Archived on February 8, 2013. Visit for more information.



AIGA Design Conference   October 13-16, Phoenix, Arizona

Affinity sessions

“Pivot” attendees can look forward to a wide range of affinity sessions on timely topics like interaction design, sustainability, in-house design, and multiculturalism.

You do not need to pre-register for any of the affinity or general (main stage) sessions. The only sessions that require pre-registration are workshops, roundtables and studio tours.

Check out the full list of affinity sessions that will be available onsite:

Branding and culture

In today’s fast-changing world of instantaneous connectivity—online and off—the public is becoming more design conscious, socially involved and culturally aware. To be successful, brands are challenged to assume the role of cultural curators who must create and inspire meaningful and culturally relevant dialogue with their audience. Engage with the gatekeepers of some of the world’s most prolific brands, in a conversation moderated by Debbie Millman, president of Sterling Brands, to understand the ins and outs of creating culturally meaningful and viable brands for an increasingly savvy public.

Branding the Future

Elan Cole, global creative director, Johnson & Johnson; Moira Cullen, senior director, global design, The Hershey Company; Brian Houck, director, visual brand communications, Henkel of America; and Christine Mau, brand design director, Kimberly-Clark; moderated by Debbie Millman, managing partner and president, design division, Sterling Brands

In this session, a panel of design and brand directors from some of the world’s most successful and recognizable companies will engage in conversation about the future of branding and the ways in which brands and the designers behind them must change in order for companies to grow and thrive in increasingly competitive markets.

Narrative design

Understanding how to integrate narrative into the design process as well as design itself is critical to the future relevance of the profession. As the role of designers pivots toward a broader, more strategic involvement in businesses and communities, designers must learn to use storytelling and narrative to create more interactive and participatory design that engages the public in meaningful ways. These sessions will examine the importance of storytelling and its key role in design and the design process. 

Storytelling is Design and Design is Storytelling

Julian Bleecker, designer, technologist and researcher, Design Strategic Projects studio, Nokia Design and Near Future Laboratory; Laurence Bricker, chief experience officer, Popular Front; and Andrew DeVigal, multimedia editor, New York Times

How does design create a narrative and now does narrative create design? And how do design and narrative affect how we design for the future? The story worlds and perspectives of film and literature offer design tools that are more relevant to this kind of work than the here-and-now of user testing and problem-solving. Join a group of experts to discuss the creating of the visual narrative and the creativity required to ingrate the interplay of design and storytelling in new and meaningful ways—in both fiction and nonfiction environments. The presenters will provide an engaging transdisciplinary perspective on the impact narrative has on how and what we design.

Storytelling and Design for the Future

Julie Beeler, cofounder, Second Story; Kevin Brooks, user experience product manager, Motorola Mobility; and Hugh Graham, director of user experience, The1stMovement

In this session, Hugh Graham will present “Inventing the Future with Stories” and will discuss how storytelling and visual narrative techniques are an essential tool for designers working on complex, transdisciplinary initiatives. He’ll also explore how designers can use stories to spur creativity and effective communication. In “Sex, Explosions and Guns,” Mike Kruzeniski will discuss the fact that design and designers are often viewed as existing on the fringes of a niche or elite aesthetic culture—far from the mainstream disciplines that most kids grow up dreaming to be. He will look at the ways that design can be made relevant to different audiences, how storytelling can be used to connect design with people, and what design might learn from Hollywood. Then, Kevin Brooks will present “The Original Design Language” and will discuss the ways in which storytelling and design are interwoven, and have been for eons. The speed in which our world has changed and is changing cannot be outmatched by our ability to tell stories about that change. Brooks will explore the ways we design for change and how, in order to accommodate our designs, we tell stories. Finally, Julie Beeler will present “Design for Wonder.” Combining compelling storytelling with innovative interactivity has cultivated a unique area of exploration for designers today. The evolution of interaction has expanded as audiences continue to crave ever-greater control and personalization over the information, content, and experiences they have. The line between the digital and physical worlds is blurring and designers are giving definition and new forms to this blur. Beeler’s presentation will look at how new forms of storytelling, narrative and context can be designed to engage, inspire, educate, entertain and enchant audiences.

Service design

Americans spend a significant amount of money on services—67 percent of total consumer spending, according to the Wall Street Journal. As designers, we play an important role in designing better service experiences. But what exactly is service design? How is designing a service different than designing a website or consumer environment? Attend the following sessions, moderated by
Ed Milano
, VP of Program Development at Continuum, to hear from designers across a variety of industries who deal with services daily, and discuss the entire service-design ecosystem and how designers can craft dynamic, actionable and better overall experiences for the public.

Services Are Everywhere

Rachel Abrams, founder, Turnstone Consulting and Taxi Project; Shelley Evenson, research manager in design and user experience, Facebook; and Lesley Mottla, vice president, product and experience, Zipcar

It’s true: Services are everywhere. In a single day, you encounter numerous service systems—a food and beverage service system when you got your coffee at Starbucks, the package delivery system when you picked up your FedEx delivery and an elaborate financial services system when you got cash from the bank. These systems are omnipresent and they’re also immensely complex, requiring a slew of people and sophisticated technology to deliver them. When designing these systems, service designers need to take scores of issues—from staffing to internal infrastructure of the organization—into account. They look at the entire consumer experience as if it were a theatrical production, in which the consumer plays just a single part. The consumer travels through the experience as an individual actor, and it’s up to service designers to ensure the stage, the props, the other performers’ roles and the crew that toils behind the scenes all work together to convey the right message and impact the emotions of the user in just the right way. In fact, every aspect of the experience is designed so that the user might never see the parts behind the scenes, yet he comes away with an authentic and memorable message about the brand, product or company. However, is there a limit to what we can design? How do we plan for the unexpected and incorporate the twists, turns, and natural human preferences that are part of any consumer experience? In this discussion, we’ll share the Continuum approach to service design, and we’ll look at successful processes for addressing the entire service ecosystem.

