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Nexterday: A Review of AIGA Next
Semi-Guest* Editorial by Joe Marianek

Apologia
This is an inaccurate redux. It is incomprehensive, muddy, sloppy, amaeturish and full of rhetorical mishmosh. So, at the risk of distorting critical moments, and offending infamous pundits like Momus, I’d prefer to just present this review as observational facts. Add your own real facts in the comments. This attendee had a heavy case of mile-high plateau-headache, and spent approximately 1/4 of the weekend looking for a humorous gift-bolo. All said, this review follows the Speak Up house-style conference review organizational principle with a series of lighthearted facts, puns, provocations, and occasionally sensible criticisms.

Overall

First, check out coverage on Flickr by official conference photographer Stu Alden.

The Theme: Next / In a reaction to the 2005 Boston Conference non-title, Design, “Next” was this year’s moniker and call to action. The banal and techy nature of the oft-used adjective/adverb encouraged speakers, staff copywriters, and attendees to refer to Next as a noun-ish, metaphysical higher place (Like Denver, how apropos). Overheard at the convention:

Designers are always on the edge of Next.
What is your “Nextness?
I guess you could say this is Next because…
So… what’s Next!?

Next is an extendable concept; there’s Nextness, Nextland, Nextyear, NextThinking, NextConference. And a million tiresome phrases like What’s Next. The problem with it is mostly how kind of Microsoftish and businessy the word is. You could imagine BusinessWeek having the same exact conference with the same exact identity.

The Airport / An upsetting, low-brow moment happened when I looked out the window before the plane touched down near the pile of faux tee-pees, or “rocky mountain-shaped” canopy that characterize the architecture at the Denver Airport. Fentress Bradburn, the architect who decorated the airport with Native American architecture, insists that these are abstract snow capped mountains. I only see tee-pees, and manifest destiny.

The Venue / The Denver Convention Center. Any building with a forty-foot cobalt blue bear threatening glass and steel is a vessel for infotainment. The bear was inquisitive and entertaining, made up of pure geometry — like most of the attendees of the conference. The interior of the convention center was a po-mo buffet of shapes. Unlike other neutral emissarian box-shaped meeting spaces across the United States this one had pizazz. One could almost hear the Cluster album art echoing through the halls. Like a Nancy Skolos poster, an explosion of decorative wedge shapes threatened spheres, and squiggly light fixtures threatened to evacuate the ceiling. Surely, the lack of right angles was an unsettling premise for the Great American Beer Festival Attendees next door.

The Logistics / Kudos to the volunteer folks who pulled the levers behind the curtain. Babysitting thousands of eager but hungover designers who, at any given time, were either looking for free frozen Snickers bars, paper tchochkes, more vodka, or a bathroom — no easy task. Special thanks goes to the tech-support crew (Todd) who helped me when my laptop crashed. Everyone appreciated your highly-visible lab coats, dance moves, and daffy grins. You were the signage and wayfinding and so much more.

The Free Tote Bag / This year’s bag was pitch perfect for all those hippie designers; styled in sturdy but flowy natural-white canvas, it talked to all the catchy green-washing trends of the moment and encouraged general move towards simplicity. (Last conf’s bags were the color of beet soup and mustard.) Let’s be honest though, the logo could have been a little smaller or not there at all. Which, speaking of…

The Identity / Of course, it’s more than a lockup on a website; the full kit of parts cannot be posted here. In checking the colophon of my program booklet, I found a list of seventeen names that “created” the identity; and about twenty others that carried out the various collateral. So, respectfully, it was a big beast to wrangle. The attempts that were made for cohesion were futile and sloppy. Regardless, designers aren’t swindled into attending the conference by the presence of an identity… it’s the cerebral icing on the cake and it should exist as quiet, pleasant, engaging scenery. The straight-faced, clumsy and at times sobering collateral… a blur of murmering mobius strips, interstate, avenir, mediocre lockups, and lots of black and white and blue duotones of stock will be forgotten quickly. What was it about? This system lacked passion or cohesion (except a wash of blues.) No concept or requisite Next thinking was visible. It was so hard to feel anything when looking at this stuff… why wasn’t this symbol tossed off on an insurance company for $75. Logically, we designers should expect our conference identity to somehow clarify, enhance, or cleverly engage with the theme, or the audience for God’s sake.

