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Why the Y?

As some of you know, Armin and I spent this weekend in San Diego while attending the Y Conference. Personally I had heard many good things about this conference in particular, and was eager to see if my sources were as trustworthy as I thought them to be. Turns out they were.

With a wide array of speakers in content, style and message there was no dull moment in the two days we spent at the University of San Diego. A great venue (although cold indoors!) that didn’t really allow for procrastination and wandering; this meant that most attendees were present for all lectures. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and stunning views you met great people while having lunch (provided in the package) and catching some sun.

A few (personal) highlights included:

Luba Lukova talked about the human relationships and human touch she has discovered in the client side, as well as in her finished products. Maintaining a humanistic approach in each piece to make things personal and approachable, she has managed to create a feel and style that is truly unique to her. Beautiful work, passionate speaker.

Ze Frank is one of the most amusing and intelligent speakers I have seen in a long time. A guy who loves to challenge the status quo of anything and anybody he has developed projects for himself unlike any: videos, games, programs and much more keep him excited and in love with what he does. And you can tell.

Karen Hsu + Alice Chung from Omnivore were soft-spoken and humble when showing us their amazing work. With clients across the globe, the pet-loving pair have managed to amass a striking portfolio through word-of-mouth clients, while working from their homes. Cute, yet voracious.

Nina Eigerman provided a small insight into the Aquent doings. Although repetitive in content her presentation touched on a few things that they do for their clients when analyzing and searching for problem areas in hopes of streamlining processes and creating more efficient companies. Started really good, but slowly declined in content and interest.

Armin Vit (slightly biased review) managed to bring a few more individuals to the conference through video interviews. Wanting to explore the why of the profession, why we do what we do, he managed to go around town asking unique designers for their reasons. Although a few sound glitches proved difficult, it was insightful and very real.

Stefan Bucher has got to be one of the “goodest” individuals on this earth. Passionate, charismatic and truthful he talks about design as some reference their children. One of the best speakers I have encountered, he showed us his work (which by the way has a OCD influence that he admits to) and talked about the reasons why he did what he did, choosing his clients and projects based on interest and uniqueness among other true-value qualities.

Art Chantry, as was to be expected managed to keep the room in constant facial movement; laughter, seriousness, awe, amazement and some contempt to name a few. Using slides (which he swore he shall continue to do until there are no more projectors in the world) he focused on the gimmicks he has used throughout his career. I would have to say that the most striking thing I noticed, as decades of work were presented, was the fact that he has been true to himself and his work at all times. Never compromising his identity.

Other speakers included Michael Vanderbyl, Erik van Blokland, Gaby Brink and Vanessa Marzaroli + Tom Koh .

In the end — as I flopped myself on the sofa last night exhausted by endless hours on planes and realizing what beautiful weather we had left behind — I felt satisfied and happy with the venture. The speakers were engaged and gave me more that pure eye-candy. Insightful and rewarding in an unusual sense for a two-day conference, this is one that I would recommend both coasts to attend.

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PUBLISHED ON Apr.06.2005 BY bryony
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

Armin's vid. was a great way to start the day...

On Apr.06.2005 at 10:57 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Glad you enjoyed it. It was a very fun project to do, plus a great excuse to visit designers' offices, which I love seeing. If I had the time and resources I would have loved to do it more "professionally", but oh well.


I had also heard great things about the Y conference from various people. And it is. In essence it is a design conference — some designers like that aspect, others don't. I enjoy hearing designers talk about their work, and I enjoy looking at their work so this was a pefect fit for the perfect weather we enjoyed while we were there.

Some of the speakers were absolutely great. Specially Stefan Bucher. It's rare for a person to be a) a great designer, b) funny, c) passionate and d) a great speaker. One of the best designer on design presentations I have seen. As well, Art Chantry was great, lively, funny and opinionated. And Ze Frank is a funny, smart, eloquent guy — not at all what I expected, I think.

Other presentations were good work plainly presented. Not a bad thing, that. Good work speaks for itself.

I have to admit that I did not give my best presentation. I had the material but the production value showed its kinks in the state-of-the-art venue. Next time I am bringing a film crew. Or something. And I did some mumbling, I think.

Being a West Coast setting doesn't seem to influence the content of the conference as speakers are brought from all over the country or abroad. The only real indication that you are in San Diego is that most of the attendees are much more tanned than us pasty-white folk from the Northeast.

Many props to Don Hollis/Julio, the Y board and all the volunteers.

On Apr.06.2005 at 11:48 AM
Don Julio’s comment is:

Muchos Kudos back to you Armin, and Bryony for this timely discussion - if this were in print, the ink would still be wet. As it is, I suspect your seats from the plane are probably still warm.