Scripting Improv

Maggie Breslin, senior designer/researcher, Center for Innovation, Mayo Clinic; and Derek Howard, industrial concept designer, Disney

Most designers expect their work to lead to an innovative new product. However, service designers face a unique set of challenges when it comes to innovation. While designing a service also aims for a final “product,” the product created continues to evolve after the designer has gone, dependant on interactions between people and business practices over time, rather than merely on the designer’s pen. Service designers and playwrights both are charged with delivering a specific set of emotions and perceptions, and can do so by preparing scripts and props. Playwrights have the luxury of knowing exactly what experience their audience will receive, but service designers need to account for flexibility and ongoing refinement. The process should be seen as iterative and ready to embrace change. How do we draw the line between scripts and real life, between a crafted play and improvisation? This session will delve more deeply into the mechanics of designing for complex systems and evaluate methods to reach the right balance between control and flexibility.

You Can’t Make Me Do It

Ryan Armbruster, vice president of innovation, UnitedHealth Group; Sarah Drummond, service designer, Snook; and BJ Fogg, director, Persuasive Tech Lab, Stanford University

Murphy’s Law says that if you tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the sky, he’ll believe you. But tell him a bench has wet paint on it and he’ll have to touch it to be sure. As service designers, how do we plan for these quirks of human behavior? Though the environment may send just the right message, the human layer atop it can complicate even the simplest service exchange. A successful service relies on countless interactions, from large to infinitesimal, between consumers, staff and company representatives, each burdened with their own motivations and backgrounds. The most successful service designers work within the framework of existing motivations to drive behavioral change. Since we know the most meaningful changes comes from within, rather than from an outside imposition (think Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception), every aspect of a service design must consider the individuals it hopes to affect. This session will examine how taking a user-centered approach to design can help service providers to influence, support and guide these changes.

Is the Future #digital?

Henry Newton-Dunn, design manager, Sony; and Eric Nicolas, director, global brand management, Holiday Inn

Digital touchpoints have woven themselves into nearly every service we experience. As the digital realm edges further and further into our offline lives, any service provider that ignores internet factors risks real-world abandonment. From Nike+ shoes that track and upload your workouts to pervasive use of social media for customer service, examples of successful internet-product integration are everywhere you look. As we think about developing new services, we have to consider the use of technology in improving the “behind the scenes” design as well as enhancing consumer interactions before, during and after the point of sale. While this gives designers a new world in which to work, it also complicates the service. Will digital design take over the future of design, or just enrich existing processes? How do online actions affect behavioral factors? How can designers take the best advantage of the digital world in setting up an experience’s stage and props? Using point-counterpoint format, we will use this session to discuss the role digital design will play in the future of the service design ecosystem.

Living Principles / Sustainability

Presented by
Mohawk Fine Papers

As the world changes and evolves, with populations demanding more of every resource, it is imperative that designers, key players in the creation of this new future, take active steps to create a more sustainable future in all aspects of society. The Living Principles framework weaves environmental, social, economic and cultural sustainability into an actionable, integrated approach that can be consistently communicated to designers, business leaders, educators and the public. These sessions will explore the thinking around and the practices and implications of sustainability and how designers can take creative action for collective good. 

Legitimizing Trash and Gentrifying Icky in the World of Design

Dan Phillips, founder, The Phoenix Commotion

“Recycled Chic” and new age Rococco are not only matters of reuse and sustainability, but rely completely on informed design strategies. The abundance and availability of recycled materials represents an untapped resource for design serendipity, but their use must be informed by the philosophical, psychological and social issues that bear upon the marketplace. By understanding what our cultural neuroses are about waste, the savvy designer can achieve whimsical and often riveting designs that quickly outstrip what “marketed” materials could ever achieve. The design attack is available to anyone with a bit of nerve and a clear understanding of the deeper sensibilities buried in the human psyche. This session will explore these issues, with photos and examples, of how one might go about doing legitimizing trash in the world of design.

Grafik Intervention: Sparking Urban Revitalization Efforts through Graphic Design

William Culpepper, graphic designer, artist and assistant professor, Ferris State University

How can graphic designers take responsibility and help rehabilitate wounded urban places? Buildings that sit vacant for several years can become an eyesore in any community. In some situations, it seems too risky to rehabilitate spaces, causing developers to pass over the building and leave it to urban decay. This project presents a system based on several case studies designed to help bring more awareness to the future potential of abandoned urban spaces. Grafik Intervention uses digital projections to engage the public through visually dynamic and compelling communication methods. The projections are designed to provide historical information in an urban context. The goal of the projections is to inspire community members to consider the potential of currently unused buildings in their community. Through engagement and awareness, only positive results can occur when active community members take action and pride in their own neighborhood.

Sustainable Solutions: Developing Products and Services for the Future

Ursula Tischner, program coordinator, design for sustainability, SCAD

Design is a tool just like a hammer: You can use it for good, to build and create, or you can use it for destruction. Since industrialization, design has unfortunately become part of serious problems like over-production and consumption, resource depletion, toxic emissions, climate change, social crises and loss of biodiversity. If designers and other creative professionals are to become agents of change, we need to learn how to create solutions, products and services for the future. As a discipline and as a profession, we should develop systems that are beneficial for people and the natural environment around us in the short and long term. We need innovate at both local and global levels while remaining profitable at the same time. When we invest energy in creating something, we need to do it wisely and effectively, celebrate diversity of people and nature, respect the limits given to us by our planet, and create joy and quality of life for everybody involved.

Interaction design

Presented by

The interaction-design world is constantly changing—constantly adapting to our needs as our needs adapt to it. Explore the new paradigms in the future of interaction design in the following sessions:

City as Platform

Malcolm McCullough, associate professor, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

We’re in the midst of a quiet social turning point, where science fiction becomes reality. Cheap and free mobile devices, location-based services, contextual awareness, and geographic tracking have created a unique opportunity for designers and artists to use the city as a platform for immersive, experiential group interactions. Citizens of any city should come to hear from engaged speakers who are hacking the city, using it as the basis for new, novel and revolutionary design paradigms.

