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AIGA Conference — Blow by Blow

I’m starting this thread to post some musings and photos of the conference as it comes along. I’ll put everything in the comments window.

Note: A full-fledged, well-written, better-versed review of the conference will be posted Tuesdayish.

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PUBLISHED ON Oct.24.2003 BY Armin
Armin’s comment is:

The first, most important thing, I will like to report is that Tan and I have not spooned. I don't think it will happen.

Vancouver is obviously lovely, lots of trees, lots of water and lots of traffic. The conference venue is kind of stuck in the eighties and we are waiting for Mickey Rourke to pop out any second.

Nothing much has happened so far; opening night was the usual motivational stuff. Two medals were awarded, the most deserving to Woody Pirtle.

There is some definite high-brow elbow rubbing going on. David Carson was just kind of staring at an iMac, supposedly checking his e-mail. One third of Pentagram is here. And many, many more designers who earn much more money than most of us are here.

Oh... remember how I mentioned the "tree hugging" thing... well, the goodie bag is made out of, get this, corn starch! Enough said.

On Oct.24.2003 at 09:19 AM
jesse’s comment is:

Here's hoping you and Tan leave out the forking, too.

On Oct.24.2003 at 09:50 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

And I certainly hope no knifings...

On Oct.24.2003 at 10:23 AM
Sam’s comment is:

David who?

On Oct.24.2003 at 10:32 AM
Rick G’s comment is:

A corn starch bag + Vancouver rain = one big gloppy mess.

Canadians. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

On Oct.24.2003 at 11:13 AM
brook’s comment is:

buddy, i love canadians. eh hoser?

lets go oot and aboot!

On Oct.24.2003 at 11:23 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

Sam, Carson's the one that used to host TRL.

On Oct.24.2003 at 11:42 AM
Sam’s comment is:

That sounds like the BEST CONFERENCE EVER!

On Oct.24.2003 at 12:04 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Seriously, all that matters are the French Paper promotions. All else is but schwag.

On Oct.24.2003 at 12:46 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

Maybe they used some leftover Target halloween masks in the French Paper promos. That'd be great.

On Oct.24.2003 at 01:29 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

That sounds like the BEST CONFERENCE EVER!

You forgot to go "WOOOOOOOOO!!!"

On Oct.24.2003 at 01:30 PM
Sam’s comment is:

True, but I did wet myself. Does that count?

On Oct.24.2003 at 02:02 PM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

Do some high-brow elbow rubbing and take pictures of it.... and post some already! No, no rush, take time and absorb!! But, share - soon please! :)

On Oct.24.2003 at 02:46 PM
felix’s comment is:

hey armin (or anyone in vancouver)

why not get an impromtu interview with woody? tell him youre me- hes expecting you!

cant wait to hear it....!

On Oct.24.2003 at 03:55 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Carson Daly was nowhere in sight... sigh,

Ok, some good stuff to get started: John Hockenberry (moderator of the conference) is amazing! Smart fellow. A few cool lectures in the morning — don't worry, I'll write a full review later with more insight.

What I would like to mention is Jessica Helfand and Bill Drentell's talk... I don't even know what to say. So, yea, imagine the language (big words galore) of Screen, add a touch of intolerable pompousness, mix with a condescending tone and that's what that was... ugh.

Anyway, like I said, I'll have stuff to back up my comments in the full (better written) review of the conference.

I'll just skip to the good part. The soireé!!!! Oh my! It was amazing! Lots of people came... Michael B, David Carson, Scott Stowell, Marc Gobe, the lovely guys from Veer (Jon Parker and Sheldon Popiel) as well as the lovely guys from Eye magazine (John Walters and Nick Bell). Print magazine was also well represented. And many more great people who partied Speak Up style.

Oh, and the little surprise I had, well, that's been unveiled but I don't have the energies (nor the resources) to unveil it online yet. Sorry. I can say it caused a nice commotion.

Here are three pictures. That's all I can muster for now:

1. Veer guys drinking beer. Get it?

2. David Carson, Stan Church and groupies.

3. Eric Larsen (left) and Marian Bantjes (right).

On Oct.25.2003 at 02:32 AM
Jose’s comment is:

how come marian isnt wearing her speakup shirt in the photo? i thought she promised to wear it the whole time? hehe.

On Oct.25.2003 at 03:36 AM
Armin’s comment is:

She was wearing it! It was part of the overall outfit. She also got a bib from Target from Javier (regular poster around here). Not sure she was making the strongest fashion point with that bib.