The word Next executed in paper-thin Avenir (French for Future) Next , whispering lightly on collateral and on curtains was nice at times and almost poetic. However, the powder-blue, flippy-floppy Mobius strip / Tucker Carlson Bowtie / workflow management / electronic document icon was inescapably dull. To be fair, one can imagine how it must have made waves of sense when it was pitched to the AIGA on tabloid printouts of notional brochures, and in various enticing configurations. In the end, it never happened that way. Something about it feels like a leftover “Xerox” logo or something more for a business Document Management Software Exposition. In true staid, New Yorkish, corporate identity fashion, it uses the most corporate of color combinations: Cyan and dark blue. Enter Citibank, Ameriprise, Lenovo, Nationwide, and American Express; fortunately this is not a conference in the financial services / tech category. Oh and thanks for cutting squares in the conference program booklet; until then, we had forgot that the AIGA logo was a square. I feel sorry for the poor guy in the bindery who was forced to execute this sadistic imperative. In summary, one can only compare the overall feeling to being a passenger in a ‘94 Dodge Minivan at best: It gets you where you’re going, at the expense of someone else’s idea of style, function, and economy. You’re embarrassed to be seen in or near the logo, and it will end up in a junkyard. I turned my tote bag inside out.

On Stage / Unlike the Rent-like stage of years past, this year’s Wells Fargo Theater featured no high-concept live music, performance art, lasers, or smoke machines. It was just white lights and people, a cut to the chase. The interstitial music was curated by the lovely music-direction firm Agoraphone and featured an accessible soundtrack. Interstitial films were curated by filmmaker and columnist Jeff Scher… including an amazing early abstract ad for television by Oskar Fischinger.

Kurt Andersen / The master of ceremonies brought an inquisitive, humorous and passionate voice to the stage… surpassing expectations and further indoctrinating his Heyday / Spy / Studio 360 / Very Short List fans. He knows how to present and mediate critical discussion to a tune that designers (and fans of the liberal arts) love. This humorous, but unfortunate in-motion snapshot is exactly opposite of his persona.

Command X / There is no doubt that this was the unexpected highlight of the conference. Seven contestants battled through “design problems” in real time to be observed by the audience and thinned by the jury each night. It went seven, then five, then three, then one winner: Michelle Narcisi of Lancaster, PA. Like American Gladiator, Double Dare, Jeopardy or any other white-hot cerebral contest… I would have paid big money to attend a Command X conference for a weekend. This event proved that design can socially bring the gang together and tell the Darwinian tale we love to hear. On television, it would entertain the family (or at least just designers) by simulating the profession’s more seedy and unspoken gauntlet — a rigorous beauty contest of talent leading to popularity and relevance and 15-seconds of immortalization.

Host Michael Bierut proved with pitch perfect elegance that his game-show circuit cohorts, Pat Sajak, Regis Philbin, and Tim Gunn lack the showmanship, charisma, and quick-wit of a Pentagram partner. This panel of distinguished judges included Brian Collins of Ogilvy, Noreen Morioka of AdamsMorioka, Emily Oberman and Bonnie Siegler of Number Seventeen and a guest appearance by the other Michael (Vanderbyl). All were convincingly intimidating as they would have been on prime-time with the infighting, deliberating, teary outbursts, writing utensil gesturing, etc.

The contestants were more or less all young, smart, and eager junior designers, who volunteered to showcase their preternatural drive to find, execute, and present their concepts on the spot. Most remained calm in front of the 2,000 or so über-critical designers. As Emily Oberman noted at the finale, “if you can present your work in front of this many people when you’re 20, you’re apt to tackle any boardroom anywhere.” This treat of a side show came out of nowhere, but is destined to make history in the area of direct-TV family style entertainment by touting a canned design process as an approachable and delectable treat for the masses. Also, the stage set design was by Scott Stowell at Open. But for some reason, everyone thought the Proprietors at Speak Up did it. Both share a passion for citrusy green?

The Attendees / It’s always a pleasure to see olde friends and meet new folks too. The common threads are thick and you really feel the taughtness of the profession at these things. Besides the bi-coastal glitterati and standard conference fare of industry magnates, many of the attendees came from far reaches of the US. I wager that many were born in the mid-to-late 1980s. By the showing at the crowded student sessions, Next was heavily fulled with new fangled straight-outta-high school prolific youngsters with overstuffed e-rolodexes who have years of experience with asset-management and .jpg-making before they graduate college. This time (versus Boston) there seemed to be more folks from the West Coast… that meant more overlapping stripes and triangles, wandering hee-haw hand drawn typography, and less of that black and white east coast trade gothic. Heck, Ed Fella was giving out autographs in the street. There was even an attendee from… SciArc.

