Archived on August 20, 2012. Visit www.aiga.org for more information.

Get to know the speakers

Get to know the speakers

“Make/Think” Q+A

 

Kurt Andersen, author, radio show host and “Make/Think” moderator

What are you interested in learning more about at the conference?
I’m curious about how designers are responding in their practices to the economic crash and reset—especially if people are finding these times not altogether horrible.
What does the “Make/Think” theme mean to you?
Well, I’m a writer, and the reason I write is to find out what I really think about the characters and situations I invent (in fiction) or the subject I choose to write about (in nonfiction). So in order to make I think, and I make in order to think.
What was the first piece of design that had an impact on you?
Magazines—MAD, then Rolling Stone, then the National Lampoon—had a big impact on me when I was a kid. Their designs (and illustrations and photography) were thrillingly elaborate and integral to what they were, and unlike anything else I’d ever seen. And the French Quarter of New Orleans (the summer I turned 10) knocked my socks off, as did (when I was 18) the Harvard Lampoon Castle—a parody, more or less, of 16th-century Dutch and Flemish architecture.
What advice would you give others pursuing your line of work?
Read a lot, work hard, learn patience, and do what E. B. White said—be willing to be lucky.
What is one touristy pleasure you plan to indulge in while in Memphis?
Visit the remains of the Temple of Ptah. Or, if I’ve been misinformed, visit Graceland.

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Stefan G. Bucher, author and designer, 344 Design

What are you interested in learning more about at the conference?
We’re all trying to solve the same basic problem: how to structure our lives so that we can do what we love without having to compromise ourselves or forgo basic comforts like electricity and shoes. This is a chance to hear firsthand from people who seem to have worked it out successfully.
What does the “Make/Think” theme mean to you?
I like that “Make” comes first. The best thought is worthless unless you put in the hours to make it real. My brain isn’t half as smart as my hands.
What was the first piece of design that had an impact on you?
The graphics and videos for ABC’s 1987 album Alphabet City. Great lettering and design by Keith Breeden and Peter Curzon, stylish photography by the excellent Andy Earl, New York in the background, natty suits, a Bo Diddley guitar in black lacquer with the Chanel logo. That’s the first one that really stands out as “I want in on this!”
What advice would you give others pursuing your line of work?
Practice Greed Control®. Debt is the new sin. Keep your overhead low, live within your means, and pour all your energy into your work. The ability to say “No, thank you” is a greater luxury than any big screen TV, and will let you say “Yes” to a lot better things.
Do you think it’s important to be active in a design organization or community?
Being active in your community is vital. There is no limit on how much beauty we can generate. But our own discomfort with being cooperative, combined with the pressure to compete for the biggest paycheck, ultimately keep us blind and meek. Can you imagine one carmaker not knowing what the other is charging? We need to share information freely, knowing that it will make all of us stronger and allow us to evolve faster as a profession.
If you had to choose a favorite typeface, what would it be?
I like my handwriting.
What is one touristy pleasure you plan to indulge in while in Memphis?
Come on, now. I’ll be bouncing into Graceland.

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Elizabeth Coleman, president of Bennington College

How do you plan to wow the crowds at the AIGA Design Conference?
I’ll be happy if I can persuade the crowds of the power and importance of design well beyond our current tendency to limit design to commercial settings for purposes of selling products.
What are you interested in learning more about this weekend?
This is a whole new world for me, so I’ll be trying to be everywhere at once learning a ton.
What does the “Make/Think” theme mean to you?
Thinking and making for me are inseparable—neither is conceivable without the other.
What advice would you give others pursuing your line of work?
Not for the faint of heart, so there had better be a lot about it that you love.
If you had to choose a favorite typeface, what would it be?
Neutra. Has a special history at Bennington—designed by a Bennington alum and used on its signage and stationery.
What’s one rule (in design or otherwise) that was made to be broken?
Rules altogether are useful only when they are understood to be limited. It would be easier for me to name one that should never be broken, and I can’t even do that.
What do you do to overcome a creative block?
Wish I could answer that one. Sweat and suffer until I’ve worked through it.