Networked Education

Roberto Greco, designer, Grecolaborativo; and Katie Koch, user experience designer and co-founder, Project Interaction

Much of the discourse of future education pedagogy focuses on the use of computing technology to augment a traditional learning style—students, in a classroom, learning from prescriptive and fairly predictable curricula. But the true power of education may be networked in a different way: the curation of content to form a self-directed program of study that transcends disciplinary boundaries. Speakers who understand the power of networked education, with technological advancement acting as the delivery vehicle, will lead a lively discussion.

Data visualization

In the increasingly complex world of seemingly unlimited analytics and data sets, designers are the ones that will guide the public through the overwhelming quantity of statistical information to find meaning in numbers. Designers create the methods and mechanisms that allow the public to think about, analyze and present data in meaningful ways, not just to simply understand the facts, but the meaning behind facts—the visceral comprehension and insight that make viewers want to learn more. Explore the ever-changing dynamics of data visualization and understand how designers must pivot to create information graphics that not only explain systems and systems of ecologies, but also engage viewers with impact and relevance.

Conceptual Modeling and Diagramming

Dave Gray, founder and chairman, Xplane; and Dan Roam, author, and founder, Digital Roam, Inc.

Two experts in the field of data visualization share their work and what they've learned about visualizing information. Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin introduces his new book, Blah, Blah, Blah: What To Do When Words Don't Work, and debuts a new approach to design-thinking: “Vivid Thinking,” which stands for “VIsual Verbal InterDependent Thinking,” and promises to help you explain any idea to anyone. Dave Gray, author of Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers and founder and chairman of Xplane, one of the largest information visualization firms in the world, talks about Xplane, the company’s process and their work.

Data Visualization

Shawn Allen, design director, Stamen; and Matthew Ericson, deputy graphics director, New York Times

Data visualization session curated by Hugh Dubberly, Dubberly Design Office One of the big shifts underway in technology is the rise of “big data,” huge data sets created in part by the sensor revolution and the rise of the internet. Data visualization—making sense of large data sets by giving them visual form—is a rapidly growing segment of design. This panel brings together experts from two organizations doing groundbreaking work in data visualization, the New York Times and Stamen, a young San Francisco firm already famous for its blend of visual design and programming savvy.

Data Visualization Tools and Future Directions

Hugh Dubberly, founder, Dubberly Design Office; and Jeff Heer, assistant professor, computer science, Stanford University

The increasing scale and accessibility of digital data—including government records, corporate databases and logs of online activity—provides an under-exploited resource with which we might better understand and improve governance, business, academic research and our personal lives. However, for the data to prove broadly useful, diverse groups of people must be able make sense of it. Enabling a broad class of people to more effectively work with data remains a fundamental challenge for both human-computer interaction and systems design. Jeff Heer will discuss how his Stanford research team is attempting to address this challenge by developing novel interactive systems for data manipulation and visualization. These projects include Wrangler, a visual interface for data formatting, cleaning and validation; Protovis, a declarative language for web-based data visualization; and, a platform for asynchronous, collaborative visual analysis. Collectively, these projects highlight various aspects of the data life cycle in need of further research and design innovation. Hugh Dubberly will talk about using JavaScript to control SVG and the development of relationship visualizers, a special class of data visualization.


Presented by

Understand your value as a designer, thinker and strategic partner within your company, and learn how to leverage design and design thinking to take yourself and your company to the next level. Gain inspiration, advice and insights from practicing in-house designers, former in-house designers who are now on the agency side, consultants and academics. 

Expand Your Realm for Success: Grow Giant Ears and Listen for Hidden Opportunities

Bob Calvano, creative director, Merck

The future of design will require you to profoundly know who you are as a designer and to listen on a different level. Listening is a critical skill we must possess in the creative industry and it’s a skill that can catapult your career—if you know what you are listening for. Knowing who you are as a designer and listening for the right opportunities can set you on a path of successful, fulfilling and authentic creative journeys. Bob Calvano will share his first hand experience of how he turned a request to “hang a few pictures” into a new global service offering that is getting the attention of the C-suite and winning industry awards. Get insight on how to transform your listening for hidden opportunities and know which ones to pounce on.

Design for Social Innovation: Triple Bottom Line by Design

Mary McBride, department head of the Design Management Program, Pratt Institute

It is not only design that is at a critical inflection point, it is our shared world. Design can be a force for change in that world. More precisely, it can be a reason for change. Design offers options and alternatives. It encourages desire and enables action. And it is not afraid of complexity. Designers are trained to discover and to explore. They understand user behavior in the context of a complex ecology of behaviors. This presentation will explore the evolving context for design and its implications for design decision-making and social innovation. It will present a model for Triple Bottom Line by Design (TBLD) strategic design thinking and practice that can create sustainable advantage for organizations while advantaging people and our shared world. Designers will be encouraged to examine how they can evolve their practice to more fully meet the needs of business, society and markets.

From Apple to Ammunition: How Great Design Will Make People Love your Brand

Robert Brunner, partner, Ammunition

After serving as director of industrial design at Apple in the 1980s, followed by a decade as a partner at Pentagram, Robert Brunner founded Ammunition, and is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading product designers. From the Fuego outdoor grills to the Nook e-reader and Beats headphones, Brunner and his team have created innovative tech products that are reinventing the way we think about design. Brunner will discuss strategies for creating meaningful, memorable and impactful design that will make people love your company, and why, for a business to thrive, you (and the work you create) need to matter.

Brand, Improvised

Rebecca Gimenez, design director, Whitney Museum of American Art

A snapshot of an organization on the eve of a new brand, a new building and a new visual identity—and the changing role of design at this unique moment. In this session, design director Rebecca Gimenez will describe how the Whitney's design team established a new role for itself within the museum, using the period “between brands” as a laboratory for new ideas, new working methods, and a new, emergent visual vocabulary—and how this research is informing the museum’s new visual identity.

