2010 HOW Conference: A Review (PART I) / by Deborah Clague

The reason for all of my recent Denver posts? I had the opportunity to attend the 2010 HOW Design Conference, this year hosted by the mile high city. It was a week of inspiration and idea generation peppered with brash self indulgence and rank ego. As a newbie to the whole experience, here is my unbiased, day-by-day review.

SUNDAY, JUNE 6: Anticipation building for kick-off, the massive Denver Convention Centre was a sea of hipsters, hippies, those who took themselves way too seriously and those who didn't. Our creative department filed into the main ballroom, ready to be blown away by the keynote speaker who was described as "an innovative thinker" offering a "jolt of inspiration sure to get our creative juices flowing". Well...sadly, he turned out to be no Kool-Aid man ("Oh Yeaahh?" Oh Noooooooo). In fact, I seriously questioned whether he had been partying with Lindsay Lohan prior to hitting the stage. His entire speech was so frenetic, disjointed and above all LOUD that at times I felt like I was sitting in on an audition for a Michael Bay film (and, as such, wanted to walk out). What did I learn from it? Nothing really, other than the fact that his dog somehow helped him get an invoice paid from an insolvent client. Now there's a skill I need to teach Monty. 

After a bizarre beginning to the evening, we (along with thousands of other graphic designers) swarmed into the fabled resource centre for product samples, one-on-one conversation with suppliers and, above-all-else, free t-shirts. It was at this moment that the true power of my job became apparent. Design/Marketing is SO important in how your product/service is perceived. For example: while several stock photography companies were on-hand passing out swag, the ones with the cheaply produced and/or useless giveaways didn't merit any attention. Even though they spent thousands on being there, if their display/handouts weren't as good or better than their neighbour, I wasn't paying attention. Nor were others. It is the modern reality that everyone suffers from A.D.D. 

Getting back to those same stock photography companies...I found it ironic that there was so much emphasis placed on getting graphic designers to join AIGA, as it will supposedly elevate the profession and generate more respect for the trade by promoting established standards. But in the almighty quest for the dollar, HOW threw another artistic profession (photography) under the bus by seeking sponsorship from companies that sell pictures/illustrations for as low as $1.00. That wasn't cool and is just as bad, if not worse, than having someone develop a logo for fifty bucks and a coupon for a free Whopper. The photographer on my team also wasn't impressed. It needs to be realized that all right-brained souls are in this together; we may suck at analytics, but collectively we do make the world a prettier, more interesting place and gosh-darnit that means something too. Neither should be devalued. 

Part II to follow...