20140518 164120 60080480.jpg

Lessons, Legends, and Letterforms


A week at the HOW Design Live Conference is a great way to learn new things, and relearn what you should have remembered. Here are a few of the most memorable lessons, in no particular order:

  • Practice, practice, practice. Then practice some more.
  • A digital business action plan will help your creative business maintain momentum.
  • I want to spend next Tuesday on my patio having breakfast. This was an answer to the question, “If you didn’t have to earn a living, what would you do next Tuesday?”
  • I still have a hard time appreciating the value that younger people bring to the conversation when I know I have so much to learn.
  • Keep your room key with you all the time, even when you step out into the hall for some ice. Yes, I was fully dressed, but felt like a loser riding down the elevator to the front desk.
  • If you own a business, you will sell your business to others more often than work in your business.


Photo: @jenniferdopazo

Photo: @jenniferdopazo

I spotted him between sessions one day, and then there he was again. This man had to be almost 30 years older than the second oldest HOW Conference attendee. A thick shock of white hair and fantastic eyebrows, dressed in black from head to toe. I watched him as he made his way from one session to the next with a unmistakable shuffling gait. While he may have seemed out of place to the untrained eye, he belonged. Bob Gill has spent 60 years as a graphic designer (when the words had fresh meaning). Graduating from the first design schools in the United States in 1948, he and his contemporaries defined what the design industry could be. He had a thing or two to say about the state of “design” in 2014. Actually, just two words: it’s sad.

The industry isn’t producing any work that has meaning. Too often, work begins in front of the computer, without value and without opinion. Our culture saturates the brain with imagery and perceptions until we no longer recognize original ideas. It’s very hard to overcome, but we should try. Memes and followers and trends pervade our sensibilities and shade what we think is art. It isn’t art. It’s boring and — what did he call it? Ah yes, dopey.

He’s right. The minimalist trend in logos is B-O-R-I-N-G. And hopefully it will have a short shelf life, and we can get back into the age of art as design.



I tried my hand at not one, but two, letterpresses set up for newbies in the Exhibit Hall. It was infatuation before, but now it is outright love. Cost and talent are more than likely too prohibitive for me to learn the craft. But it is a beautiful, textured approach to printing. And I was thrilled to see the appreciation and use grow in design. During previous conferences, we’d be lucky to see Hatch Show Print in the showroom. I didn’t see them at HOW this year, although three other smaller shops and at least one school were. Keep feeding this spark. Letterpress is one of the ways we appreciate letterforms, and there was plenty of that at the conference as well. Another session I didn’t get to see but heard a lot about was Nikki Villagomez. Wish I could have caught that one.

Final Impressions

It was a great week spent with new and cherished friends, fantastic design trailblazers and important business lessons. Many of the experiences I had this last week will come out in future projects. Stay tuned. It promises to be a great ride.

Elke Giba

Elke is our chief facilitator — helping A/E/C clients uncover insights about customers and services to define a unique marketing position. She is equally at home in Dallas or Nashville, but oddly enough cannot two-step to save her life. When she isn't researching, interviewing or facilitating, she is practicing the delicious art of baking.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. It was great seeing you present at HOW Design Live in Boston on the subject of managing virtual teams. Increasingly, people are working remotely from offices at home or on the road, in locations all over the world. You showed everybody how it’s possible to keep the collaboration between you, your team, and your clients smoothly.

    As far as practice, practice, practice goes, it was clear during your talk that you practiced, practiced, practiced!

Leave a Reply to Laura Foley Cancel comment reply