Narrative and criticism

Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Designed futures through fiction, speculation, criticism

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge suggested that even though his subject matter concerned “persons and characters supernatural,” if an author could infuse a “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastic tale, the reader would overlook the implausibility and outlandish nature of the narrative. More recently the phrase has been used to imply that the onus is on the reader or theatergoer to achieve this state of “poetic faith.” Designers often use the techniques of fiction to provoke or encourage their audiences to imagine, adopt, integrate or fund new scenarios, products, tools and worlds. In order to make something new, we need to imagine not only something that doesn’t exist but also a context in which such a fiction would make sense and resonate. Every project that is truly new requires a suspension of disbelief. This strand focuses on the ways in which practitioners, curators, writers, and critics have engaged with the imaginary and asked us to put cynicism aside and journey with them into the realm of fantastical. It explores the places where design, fiction and criticism meet—the intersections of creation and reflection—and considers the implications of such flights of imagination.

Session 1
Designing Fiction: How design creates character, setting and mood in fiction

  • Introduction: Alice Twemlow, chair, MFA in Design Criticism, School of Visual Arts
  • Design as a Character in Fiction: Akiko Busch, writer and faculty, MFA in Design Criticism, School of Visual Arts
  • Reading from his novel in progress and reflections on the art of writing fiction: Kurt Andersen, "Pivot" moderator and host of Studio 360

Session 2
Fictionalizing Design: The role of fiction in design writing, criticism and design practice

  • Introduction: Alice Twemlow, chair, MFA in Design Criticism, School of Visual Arts
  • The Use of Fiction in Critical Writing and Design: Denise Gonzales Crisp, professor of graphic design, North Carolina State University and designer, SuperStove!
  • Studying human behavior in contexts that don’t yet exist: Stuart Candy, senior foresight and innovation specialist, Arup
  • The Design of Habitation on Mars: Mike Neal, educator, designer and writer

Design for social impact

Designers understand the inherent value of design and its power to connect both social and economic value as a tenet of the practice. Designers must take the lead in utilizing our broad skill set and deep understanding of communication and design thinking to create a better world and a more sustainable future. From creating sustainable economic solutions in the impoverished Hale County, Alabama, to design’s importance in one of the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States, and the ways designers can use their own skills and time to create culturally relevant and authentic social impact on the local level, these sessions will explore the complexities, breadth and depth of designers’ ability to thoughtfully design for good.

Designing Different

Justin Ahrens, principal and creative director, Rule29; and Jason Severs, principal designer, frog design

The idea to give of oneself, or one's possessions, was never invented. It is an innate part of humanity. We give to share. We give to love. We give to make the world a better place. Admittedly, it is easy for us to forget these simple realities amidst the day-to-day chaos by which we have become accustom. We all say we want to change the world—but where do we start? Rule29’s Justin Ahrens, will show how doing this starts by making it a part of your culture and will show work created to make a difference and explore work done for those who need a voice. Also in this session, Jason Severs will discuss the importance of design research in creating disruptive and meaningful solutions. He’ll posit that design reserach is not rocket science but it's special when it happens. At its core, design research in creating addresses how designers are informed and inspired. In practice it helps us drive towards insights through balancing analytical thinking and intuition. It also catalyzes, enhances and makes accessible the way designers think and work. Severs’ presentation will seek to expand the perceptions of the role of designer and how design cognition creates a unique perspective which makes the designer the next generation of collaborator.

Creating Meaningful Solutions for Social Change

Nicole DeBeaufort, director of communications, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and Jay Parkinson, cofounder The Future Well

For designers wanting to work successfully with social impact nonprofits, acquiring a new language often goes with the territory, as well as a whole lot of learning about how social change programming works. But really, doesn’t the social sector have a lot to learn from design? Nicole DeBeaufort will discuss how to bring your way of thinking to the social sector and how to integrate your tools into truly innovative change strategies, all without compromising your vision of great design. Jay Parkinson will tackle the complexities of the designer’s role in the health and wellness field. Designers create meaningful solutions for problems. But what happens when those people for whom you're trying to create solutions don't yet have a problem? Most of us are healthy and don't have chronic illnesses. So how can we as designers tackle problems that don't exist in the minds of the users? It's much easier to create solutions for sick people than it is for those who currently have their health. But the future of a sustainable healthcare system in America depends on preventing those costly illnesses from surfacing in our population. How can designers prevent illness and inspire health?

Hell Yes.

Dawn Hancock, owner and managing director, Firebelly Design; and Michael Lejeune, creative director, Metro

Can your design work really make a difference? Can it really change the world? Creative director Michael Lejeune’s answer is “hell yes.” In just 20 don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it minutes, he’ll tell you five stories of how design is the lynchpin that’s taken Metro Los Angeles from a beleaguered public agency into a $40 billion force for good in battling epic urban congestion. Whether you are working in-house (and not feeling the love) or on your own (and not feeling connected to projects that matter), Lejeune’s tales of design redemption will empower and inspire you. His team’s work for the nation’s third-largest transit agency has garnered more than 80 recognitions not just because it makes for some nice eye candy, but because the plumb line of all their efforts (think 2,200 projects each year) is consistent, engaging and focused on the the big picture. Also, in this session, in exactly 1200 seconds, armed with a stopwatch and fresh from her auctioneering seminar, Dawn Hancock, managing director of Firebelly Design, will tell you how in the hell she is able to put on a design camp for college students each summer on little to no sleep, create opportunities for more than 400 creative folks to connect all year long through her design therapy group sessions, support more than 600 residents, families, schools and community groups in her neighborhood through a simple PayPal donate now button, launch the entrepreneurial dream careers of talented do-gooders at her own cleverly titled university, FU… Oh, and run the awesome social design mega studio, Firebelly all at the same time.

