VMA’s Design Conference – The Story

By Barbara Silverman

It just seems to get better each year! The VMA Design Conference was held on June 14, as part of the opening day of AIGA’s SF Design Week. This year the conference was moved to Bespoke, an amazing new hi-tech venue conveniently located in the center of town, in the Westfield Shopping Center.

The event began as our high energy hostess-with-the-mostest, Lauren Elliot of Wicked Good Print Partners (WGPP) kicked off the sessions, introducing the “Large Man” and creative visionary Aaron Draplin of The Draplin Design Co., who shocked the audience with his unconventional delivery along with creative approaches to earning a living in design.

Dava Guthmiller from Noise 13 facilitated the recovery, discussing a sane yet creative approach to achieving meaning in a new brand identity. It was a perfect segue to Brian Dougherty who filled us in with stories of his quests for environmental and social impact design. Who would have through that packaging light bulbs could be both fun and environmentally sound?

David Hogue from Google presented some thought provoking ponderings as he asked us to consider what’s next? Where is all this going? And what should we really expect from our connected world in the future?

Corey Lewis of Black Flag Creative set his pirate ship afloat as he reviewed his methods of smooth sailing when dealing with design that would span many different channels.

Among the many highlights was IDEO’s Neil Stevenson. Stevenson’s mission is to understand creativity and find new ways to enable and encourage creativity in others. He shared some of his own stories, about stories to help us learn to apply storytelling in the service of creativity.

The founder of Social Media Trackers, Mark Schwartz opened the eyes of many of us as he shared real life experiences of how amazing Facebook can be for not only personal (how he met his wife) but business success. And he has the data to prove it.

When Neal Haussel followed, he shared what he believes to be the future of packaging, considering the rise of e-commerce. His Unboxing videos were both amusing and convincing.

Barbara Stephenson from 300FEETOUT offered us a lighthearted look into the workings of a functioning design studio and how to keep the creativity flowing. It was the perfect segue for Michael Osborne of Michael Osborne and one of our regulars, who challenged us to find our creativity and keep it flowing. Perhaps that is easy for Michael but it’s not always that easy for many of us and we certainly appreciated his insights.

We had a fascinating discussion about AR and print by Erica Aiken of Rods and Cones and Cindy Walas of Walas Younger, LTD. They proved that amazing possibilities are now within reach with their own magazine “Out of Chaos” where attendees got to experience AR first hand.

Zooka Creative’s Director of Strategy, Santiago Sinisterra provided an overview of what a brand really is and then went on to share a fascinating case study of the rebranding of Union City. He was swamped with questions in the panel discussion that followed.

Peleg Top closed the day by enrapturing us all with his own story. We were almost there with him as he shared his history that led to a 2-year sabbatical from our overly connected world and then the wisdom he acquired from it. He focused on how we can get more out of life by having less.

Among the bonuses of this conference were the breaks! Along with visits to the wonderful exhibitors, attendees had ample opportunity to mingle and learn from each other.

It was quite a day. Word on the street is that this event was clearly one of great inspiration and education and a perfect kick-off to SF Design Week!

See ya next year!



Barbara Silverman is the Director of Education at VMA (barbara@vma.bz).


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