Design Fair / Classy sponsor booths from Mohawk, Adobe, Pantone, Print Magazine, Quark and Bank of America (who knew!?) to name a few, all were a big hit. To speak for Speak Up on behalf of the design community as it were, thanks to the kind sponsors and institutions who provide financial support and enlightenment to designers; your contributions of time and energy are deeply appreciated. Chances are, we will use your product if it’s good. Chances are, we already do, and will buy a legal license if you make eye contact with us. And if you’re a nice person with a drink ticket or a free mousepad, well…

The Book Store / An impromptu design bookstore outside the design fair carried some intriguing titles. Randomly present was the brilliant and until recently out-of-print Malcolm Grear book which made a nice addition to my shelf.

Sex-Eyes / I’ve never been to a Risk Manager’s Conference, a State Comptrollers Retreat, or TED, but I suspect that every minute of every single day in the North American hotelscape, there are professionals at conferences. And these category leaders — when in the presence of business cards, tchochkes, free soap, alcohol, and each other — unanimously decide to trade sex-eyes. Often irresponsibly, but often with protection. Why not? It’s just eyes… some eyelash batting. It’s a much better strategy to gaining new business than tending your LinkedIn profile and making cold calls. At the conference, sex-eyes often happen after dark, and in the common “safe” areas where thousands of likeminded dorky folks are clutching their totes, snacking on land-locked shrimp and nervously walking around in circles. At this conference, the sex-eyes scene was at the two-night Design Fair for the plebeians; the elite rolled at the D.O. party and biz-class room blocks.

Day 1 / Thursday
There’s nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.
— R. Buckminster Fuller

Studio Tours / Just down the road — in Boulder, CO — license Crispin Porter+Bogusky (not to be confused with Crispin Glover). This agency is white hot; apparently they have a phonebooth with a direct line to free Dominos pizza. I never tried the pizza, but their interactive art director, Julia Hoffmann says it’s just fabulous pie. Other agencies in the Boulder area include Vermilion, TDA, and CommArts. Denver had some great places too apparently: McClain Finlon, Cultivator, Ellen Bruss, and Object+Thought. Phew.

Daniel Libeskind / Being called a fast-talker is usually not a complement; except for architects. Especially if you have a fountain of ideas like this gentleman. With an economy of words and sounds, he covered more in a five minute speech than others do in hours. The narrative was helped along by a slideshow examining his dialectic- and process-driven approach to architecture. “We made many models of this” he jittered, while showing a photo of himself in front of 100 scale Freedom Towers. A bunch of tectonically crumpled paper/cut to photo of Rockies/cut to the Denver Art Museum, and no one asks why. This guy is real good.

20/20 / Following the tradition started by Chris Pullman way back when, this staple — moderated by Debbie Millman — featured twenty celeb-nominated designers who were each given just sixty seconds to catch the hearts and minds of the audience. Masood Ahmed (via Milton Glaser) took a train across the country, Silas Munro (via Lorraine Wild) confused and entertained with entropic visual antics, Amy Wang (via Stefan Sagmeister) made a heartfelt case for the metric system with her graduate thesis, Ametrica, and Erika Lee (via Bobby Martin) revealed her facsimile, a twin sister designer, but Andrew Sloat brought it home with this truly patriotic video. (Warning: do not watch this if you are on the W ‘08 train)

John Hickenlooper / Geologist, Brewmaster, Restaurateur, Cultural Provocateur, and Mayor of Denver, gave a passionate powerpoint about his relationship with design and what it’s brought his city. As we discovered over the weekend, the Mile High City has been the site of a cultural renaissance. Daniel Libeskind’s Art Museum, David Adjaye, and soon Allied Works. As the Alps are to Switzerland, the Rockies are to Denver… an omnipotent powerful graphic presence. As we later found out, Mr. Hickenlooper had deemed this “design week.” In addition, the Denver Art Museum will soon be home to the physical AIGA Design Archives.