Design for Good

Charlie Cannon, cofounder, LOCAL Studios, and associate professor of industrial design, Rhode Island School of Design; Sam Shelton, principal, KINETIK; and Manuel Toscano, principal, Zago

Design for Good mobilizes designers everywhere to use the power of creativity and design to improve the human experience culturally, socially, environmentally and economically. Join the founders of this initiative that provides designers with the tools, resources and opportunities to become integral players in the social change sphere. Also, learn about this year’s AIGA Alabama Design Summit in Birmingham, where participants came together to learn, solve and model how creativity can be harnessed to defeat the limitations facing social and economic development in rural Alabama.


Consumerism has been problematic for Western Civilization and will prove impossible for developing cultures. It doesn’t lead to healthier, wealthier or wiser societies nor to communities that are respectful of the Earth or most of its living inhabitants. In addition, it’s opposed to most of the values communities say they care about. This begs the questions: How did we get here? And where do we go from here? Designers have had a problematic relationship with the spread of consumerism. Our values abhor the waste and excess that often comes with a consumer society and, at the same time, we benefit and even thrive from the industries and processes that support that waste and excess. How do we resolve these opposite phenomenon and how can designers put their skills toward a future in which design contributes to a more sustainable, resilient, and meaningful world where “less” doesn't mean less but more of what we truly value?

Meaningful Experiences in a Post-Consumer World

Steve Diller, director, Innovation Practice and Experience Design Studio, Cheskin

Designers share responsibility for the creation of consumer culture. But that's not how designers think of their best abilities, nor their goals. If designers can (help) make a consumerist world, how can they help unmake it and build a better world? One answer is the creation of meaning within products, services and other experiences. Designers must use research techniques to understand the core meanings behind customers’, audiences’ and participants’ needs. Knowing these, it’s possible to design in response, creating more effective offerings that help transform people’s lives in a positive way. Steve Diller, co-author of Making Meaning, will describe some of the techniques for researching and designing meaning as well as discuss how it needs to be part of the brand and product strategy of organizations.

The Design of Business Models in a Post-Consumer World

Nathan Shedroff, program chair, MBA in Design Strategy, California College of the Arts

A post-consumer world may not come easily but, when it does, it will change everything about our economy, just as the rise of consumerism has. For example, what does a company do when its business model is based on selling lots of cheap, trendy products? What do car companies do if more people walk, use public transit or bike to work? How do printers and equipment suppliers respond when less and less paper is consumed as more and more information is distributed online? Companies and organizations of all types need to be prepared to respond, with new products, services, policies and business models. The future we say we desire comes at the cost of changing much of what we've built. How do we get from here to there without economic upheaval along the war? How can designers find a role in change that is positive both socially and economically?

Transdisciplinary design

Presented by


Transdisciplinarity refers to the collaborative interaction between educators and practitioners from different fields/disciplines to create the integrated knowledge necessary to solve complex, wicked problems. In the face of the myriad problems facing society in the 21st century, transdiciplinarity also implies transcendence, stepping out of the role of the expert and actively into the role of collaborator and learner in order to facilitate emergent insights and solutions. For design and designers, transdisciplinarity challenges us to look to other disciplines for new ideas and ways of working, it challenges educators to think more holistically and creates the opportunity for design to serve as an integrative agent for complex problem solving.

Transdisciplinarity: Methods for Working Across Disciplines

Nick Durrant, co-founder, Plot, and Nierenberg Distinguished Professor of Design, Carnegie Mellon University School of Design; and Gill Wildman, co-founder, Plot, and Nierenberg Distinguished Professor of Design, Carnegie Mellon University School of Design

Transdisciplinary design is a growing movement of academics and practitioners who are creating new ways of bringing people together in open environments to supersede and amplify individual knowledge and expertise into a transformational experience both for participants and project outcomes. It connects many of the more recent forms of design activity including social innovation practices, draws from systems thinking and wicked problem-solving, and is informing the way design educators are reframing their purpose. In this session, Nick Durrant and Gill Wildman will explore the context for this way of working, and identify specific principles and practices with which designers can use to engage with other disciplines. Through case studies and scenarios, they create a vision of how transdisciplinary design is changing how we work and teach, and how it could become a powerful tool for radical, sustainable change. Finally, they will host a panel of pioneers, to discuss the kinds of roles designers and educators can play in facilitating and participating in the process of transformation.

Systems Thinking and its Relevance for Design

Terry Irwin, head of the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University; and Marc Rettig, principal, Fit Associates

"Systems thinking" refers to a style of thinking and approach to problem solving that is gaining acceptance across a variety of disciplines and which is transforming the way designers and design educators work. Systems thinking is the process of thinking in terms of connectedness, relationships and context and understanding how individual parts relate not only to each other but to the whole of which they belong. These systems dynamics and relationships are present not only in natural ecosystems but social systems as well and designers can learn to leverage these systems principles to frame problems in more appropriate contexts as well as design more effective solutions to them. Increasingly, designers are seeking (or being sought for) work that places positive social, community and environmental impact as an equal or greater priority than business outcomes. And even within the boundaries of business, work is increasingly tangled with the social and environmental issues of our time. Are we ready for such work—work whose complexity defies tidy frameworks and predictable outcomes? In this session Terry Irwin and Marc Rettig, who have both been studying and working with systems thinking/living systems principles for years will share what they have learned.  Irwin will discuss the living systems principles implicit in systems thinking, its roots in organismic biology and the relevance for design education and process. Rettig will suggest ways we can prepare to foster positive, meaningful, lasting outcomes in situations that are dynamically and socially complex. We must see, think and work differently in order to catalyze positive change. This includes embracing a "living systems" view of the world that recognizes and works with its true complexity. And it means a shift from short-term, pre-planned "symptom relief" solutions to partnerning with life's longer-term propensity for continuous growth and change.