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Daniel Eatock, designer, artist and author

How do you plan to wow the crowds at the AIGA Design Conference?
By asking everybody in the audience to take a photograph, using flash, of the back of the person’s head sitting in front of them at exactly the same moment whilst I film the moment from the viewpoint of the stage.
The conference is packed with speakers, workshops and affinity sessions—what are you interested in learning more about this weekend?
Packed with speakers… like a hi-fi shop?
What was the first piece of design that had an impact on you?
A Robin Day chair. I leaned back and fell off, the chair smacked the back of my legs, it was a physical impact.
If you had to choose a favorite typeface, what would it be?
As I am typing I like the one on my MacBook keyboard, VAG Rounded. It seems friendly and functional. It is nice that it was made for Volkswagen and has been adopted by Mac. Maybe in the future Volkswagen should use Apple Garamond?
What’s one rule (in design or otherwise) that was made to be broken?
All rules must be followed rigorously.
What do you do to overcome a creative block?
Gabba.
If we started a colony on Mars, what would you bring with to continue your work?
Lazier [sic] pointer, helium-filled balloon, Hunky Dory album.

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Carin Goldberg, principal, Carin Goldberg Design

How do you plan to wow the crowds at the AIGA Design Conference?
Pasties.
What does the “Make/Think” theme mean to you?
My presentation will address that. Maybe.
What was the first piece of design that had an impact on you?
My next-door neighbor, a graphic designer, had stacks of photostats of wood type alphabets. I borrowed them all the time for school projects like bulletin boards graphically illustrating racial relations in America (New Jersey) circa 1963. Perfect opportunity for some neg/pos action.
What advice would you give others pursuing your line of work?
Run like hell!!!
Do you think it’s important to be active in a design organization or community?
Important. Maybe. I did it because it’s fun.
If you had to choose a favorite typeface, what would it be?
I hate that question and I don’t have to choose.
What do you do to overcome a creative block?
I don’t.
Which room would you most like to inhabit—or is the most “you”—at Elvis Presley’s Graceland?
The groovy, multimedia TV lounge. Not a huge Elvis fan, but I do like TV.

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Jill Greenberg, photographer, Jill Greenberg Studio

What are you interested in learning more about at the conference?
How to masquerade as a graphic designer. Seriously, I love graphic design. In the past, I have designed some posters and album covers. I love design as much as photography.
What does the “Make/Think” theme mean to you?
I have various constraints for each project, and so I have to think of how to work within them and create a great image. I get inspired by many things but concepts and ideas, specifically. I used to read critical theory for inspiration, now I have less time for that. And my life is where I get raw materials from.
What was the first piece of design that had an impact on you?
I was influenced by design as a child, it just seeped into my consciousness. I have always appreciated all the design around me. If I had to pick one thing, it would be the oversized photo magazine called The Manipulator that was from Germany, that I discovered when I was in high school.
What advice would you give others pursuing your line of work?
You have to be obsessed, and work all the time.
What’s one rule (in design or otherwise) that was made to be broken?
They are all made to be broken.
What is one touristy pleasure you plan to indulge in while in Memphis?
I would love to try the BBQ.

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Nick Law, executive vice president and chief creative officer, North America, R/GA

What are you interested in learning more about at the conference?
In this age of blurring media and mash-ups, I’m interested in seeing how designers are collaborating with other creative disciplines (storytellers, technologist, architects, etc.).
What does “Make/Think” theme mean to you?
First, it makes me think of how thinking without making is a waste of time. Theory should always serve practice. Second, it recognizes that as the things we make become more technically complicated, the relationship between thinking and making becomes more iterative. Thinking informs making informs thinking informs making as we rapid-prototype our way to a solution.
What was the first piece of design that had an impact on you?
The South Sydney Rabbitohs’ rugby jersey. When viewed on an old ’70s color TV, the red and green striped uniform created such a garish vibration, it gave you a headache. But because it was my team, it was worth it. The design was a doorway into a rich internal world that was deeper than a curious aesthetic choice.
If you had to choose a favorite typeface, what would it be?
Avenir, because it’s modern but graceful. Next week I’ll have a new one.
What’s one rule (in design or otherwise) that was made to be broken?
Less is more.
What is one touristy pleasure you plan to indulge in while in Memphis?
Ribs.