Katherine & Michael McCoy / These were the only locals clad in full black and they gave a beautifully deconstructed and humorous presentation of Denver’s history from the Gold Rush to Herbert Bayer, and into the Next century. I sat next to Ms. McCoy at one point earlier in the day and was struck by her remarkably fast BlackBerrying. These two made the Mile High city seem like a cool place to practice.

Command X-tra! Party / This classy party was on the top of another Hyatt Hotel in the “Pinnacle Club” overlooking Denver from a Saul Steinberg-like vantage point which overlooked thousands of miles of dark desert and planet. There were some historically good breaks which reminded me of this guy.

Day 2 / Friday
There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.
— Ken Olsen, founder, Digital Equipment Corp, 1977

Laurie Rosenwald / The principle of Rosenworld gave a studio on “How to Make Mistakes on Purpose.” Her mantra is that no one sits down and tries to invent the next big thing (like Velcro) or decides to be creative.

Janine Benyus / The founder of the Biomimicry institute gave a great dictum about the inspiration that natural processes can bring to commerce — and how to appropriate “nature’s blueprints and recipes” for purposes of beauty and function.

Paul Budnitz / Kidrobot’s limited edition toy empire was enabled by this gentleman who spoke about how to keep it creative and stay prolific and work around the unnatural symptoms of designer’s block. This issue has simultaneous application to the stylists of boutique knickknacks as well as designers of corporate identity.

Bucher, Lehrer, Trollbäck / Moderated by Steve Heller, this session had the three designers showing works in progress by the three designers. Stefan Bucher shared his weekly monsters and an in-the-works book about them. Warren Lehrer has created a faux autobiography of an alter ego author that tells his life through the book covers of his novels. Jakob Trollbäck took us through his proposed infotainment graphics in the lobby of to Gehry’s IAC Center.

The Future of Design Writing / A panel of Michael Bierut (D.O), Armin Vit (U.C.), John Walters (Eye), and Alissa Walker (Unbeige) displayed the most tension and insight and was the highpoint of the focused sessions. To a full room of designers, students, writers and bloggers… a thick line in the sand was apparent between the old guard of print rags and e-published world. Professional and trained writers and luxury-priced publications like Eye seem to fear a loss of readers but still refuse to embrace the full-value of online publications with user-driven content. Mr. Walters used some unraveling terms to define the relevance of these nouveux writers, more or less encouraging them to get proper degrees and start with magazines. Aptly stated by one of the panelists, writing is something that one gets better at by doing. All press is good press, and why should we discourage the natural elevation and value of our trade? The culmination of the discussion came when Bierut compared the increase of design writers to the impending growth of desktop publishers / designers / myspace decorators. These days, Everyone has access to the tools and distribution networks of trained professionals; but it doesn’t mean the death of our professions.

Marian Bantjes / Her inspiring visual presentation documented her rise to Nextness through search, struggle, Speak Up, and recently, Saks Fifth Avenue. Bravo.

Christoph Niemann / The top-notch illustrator showed new work and talked about how difficult and futile it is to illustrate certain topics (why not just a photo of Paris Hilton getting out of jail?) He defended his defiantly un-German sense of humor. His beautiful in-progress children’s book is about an ambitious cloud who is struggling to define his own self-identity.

Momus (a.k.a. Nick Currie) / There’s not much to say about post-folk musician Momus’ performance except that he seemed rattled by the crowd, and not able to keep it in linear and businesslike format; he was schizophrenic, which was actually a relieving counterpoint. He is still inventing new poetic word strings and phrases that sound like his song lyrics for John the Baptist Jones. From AIGA’s speech description, Currie says, “and what of the post-bit atom, the reaction return to-and perhaps fetishization of the real world phenomena that prove impossible to digitize successfully.” Exactly.Try his blog Click Opera and you’ll get a taste of the full force.

The Typography Quiz / What is Matthew Carter’s favorite sport? Yeah, this was hard. Out of 20 or so questions I got 6 right. The winner had 8. I assumed that Mr. Carter was an ice hockey man like Chester Jenkins. Wrong.

Helvetica Documentary / The best part of this late-evening screening was the panel that followed of director Gary Hustwit and friends. Someone asked Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones if they thought any other fonts (Gotham) would come close to the same soaring popularity. They didn’t really answer, but grinned with a hint that there were new cuts of Gotham coming out soon (say what!?).

