Hopscotch Design Festival 2014 Liveblog

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Good morning, and welcome to Raleigh, NC! Hopscotch Music Festival has been going on in this college town since 2010, and this is the first year they’ve introduced a design conference as part of the festivities. I’ll be here for the next two days, liveblogging panels and speakers. Even in their inaugural year, Hopscotch snagged some top-notch design talent, from Elle Luna to Alexander Isley, and even Matt Tomasulo from the project “Walk Your City.”

Keep checking this page throughout the day, and follow @Paste_Design on Twitter for updates. If you have a question you want to ask the speaker, tweet at us and we’ll ask for you!

—By Sarah Lawrence, Sept. 3 at 8:19 AM


Day 1:


We started the morning with Elle Luna, a designer and artist based out of San Francisco, Ca. After being a designer for IDEO and on the Mailbox team, she quit her day job two years ago to become a full time artist out of a little white room in a San Francisco building.

In her talk, she discusses an article she wrote on Medium in the Spring—“The Crossroads of Should and Must.” After posting her story, the story “exploded” and she came to discover it had been Tweeted to over five million people. What resonated with them so strongly, she thought? Why were people drawn to this idea?

Luna went on to discuss the meaning behind the Should and the Must—what Should we do, that is, what other people are expecting us to do: “you Should read this book, you Should go to that place, you Should live this way. We are often crushed by the weight of other people’s expectations.

Then, we have the Must, which is the intrinsic motivation—what is your calling? What is your drive? Luna went on to reference a TED talk by New York designer Stefan Sagmeister, that distinguishes between a job, a career, and a calling. A job is something you’re paid to do, and leave at 5 pm. A career is a series of points, a progression through a job pattern. And a calling is something you might not even be paid to do, but you feel like you Must do it.

Luna gave several examples, from Vincent Van Gogh to the founders of AirBnb, stories of people who followed their calling even though they were told they Should do something else. She then gave several suggestions for actively following your calling on a daily basis, from finding inspiration and solitude to not being afraid to fail.

All in all, great first talk.

—By Sarah Lawrence, Sept. 3 at 10:23 AM



Sarah Miller Caldicott spoke about Thomas Edison, arguably the creator of the first design lab. She asked the question, “what does it take to persist with your ideas?

Edison was unique for his time to believe that women and men were equally intelligent and capable of producing creative ideas. Caldicott discussed the various industries Edison is responsible for introducing, such as video and sound, and that his inventions have a market value of almost $10 billion.

We learned about the various processes by which Edison fostered collaborative and creativity. He thought that collaboration and teamwork were two different animals—in teamwork, you pass the baton during a relay, you hand your problem off to someone else. When you collaborate, you run the race together. He had his designers switch notebooks and ruminate on each other’s ideas. He had them focus on small things that were working in the process, and to identify common forms of progress. With collectively pooled intelligence, we create knowledge assets.

—By Sarah Lawrence, Sept. 3 at 11:15 AM



We head over to CAM, the contemporary art and design museum in Raleigh, for a luncheon called Gathering for Good: Designing a Better Food System. There were five tables of ten people, and we were each given a different aspect of food insecurity to discuss and come up with some ideas to solve it. Food insecurity isn’t necessarily starving, but not knowing where your next meal is going to come from. There were designers from all over the country at each table, and at the end everyone shared their ideas. These are the notes from my table.

—By Sarah Lawrence, Sept. 3 at 12:40 PM



We heard from Matt Tomasulo, the “Chief Instigator” and founder of the Walk Your City initiative. The project started when Tomasulo moved to Raleigh for grad school and noticed people weren’t walking often enough. The common excuse was that it was too far, when in fact the distance between their house and a grocery store was often less than a fifteen minute walk. They installed the “It takes X minutes to walk to Y” signs in Raleigh, which immediately became popular and, through some minor setbacks, were quickly expanding across the country.