Armin came with along with complete virtual entourage. This was the first time I can recall that a presenter flipped the idea of speaking to one of reporting - and took the main thrust of the conference “out in the field” by bringing a core group of industry opinions into the mix through technology. In true Speak Up style, Armin asked the questions that we wanted answers to.

It takes a small volunteer army and major amount of sponsors to do this conference each year and the bar is continually raised. Speak Up represents an important conduit where group conversations can actually continue beyond an event.

Thanks as well to the many Y 10 attendees from around the country who made this dialogue possible. We hope to hear from you - and I challenge you to Speak Up.

On Apr.06.2005 at 12:16 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Did Eric Tilford from CORE speak at all? If he did, that would have given St. Louis TWO individuals, Chantry being the first. CORE used to do some great work, haven't seen anything from them in ages, so I was just curious if he made any waves...

On Apr.06.2005 at 04:12 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

Did Eric Tilford from CORE speak at all?

He was (un)fortunately really busy and had to cancel.

On Apr.06.2005 at 04:18 PM
Ron Miriello’s comment is:

The Y10 continued the tradition of designers meeting to learn, get better, get inspired and take a break from the routine.

The location at the University of San Diego made it for me this year. It's the contact with people and the discussion that happens in the gaps that make it worth going each year. That location called you to stay on, hang by the reflecting pool- and reflect.

Speaker quality was all over the board this year. Luba Lukova and Stefan brought heart and honesty. Portfolio only presentations seem out of place at a conference based around "WHY".

See you at Y11.

On Apr.06.2005 at 08:37 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

Did Eric Tilford from CORE speak at all?

We were looking forward to Eric and he is has moved to the Y11 line up, however a new ad campaign for Pontiac took precedent - but this resulted in an appearance by Stefan Bucher that was hard to top.

Things happen for a reason it would seem.

On Apr.06.2005 at 09:17 PM
freelix’s comment is:

It would have been interesting to see Templin's (Gaby) Brink go thru "how to zerox" presentation and dodge your tomatoes. Not fond of that firm- at all- but used to work alongside Eric's brother Todd Tilford at the Richards Group in Dallas. He is quite a legend in his own right (remeber those b/w Harley ads from the early 90's?)... huge talent.

Some of the best/ most inspiring lectures I've seen were from not so good designers like Rick Valecienti. Sounds like Brink was bad as well as bad... which is maybe not so good.

On Apr.06.2005 at 09:57 PM
Raymond Scott’s comment is:

Freelix, your comments surprise me. I found Gaby Brink's presentation

to be quite informative and the work of high quality.

Classifying Rick Valicenti as a "not so good" designer strikes me as hubris.

On any level, Rick is one of the more provocative and inspired people I know.

The fact that he's producing this caliber of work on big ticket jobs

makes it even more astounding. As a matter of fact, the same goes for Gaby's studio.

On Apr.06.2005 at 10:24 PM
Scott Mora’s comment is:

I opted to go to Flash Forward in SF instead of the Y conference, with today being the first day of a three day series. After reading the comments already posted, I am now kicking myself for not going to the Y conference instead. I will make a point to reserve a spot fot Y11.

So far, of all the speakers I sat through today at FF, only one was mildly interesting. I know this is a discussion about the Y conference, so I won't go one about my day at Flash Forward. Hopefully the next couple days will improve. Just wanted to let everyone posting here know, "Thanks!" Honest opinions from respected peers is always the best sales pitch...

On Apr.06.2005 at 11:07 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

We known we could've gotten Todd Tilford and just said it was a typo. Damn. Next time.

This is the time of year when we dissect and evaluate the conference and begin reviewing potential speakers for the next ones. The condensed criteria is (supposed to be):

1. People who have past speaking experience - you have to personally have seen them, or have a strong reference from someone who has seen, a particular speaker.

2. They need to have something compelling to share - from business insight to architecture to futurists and of course design. Complementary disciplines always add to the experience.

3. They need to be reliable and dependable in thier commitment to the conference dates. And we need to be able to contact them...

Whenever we ignore the basics, we risk the quality of the content or the delivery. If anyone has some kick ass speakers from any discipline to throw in the ring, please jump in and help shape future content. If there are things that aren’t working that is helpful as well.

Who would love/hate to see? Let ’em rip.

On Apr.07.2005 at 12:46 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

We known we could've gotten Todd Tilford and just said it was a typo.

Speaking of typos - meant to say: Had we known...

On Apr.07.2005 at 12:57 PM
Josh Higgins’s comment is:

i will have to agree with previous comments that the exchange with others during breaks is very rewarding. the intimacy of the conference also lends itself to interaction with the speakers that larger conferences lack.

thank you to AIGA san diego for another shot in the arm of inspiration.

looking forward to Y11

On Apr.07.2005 at 01:46 PM
Chris Rugen’s comment is:

Armin, I just watched the video. It's great. I can't think of a better way to say it, except maybe it was just a pleasure to watch at the end of the workday. (It also makes me twice as glad I'm starting work in NYC.)

