Five thinks from design thinkers 2015

Design |


The Design Thinkers conference is a great opportunity for designers who think. Pilot’s design team attended the conference to learn, recharge and meet lots of people who wear very nice glasses and know their way around a drop cap. But what good is professional development if you don’t share your development with your colleagues and the entire internet world? Here are a few thoughts from each of us on what we heard, learned, loved, loathed:

The Network is the new model we use to make sense of the world, replacing the tree.

JAMES, UX Director:

I learned that the world needs more beauty and magic than it does business. There’s already plenty of business.

That if you do work that you love, it shows. Start there and the rest will follow.

That everyone’s idea was someone else’s once. No exceptions.

That working with a printing press run by bikers can have a positive influence on the creative process.

That sound and motion can be as integral a part of brand as form and colour.

That people used to be so shocked by counterculture that they would go around ripping up concert posters.

The network is the new model that we apply to our world, replacing the tree.

That Washington has radioactive moose.

A cheesy Pilot Experiment Inspired By Austin Kleon’s Newspaper Blackout Poems and comedian Olaf Falafel.


A design problem has a will of its own. Be sure to bring your mojo when wrestling with it.

A good creative brief will reduce the number of revisions. Make sure it stays living.

The cheese of truth never lies.

Design is a young person’s game. I was old there.

Where’s the magic? The best design has idea and passion.

Design for the extremes and the middle takes care of itself.

Great clients are made, not found.

Belgrade loves designers.

The Middles Ages were a fertile period of information design.

Seek out simplicity to get at the core, then add emotion.

The cinnamon rolls were better than the croissants.

Amateurs borrow. Geniuses steal.

Yes to sound and motion design at Pilot.

When in doubt stay in the main theatre.

Follow your synchronicities.

Working as a designer at a weekly = lots of late nights.

Justina's notes


My key takeaway from the entire Design Thinkers conference can be summed up in a quote from James Victore in his talk, “Beauty and Magic” – I want all my work to be love notes. It was a great way to start the conference as that message was reflected in the work shown in a number of other talks throughout the days. The common thread among speakers was passion for their craft and ideas. I have days where I struggle to churn out creative ideas because I’m stuck thinking about best practices and design theories. It can lead me to feel like I’m choosing the “safe” route when it comes to design decisions.

At Filipe Memoria’s talk, “Brute Force: Prototypes, Not Presentations,” he suggested designing for extremes first, not mobile. As a responsive designer, this was a great reminder to make every task as delightful as possible, while still maintaining functionality. The conference reignited my passion for design and encouraged me to find different methods to stay inspired in all my projects, big or small.



My key takeaway from the conference is to always explore, with projects both client and personal, and to find new and unexpected ways by never staying put. In “Going Fast to Nowhere,” Sebastian Padilla showed a variety of his personal and side projects. From creating a fashion brand to opening a taco shop, he and his small firm do everything from art direction to architecture.  They bounce from one thing to another by surrounding themselves with the right people.

Art Chantry’s talk on bold experimentation, designing on his own terms and simply just doing it shows that unexpected techniques can put ideas into new contexts and juxtapositions to create new ideas. By not staying stuck on one idea or type of project, there’s a collision of great ideas and anything can happen.



At Pilot we use Basecamp. But at Buzzfeed they really use Basecamp. We post comments and design files. They post every aspect of a project so that future generations will be able to study the evolution of their Tinder for Pets app.

At an otherwise mundane panel on mindfulness, my thoughts turned to focus, or lack thereof. Is it possible to achieve flow when you’re working on four different projects and six different administrative tasks in a day? Why am I so good at writing to-do lists during lectures? Why do people persist in calling them ATM Machines? Who is Fetty Wap?

Josh Clark says design has coopted the term delight but failed to deliver any. I agree. Less delite. More true deheavy. Sorry.

Would you rather a conference that charged $500 and served stale croissants or a conference that charged $510 and served edible snacks? Think of the hypoglycemic designer, RGD! Also, why did the program suggest The Old Spaghetti Factory as a lunchtime option to visiting delegates? That’s like telling a NYC tourist to go to Sbarro. Cruel.

Coral and grey. Yes!

Keep in touch

Subscribe to thoughts on strategy and design, plus whatever we’re up to lately.