The Design Observer Party / Held in the basement of Denver’s nefarious Milk Bar on the way over, our Rickshaw cyclist informed that, “it’s cool, they have red lights.” Emcee’d by Kevin Smith with many guest DJs. The basement dwelling to be a hot dance-party via Hustwit’s eclectic playlist peppering New Order with Prince. A grand piano sat in the corner and defined classiness until some inebriated designers laid it down thick with an impromptu “Heart and Soul.” Full coverage and photos of the partygoers can be found at Unbeige.

Day 3/ Saturday
Everything that can be invented has been invented.
— Charles H. Duell, an official at the U.S. patent office, 1899.

Khoi Vin / The design director for the New York Times online prophesized about the changing tide in design… the switch in controls from content handed top-down to user controlled consumption. His own website is exemplary of a good balance.

Shel Perkins, Linda Joy Kattwinkel, Esq. / As head of the center for practice management, Shel Perkins reminded everyone that contracts are more than just a formality or piece of paper in the pile. In fact, the 12 pt double space writing on the contract that may spell BS to some is actually much more than legalese and can keep your projects, and client relationships on track.

Bill Brixton, Hugh Dubberly / Perhaps the longest and most packed 105 minutes in conference history, each gave an equally passionate presentation on the future of design education with regards to technology and “the growing presence of computers and the internet.” Bill’s ideas were mainly to encourage the process of sketching and simple, intuitive modeling the design of user interfaces. He even said that Microsoft is like “the new Bell labs.” But don’t we just wish Microsoft would go away. Hugh encouraged an almost scientific approach to the practice of educating designers for emerging technological markets… complete with slides and daunting complex charts like this that anyone with several hours to spare can understand. One audience member, head of a higher-education department, commented on the presentation aftwards, “but they can’t even make their slides look good.” Indeed. Complex and chatty rhetoric leads to no end and promises to bore any Yaled designer, especially when it is served up in an inaccessible form.

Alex Steffen / The author of WorldChanging — and Bruce Mau’s lightweight doppelganger — gave a post-Gore presentation about the end of the world that, as always, scares the shit out of any punchdrunk conference crew. He didn’t really have an answer about how we could help except some generalities about “making this information visual, and compelling.” So, I suppose we should discourage unsustainable practices — but still rock the occasional annual report or Coke can.

Blaise Agüera y Arcas / This was like… web 12.0. This Microsoft man actually may have converted some folks away from the temptation the of Apple by presenting these brand new PC-based tools. Photosynth and Seadragon software. Besides being a world-changing “visual ecosystem,” which will sadly and predictably break ground in e-commerce first and formost. (Not available for test drive by Apple users=a big fuck you to the design industry=business only please) These technologies offer a new way of looking at Notre Dame, porn, Milton Glaser posters, etc. Fabulous.

Chili’s / Had a great medium-priced dinner at Chili’s with my co-workers. Helvetica’s Gary Hustwit almost joined our table, but sadly opted out of the Awesome Blossom awesomeness.

Closing Party / The Denver Art Museum is a funhouse. Once you’re in the funhouse, you don’t notice the house, you just have a lot of fun. In our case, we tasted sushi and held our wine glass in the fancy way by the base. The only problem with the architecture is that it doesn’t allow your eye to rest on any right angles, so it felt disorienting at first; but in the end you really get how it frames their collection. The work just seems to float there — and you feel like you’re floating in the mountains. Their collection of their design hero expatriate Herbert Bayer’s photos, paitings, collages and earthworks was the icing on the cake.

In Summary
The Future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.
— Doctor Emmet Brown, Back to the Future III

Next is at once question and a forward looking call. Next is a feeling. As Richard Grefé offers in the opening letter of the conference booklet, “What comes Next — is defined not by AIGA, but by the vision we all impart.” One would have expected this aptly titled conference to ooze with optimism, dazzle with delightful insights, tensions, releases, questions and answers, and challenge our professional status quo with spectacular “how the fuck did they do that?” fireworks; and at times, Next did. Ellen Lupton’s article puts in perspective the fortunate presence of these women, the fireworks. But I’m now less certain about what’s Next in design. The AIGA didn’t fully pave the path to Nextville, there were just a few breadcrumbs to follow; and maybe that’s all was intended. Designers aren’t deciding the “Next” for designers, users are. We’re all trying to keep the laser-lightshow controls manned and our cat in a bag. Maybe we should relax and do what we do best instead of fearfully guestimating the future. For now, maybe we should just focus on the present with eyes on the horizon.

