2 Days of Thinking for Designers – Part II

After a book full of notes from Design Thinkers Day 1, I had my pen and new notebook ready for the second day. We began Day 2 with David Butler from Coca Cola with his talk about Embracing Complexity. There’s a difference between complicated and complex.

  • Complicated means it is difficult to understand; for example a remote control
  • Complex means many different and connected parts

Since the world is more complex than before, we cannot not design and have to design for scale and agility. He then shared some case studies targeting China and Africa, how Coca Cola managed to fulfill the needs specifically to those groups in the market.

Next up was Susan Bradley. It was surprising for me that she started in Disney with minimal animation experience and knowledge and eventually became a Title Designer at Pixar. The world has definitely changed and it is very less likely to get your foot at the door if you do not know what you are doing nowadays, unless you can prove that you have phenomenal talents and endless creativity to serve. Each project she was involved in requires extensive amount of research and attention to every single details. The story is the king that gives people space for imagination and meanings. It speaks differently to different people.

Then, I picked Andy Pratt’s session about Digital Branding. It seemed to be one of the popular talks seeing that it was full house in the room. He made me look really unaccomplished with his work experiences and achievements. He first started with showing cultural and symbolic connections. The Nazi symbol perhaps is one of the best visual propaganda and has eventually become a symbol of hate that suggests a sense of fear or pressure. Then, he pointed out Usain Bolt’s famous hand gesture after he broke the record or Michael Jackson’s moon walk are examples of creating a brand of their own. It’s interesting in today’s world that more brands want to be more human or personable and humans want to become a brand. In the end, what separates your brand from your competition is the features and functions, categorized as follows: Complimentary, Synergetic, and Symbolic .

  • Complimentary: are embodied in the product or service – adds personality
  • Synergetic: create and effect that is larger than the individual elements, for example, Parkodes (QR codes) for Central park interactivity
  • Symbolic: are so integrated, that the brand will fail if this is removed, for example: removing search from Google.

As a final reminder, Andy shared 8 key points about branding and how our designs work with the brand.

  1. It’s still about our users – They are the Judge/Jury
  2. Content is still the king (they don’t care where it comes from, they only care about good user interface or experience
  3. Context is the key to the kingdom: Actions and behaviours will not make sense without understanding context
  4. It’s a fine line between great and gimmick. Don’t throw in everything but only those ones that are special and useful
  5. Function can and should reduce form
  6. Collaboration between designers, UX designers and developers is a must
  7. Not all actions should be owned: they are opportunities and features that will be good for interactive
  8. Branded functionality is part of the larger system

Afterwards, I attended Julia Hoffman from MoMa to talk about her last minute change to her topic, Design Thinking. Honestly, I was disappointed at first as I felt more related to her original topic of “Non-profit + in-house + low budget = creativity”. But soon after, she wowed us with her challenges working as a Creative director and how she overcomes these obstacles while working in-house with strict brand guidelines that need to adhere to. Like certain brands, MoMa uses a set typeface, but she is able to break it down, use it with different materials, play with it to make it more creativity than its original form. Although, she thinks that design thinking consists of Empathy, Creativity and Rationality but at the end of the day, it is the gut feeling that is more important for the designers. She even shared a case study which a project of hers was unsuccessful and eventually she had to just let it go. “If something is not working, kill the project”.

Then, next session was a bit different. I was at Justin Ferrell’s strategic talk about creative confidence and it turned out to be more than just sitting and listening. Everyone in the room was encouraged to play rock, papers and scissors with the one next to you and the winner will play against another winner while the losers will cheer for the winner. At the end, there will only be one winner left and that will be the last man standing. It was quite nerve wrecking  while having over 50 people cheering for you to win against another winner. Somehow I managed to win every round until the final battle. Justin’s point is that in order to create a risk taking culture, designers need to be vulnerable and face all sorts of criticisms and judging. He talked about the difference between conversion and divergent thinking. He shared with us his favourite childhood story, “Very worried Walrus” from Sweet Pickles; you never know what you can accomplish until you give it a try. There are endless possibilities to a problem and we should not just talk about an idea but to quickly prototype it and test it.


To wrap up the last day of Design Thinkers, Stefan Sagmeister showed us the Happy Film and shared his tactics of achieving happiness as a designer and explored the chances to design pieces that induce happiness in the audience. “‘style = fart’ was the headline of a theory that style and stylistic questions are just hot air and meaningless. I discovered that this is simply not true. Through experience I found that if you have content that is worthwhile, the proper expression of that content, in terms of form and style, is actually very important.”

His tactics to make sure his work remains a calling (intrinsically fulfilling) without deteriorating into a job are:

  • Thinking about ideas and content freely – with the deadline far away
  • Traveling to new places
  • Using a wide variety of tools and techniques
  • Working on projects that matter to me
  • Having things come back from the printer done well
  • Designing a project that feels partly brand new and partly familiar
  • Working without interruption on a single project
  • Getting feedback from people who see our work

Now, that marks the end of Design Thinkers of 2012. I look forward to another brilliant insights next year.

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