This past October 9th and 10th I was lucky enough to get to attend the AIGA GAIN National Conference. This year the two-day affair was held at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a mere 2 blocks from my school, and I bought student tickets early enough in advance that they only cost an arm, not an arm and a leg.
The schedule kept me hopping—it was a Tuesday and Wednesday, which is when I have a total of 9 hours of classes, but I managed to go to all of the talks, two full classes and half an hour of the third class, and finish my homework! Not much sleep at all in those 48 hours, but I have to say it was definitely worth while. I thought AIGA did a phenomenal job of lining up speakers, and except for the very last session I thought everyone had something really interesting and inspiring to say. So often I’ve heard design speakers who are good, but end up repeating advice that I’ve heard over and over again, or has a story that isn’t particularly engaging or unusual.
This year the theme was social good, so all the presentations revolved in some way about the role that design can play in helping improve society. I noticed a lot of audience members taking notes in some way shape or form, often on ipads or laptops. Since this year I’m the Director of Communications for the AAU AIGA student group, I decided to take my notes by live-tweeting the event under the @AAUAIGA twitter handle. It was actually a lot of fun, especially the interaction with the other tweeters in the audience. It felt like we were having a conversation about the conference, getting opinions and feedback, while it was still taking place.
Below is my twitter stream for the two day conference. It’s a bit long, but there are lots of links to the various projects mentioned during the talks, retweets from other designers who attended GAIN, and some hopefully interesting and insightful quotes from the speakers. Enjoy!
Day 1: Tuesday, October 9th
Kicking off the #GainConference general session! Excited and lucky to have it in our backyard at the YBCA pic.twitter.com/zDlJ1KWs
“The best way to demonstrate the value of design is to design something valuable”
Excited to hear about Fast Company’s Co.Exist (using design to make the world better) from the editor Morgan Clendaniel
I’ve tried to shine a light on designers and others using their abilities to do good in our world -Morgan Clendaniel
RT: Martha Koenig @Martha_Koenig: The professional association for design @aiga asks that designers give at least 5% pro bono: “for the public good”
Now Robert Fabricant from @frogdesign discussing #GainConference theme: design + business value = social value
Humanitarian design (pragmatic needs of huge populations) vs humanist design (improve consumer experience) Where do u work?
RT: Josh Levine @akajoshlevine: Robert Fabricant making a strong argument for the inextricable link between social value and business value.
RT: Josh Levine @akajoshlevine: What will drive business to incorporate social capital—Customers, peer pressure, benevolence?
Rethink “client”. It’s about communities. Nobody owns it, it’s about the connections that drive and enable communities.
RT: Josh Levine @akajoshlevine: How do you measure wins? Org impact, engagement+adoption, market success?
“Capture shared value” new models that combine business value and social value. These are investments that might pay off
Bring lessons from social good projects to business projects & visa versa-use the best of both worlds pic.twitter.com/uBophOWE
“We have to be more careful in what we celebrate”… try to find social good that also interests a corporate client
RT: Beth Toner, RN @BethTonerRN: Now up: Banny Bannerjee, Director, Stanford ChangeLabs
Banerjee: “The carrying capacity of our earth is artificially held low by global inequality, which is simply unacceptable”
“We’re being asked to create entirely new experiences, to create a vision of an alternate future–a new form of leadership”
RT: Kuhlmann Leavitt Inc @KLIdesigns: “we have been in an experience economy and we are now moving to a transformation economy” – Banny Bannerjee
“Doing the right thing” instead of just “doing things right”. We are empathetic, good at synthesizing, engaging, clarifying
Instead of collaborating, co-create: allows simultaneous creation and solutions on completely different planes & approaches
RT: Jessie Gridley Kuhn @Jessabird: When collaborating, you’re still caught between boundaries. Co-creation transcends boundaries, creates new ways of thinking.
RT: Kuhlmann Leavitt Inc @KLIdesigns: “our challenges are integrated but our disciplines are not. This is where innovation has a canvas for designers” Bannerjee
“Designers as superheroes: if we just unleashed enough designers we’d solve all the worlds problems” is this really true?
RT: Marvin Forte @marvinforte: Designers as superheroes, can I get a hell yeah?
RT: Kuhlmann Leavitt Inc @KLIdesigns: “as designers we are paving the road that we are walking on.” -Banny Bannerjee
RT: Jennifer Killian @jenmkillian: Agree 100%! RT@CreativeGroup: Great first day at #GainConference! RT @AIGAdesign
What can designers accomplish when we work with community organizers or promising (but underserved) youth?
