My BW Design Conference highlights

Bill Wetherell

April 30, 2015

BW Design ConferenceOn Tuesday, I attended the Bloomberg Businessweek Design Conference in San Francisco. I was struck by the amazing mix of speakers talking about how they wrestle with design in fields from UX, biotech, architecture, fashion, film, music, robotics and more.

Design is a mix of complex, beautiful and often maddening challenges. While there are distinct differences in how design is solved in each industry, there is also a lot these processes have in common and many techniques that can be borrowed. This is particularly relevant as we here at Hightail begin work building our next generation of products designed to address the pains of creative collaboration.

Here’s a quick roundup of my favorite talks.

Evan Sharp
The co-founder of Pinterest provided my number one takeaway from the event when he said:

“When I see product issues that means we have an organizational and culture issue.”

I’m paraphrasing that a bit but you get the gist. I was struck by his insightful connection between the products you produce and the culture that drives your company or creative collective. As a C-level executive of one of the world’s top social companies, I commend him on taking firm ownership of the direct relationship between culture and product. It made me ask myself what am I doing to change my company’s culture so we can bring the right products to market.

Selvaggia Armani designs for Edelman LeatherSelvaggia Armani
The Italian designer spoke about her hand painted leather designs for Edelman Leather. Her stuff is amazing and I want it in my living room.

Daniel Caudill
The Creative Director of Detroit-based manufacturer Shinola, shared several outstanding brand videos and examples of industrial design that illustrate how the company has rekindled American watchmaking, bicycle making and leather goods. It’s a rousing, feel-good, hard workin’ story underscoring an assortment of great looking products.

Chip Kidd
I hadn’t realized that the same designer was behind several of my favorite book covers, so I was delighted to finally hear from someone I’ve unwittingly admired for some time. One of my favorite moments was his story behind the cover of David Rakcoff’s Fraud, which was inspired by a graffiti marred subway poster promoting Airbnb that completely upended the original meaning of the ad. He took this everyday occurrence and produced a concept so simple but perfectly befitting the central theme of the book, creating a cover that looks as if some vandal had scrawled the accusatory title on the cover with an angry red marker. Brilliant.

Can’t wait for next year’s event.

If you like this, try:
Three key shifts in the design industry
Nine reasons why your designs should start with a sketch
Trashing the desktop metaphor