Caitlin Aboud, James Byun, Lisa Farmer, and Wil Arndt were at this year’s DesignThinkers VAN conference, and we’re ready to share what made us go “aha!”, “hmm”, or “yes!” from the lineup of amazing presenters.
Diversity and inclusivity are not interchangeable
I had an “aha!” moment when speaker Tammy Tsang reminded us that “Diversity does not mean inclusivity” in her “Developing a Critical Lens for Inclusive Design” talk. Often, the two words are used interchangeably, but they shouldn’t be. For example, if a marketing campaign includes a diverse group of people, it does not mean that it is inherently inclusive. If we only consider diversity but not inclusivity, then it can easily become tokenism. For example, when organizations hire specific groups of people in order to appear more “inclusive” to avoid criticism.
I found this incredibly eye-opening because sometimes we think we are doing enough to be inclusive when in reality, our actions could be producing the opposite effect. Being inclusive means having accurate representations of your demographic, consulting with minority groups through research and exploration, and not treating it as a trend.
Flexing all the senses
I was doing a lot of “hmm-ing” at this event—I like to attend conferences with the intent of answering two main questions.
1. What can I adopt into my own processes? I walked away with a feeling that being physically present in a room with many other talented people creates an intangible benefit. This may be a benefit of engaging more of the senses that speaker Shaun Loftman talked about in his ‘Methods of Sensory Level Branding’ presentation. Spoiler alert: Did you know there aren’t only five?
Getting to hear the speakers share their processes for inspiration helped me to reflect on my own process and see where I can incorporate what I learned from them. It was also great to see people own their style and work to their strengths, even if it’s different from what they envisioned for themselves.
2. What’s coming in the future? Getting a glimpse of what’s happening now, and what’s possible in the future within the AR/VR space, thanks to Isabelle Udo, was eye-opening as well. I left the event knowing I have more questions to ask myself that will help me explore ways to grow and improve.
The fitness-creative connection
I was nodding my head enthusiastically “yes!” when “Murals and Meaning” presenter Gemma O’Brien reflected on the similarities of endurance athletes and creatives. Gemma relates that her focus changed from tackling new (and uncertain) creative adventures to training to run an endurance marathon during the pandemic.
While I don’t run endurance marathons, I realized that my love for fitness (bodybuilding especially) may have given me a reason to not spend more time taking creative risks or experimenting with new techniques or projects. There is no right or wrong way to be creative. Which means more risk, more room to fail (in my mind). Fitness I can control a bit more, I know the science that by doing “x”, I can get closer to “y”. With being creative, sometimes we can’t even get to do “x” because we have no idea what “y” will ever be! This is something I’m planning to re-shape my framing around over the next few months.
Igniting nostalgic feelings
I had all the feels at this event bringing home key takeaways and inspiration from several of the presenters.
I loved the story behind Gemma O’Brien’s illustration career and her notion of bringing your body into your work—listening to your body and then applying strategies employed by runners to optimize energy and endurance.
I had a “lightbulb” moment with everything Elizabeth Paul said about world-building as it applies to brands—that taglines aren’t enough anymore, that people need to know what the world of the brand feels like when they’re in it. This really crystallized a lot of the things I’ve been thinking about lately.
I also found great inspiration from Isabelle Udo’s brief demo of her AR work. It stirred feelings I hadn’t had since the early days of the web, back when everything was new and unknown, and people were still experimenting with everything, the barriers to entry were low, and a world of potential was waiting to be uncovered.
Creativity comes from connection
We had a great time being involved in such an inspiring event. Not only did we get to meet new people and learn new things, but we also spent time sharing, laughing, and of course eating, with our own colleagues.