DESIS Network: Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability

Kristin Hughes, associate professor, Carnegie Mellon University School of Design; and Cameron Tonkinwise, chair of business design and sustainability, Parsons The New School for Design

Ezio Manzini, founder of the DESIS Network (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) defines social innovation as a process of change emerging from the creative recombination of existing assets, aiming at achieving recognized goals in new ways. The DESIS Network has used design thinking and methods to co-create socially relevant solutions and communication programs with local, regional and global partners. Over the years, the DESIS Network has amplified design’s presence in local communities by helping to create a networked communications system that can potentially impact larger societal challenges. How does this work? In this session, Kristen Hughes will look at social innovation for a health project that leverages local wisdom to develop relevant, participant-appropriate communications, products and services. Insight will be shared on how design is transforming a community at risk into a community of problem solvers who are tackling the bourgeoning obesity epidemic. Cameron Tonkinwise will discuss the role of design in the burgeoning peer-to-peer sharing community. When DESIS Network researchers try to find hidden examples of creative communities innovating more sustainable ways of resourcing their everyday lives, invariably these involve systems of shared use: meal and car sharing; time sharing; shared housing and cooperative use of public space. The DESIS approach already challenges designers to be the enhancers of other peoples' ideas, rather than the originators. Sharing systems add another level of complexity: How to design scaled-up trust without marketizing.

Design Education: Challenges and Opportunities

Sandy Speicher, transformation team leader, IDEO; and Cameron Tonkinwise, chair of business design and sustainability, Parsons The New School for Design

Many of us choose the path of design because we want to make a difference in the world. But there's that inevitable moment when we realize we have a calling to do something bigger than our craft alone allows, whether that's building a business, playing a lead role in academia or taking on some of the world's biggest social challenges. How do we prepare designers for this growth? What opportunities are there to change our education programs? And how might we evolve our understanding of ourselves in order to succeed? In this talk, Sandy Speicher will share stories and examples of how IDEO helps designers through this evolution—from the work we're doing, to how we structure design roles, to how we design our organization. She'll also share some emerging trends in design education that are preparing designers in new ways. In the same session, Cameron Tonkinwise will discuss educating designers in the possibilities of intentional social change. Designers are future makers, yet they rarely study in any formal way methods and tools for gauging the future, especially the kind of futures that will flow from their own designs. Underlying this is a presumption that the future is unlikely to be markedly different from today: Technologies might change, but social conditions will not radically shift, whether in reaction to disrupted environments or economies or willfully transformed by political revolution. This presentation will explore how designers could be encouraged to become again social fiction fantasists, but also the institutional barriers to restructuring design education in these directions.

Practice management

Inspiration, infringement or fair use?

Linda Joy Kattwinkel, Esq., Owen, Wickersham & Erickson, and Shel Perkins, management advisor, Shel Perkins Associates

We are all influenced by one another’s work, but what is the difference between being inspired and copying illegally? Is it okay to mimic famous brands? What about working from photographs? Is it safe to take images from the web if we digitally alter them? Can we use old images or works from other countries? When is something in the public domain? Can I use someone’s portfolio illustration in a comp? What if I hire a different illustrator for the final piece? This session will explore what the laws of copyright, trademark and trade have to say about using ideas and source materials by others in your own design work. It will feature a rich visual presentation of infringing and non-infringing case studies through side-by-side comparisons, followed by questions and answers.

Designer/client contracts: An introduction to the newly revised AIGA Standard Form of Agreement for Design Services

Linda Joy Kattwinkel, Esq., Owen, Wickersham & Erickson, and Shel Perkins, management advisor, Shel Perkins Associates

Every time you perform services for a client, you have a contract—whether you know it or not! You need to make sure that it’s fair. This session will explain what constitutes a legally binding contract, review the most common problems caused by oral agreements and describe the vital role a well-written document can play in keeping client relationships on track. We’ll review the latest update to the AIGA Standard Form of Agreement for Design Services and its guidance for incorporating smart contracts into your own design practice. The AIGA Agreement includes special provisions for printed materials, interactive design, environmental design and motion design. There will be plenty of time to answer your specific questions.

Stories in motion

The Physical World

Todd St. John, founder, HunterGatherer

Todd St. John will discuss how to create a relevant and tangible experience of a story.

Passion and Happiness

Hillman Curtis, designer, author and filmmaker; and Sheril Kirshenbaum, research scientist, Webber Energy Group, Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Texas at Austin

Passion is the main focus of this session. Hillman Curtis will show clips from and talk about The Happy Film, a new movie that he recently co-directed with Stefan Sagmeister. Sheril Kirshenbaum will discuss her new book The Science of Kissing and show some a few of her favorite kissing scenes from the movies.

Words and Music, and the Muse

Alex James, musician, Dolorean

In this session, we get a rare treat as Alex James, leader of the band Dolorean, performs a few of his vivid, story-driven songs and talks about the pulse and rhythm of creating narrative in music. The session will end with a conversation featuring all of the presenters from the “Stories in Motion” track about their driving forces. Where do they find inspiration? And how do they transform incoming impressions into unique creative expression?


Bach, Fonts and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Allan Haley, director of words and letters, Monotype Imaging

Typography and music are a timeless pair, like peanut butter and jelly, or blue jeans and a white t-shirt. Typography is often inspired by great music—from Bach to Springsteen and scores of musicians in between. Both typography and music can be classical, improvisational, raucous, lyrical, offbeat, soothing or loud. They also share some basic concepts: counterpoint, rhythm, syncopation, dissonance and harmony. In this session you’ll hear Charlie Parker, Green Day, Mozart, Buddy Guy and more, and you’ll see award-winning typography their music could have inspired. Great typography that has roots in music will be analyzed, scrutinized and decoded. You’ll learn why, and how, music can be the perfect catalyst for creating typography that sings with magnetism and verve. Whether you have 1,000 fonts and use them with ease, or you consider yourself typographically challenged, this presentation will inform, inspire and challenge you.

