a client to be the best that they can. Don’t second guess them, especially at the start of a relationship. Enter new client relationships as if you were right out of school.
  • Listen—and then listen some more.
  • Don’t be afraid to piss people off. At the very least, surprise them.
  • Find a way to think about and talk about and then help the billions of people who are simply without.
  • Mark-making is a critical component of graphic design that has been lost amongst pixels, grids, and the strategy sessions of the mundane and mendacious.
  • Not drawing is like not showering; it’s where the best ideas happen.
  • Related, stop using stock unless you absolutely need to. Get clients to pay for the way your eye connects to you hand not just the way your mouse connects to your software.
  • Skip market strategy and the concomitant silliness. Get the audience and you’ll have the client.
  • Open source your ideas, designs, and plans. In some cases, such as architecture, not doing so is tantamount to withholding expertise that can change lives.
  • Hold complexity but aim for simplicity.
  • Sustainability in design is more than about not printing an email or using FSC paper. The entire lifecycle of design should be infected with sustainability—approaching a client, thinking about their work, defining a message, and finding the medium.
  • Do what you can to reduce the human burden on the planet. At the same time, recognize that not all ideas around sustainability are fundamentally sustainable.
  • @FChimero “As designers, we are gift givers. We’re asking people for their time and should reward them for it.” via @Rethinknow
  • Slow down. And don’t let markets and marketing stop you from asking the hard questions of yourself and your clients.

Oh, those five speakers: Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity, artist and designer Marian Bantjes, illustrator and designer Frank Chimero, Ali Gardner of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and strategist Brian Collins. Thank you one and all. And thanks to the GDC organizing committee that made it real and great.