RT: Josh Levine @akajoshlevine: Always inspiring to hear Emily Pilloton, Project H Design
“What’s the one class we wish we had access to in high school but didn’t?” Engaging students & the community simultaneously
Can you imagine never having had an art class or not knowing how to read a ruler? An inspiration to work for social good.
Haha. User need research for chickens! Chicken coop design in student enrichment.
#inspiring students designing chicken coops. This is awesome. pic.twitter.com/IbjaNHgE
“He believes that things are possible now, and that’s all I ever wanted.”
RT: Beth Toner, RN @BethTonerRN: Pilloton: we have to make the work WORK. We have to thrive not just survive
RT: Mollie Ruskin @mollieruskin: If you zoom out too far, you can lose sight of what it means to look ppl in the eyes. -Emily Pillloton http://projecthdesign.org
DAY 2: Wednesday, October 10th
With a title like “Experience wonder. Do different.” this talk has gotta be good. Startin off w/why designers feel average.
“Be the change you want to see.”—Gandhi. Look for something that pisses you off, or that’s sitting right in front if you.
That was the moment I saw these kids as people rather than statistics. I felt responsible for them in that moment of wonder
RT: Martha Koenig @Martha_Koenig: “Be faithful to the people behind the stats.” -@justinahrens of @rule29 #socialchange
RT: Marvin Forte @marvinforte: The best people possess a feeling for beauty, courage to take risks, discipline to tell the truth, capacity for sacrifice
konjo.is (live in 2 weeks) is an awesome example of micro lending to women in Africa
RT: extensis @extensis: “It’s not what you look at that matters it’s what you see. ” Justin Aherns
“My path has been one of unintentional curiosity, which has lead me to some of the most interesting challenges.” RE IDEO.org
Awesome approach: “let’s just put it into action and see what happens” possibilities of working for change in Africa
“Humble Experts”: there is a fine line that designers have to balance, but designers can bring an audacity and boldness.
Smart, for social work: do user research and share with everyone in that space. Great way to combine resources, enable more.
RT: Seth Johnson @sethrrr: Story of a designer’s life: “I’m learning, but it’s not what I thought I would.” —Patrice Martin
Tackling social problems: we’re affecting 100 families, which feels frustrating when dealing w/problems of such large scale
And now a word from our president… about Design for Good! Jumping right in @AIGAconference
Short & sweet. Reaction to Design for Good has been “That was awesome! What’s next?” Making change w/expansive AIGA network
Introducing Gaby Brink of Tomorrow, Tomorrow Labs, and Sparkwise pic.twitter.com/HJ2G9bph
RT: Martha Koenig @Martha_Koenig: I feel like Postit notes could have sponsored most of these presentations. Great low-fi collaboration tool.
“With Sparkwise we wanted to create a dashboard for feedback data and impact metrics so you can learn and expand.” Awesome
Creating a common currency to share with funders or audience; create a much more meaningful story about your impact.
Business intersecting w/social challenges RT@akajoshlevine: How will @sparkwise continue to grow and be funded in long run?
What we need to be concerned with: communities w/generations of no change b/c they have no memory of the ability to change
#GainConference trends: bring humility, look at what’s in front of you, tackle what scares you, and create change. #designsuperheroes
If we can get people to DO, to dig in, to go deeper, to engage, we make more of a difference. Activate others.
You don’t feel powerful when other people do the talking or you. Kids felt empowered b/c they were doing their own talking.
Good question. Still waiting for an answer… @sethrrr: So… who funded it?
“One of the things he felt passionate about was that we addressed the needs of the most vulnerable parts of the population.”
Bring people to the table, create a solution, and spread it. The 911 system came about from a @RWJF grant to an ambulance co
“Creating a local system controlled by the community is at the heart of community development”
Bureaucracy is bad at creating solutions, responding to feedback & allocating resources, but community orgs are good at it.
RT: Beth Toner, RN @BethTonerRN: Really insightful look at the history of community development from David Erickson
Now thats community involvement: consult local gangs for what they need to leave a space alone (answer: provide jobs 4 them)
RT: extensis @extensis: “Your zip code is often more important than your genetic code when determining longevity.” David Erickson
http://whatworksforamerica.com free book on history and future of community development. Your tax dollars at work!
Oops. That link is http://whatworksforamerica.org
Gettin up close & personal w/the health care system. The hospital gown was designed 90 yrs ago—why has no one redesigned it?
When something’s wrong, small things matter. Simply painting a hospital room a cheery color can increase recoveries.
Hearing about some seriously awesome medical start ups working with Rock Health
There’s more power in your smart phone than there was in the Apollo 11. Think of what we can do with that power as designers
A lot of people going to the ballot box vote inaccurately due to bad ballot design; prob dwarfs all voter fraud & errors
http://ballotup.com creating the largest directory of sample ballot designs. Visit! Help out!