Hamilton Wood Type: A Series of Fortunate Events

Bill Moran, founder, Blinc Publishing, and artistic director, Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum; and Jim Moran, museum director, Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum

This presentation will showcase the working history of Hamilton Wood Type and its evolution into one of the premier printing museums in the world. With its collection of 1.5 million pieces of wood type, Hamilton hosts thousands of visitors each year who print in our workshop, research our collection and ogle the largest working printing museum in the world. The presentation will also include numerous physical examples of type specimens and prints from the Globe Collection, our premier group of vintage advertising plates.

And more...!

Competitions: What Role Do They Play When Inspiration is 24/7?

Valerie Casey, founder and executive director, Designers Accord; and Allan Chochinov, partner and editor-in-chief, Core77; moderated by Richard Grefé, executive director, AIGA

Once, competitions played a role in selecting and publishing examples of the best of design and they became both a signal of recognition for a designer and a means to discover what others are doing. Today, there are three challenges to the concept of annual competitions: first, the web has made great design accessible every day all the time and, second, there is an emerging perspective that the community, rather than an empanelled jury of a few, should be the judges. Third, there is a strong sense that the appropriate criteria of relevance, context and effectiveness are inadequately considered in competitions. This panel will provoke discussion from the audience on the role of competitions, their appropriate form and criteria to guide AIGA in the future.


Peter Stebbing, professor and executive board member, Cumulus

Peter Stebbing defines “schesiology” as “the study of relationships and their consequences” (from the Greek word “scheze,” meaning “relationship”). Stebbing felt that we needed a new word, free of preconceptions, for the simple strategy of identifying and mapping relationships in order to help us understand how we are connected to the world through what we design and how we live. Understanding the connectivity of what we design and how we design it to the world around us is both key to designers’ understanding of their place in the world, and encourages designers to think outside the box to solve real problems. Schesiology can reveal the significant tangible and intangible benefits of effective design, and the ethical issues raised by the converse. Schesiological knowledge extends our awareness and, perhaps, the definition of what good and bad design actually are.

The Anatomy of a Student Learning Experience

Meredith Davis, director, graduate programs in graphic design, North Carolina State University

This session offers practical project development and content delivery strategies for design educators and insight for practitioners who hope to teach or want to better understand the preparation of future design professionals. The discussion addresses the essential characteristics of student learning experiences, suggests how they differ from professional assignments and challenges some longstanding traditions in how design is taught, especially in light of the changing contexts for professional practice. The session also tackles the difficult problems of evaluating pre-professional work and providing meaningful feedback to students.

Engaging Design Community in China

Sarah Burnham, program manager, AIGA China; and Amy Gendler, director, AIGA China

Five years is more than a generation in contemporary China—the place and the people are changing that fast. The China that exists in the imaginations of many Americans is transforming rapidly too. Instead of picturing a huge country full of peasants, we now absorb images in the media in which China is chock-full of ambitious go-getters. The entire populace seems to be on a social climbing trajectory, and design is one of the most compelling things taking them to a higher level. In 2006, AIGA had the foresight to establish an office in Beijing, simultaneously embracing the Chinese design world and the global design economy. Amy Gendler and Sarah Burnham will share some insights, talk about AIGA China's active programs and explain why all of this matters.

Are Designers Certifiable?

Hilary Ashworth, executive director, Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario (RGD Ontario); Lionel Gadoury, president, Association of Registered Graphic Designers Ontario (RGD Ontario); and Richard Grefé, excutive director, AIGA

At every large gathering of designers, a conversation will begin about whether designers should be certified in order separate those with the full set of skills, education and experience to design and problem-solve, from others who may be adept in using the tools of design, but less qualified to deal with the content and context that allow “true” designers to achieve clients' goals. The Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario (RGD Ontario) have a systematic examination program to register qualified designers. AIGA has not pursued certification or registration for a variety of reasons. In this session, the president and executive director of RGD Ontario will present their experience and AIGA will describe the US environment for certification.

One Hundred Years of AIGA

Sean Adams, partner, AdamsMorioka

To understand how and why designers need to pivot to remain relevant in an increasingly global world, we need to understand the history and evolution of our profession. Throughout its nearly 100-year existence, AIGA has adapted to many shifts and challenges that have faced the design community and the world at large, and has consistently advocated for more robust and influential roles for designers. Join former AIGA president Sean Adams as he guides you through nearly 100 years of AIGA history and helps you understand the value of your professional association for design.

Unleashing Design: How Designers can Help Business Overcome its Secret Fear of Innovation

Hilary Austen, principal, Artistry Unleashed

Organizations present designers with two big problems that manifest as a hidden fear. First, the forces, drives and goals that make organizations run efficiently routinely crush and quarantine people with new ideas. Second, the success of any new idea is unpredictable until actually tried. Proving out a new possibility brings on more risk than most organizations want. Despite these two problems, organizations also know that without listening to innovative people with new ideas they are bound to run out of competitive juice. History tells the painful story, many organizations die when too slow to update their strategy, culture, organizational structure, mission or attitudes toward customers. Organizations need help responding to the ongoing love-hate tension between the efficient status quo and the possibilities of new ideas. They don’t simply need better numbers or analytics, even if that is what they say. Instead, they need a whole new way of dealing with the situation. Designers are well-equipped to provide this help—if they understand how this organizational tension works.

What’s So Special About Facebook?

Shelley Evenson, research manager in design and user experience, Facebook

Shelley Evenson has had an extensive career working in consulting firms of all sizes, academia and, more recently, large corporate environments. Evenson just joined Facebook—a really different kind of workplace with a service that touches people around the world. Evenson will describe some of the challenges everyone faces in designing for social networks and what makes the Facebook organization, people and the work they do so special.

