Our HOW Design Live 2015 Experience Recap

LogoHOW Design Live is the largest gathering of creative professionals in the world, giving attendees just about everything they need to pursue a fulfilling and successful creative career all in a five-day event.

Many design professionals and hopefuls wait years for the opportunity to attend, which is why Christine, Erin and I were so grateful that Suttle-Straus was able to let us experience it firsthand.

The amount of industry knowledge and creative inspiration we gained in just ten hours was more than we ever anticipated, so from all of us we'd first like to say, “thank you for the opportunity!”

A playful start to the day 

The day started with a visit to the exhibit hall, which was re-imagined to be more purposeful, interactive and playful than before.

Over 70 booths made up the exhibition room, including:

  • paper companies
  • stock photo services
  • packaging displays
  • Pantone booths
  • DAM tools like our partners at Widen
  • website development apps
  • Adobe Cloud
  • tutorial resources, and much more.

Other fun booths included a professional headshot studio, a 360° camera set up for confetti action shots, and even letterpresses being run in real time for people to watch.



The rest of our time at HOW was filled with a mix of speakers and design sessions that left us with plenty of new insights to bring back and share with the team.

Fortunately, we were each able to attend at least one session in each of the five categories the event was divided into, giving us all a well-rounded experience.


Everyone had learning experiences, tips, tricks, and important advice they wanted to share with us––too many to fit in a single blog post. So, I’ve gathered the most important points and summed up the biggest takeaways below:


Keynote Speaker: Mimi Valdes, COO of i am OTHER and art director for the music video “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.
Takeaway: Have confidence in what you have to offer.


Providing Value Through Creative Business Solutions: Douglas Davis, Principle of The Davis Group, LLC

Takeaway: Shift your thinking, and that of the clients, from “getting something done” to creating something of value. Move the conversation from cost to a conversation about what the client really needs and the worth of what you, as a creative, provide.


Break the Rules! Unleash Your Creative Anarchist: Denise Bosler, Principal of Bosler

Takeaway: Forget boundaries and go beyond the obvious. Find out your clients' creative tolerance and explore ways to push it. While the unexpected is welcome, there must be a valid reason for introducing it.


Fifteen Ideas That Matter: Cheryl Heller, Chair of MFA Design for Social Innovation SVA NYC

Takeaway: Social design impacts business, society, government and the planet. In many ways, it's the largest movement out there. Find something that you care about, gather others who also care and use your design skills to make a difference.


Changing the Game: Delivering Breakthrough Art in Traditional Publishing: Rodrigo Corral, Creative Director at Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Takeaway: Make use of personal experience directly in your work. Don’t over think it. Collaborate and go on a journey with the people you work with. Be inspired by them.


Increasing Influence In-House: Greg Sutter, Creative Services Director at State Farm & Clinton Inselmann, Group Creative Director at State Farm

Takeaway: In-house should be a clean house. Simplify processes, utilize creative briefs and establish workflows in order to keep your creative department running like a well-oiled machine.


Moving Your Career Forward: Lessons From Design Life: Phil Cleaver, Principal at Et Al Design Consultants

Takeaway: When trying to get a job at a design company, your work shouldn’t change. Instead, you should find a way to show how your work relates to their work. Always work with people who are better than you, that is how you improve.


Draplin Takes Mobile to Desktop: Aaron Draplin, Sole Proprietor at Draplin Design Co./Field Notes

Takeaway: The workspace for designers (and other marketers) is changing. People don’t sit at a desk for eight hours anymore. Adobe offers a variety of apps that make working on-the-go easy and accessible. Take note, working on multiple devices and using the cloud will soon be commonplace.


Keynote Speaker: Jessica Walsh, Partner at Sagmeister & Walsh

Takeaway: Play shapes the brain. Play is a state of mind where we stay focused. More play can actually lead to more productivity. Play more!


Typeface Mechanics: Tobias Frere-Jones, Founder of Frere-Jones Type

Takeaway: What you see in type is never what you think you are actually seeing. Size, shape and weight change between letter forms, and knowing those differences is the key to creating a beautiful typeface.


Designing for 1600 Penn. America's Most Famous Public Icon: Ashleigh Axios, Digital Creative Director for The White House

Takeaway: Help everyone become a leader in their own right. Connect people with a purpose. Take mistakes and turn them into opportunities. Learn to maximize output with limited resources.


Break the Structural Mold: How Bold Forms Create Game-Changing Packages: Evelio Mattos, Creative Director at Design Packaging Inc.

Takeaway: Avoid featureless boxes. Go beyond just a container. Create interest and desire to interact.


How Not 2 Suck at Presenting Your Work: Megan Mead, UX Designer for Visa

Takeaway: You need to plan, prepare and practice every time you are presenting. Whether it's a design presentation or a simple internal office meeting, being organized and ready can make a big difference. Because the main goal of every presentation is to get people to care about your idea, and bad presentations kill good ideas.


Designing the Experience Continuum: Typography in the Age of Connected Everything: Jason Pamental, Lead UX Stategist at Fresh Tilled Soil

Takeaway: There is no web and print identity for a company, it’s all one. 1 brand = 1 identity = 1 continuum.




Throughout the day, two main trends emerged for the current designer:

  1. Be Fearless. Don’t be afraid to do something bold, to break out of the box, to push yourself and others to think differently. With that newfound bravery don’t be afraid to fail. “If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.” Quote by unknown.
  2. Find time to play. Step away from your computer, desk and phone, and unplug for a while. It will do wonders for you and for your work.


HOW Design Live offers both the creative inspiration to rekindle your passion for your work plus the tactical, take-home information you need to achieve and advance in your career. After one day I am feeling both inspired and motivated. I, and my fellow designers, look forward to attending this awesome conference in the future, if the opportunity arises.

I would like to extend a personal thank you to all of the day's speakers, and everyone I met throughout the day. It’s talking to people like you that refuels my passion for this industry that I love!


Webydo - Webydo is a professional web suite that enables graphic designers to create and manage exceptional HTML websites, without writing code.

Packaging & Dielines: The Designer's Book of Packaging Dielines - Provided by the Creative Division @DesignPackaging

Responsive Web Typography

Mama's Sauce - Letterpress and silk screen company that mixes their own spot colors, with the same attention that an Italian Mama gives her Sunday sauce.

How Not 2 Suck at Presenting Your Work

Choose Print is an educational campaign designed to promote the effectiveness of print and to reinforce the fact that print on paper is a recyclable and renewable and thus a sustainable environmental choice.



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About the author

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Amy Olson

Amy Olson

Amy has been a graphic designer at Suttle-Straus since mid-2014. Creating beautiful designs is truly a passion of hers. Amy loves great typography, interesting layouts, hand-lettering, and illustration. She also enjoys antique maps, old books, and creating her own studio art. Amy's a Minnesota native who loves to travel and get out of her comfort zone.
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Topics: Design