On Oct.25.2003 at 09:04 AM
eric’s comment is:

things are going wonderfully.

last night was incredible!!! Nothing better than seeing Carson come stomping down the stairs with his group and walk right up to Tan and say, "Who's in charge of this party?"

On Oct.25.2003 at 02:19 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Oh man, my head hurts.

Great conference, but for completely different reasons than I hoped for. The speakers, for me, were disappointing for the most part. But I've been to a number of these, and it's more about the people, the parties, and the side stories. And man, do I have some hum-dingers.

There were moments of inspiration, as well as moments of infuriating banality. The Helfand/Drentell presentation, for me, has topped my David Byrne memories.

But I don't want to be too reactionary -- I want to absorb it all a bit, and give more insights when we all get back.

But I'll have to say that it's been just amazing meeting Armin, Debbie, Eric, Marian, and a number of SU participants. It's a little weird at first -- meeting people you know so well by writing, but strangers face-to-face. But it didn't take long to fall into the groove of things -- and our conversations were as dynamic, insightful, and witty as any verbal banter we've had online. I will vouch for the passion of Armin, the charismatic warmth and intelligent beauty of Debbie, and the sharp, insightful wit of Mr. Larsen. I wish more of you could've been here.

I'm curious to hear what they thought of me vs. my writings. (ahem -- I have to go on record that one graciously nice reader admitted that she thought I was a woman because of the thoughtfulness and sensitivity in my postings....oh, the irony in that.)

Oh the stories we all have....it's enough to fill 10 threads for weeks to come. Much more in a day or so...

On Oct.26.2003 at 09:40 AM
Floyd’s comment is:

What's with all the Carson bashing? Or, whatever it is?

On Oct.26.2003 at 01:17 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Now, if you'd had Johnny Carson at the party, that would have been unforgettable. All other Carsons bow down!

On Oct.26.2003 at 03:21 PM
marian’s comment is:

I look oddly like Bruce Sterling in that photo.

Fashion-watchers may note that each day I wore a fresh Speak Up t-shirt with my chinese silk-brocade pants. I like to stand out in a crowd so in this photo I am also wearing the anti-designer Canadian Mack jacket (original). Adding the bib was a bit over-the-top, but I did promise, so I wore it until the baby-sized neck restricted my breathing. I will cherish it tho, so thanks Javier.

Incredibly, I recognized Armin (and, appropriately went running down the escalator like a groupie) when I saw him in the hall on the 2nd day, and by association, Tan, standing at his side like a right-hand henchman. All the talk of power suits had me right freaked out about meeting Debbie, but she is just incredibly friendly and sweet, so as far as I'm concerned she can wear whatever the hell she wants, I'll still like her. Eric's still the big mystery man to me, not the least because his name has always confused me. He is very friendly and kind, but i can't help but worry that he might bite.

If I had to describe them all as dogs, I'd say Armin is like a beagle: very sweet, but a working dog.--a dog's dog, not a lap dog. Tan is kindof like a golden lab. A people dog. A ball-and-stick dog. A dog that leads the way. Describing a woman as a dog is always risky business but I'd make Debbie a Springer Spaniel. A working dog with a ton of energy who is also devoted and eager. Eric, well of course he is the very friendly Pitt Bull. He'll come right up wagging his tail, but you're not really sure if you should pet him.

I love to go out on a limb.

OK, Armin, are you banning my IP now?

As for David Carson .. first-off let me say that I am neither a big fan nor a reviler of DC. I respect a lot of the work he has done, without knowing a great deal about it or him. I met him at the conference a couple of times, and I found him very friendly and nice and flawed and kindof like anyone else in the world. I've heard gossip, but the nature of that gossip was not my experience. He was kindof funny in a weird sort of way.

There is a lot of Carson-bashing going on for whatever reason, but I also notice that often the same people that are grumbling about him one minute are sidling up to meet him the next.

Celebrity is a very strange thing, and I 'm certainly not immune to the lure of it. I'm only insulated by the fact that I'm shockingly uneducated and can spend several minutes talking to someone only to discover later that I should've been humbled in their presence. Oh well. One thing I found kindof funny is that we all wore these cards that had our names printed in, like, 64 point type hanging over our stomachs. So as you walk around you see everyone's eyes flicking down to your stomach and then quickly away when they see you're not famous. And of course you're doing the same thing.

I too, need time to sort my thoughts before I can write about the conference itself.

Canadians. Ha ha ha ha ha ha

I will remember this, Rick G.