* Joe Marianek is an identity correspondent for Brand New, but happily joins the fray of general design discourse.

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PUBLISHED ON Oct.20.2007 BY Speak Up
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Jonathan Hoefler’s comment is:

"Web 12.0!" I love that.

On Oct.21.2007 at 10:37 AM
Armin’s comment is:

First of all, I have to thank Joe for stepping up to the review plate on Speak Up's behalf. While traditionally I have not shied away from a lengthy review, I was not quite prepared to do one this year, as Bryony and I traveled with Maya to Denver and under the giant blue bear; so our attention was usually diverted into her and making sure she wasn't screaming too loud to distract other atendees, even if Maya managed to squeeze out "aaaaaw"s from everyone.

I was still able to pay enough attention to notice that this conference felt better than Boston or Vancouver. Everyone seemed more relaxed and there to enjoy the company and the city; whereas the previous two felt like we all had to look and act smart. But that's just me.

The couple main sessions I managed to hear were pretty interesting, and I can't wait for the audio/video to be on the AIGA site so that I can catch up.

The "Next" theme felt a little forced but, luckily, in its vastness it proved to be ambiguous enough that speakers could just tip toe around it by saying what they planned to eat or design next, or by moderators simply asking "what's next" and fulfill the theme quota.

I wanted to enjoy the identity of the conference, as it looked flexible, in more ways than one, but it never quite bent in the right direction – neither pretty, nor edgy, nor nextey, nor daring, nor safe, but everywhere in between.

Everybody has raved about Command X and, against my usual against-the-currentness, I have to agree and add that it was a very welcome addition to the conference: It had emotion, stress, passion, competitiveness and a human touch to it that really engaged everyone in the audience. When I had first heard the idea from Bonnie Siegler, I thought "cute" but "perhaps annoying for three days". The segments were well paced and enigmatic. And, Joe, besides the limey green coloration of the identity, it seems that both Open and I have a penchant for the bold and chunky, so I'm flattered that anyone thought I had a hand in it.

Overall, I thought it was a great conference, in a great location – as long as you drank enough water to avoid those headaches. Memphis in two years sounds like an extra fun time; as the smaller location might force us all closer together.

On Oct.21.2007 at 01:25 PM
Andrew DeRosa’s comment is:

The photo you provided makes a strong case for your interpretation of the airport's architecture as being "faux tee-pees", however I've been to the DIA many times and that never occured to me. Furthermore, the interior space at this airport is, in my opinion, one of best in the nation. The huge, light-filled "main hall" is an awe-inspiring interior public space. I find it interesting that the semantics of the architecture seemingly ruined this experience for you.

On Oct.21.2007 at 01:57 PM
Mark Notermann’s comment is:

Any chance that Command-X will be archived in some way online? I'd love to see more of the process.

On Oct.21.2007 at 03:17 PM
Joe Marianek’s comment is:

Here's a Zapruder-esque video of thefinal Command X show at Next.

Definitely worth watching for the audience's roaring appraisal of Narcisi.

On Oct.21.2007 at 07:14 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

I'm gonna have to follow all these links because I'm obviously far from the madding crowd...besides, having been from the Louisiana swamplands to the Atlanta hilly landscape, if I went to the mile high Denver my head would explode...

On Oct.22.2007 at 07:50 AM
Tim’s comment is:

Fentress Bradburn Architects, who designed DIA, also designed the Convention Center you visited.

On Oct.22.2007 at 11:39 AM
Christopher’s comment is:

I enjoyed this event more than Boston and almost as much as Vancouver.

I had some of the same issues with the lock-ups, I wanted to fix several of them in the main stage venue. A point you may have missed is that the logo looks to have originally started as the shape of the state of Colorado, which is basically a rectangle. I only noticed this half way through the conference and only then because I've worked on several logos for entities within that state.

I thought the myriad shapes of the logo were fun, but a nightmare from a production point of view. How many different art changes were there for the bags?

On Oct.23.2007 at 01:39 PM
Todd’s comment is:

Thanks Joe for the review. Knowing you couldn't be in every break-out session, I would like to add that Stanley Hainsworth from Starbucks put together a hugely informative and inspiring session on Friday morning titled, "All the Best Stuff Stays In-house (and Other True Stories)."

