How Design Live: Top 5 Takeaways

I’ve been to HOW Design Live six times and I must say it never gets old. Inspiring speakers. Interesting topics. And maybe a little bit of swag to bring home from the expo hall. Most of all, it is a good opportunity to get a read on what is going on in our creative world.

This year, seven IHAF Board Members spoke at HOW Design Live—featured in the IHAF Masters Series with sessions for both individual contributors and the C-suite. The experience of presenting and listening was memorable, with the event striking a somewhat more thoughtful tone regarding design’s place in the world.

With that in mind, here are five things I noticed at HDL in Chicago a few weeks ago.

1.) In-house agencies are driving brands of every flavor. The majority of attendees at HDL this year were in house. No matter where you turned, someone was repping their in-house team whether a global giant like Starbucks or small city like Clearwater, Florida. All had one thing in common: feeling strongly about their brands and how that connection makes their work better, which was evident with every speaker. How are you championing your in-house agency every day?

2.) Design is addressing global issues like never before. There was almost an added weight to the event this year. Sure, it was still inspiring but a seriousness was present as well with a focus on the world’s water, food shortages, and female empowerment to name a few topics. The design community has always been a hot bed of ideas, but this year there was more purpose to highlight. At Kronos, we’ve increased our efforts to address social responsibility. Are you too? What are the challenges?

3.) The pressure on in-house agencies to feed every communication channel and evolve their expertise is continually growing. The past three years has seen businesses embrace Instagram, Snapchat, and the mobile experience, on top of their already heavy loads of Twitter, email, direct mail, events, and the like. This pressure to define the brand everywhere, while not necessarily getting more headcount or specialized talent is only going to grow with the proliferation of new technologies. How will in-house agencies secure headcount to meet this demand and what will be the next trend?

4.) Bringing in new talent enables us to learn from our young’uns. Along the lines of #3, IHAF Board member Jen Cortner of Discovery Communications noted the need for new talent the best with a few points about “learning from your young’uns.” This also came up in a few chats I had around how we have such a unique talent pool right now across multiple age groups. Many are letting go of the unhelpful “oh, those millennials!” attitude and turning the keys over fully to benefit from insight across every level of experience. For those under 30, mobile and social are simply innate to their existence. Have you tapped into this yet?

5.) Design is a true community. The energy when you put a group of like-minded people from different walks of life together is inspiring. No matter our companies or roles, there is an immediate connection. I went to an event where I knew no one and within 10 minutes made four new friends, had lively conversation, and gained new perspective on issues I am dealing with at work. How are you developing your network and getting beyond your walls?

In the end, we are very lucky to do the work many of us do. The shared passion most creative communicators, marketers, and branders share is intense at times. But the want to make change and inspire always shines through, and our ability to do that within a culture we can help shape and be inspired by is why I am in house. I was reminded of that last week at HDL and look forward to more listening, learning and conversation with all of you at IHAF’s Regional Roundtables. Our traveling discussion group series launches this month. I hope you’ll join us in the city nearest you.

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