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10 Takeaways from the Design Forward Summit 2017

San Diego Magazine's marketing art director shares some useful advice for designers

Last week, I was able to attend the second annual Design Forward Summit at Liberty Station.

The event kicked off on Wednesday night at the Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier with a sunset, light snacks, drinks, and the first of many inspiring speakers. Bright and early Thursday morning I arrived for the breakfast mixer in the courtyard of Liberty Station to live music and a brightly decorated space. Umbrella topped tables had Design Forward branded swag, thermal water bottles up for grabs, and oversized artist lookbooks for browsing. On one end of the courtyard, an artist was setting up to paint a 3D message (3D glasses provided) to be finished by the end of the day.

The conference was moderated by Bennett Peji, the senior director of marketing and community affairs at Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, and focused on the importance of human-centered design in all industries and at all levels. The majority of talks took place on the main stage in a larger auditorium with two smaller, more intimate breakout sessions in the morning and the afternoon. Among the speakers were several leaders and innovators in our design community including the summit founder Don Norman, IMB’s Head of Design Phil Gilbert, and USAA’s Chief Design Officer Mariah Garrett, to name only a few.

Here are my takeaways:

1. “The role of the designer is to trigger the right response.”

Whether it is to persuade a purchase, encourage an action, or just inform, the design is responsible for convincing the user to do what you want them to do.

2. It is all about the experience.

Design is about thinking about the consumer’s experience. Opening the packaging of a brand new iPhone. Browsing the newsstands for the perfect magazine cover and then diving in. These experiences are driven by design.


3. Designers work best in a team.

Designers need collaboration to create their best work. Everyone has their unique strengths, and collaborating can encourage growth and innovation.

4. Stretch daily.

You’ve heard the clichés—get out of your comfort zone, think outside of the box, do something new everyday. It works!

5. Do your research!

Do not act now and ask for permission later. Research your user before you design for them, it saves time and money. You don’t want to get stuck needing to start over when you could have done it right the first time.

6. Good design is self-explanatory.

No explanation needed.

7. Design can change lives.

An incredible group of DIY designers in the Type 1 diabetic community are taking their healthcare into their own hands by developing platforms, apps, and even reverse-engineering existing products to help live healthier lives. Find out more about their movement.

8. Understand your business.

By understanding the goals and processes—financial, metric, or otherwise—of your business or your client’s business, the more impact you will be able to have. The company will value you and your designs more.


9. Always say yes.

Always say yes to new opportunities, you never know where or what they can lead you to.

10. Make your own opportunities.

If opportunities don’t come to you, make them! Create and initiate projects that you are passionate about, you’ll be surprised by the encouragment and support you'll receive.

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