These days, Walk Your City is now in cities all over the world, and have increased engagement and walking around the area. By grouping signs and releasing the template to the public, he gave people a way to actively take part in the project and make it their own.

—By Sarah Lawrence, Sept. 3 at 2:05 PM



Brian Singer of Pinterest opened his talk with a simple promise: “I’m going to tell you how to get rich with design.” He originally was a designer at Facebook before moving to Pinterest, and has been responsible for some of the most intriguing projects dealing with people and how they move through the world. He used to pull tattered pieces of paper from telephone poles, organize them obsessively, and piece them together to create new compositions entirely. The main portion of his talk was based around 1000 journals, a large scale collaborative project he started many years ago. Singer purchased these plain paper journals and got them into the hands of people all over the world with a single request: add to it, and pass it on.

The journal pages became an art show, a colorful website, a book, and even a documentary now on Netflix. People drew, collaged, created art on the pages, and wrote about their most personal experiences. The project was changed by who participated, and each book was different.

UCSF Benihoff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, Ca has since picked up the concept and used it as a way to help sick children cope with their illnesses and find relief and hope. He goes to meet with these children, and works on journals with them, giving them their own creative voice. Of all the projects he discussed during his talk, Singer seemed the most at peace and proud of this new journey.

We’re still not sure how to get rich in design, but I have a feeling when Brian Singer said he was rich, he didn’t mean in money.

Also, we learned, the best way to end a lecture is with a cute animal video.

—By Sarah Lawrence, Sept. 3 at 2:51 PM



Doug Powell discussed the need for creative growth in the future, more specifically at IBM, the tech giant based out of Austin, Texas. He spoke about large broken systems, like healthcare in the US, and that there was a desperate need for designers to come in and fix them. But first, he asked, “How do we get a seat at the table?” That is, how do designers get people to take them seriously?

IBM is lucky that their CEO understands the need for good design. She says that the key to future growth is the client experience, and since IBM produces mostly software and mainframes, the key to a good experience is often good design. Powell showed several screenshots from software IBM produced that was ugly and potentially difficult to navigate. He said that IBM often hired young, fresh designers to creatively solve usability problems with their software, and help create new experiences.

Powell went on to shed some light on the fascinating culture at IBM: Over 430,000 employees, only 250 of them are designers. The ratio of designers to engineers at this company is 1:60, when a better situation would be 1:10 or 1:15. IBM is actively working to hire more designers to fill this need, and plans to hire 1,000-1,500 in the next five years (students, take note!). IBM also brings on designers in large groups and trains them for three months at “Design Camp,” on the company’s culture and practices. This way, they can truly succeed.

Check out the behind the scenes video at IBM Design.

—By Sarah Lawrence, Sept. 3 at 3:57 PM



The last panel of the day was a reflection on in-house design vs. working in an agency, discussed by designers from The Body Shop, Counter Culture Coffee, Citrix, Red Hat, and IBM. Some designers started off in agencies and moved in-house, some were always in-house, and some were always in agencies.

The main distinction between the two channels of design is that, in an agency that works with a variety of clients, there’s a significant amount of initial research that goes into a brief, pitches, and building relationships. In-house designers get to skip that initial part since everyone’s already on the same page. The panel discussed ways for in-house designers, who typically spend their time working on the same projects and in the same style, to stay inspired and motivated. For starters, working for something you believe in is key. You have to make sure your career goals align with your work in-house, and that the brand is a good fit. Secondly, side projects are good—they keep your skills and mind sharp. An in-house UX designer at IBM stressed the fact that, although he may not be changing people’s lives on a regular basis, if he can make one product slightly easier to use, he considers it a success.

—By Sarah Lawrence, Sept. 3 at 7:45 PM


Day 2:


Harper Reed from Modest kicked off the second day with a hilarious and creative keynote talk at the convention center. He walked on stage and said, “I do these speaking engagements to get more Twitter followers,” and when everyone laughed he followed up with, “no, seriously, I do.”