Of course, being on the client-side myself I may be a bit biased toward the topic. Still, Stanley put together a stellar presentation, littered with humor and engaging anecdotes that spoke clearly to the challenges (and dreams) of every in-house designer.

On a similar topic, Jim Hauptman (L.L. Bean) and Ed Krug (Aquent Consulting) threw down a very informative set of slides (with no shortage of circular shapes) in a session titled, "Building a Breakthrough In-house Agency. Naturally, this was more tactical than Stanley's version, but proved equally as compelling for those of us who spend our time in the coporpate grind.

All in all, I thought it was a great conference with an unthinkable number of take-aways. And, yes. Command X was outstanding. While it might be a pretty limited viewership, I would definitely tune into the televised Reality Series should it every find its way to a network. Might even upgrade my digital cable package to add whatever channel it lives on!

On Oct.23.2007 at 02:00 PM
Randy J. Hunt’s comment is:

Video podcasts of everything from the main stage and audio of most of the "affinity" sessions will be available from AIGA in the next few weeks.

I have to say, this was the best of the 3 AIGA national conferences I've attended.

For the record, it's Nichelle (not Michelle) Narcisi.

On Oct.24.2007 at 09:28 AM
Scott Stowell’s comment is:

Also, the stage set design was by Scott Stowell at Open....a passion for citrusy green?

Credit also goes to Gary Fogelson (on typography) and Serifcan Ozcan (on animation--who made a very nice 20/20 with Naz Sahin).

But that stuff isn't green, it's yellow! We are glad people seemed to like it, though. And Command X is excellent. Great job Nichelle!

On Oct.25.2007 at 09:46 AM
BWJ’s comment is:

I'm glad Command X went well, but it irks me that it's a large organization's rip off of Cut & Paste, which has been going on annually for three years now. First in NY, and now spread to SF, Chicago, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Portland, LA, London, Boston, Berlin and Sidney...

Even the name, "Command X" (aka Cut) is too close for comfort.

On Oct.25.2007 at 06:12 PM
Emily Oberman’s comment is:

I, also, am very glad to hear that Command X was well received. When Bonnie and I were conceiving of it, we honestly didn't know how well it would play. A HUGE part of why it worked was how amazing all the contestants were. And of course the lovely and talented Michael Bierut makes everything better.

To set the record straight, we had the idea (and name) for Command X before we had ever heard of Cut and Paste (we don't get out enough, but that's another story). But then I went to one, when my friend Keira Alexandra was judging, I was happy to see that they are very different.

They both do involve design and judging, but other than that they have little in common. Cut and Paste is kind of like a rap battle, or a walk-off, or a page-off (if you watch 30 Rock)--the work is done live on stage. Command X is waaay more of a rip off of Project Runway and American Idol.

In any case I think both can and will exist in the same small pond that is the field of design, and that's great.

On Oct.29.2007 at 11:29 AM
Jemma Hackbarth’s comment is:

In addition to being the founder of the Biomimicry Institute, Janine Benyus is also the co-founder of the Biomimicry Guild, the Innovation Consultancy for Bio-Inspired Design.

On Oct.29.2007 at 03:10 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Late to the discussion, but nevertheless...

First, I missed Hockenberry. While Kurt Andersen was insightful at times, he lacked the wit and presence that it takes to be a great emcee. He was downright academic most of the time. Please bring John Hockenberry back.

Secondly, while I enjoyed most of the speakers (Marian most of all -- unbiased), I felt that all of them underdelivered on the theme of NEXT. It's ironic, but I thought Vancouver did a much better job of talking about NEXT -- bioengineered corn, the featherless chicken, the (then new) Segway, a futurist speaker, etc.

In contrast, Denver only talked big -- but didn't deliver on their lofty theme. The first speaker, the biologist, was interesting, and so was the last guy from SeaDragon. Actually, he was amazing. But all of the speakers in between were just ok. Whatever NEXT was contained in their talk -- it felt forced.

Lastly, Command X. Overall, it was a lot of fun. But it wasn't anything earth-shattering. The contestants are admittedly talented, but they are also admittedly inexperienced. So their design solutions weren't terribly innovative, and the fun was more about seeing them compete, rather than comparing the design solutions themselves. The turnaround of work is so short, that, to be fair -- the contestants needed to be a little more experienced, like maybe designers with 3-5 years under their belt. It would've been a much more interesting smackdown.