On Oct.27.2003 at 12:21 AM
KM’s comment is:

Armin/Tan - sounds like you guys are having fun... TOO much fun! I'm sorry our evening at Etta's wasn't as fulfilling. I should have hid in the trunk of your rental car and gone with you to Vancouver. Sure, I didn't have admission into the conference but I could party. But I'm sure my wife might have wondered why I didn't return home that evening. Oh well...

On Oct.27.2003 at 12:30 AM
jesse’s comment is:

So, Marian, what type of dog are you?

On Oct.27.2003 at 07:47 AM
Tan’s comment is:

As a dog, Marian is hard to describe. The closest I can think of is a dalmation. She's quiet, contemplative, and graceful -- yet you know she's ready for fun and action at any moment. She's also a breed of her own, stylish by nature, not by grooming.

And sorry to leave you out of the weekend Kris -- yes, our first author dinner in Seattle was a great start to the whole whirlwind weekend affair. I can vouch that Kris is perhaps the coolest of all of us. He certainly has the coolest tattoos. But I'm sure he's blushing because he's also a very modest guy. I think he's kind of like a Jack Russell terrier -- the dog everyone wants, but you know has a darker side.

Let's just say that we all are one strange dog pound in general...

On Oct.27.2003 at 10:06 AM
Marshall’s comment is:

Marian is most definately a golden retriever, a very very light haired one. All personality and friendliness and grace.

On Oct.27.2003 at 10:07 AM
marian’s comment is:

Well, I'm not going to throw another dog breed into that mix, or I will certainly become a mutt.

On Oct.27.2003 at 11:24 AM
Ben’s comment is:

I think the content of the conference was quite the suprise for many of the attendees. However I believe it was a success, I have been on my first day back (in Toronto) to my local printer and enquired about Soy-based ink. So well done AIGA, here's one designer converted!

On Oct.27.2003 at 01:21 PM
Jon Parker’s comment is:

Thanks for an amazing party, Armin and Speaker-Uppers. You showed us a great time at our own conference.

I didn't see many of you at the closing party though - or was I just in a drunken haze?

Speaking of the closing party: Was anyone else disturbed by the combination of goddawful cover band and journalistic photos projected above the stage? I looked up during their cover of "Love Shack" and saw Bin Laden's photo up there. Bizarre.

On Oct.27.2003 at 03:22 PM
marian’s comment is:

The closing party band was a complete embarassment to me personally as a Canadian. We have some really great local bands, I assure you, so on behalf of Vancouver and our vibrant music community I just want to apologize for that gross misrepresentation of our music scene.

I avoided them so i didn't even notice the video projections.

On Oct.27.2003 at 04:14 PM
Lance Rutter’s comment is:

Amen, Jon. I totally agree that after three days of some heavy, and often depressing content, the last thing I wanted to see during the closing "party" was images of Bin Laden, machine guns, and breast implant surgery hovering over the pseudo-band. Perhaps the decision was left to GettyOne and not the AIGA planners who did an exceptional job of framing the discussion and moving the crowd from one event to the next.

Thanks, Armin, for hosting the energetic drink and yell fest. I appreciate the discourse you promote, your passion, and your openness to other points of view. I guarantee that we will disagree on some of the content of the event itself, but at least you'll have an opinion--not just an anti-opinion. Let's hope the rest of the pack follows that example.


On Oct.27.2003 at 04:34 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

The closing party band was a complete embarassment to me personally as a Canadian.

Was Rush or Loverboy not available? ;-)

On Oct.27.2003 at 05:09 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Armin, Deb, Eric and I attended the party, but didn't stay long. The food was bad, and the 80s cover band was grossly out of place. We couldn't tolerate it for long, and quietly slipped out between sets. And although I understand the need to recognize Getty for their sponsorship, the stock photo slideshow was very awkward. The whole thing felt like a party for an insurance convention.

It was a letdown after last year's closing party at the amazing library of congress. Which proves that the national staff is very capable, but just missed the mark a bit this time around.

But I will second Lance's sentiments -- the conference was packed from morning to night, and everything and everyone was moved and coordinated seamlessly. The final attendee count was approx 2,200 -- but to me, it seemed even bigger. Once again, the national staff did an amazing job.

> but at least you'll have an opinion--not just an anti-opinion. Let's hope the rest of the pack follows that example.

I'm not sure what you mean by "anti-opinion" Lance. Are you suggesting that we should leave what we think and how we really feel out of our conversations? In other words, be sheep and just keep our heads down and mouths shut? Thus, becoming "the rest of the pack" as you put it?

I'd be really careful about what you insinuate among this group if I were you Lance. But thanks for the props nonetheless. Glad you enjoyed the party.

On Oct.27.2003 at 05:38 PM
Kirsten’s comment is:

I've always thought of Marian as a Samoyed dog.