Ravi Naidoo is already killing it one min into presentation. Glad he travelled the 10,000 from S. Africa to join us!
Africa: Tell investors: this is a green field for your investments. Tell citizens: demand more, demand basic human abilities
RT: extensis @extensis: “All too often it’s about the lowest common denominator rather than the highest multiple.” Ravi Naidoo
In S Africa we’ve been blessed and cursed with amazing natural resources, but we haven’t invested in our human resources.
Politicians: “How frothy, how frivolous. Why worry about design? We’ve more serious problems.” But those ARE design problems
RT: Amy Hayes Stellhorn @amyrill: Another genius piece clarity from Ravi Nadoo, their mantra, “3 days of talking. 362 days of doing.” pic.twitter.com/kbEm1sDr
Instead of B2B or B2C, can we be business to community? Who is most important in your community. How can you support them.
RT: Jessie Gridley Kuhn @Jessabird: Ravi describing Your Street challenge: “Design is this little bit of sorbet in your day.”
From deeply personal comes the universal. When you design for YOUR street, you design for 50,000 streets, not visa versa.
RT: Seth Johnson @sethrrr: How can @AIGAchapters lauch their own http://www.yourstreetchallenge.org project? cc/ @designindaba
RT: Jennifer Beatty @GraphikDeziner: Chin Wag: (n.) 1. a light informal conversation for social occasions.#RaviNaidoo
http://yourstreetchallenge.com We wanted to find a project that would work in a slum in Mumbai and Rodeo Drive. Succeeded admirably!
RT: Tomorrow Partners @TmrrwPartners: Inspiring man. Inspiring talk. Thank you Ravi Naidoo.
Hometown hero: Phil Hamlett. We get him in classrooms every week, lucky us!
RT: extensis @extensis: “It takes deep knowledge and proximity to solve the problems of poverty.” Jim Taylor
RT: Mollie Ruskin @mollieruskin: “Don’t bother me…I’m dreaming” – farmer in Myanmar during@proximitydesign collab.
RT: Alex Dahl @AlexDahl: A social enterprise that treats people as customers lets them decide if something is valuable or not. @ProximityDesign at #GainConference
RT: Matthew Marosz @mmarosz: Last session of the #GainConference. Will be hate to leave all these awesome talks. But taking a lot of ideas back with me.
“It had to be interactive and dynamic. It took many shapes and forms… Mostly bad.” always a part of the design process!
“We wanted people to believe that we as human beings could actually make the world work better” good message perfect for IBM
RT: Seth Johnson @sethrrr: •Express the essence •Create emotional impact •Deliver the gift of delight •Compel people to think •Inspire people to act
RT: Maisha E. Simmons @mzsimmons: Best line all day. I wouldn’t call it candy I would call it tantalizing content
“Problem solving is not the issue. It’s problem seeking”—We can take more responsibility for our work as designers.
“It’s not a world changing solution, it’s a neighborhood changing solution. But maybe that’s the same thing.”
Agreed! RT@rraedesign: Ravi Naidoo is my new real world hero! Amazingly eloquent and inspiring. I want to visit Cape Town!
RT: Seth Johnson @sethrrr: “The next 50 years will belong to to the most attentive and astute problem SEEKERS. That moment starts now.” — @thisiscchs
RT: Sarah M. Shumway @smshum: “Design is an investment, not an expense.”
Impressed with the wide range of innovative ideas and solutions by Christi Zuber and the Kaiser Permanente team.
RT: Christopher Simmons @thisiscchs: Be small. Be Personal. Be fearless.
In addition to passion, you have to be able to convince people to join you.
Haha “What would you do if you had no way of charging your phone?” muttered response in #gainconference audience: “I would die.”
Excited to hear now from our very own Jordan Clare-Rothe talking about his @AAU_GD thesis project helping people with autism
“I’ve always said that clients are like husbands—they don’t come trained.” ha!
RT: Drew Davies @drewoxide: Official afterparty is at Bennigan’s on Market. RT @vijaymathews: Unofficial afterparty: Local Edition after dinner tonight.
My Awards: most eloquent—Emily Pilloton, most inspiring person—Ravi Naidoo, most inspiring project—impossible to choose!
RT: Martha Koenig @Martha_Koenig: Great idea @J_ClareRothe. “This may help me help my boy who had a doozy of a day.” -my aunt #autism http://Image-engine.org
RT: Justin Ahrens @justinahrens: Sad to leave but it’s been amazing #GainConference. Now let’s go seek opportunities! #BeTheChange