Standing Out in the New World of Modern Design

Brian Nemhauser, director of product management, Design Products, Adobe

Tectonic shifts are taking place. Entire industries are being disrupted—publishing, broadcasting, advertising, music and more. This transformation is turbo-charged by the revolution in mobile communications. As consumers, we’re living through (and benefiting from) this change. For you as a designer, this represents the biggest impact on your career since the desktop publishing revolution. Such all- encompassing change is scary. But change can also be exhilarating. In the end, it’s not about devices or animation or technology; it’s about how well-equipped you are to take advantage of the resources available to you. This presentation will look at emerging trends that will impact how you work in the very near future, including the changing definitions of traditional print content like magazines, books and newspapers and the ways that they are being reimagined to accommodate this new world of digitally connected consumers; making the transition from designing fixed page layouts to fluid layouts that adapt to a variety of screen sizes; meeting consumers rising expectations for powerful interactivity and mesmerizing experiences everywhere; and realizing that content creation is not enough anymore, it’s about content, context and discoverability.

Action for Impact: Wolff Olins + AIGA

Richard Grefé, executive director, AIGA; and Karl Heiselman, CEO, Wolff Olins

At a time when the economic, social and political landscapes are changing, the world needs design to improve the human condition and create value. During this time of change, AIGA is exploring how to best serve the design community in achieving relevance and leadership. Pivot attendees are invited to a workshop designed by global brand consultancy Wolff Olins to answer two key questions: How can AIGA have the biggest impact in meeting the needs of its members? How can it increase membership and revenue to make those ideas real? Join Wolff Olins CEO Karl Heiselman and AIGA Executive Director Ric Grefé in a collaborative session to create actionable ideas for AIGA to make design more valued and valuable–to improve the human experience. Both visionary and practical, this workshop provides the opportunity to participate in shaping AIGA and the future of design. To help you prepare for this session, please be sure to take a look at the session blog and begin thinking about the topics. This session is limited to the first 100 participants.

Design for Democracy and Election Design

Drew Davies, founder and design director of Oxide Design Co.; Marcia Lausen, principal, Studio/lab; John Lindback, senior officer, Election Initiatives, Pew Center on the States; and Jessi Long, election design fellow, Oregon Secretary of State

A panel of designers and election officials actively involved in the design of the election experience at the federal and state level will share the opportunities, challenges and rewards of designing to strengthen citizens understanding of issues and choices and enhancing the democratic process. You too can get involved!

The Rise of the DEO: Building the Next Generation of Creative Leaders

Maria Giudice, CEO and founder, Hot Studio

Whenever you ask someone what a designer does, the answer never easily rolls of your tongue. For the most part, designers tend to become defined by what they make, not necessarily by how they work and how they think. The truth of the matter is, designers’ roles have dramatically changed and our own industry has been slow to catch on. In order to truly evolve, designers need to give up “design” as it’s defined in today’s world to redefine themselves as strategists, facilitators, co-creators and creative leaders. Design has become a business conversation and the new leaders are not only strategically brilliant, they are highly creative and believe creativity will keep you competitive both inside and outside the organization. This conversation will focus on techniques and tactics that help designers become stronger leaders, influencers and change-makers to help solve today’s wicked problems within their own organizations as well as the business world and beyond.

Designing Innovative Solutions to Fundamental Problems

Christopher Simmons, principal, MINE

Designers frequently describe themselves as “problem-solvers.” We apply our creative talents to finding new and appropriately innovative solutions to common questions. These questions may include how to best articulate a corporate brand, how to connect with a particular audience or how to communicate across cultural boundaries. Sometimes the question may just be about how to sell the most widgets. Each of these are worthy pursuits and each involves a certain kind of problem solving—what Charles Eames described as “design addressing itself to the need.” But now, just as in any age, there are problems that are larger than brands and consumers (and widgets). There are needs as fundamental as equality, water, education, peace, justice and hope. These are the needs that we must address. These are the problems we need to be solving. These are the issues that require “good” design. In this session we will look at how designers are, can and should approach design problems with the quadruple bottom line in mind.

What Happens Next?

John Bielenberg, designer and founder, Project M

There’s good news and the bad news. The bad news: The world is at, or near, unprecedented tipping points involving climate change, peak oil, deforestation, species extinction and water scarcity. The tenuous relationship between humans and the natural world has become an unsustainable scenario. In addition, we have relentless religious conflict in the Middle East and expanding population and economies in China and India. More people competing for fewer resources is not a pretty picture. Thus, maintaining the status quo is not an option. The good news: Design is one of the only viable options we have to help shape a positive future. Design with a big D. Design that includes invention, human ingenuity, innovation and creative problem solving through design thinking and execution. Most designers are optimistic and passionate about what's next, not what's now or what's been. This makes them unlike politicians, religious leaders or most corporate executives who are largely acting to protect the power or resources that they already have accumulated. The future will be defined more by what we do now than what we did before. Learn how Project M, FUTURE and Common are using design to help shape a positive future for people and the planet.

Our curators

This year we’ve invited experts across a range of fields to curate tracks of sessions on themes and topics critical to the future of the design profession:

Branding and culture

Debbie Millman
managing partner and president, design division, Sterling Brands



Nathan Shedroff
program chair, MBA in Design Strategy, California College of the Arts

Criticism and narrative

Alice Twemlow
chair, MFA in Design Criticism, School of Visual Arts

Data visualization

Hugh Dubberly
founder, Dubberly Design Office

In-house design

Andy Epstein
co-founder, InSource

Interaction design

Liz Danzico
chair, MFA in Interaction Design, School of Visual Arts

Jon Kolko
director and founder, Austin Center for Design

Living Principles / Sustainability

Gaby Brink
founding partner and executive creative director, Tomorrow

Phil Hamlett
graduate director, Academy of Art University

Narrative design

Julie Beeler
cofounder, Second Story

Practice management

Shel Perkins
management consultant, Shel Perkins Associates

Service design

Ed Milano
vice president, Program Development, Continuum

Social impact of design

Doug Powell
founder, designer and business strategist, Schwartz Powell


Stories in motion

Jakob Trollbäck
president and creative director, Trollbäck + Company

Transdisciplinary design

Terry Irwin
head, School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University

Sheraton deadline extended

The hotel deadline has been extended at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel—rooms at the conference rate are still available so make your reservations now!