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Roger Martin, dean, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

How do you plan to wow the crowds at the AIGA Design Conference?
I hope to wow the crowd by helping them see why things that they wish didn’t happen do happen and how they can produce a different result. My hope is that they will be wowed by the recognition of a pattern they did not recognize and wowed by the doability of the solution.
What does the “Make/Think” theme mean to you?
It connotes to me the tie between thought and action, which is a subject near and dear to my heart. I like swimming upstream to understand the thought behind the action.
What was the first piece of design that had an impact on you?
Disneyland (California). I probably went there first when I was about 8. I remember fondly how well designed the processes were—even though that was the Disneyland of 44 years ago. I was used to local fairs and carnivals, and I was blown away by how much better was the entire user experience. I never wanted to leave.
What advice would you give others pursuing your line of work?
Working at the intersection of design and business is not easy, but there are great rewards to be had and a great contribution that can be made to how the world of business works—so hang in there if you are working there.
Do you think it’s important to be active in a design organization or community?
Social networks are the most important vehicle for disseminating new ideas so it is really important to spend the time both giving to and getting from the network.
If we started a colony on Mars, what would you bring with to continue your work?
My laptop. That is really all that I need.

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Marissa Mayer, vice president of search and user experience, Google

What does the “Make/Think” theme mean to you?
It’s really rewarding to build things. I’m lucky that at Google our focus is on building products for our users, things that they use every day, and I think that’s the “Make” part of it. And the “Think” part is really about being thoughtful in design, putting the user first, really understanding how they’re going to use the product and what they’re hoping to achieve. And challenging yourself to be creative and come up with new solutions.
What was the first piece of design that had an impact on you?
Well, my mom is second generation Finnish American, and so all over our house were Marimekko fabrics. We had these really wonderful Marimekko place mats that we would use at breakfast time, my brother and I. Mine had this cute little graphic art of a barn and his had graphic art of a car. I remember looking at that each morning and studying how these bright graphical shapes really didn’t look anything like the physical thing itself, but were such vibrant representations of those objects.
What’s one rule (in design or otherwise) that was made to be broken?
Probably consistency. There are times when consistency really helps your users use the interface much more efficiently, but there definitely are times when you want to break with consistency either to draw attention to things or to challenge how a user thinks about something or approaches it.
Do you think it’s important to be active in a design organization or community?
The best designs can always be improved upon by other great designers, and I think that type of creative energy represents a really healthy design environment. At Google we deeply believe in the wisdom of crowds, that you can take a really great starting point for a design and then iterate and improve on that with input from other designers.
What is one touristy pleasure you plan to indulge in while in Memphis?
I’m a foodie and I’m looking for really good food that symbolizes the local flavor, so I welcome suggestions if anyone knows of a great place.

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Stefan Sagmeister, designer and author

How do you plan to wow the crowds at the AIGA Design Conference?
I’ll plagiarize and put a “W” on my left cheek and a “W” on my right cheek, bending over.
What are you interested in learning more about this weekend?
I am interested to see if it is possible to explain the trend of a lower x-height among Dutch typographers at breakfast without getting smacked about the head.
What was the first piece of design that had an impact on you?
The In the Court of the Crimson King album cover for King Crimson. I copied it in 40" x 40" with a 6H pencil and stared at it for hours.
If you had to choose a favorite typeface, what would it be?
Pleasure Pony. It’s tighter than Unicorn and comes in more weights than Horse.
What’s one rule (in design or otherwise) that was made to broken?
Since the 1980s the one rule that reigned supreme in America stated that design companies containing the word “creative” in their name or tagline are never, ever, under no circumstances, creative. Number two rule says that the ones who have “idea” in their name never have an idea. I hope that changes.
If we started a colony on Mars, what three things would you bring with to continue your work?
Pleasure Pony, Pleasure Pony Bold, Pleasure Pony Sans.

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