On Apr.07.2005 at 05:05 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

Any conference that manages to surprise you has a few points on their side. It may be one speaker in particular, or the whole group together that makes it for you. On the other hand, the speakers might not play a role at all, and the great experience is centered on the people you meet and those you interact with (case where the venue was really exceptional this time).

We all have expectations on our way in, and big discussions on our way out. This leads me to ask:

What do you look for in a conference?

What makes you want to attend any one in particular?

On Apr.08.2005 at 10:29 AM
freelix’s comment is:

I found Gaby Brink's work of high quality.

A quick glance to their website will show you who is actually responsible for most of their identity designs. Paul Howalt and I thank you!

Classifying Rick Valicenti as a "not so good" designer strikes me as hubris

Can I throw in a David Carson and perhaps a Margo Chase too or am I too late? Look, if trendy design is your bag, great. I love the hell outta Rick the person and provocatuer, just wouldnt hire him to design anything. Call it hubris or call it truth.

What do you look for in a conference?

people who arent speakers, forced to stand out. take native san diegan gerald bustamante for example. I saw him speak in Dallas for his 1st time. He was totally inspiring. now, you take seymour chwast. we've all seen this guy speak. he is a regular.

I've seen him 3 times. why? i have no idea.

What makes you want to attend any one in particular?

Milton Glaser. Plop Milton onto your stage and you might get some genuine insight. Also, Carrot Top is a genius.

On Apr.08.2005 at 11:09 AM
Don Julio’s comment is:

Uncle Milty

will be making a rare AIGA Los Angeles appearance next Thursday at Art Center.

He isn’t travelling much anymore so this is must see TV.

Erik Spiekermann is tonight there as well - both are free.

On Apr.08.2005 at 11:24 AM
freelix’s comment is:

His son Higashi Glaser (designer of Zolo toy) will also be speaking in SF at teh illustration conference. Should be interesting. Unlike his pop, he isnt a born speaker.

On Apr.08.2005 at 11:41 AM
Don Julio’s comment is:

Joe Duffy reveals the design process

This was the header from and email I got yesterday - at last, the answers I’ve been searching for ;). Design demystified.

And it’s coming soon to a city near you. Anyone been to this series? Bill Gardner is also in the lineup - has anybody heard him present?

On Apr.08.2005 at 01:30 PM
freelix’s comment is:

"Joe Duffy reveals his stack of old Graphis/ Art Director's Annuals" will be a great show. Heh heh. Never seen him or Bill Gardner but I have seen and shared some insight with Bill who should be presenting some of the latest trends in identity design.

Both of those guys have a solid record running studios, more than mouths. The mouth award goes to Brian Collins. OK, lets not beat that horse- its been branded to death.

Don, as I told you, for the best presenters/ designers youre gonna have to start w/ Scott Stowell, Paul Sahre, Christoph Niemann nad Nicholas Blechman. Yes, thats a NY grouping, but a good one- one that wont flog the dead horses.

On Apr.08.2005 at 01:46 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

Maybe we can have a little East meets West showdown and take it to the streets, or a Celebrity Designer Deathmatch? Seriously tho’ great thoughts for the upcoming planning session.

As they say in SD: Grassy-ass Se´┐Żor.

On Apr.08.2005 at 02:07 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

a few images to share.

On Apr.08.2005 at 09:10 PM
Tom ’s comment is:

speaking of conferences.....would anyone suggest a good one (or two) to attend? i am trying to get the company to pick up the tab for the HOW in Chicago, but are there any great alternatives??

gracias. and i appreciate the help!


On Apr.21.2005 at 05:48 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Tom, we had a topic about conferences a few months ago (okay, a year and a half ago), just to give you an idea of some of the conferences designers attend.

For this year, HOW seems to be a good option. If nothing else because it's in Chicago. I was recently there for a business trip and after having lived there for over three years it was amazing to notice how well kept and beautiful the city is. So if you could fold a conference trip into visiting the city, you got a winning deal.

AIGA's National Conference in Boston should also be good.

TypeCon will be here, in New York, this summer. And that is one of the best bang-for-your-buck conferences you will find. That is, if you are heavily into type.

Not exactly a recommendation, more like an observation: Next year or in the future, I would love to go to a TED conference.

On Apr.22.2005 at 09:04 AM
Armin’s comment is:

On that last note…

Maybe in ten years: "It costs $4,400 to attend TED. Attendance is by invitation only."

On Apr.22.2005 at 09:06 AM
Tom’s comment is:


Thanks for the direction. I will check through last year's post. I 100% agree with you about HOW in Chicago. What an awesome place.

It looks like we will both be saving our quarters and dimes for the TED conference. wow!

On Apr.26.2005 at 07:38 PM