by Michael Tucker
I recently attended the 2019 How Design Live (HDL) conference, an annual gathering of 3,000+ creative minds, including artists, designers, writers and marketers. Over the course of three days, creatives had the opportunity to connect with and learn from each other and dive deeper into the conference theme of “How Design Can Change the Future.” Here are my top three takeaways from this energizing and insightful conference!
01. CHANGE IS NEEDED, BUT WE HOLD OURSELVES BACK.
Everyone is on a quest to innovate, but what does innovate really mean? Well, a synonym for innovate is change. Now, that garners a different reaction.
In his talk, The Future is Creative, Stephen Gates deconstructed some of the reasons why change is so perplexing. As the Head Design Evangelist at InVision Gates travels across the globe “preaching” design advocacy and helping design teams grow. Prior to InVision, he worked as a design leader at Starwood Hotels and Citi.
Gates suggests companies (and, in general, people) are afraid of the idea of change more than the process and results of it. One of the reasons for this lies deep within the way our minds are programmed: cognitive biases. Cognitive biases are limitations in our thinking from errors in memory, social attribution, and miscalculations. In total, there are 12 types of cognitive biases, but Gates focused on three that affect creatives more often:
- Confirmation bias: You subconsciously agree with perspectives that support your preexisting reviews and ignore opinions you do not agree with, no matter how valid they may be. Gates asserts that we cannot grow or better our ideas without some diverse and critical thinking.
- Observational selection bias: You start to notice things you did not see before, but you wrongly assume that the frequency of these things has increased. This can happen when you try to solve a problem and leverage a solution found in your research instead of using the solution as inspiration to create a new (and possibly better) solution.
- Projection bias: You assume that most people think like you. This can be seen in organizations when teams from different departments collaborate. It’s typical for each department to have its own process, and friction can occur when these philosophies compete. Projection bias can also happen when creating products and services for customers. Without exercises in empathy, it is easy to get caught upin our own thinking rather than that of our end-user or audience.
By recognizing our cognitive biases and implementing behaviors and checks to keep them at bay, we can work to form a culture that is open to being creative and sharing ideas—activities that lead to that buzzy word.
02. CREATIVITY NEEDS ROOM TO BREATHE.
The Internet has made a remarkable impact on our society. It has given way to services that we can no longer imagine life without. Want to watch a movie? Open Netflix. Need groceries, but don’t want to go out and get them? Order through Instacart. However, as a result of these great advances, instant gratification is now a cultural reality. We crave speed and efficiency. Nevertheless, there are some things that do not play by these new rules—one of which is creativity.
In her talk, The Artist Sets Her Own Pace, Jocelyn K. Glei argued that creativity actually resists the efficiency that we try to place on it. Glei is a creative writer and the host of the Hurry Slowly podcast, which focuses on slowing down in order to be more creative. Previously, she was a founding editor of 99U.com and director of the 99U Conference—both of which are now part of Adobe.
Glei feels that technology has gotten us out of sync. Sometimes, we forget to seek—or we don’t have—the downtime needed for us to reset and continue to be creative. To create something that is truly impactful, creatives need the space and time. Creativity shines in the details and the journey or process we take, which is in direct contrast with technology as it requires precision. Technology drives efficiency and, therefore, outcomes. Now this is not to say that technology can’t be helpful in the eventual execution.
In the same vein, Glei contends that we feel more fulfilled by the analog or physical things over the digital world. Without the precise constraints that technology places on us, we can be free to create—and do—as we please. It’s the reason why many designers and writers still start with pen and paper before moving to their devices. But, anybody can partake in this experience, as long as they do it on their own time.
03. THE FUTURE IS ALREADY HERE.
“What will the future be like?” “What is the next big thing?”
We spend a lot of time worrying about the future, but the truth is, the future is already here. In her talk, The Future is Now: Spotting the Cracks, Fe Amarante jolted us back to the present day and exposed the “cracks” in our reality that are signs of what is to come. Amarante is the VP of design at andculture, which focuses on influencing the future of healthcare, education, and government through design and engineering.
Amarante acknowledged that we are dreamers and naturally imagine what is next, but these “cracks” begin when we no longer accept our current reality. We break our own realities to create new and better ones. For example, in a few short decades, we have gone from watching Star Trek with people in outlandish suits talking on portable communication devices to a near global adoption of the smartphone.
Amarante also pointed out that “nobody is bulletproof to the future.” When we are stuck in “the meanwhile,” where we hide behind excuses and ignore the “cracks” in our realities. Therefore, we miss out on creating that better future. Often times, someone else will take the opportunity and leave us behind. The evidence for this is seen with the rise of the start-up and its effects on the Fortune 500 world. Amarante reaffirms the truth that our consumers always win. In today’s world, they simply expect ideas and solutions centered around them. Every industry is on the hook to pull it off. So, to succeed, the “cracks” must be embraced – not avoided.
It is an understatement to say that there is much happening in the future of design and creativity, and I’m happy to be along for the ride.
As Graphics Specialist in Burke’s Decision Sciences department, Michael’s skills as a designer are versatile and span across print and digital platforms. He is passionate about the impact design can make in everyday things.