Method+Madness 2016 Recap

Every year, the folks at AIGA Arizona put on Phoenix Design Week – a week dedicated to the vibrant design community in Phoenix. The week typically kicks off with Method + Madness, a two-day design conference hosted in the heart of Downtown Phoenix.

I attended both days of the conference, held down the fort at our Taftly pop-up shop, and picked up some valuable insights from the presenting speakers.

The first day began with a keynote speech from AIGA Director, Julie Anixter. She talked about how understanding the business of design is just as important as understanding design itself. Designers are more than just designers – they’re facilitators, leaders, researchers, system thinkers, narrators, visualizers, strategists, educators, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

If designers understand the business of design and design thinking, we can advance our profession and will be better equipped to sell our ideas to executives and other key decision makers.

“Get more involved with executives to learn what they care about so when you go to them with an idea, they’ll listen.” – @julieanixter

Next up was Sean Adams, Director of ArtCenter College of Design. He shared Ten Corny Lessons, one of which stood out to me:

”Embrace your weird. That thing that made you weird in school is what makes you awesome today.” — Sean Adams

This resonated with me quite a bit. I too often see companies and brands who are scared to “embrace their weird.” These are the companies who are extremely conservative in their thinking and end up with a rather “safe” brand that blends in with everyone else’s. Sure, your brand isn’t failing per se, but it’s certainly not reaching its highest potential either.

The best results I’ve seen come when brands take risks, push what’s possible, and break rules. The takeaway: quit playing it safe…no one has time for safe work.

Stop being so boring.

The last speaker I’ll touch on is the Design Director of MATTER, an agency based out of Denver, Colorado. This guy also works closely with the City of Denver to curate public art exhibitions. He’s also completely self-taught in his craft. Pretty freaking cool, huh?

His name is Rick Griffith. He got up onto the stage only to forget his really comfy scarf which he then retrieved. Glad he was comfortable. Rick’s talk kicked-off with a portfolio reel chock-full of a wide variety of work. The best part of the reel, however, was the background track.

See here for yourself:

Okay, okay. Enough about his portfolio reel. Rick covered quite a few topics in his talk, but what stuck out to me the most was this:

“Stop leaving where you are.” — Rick Griffith

He went on to talk about investing in where you live (which happens to be one of Resound’s values). He practices what he preaches by working pro-bono as a curator and director for Denver’s public art scene. Rick encouraged designers (and other professionals) to stop migrating to big cities that could use anything but another designer trying to “make it big”. If you’re good at what you do, stay where you are, invest in your community, and build something great.

You wanna make an impact, right? Thought so.

I’ll leave you with this critique:

It was fun to hang out with other designers throughout the weekend, but designers are just one part of successful projects.

Designers need photographers.

Designers need copywriters.

Designers need marketers.

Designers need strategists.

Designers need developers.

Why did we leave them out of our community building event? I for one would love to learn from professionals who work in other disciplines. We can do ourselves (and our industry) a big favor by being more inclusive.