I thought the closing party was very embarrassing too, being from Vancouver and knowing that we do have locals with talent. (Upstairs Recordings for example---sorry Mike Reno)

Too bad you didn't try the parmesan crisp with the zinfandel poached pear.

On Oct.27.2003 at 07:17 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> the parmesan crisp with the zinfandel poached pear.

Is that what it was?

To be fair, not all was bad. Sushi at a buffet is always a brave proposition. There were some tasty morsels, but it was like Russian roulette. It's hard to please such a tough crowd.

On Oct.27.2003 at 07:33 PM
Javier’s comment is:

Armin, Tan, Debbie, and fellow Speak-uppers. Thanks for an amazing time and for organizing the by-far best party of the conference. Marian, thanks for the poster - and don't choke on the bib. (What a hoot to see you wear it). It was great to meet all of you and I am left wishing I had spent more time with each of you. Maybe we ought to organize a Speak-Up Summit.

My favorite part of the conference was an impromptu "focused session" I stumbled upon a room filled with, among thers, Pash, AIGA LA Prez and Michael Bierut. We proceeded to have an hour long conversation about design, and Speak Up. We ended with a room full of converts.

I'm easy to please, so of course I really enjoyed most of the speakers. I was left wondering how they make a living while they're out saving the world. I'll try my best to find a similar path.

My take-away from the conference: YES we can make a difference and YES we can create our own destiny. I seem to forget it altogether too often.

On Oct.27.2003 at 07:54 PM
Lance’s comment is:

Tan, it's been awhile since anyone warned me to "be really careful... if I were you," especially in the context of a desire to express an opinion. Seems on the border of irony, doesn't it? Here's what I mean by anti-opinion: "man, do I hate that shit! and I hate that designer, and I hate that thing they said, and the design they did, and the clothes they wear." It becomes, to me, a meaningful opinion when an alternative is also expressed--a better way of doing or saying or thinking. I never suggested that you have done exactly that, but I have seen it done within these digital walls. Being sheep doesn't always mean keeping your mouth shut. Sometimes being sheep is opening your mouth in the same way everyone else is doing it. And I'm almost always really careful about what I say. And I almost always say exactly what I mean. Here, or anywhere else. But I will keep your warning in mind. Thanks.

On Oct.28.2003 at 11:53 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Lance -- if you're suggesting that we don't approach things personally with feedback -- then I'm all for that.

But I think it would've been more prudent to wait to hear what people have to say before assuming the worst. Your finger-wagging is not necessary nor respectful.

And you probably didn't mean to suggest it, but calling posters like me "the rest of the pack" connotates that Armin is somehow leading us as group hellbent on shitting on AIGA.

Well, I have to take exception to that Lance. I am a former chapter president just like you -- and just as respectful of what Ric and Co. does as you are. I think I am fully capable of thinking for myself, and voicing my own opinions -- may it be supportive or contrary to Armin's or anyone else's opinion on this site.

Thank you for your clarification. Don't think of my last comment as a warning -- it was more intended as friendly advice. Sorry if it came off wrong -- things can often be misconstrued in online postings, don't you agree?

On Oct.28.2003 at 12:39 PM
Lance’s comment is:

Tan, my brother, you seem a bit defensive. I hope you don't mind me suggesting that you're reading a lot into my original comment that certainly was not intended. "Pack" may have been a semantic error. I'm off this topic, and I'm looking forward to reading more of the thoughtful and thorough analysis of the AIGA conference that I've already seen in the past couple of days. I trust that you won't mind if we disagree on some points, but I'm confident we'll also have many areas of agreement.

On Oct.28.2003 at 02:23 PM
Tan’s comment is:

yea, perhaps I am a bit too defensive. hey, at the end, discourse is good, disagreements are good, passion is good.

I owe you a beer next time we run into each other Lance.


On Oct.28.2003 at 03:50 PM
Matt Warburton’s comment is:

I just found this stream of commentary as I was in the Power of Design Part I section!!

It was a blast meeting everyone, and thank you Marian for explaining the name tag/eye flicker thing. I kept checking to see if my fly was down!! Great excuse to check out cleavage though...

I have to say Marian and I were among the few to intentionally NOT wear black. Marian's lumberjack shirt was particularly apropos. I wore my little brother's employer's gear (Forum/Circa: shameless plug!!!).

I wish things had wrapped earlier each day so the parties could be longer. Mind you, Thursday's opening bash at the Skybar left everyone who was there feeling a tad "sensitive" all day Friday!!

On Oct.28.2003 at 04:27 PM