Five Takeaways from RGD DesignThinkers 2015

If it got cosmic at last year’s DesignThinker’s conference, this year’s was all about staying grounded. Yes, there was lots to be inspired by, but what The Association of  Registered Graphic Designers (RGD) delivered this year was a lineup of speakers who were as willing to pull back the curtain and talk about how they worked as much as the work itself. Here’s the takeaways that got the biggest underlines in my notebook:


Takeaway 1:

Context, Context, Context

Big Medium’sJosh Clark reminded the audience that “the more we try and connect the physical world to the technological, the more we shove screens between [them].” In this virtual reality, the challenge now becomes to deliver not just on data—but also on insight.


Takeaway 2:

Innovation takes discipline

Roopa Unnikrishnan made a follower out of me as she challenged those of us looking to innovate to bring some discipline to our work by encouraging us to (among other things) pay closer attention to what’s behind trends, challenge everything, and intentionally “live in” the possibilities you hope to introduce.


Takeaway 3:

“Design at its best is the

many, together.”

Though most of her talk was focused on how, as opposed to what, we eat, the biggest serving of inspiration from Emilie Baltz was her delicate and delicious definition of "design at its best" as quoted above. To be honest, I’m not sure I fully comprehend her definition just yet, but it hasn’t let me go since hearing it.


Takeaway 4:

Be the change your boss wants

to see in the company

The VP of Design at Buzzfeed, Cap Watkins, not only had the giphy-est of giphy slide decks, his encouragement to “pretend you’re already there” was the most practical piece of advice he gave. Apparently, telling new hires “we do this too,” is a great way to introduce the rest of your team to change…


Takeaway 5:

Show, don’t tell

Andy Chen’s talk on “Inclusion, Equality, Progress: Dignified Representation in Visual Culture” crossed over from the instructive to the subversive when he graciously invited those in attendance to show the reality we want to create, rather than simply telling people how to act.


BONUS Takeaway: Teams!

Looking for a successful team? Here’s the types of people Emily Cohen has identified as key to making it work:

  • Politicians, to balance everybody’s needs
  • Cheerleaders: high fives all around!
  • Industry Activists, to keep your team both current and relevant
  • Tech Gurus, to ensure the team is powered by today’s tools, not yesterday’s
  • Enforcers, to keep projects, and people, in check
  • Emotional Quarterbacks, to keep the team together on a social level

Cheers to RGD and to all those who put themselves and their process on display during the conference. Here’s to looking ahead to 2016!

Looking for a digital marketing agency, and a creative team, who bring discipline and innovation to meeting your goals? Contact us…


James Kingsley is Ellipsis Digital's Creative Director...and despite this year's focus on the practical, he can still get a little cosmic.

UncategorizedJames Kingsley