Back in 2004 Reed was at a small company called Threadless. He discussed that, by encouraging people to submit their own t-shirt designs, they basically invented crowdsourcing—up until 2004, that wasn’t a common practice. Crowdsourcing the design work for their company allowed them to build a strong community and focus on building the platform that people used to submit.

After Reed left Threadless, he joined the Obama 2012 campaign as the CTO. They had no code left over from the 2008 election, and the tech landscape had changed so drastically by that point anyway they had to come up with whole new platforms and strategies. For instance, Reed pointed out that Facebook pages and iPhone apps were barely in play during 2008, but were the main focus of some of the 2012 strategies. He declared that Big Data is a joke, and people should be discussing strategies instead. He spoke about microtargeting, and other tactics the campaign staff carried through to encourage voting and civic engagement.

—By Sarah Lawrence, Sept. 4 at 10:17 AM



Alexander Isley take on inspiration and design was refreshing—he started his career when the only electric thing in his studio was a typewriter, he says, and shows us a poster he designed that was unintentionally similar to an earlier advertisement. HIs talk moved through his career as a designer, working under various creative talents that allowed him to flourish. He pointed out that it’s difficult to truly define a graphic designer, since it’s the integration of all kinds of ways you can create.

The audience laughed when he showed his undergraduate program’s graphic design catalog—the columns were horribly spaced out, and difficult to read, and he said he understood graphic design to be “to take important logical information and arrange it on a page to make it incomprehensible.”

Overall, the lightheartedness of this talk and the candid comparison of his work to the pieces that inspired him were wonderful to hear. There’s definitely a fine line for designers to walk in creating new material inspired by other work.

—By Sarah Lawrence, Sept. 4 at 11:30 AM



The Lincoln Theatre was packed for Annie Atkins, lead designer from The Grand Budapest Hotel. A humble and sharp designer from Dublin, Atkins has worked on the set of The Tudors and Box Trolls before joining Wes Anderson’s team. People typically assume she makes film posters and title sequences, she said, but really a graphic designer’s job on a movie is to make every single piece of design that an actor might interact with on set—this, in practice, would be the Mendl’s chocolate boxes, notes and maps, tattoos, and books. It’s propmaking, it’s set dressing, and it makes the movie more solid and believable. She even designed the way that Agatha iced the cake in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Atkins wanted to make it clear that everything you see in a movie has been designed. She showed a clip from the prison scenes of TGBH, and pointed out cell numbers, prisoner numbers, and the elaborate escape map drawn on packaging. She pointed out that prisoners don’t have access to paper, so how would they draw a map? They would need to draw it on the back of packaging, so to do that, Atkins’ team needed to create stamps and postage material.

They worked on the set of poetry books Zero presented to Agatha, and followed the process of creating Zero’s signature cursive.

Atkins’ latest project is Box Trolls, a movie being released later this month. It was created in a style similar to Coraline and Nightmare Before Christmas, so each storefront sign and newspaper and box packaging needed to be handpainted, under direction from Atkins herself.

—By Sarah Lawrence, Sept. 4 at 12:29 PM



Hopscotch Design Festival 2014 finished strong with Casey Caplowe, the chief creative officer of GOOD magazine. He spoke about the apathy movement, how he felt that it’s becoming cool to not care about things—this is clearly a problem. They started GOOD Magazine to foster an intersection of creativity and engagement.

Caplowe spoke about their culture of using infographics and good design to cover stories—GOOD has regularly been involved with Reddit users to create new content, and they strive to often work with their audience to create content. He told the story of the guerrillas in Paris who broke into a building simply to fix a clock that had been broken for hundreds of years.

In the end, the take away from Caplowe’s talk, and sort of the whole conference, was: don’t be afraid to be weird. Be creative, try new things, and fail. Don’t be afraid to try out ideas that other people have tried in the past, you may even find a new way to do it.

—By Sarah Lawrence, Sept. 4 at 1:12 PM

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