I thought the final solution of Narcisi's was nice, but was incomplete. Again, it just reinforces the fact that they are fresh graduates, and it showed.

Lastly, I thought the judges were too easy on all of the contestants. At the very least, they could've treated it like it was a typical crit in any of their offices. The jokes and horseplay was funny, but a little over the top. The contestants deserved more.

On Oct.29.2007 at 06:31 PM
Tan’s comment is:

And btw, I think Joe forgot to close a [bold] tag in his post or something, because all of the responses are coming in as bold text. But not in preview -- isn't that weird?

Armin, can you please fix?

On Oct.29.2007 at 08:19 PM
Armin’s comment is:

There we go... Thanks Tan. I wasn't seeing the error in Safari, just in Firefox.

On Oct.29.2007 at 09:02 PM
Gordon’s comment is:

This review might work for your dad, attorney-at-law, or your best friend who is a camp counselor.

For the designers reading this review, you probably lost credibility when you referred to the Gill-Sans NEXT as "paper-thin Avenir (French for future) Next". That's where I stopped reading. Nice work.

But speaking of (French for future), "Bonne chance" with your next community newsletter.

On Oct.30.2007 at 06:18 PM
Joe Marianek’s comment is:

Gordon: thanks for the correction—I should have noticed from the 'X' that it is Berthold Gill Sans light. But, the three other letters didn't seem to have enough humanist cues. Apolgies Mr. Frutiger, credits go Mr. Gill and his dogs. My next community newsletter will be a cinch!

On Oct.30.2007 at 11:25 PM
Ryan Nee’s comment is:

Are you kidding about the logo? No meaning? It's a frame, twisted into whatever shape people choose it to be. I thought it served as a perfect representation of the conference: wildly different designers sitting through talks by wildly different presenters, each sharing their take on the future of design. It may not have been executed well in all the collateral, but its meaning seemed pretty goddamned strong to me. And are you seriously criticizing it because it's blue? Lame.

Also, Hugh Dubberly's Model of a Brand may be "ugly," but it's infinitely more intelligent and thoughtful than anything ever produced by 99.9% of graphic designers. That guy is a god. Look at it again.

Also, the Denver airport is among the best airports I've ever seen, and I've seen a shitload of airports.

Love,
Ryan

On Oct.31.2007 at 07:43 PM
Emily Oberman’s comment is:

It's not just a frame. I don't know for sure, but I'd guess it's supposed to represent Colorado (which is a rectangle) as well.


On Nov.01.2007 at 04:03 PM
marc english’s comment is:

colorado? the logo? could have bit me in the butt, as i didn't see it coming. been hitting the aiga conferences since '89 in san antonio and have always felt that 'themes' don't cut it. who cares what the rolling stones call their next album? [ok, who cares if they even MAKE one, but that's another story] after all these years can only recall Dangerous Ideas (san antonio) and Change (seattle) and all these years later dangerous ideas and change seem as unripe for picking as the low-hanging fruit that is next.

overall? enjoyed it; not blown away. feel bad for the newbies that only have a few to compare. having seen duffy and kalman go mano-a-mano in san antone, or watch massimo limbo in miami, what's next is almost not as interesting as what's passed.

but what's not to love about perkins/hoef-frere/bantjes/kurt/dubberly/X/GOOD/anthro/notre dame/libeskind/et al? personally, while i always come back feeling jazzed by seeing some wonderful and inspiring WORK, i return even more energized by seeing PEOPLE.

it was at the boston gig that i realized "shit! i'm OLDER than most of these cats and kittens! when did THAT happen?!?!" but i guess that makes for seeing more faces i know and love, if only for the time it takes to squeeze out a hug and get a smile. and the smile is rarely a Gill or Frutiger (though i do prefer a Gill).

[and thanx for the heads-up on the East vs West demographics and outfits, as down here in austin i still feel a bit off the radar]

as always i wish there were repeat sessions, that i can soak in more, and as always wish the conversations with friends new and old went well beyond the limitations of a weekend. which is why the Eye guys won't be able to address what UC &co do so well: keep it moving. THAT's whats next.

big hug.

On Nov.05.2007 at 11:00 AM