September means many things for the Openfield team, and one of those things is the opportunity to get out from behind our screens and energize as creative professionals. For the second year running, we were excited to be a presenting sponsor for AIGA’s annual Cincinnati Design Week, a celebration of design that boasts 15 unique and engaging events across five days.
Members of our team had the opportunity to present, lead and network among Cincinnati’s vibrant design community. We returned to our work with some new lessons to apply and a refreshed perspective. Here’s a roundup of (just a few!) highlights:
A framework for working quickly yields big ideas.
Sometimes, the best solutions are inspired by a looming deadline, but how can we “routinize” the process? The Design Sprint problem-solving framework created by Google Ventures serves as a template for product teams around the world to quickly generate ideas, prototype and validate them. Openfield’s Adam Sonnett, VP of UX, and Annie Davis, UX Lead, served on a panel of five leading UX practitioners from our region who condensed Google’s five day sprint process into this three hour workshop where attendees got hands-on experience with ideation, prototyping and presentation. In the beautiful open space at 3 Points Urban Brewery, facilitators led attendees in a challenge to brainstorm and develop early prototype ideas to address needs of our region’s homeless community.
“We can all read books and talk about how to implement design sprints, but to actually walk through it and amend the process to fit the need was an invaluable exercise.”
– Luke Sillies, UX Designer, Openfield
Embrace unforeseen twists and turns.
Say you had twenty minutes to build a way to fly for animated mice in Cleveland, or a way to keep time for body builders inside a whale’s mouth. As Presenting Sponsor, we brought exactly this type of “What? That’s crazy!” back for a second year with our “Box of Crazy” event. We divided the audience into twelve teams to build a prototype that would solve a challenge based on drawing three random cards and mere minutes to select prototyping materials. Halfway through the challenge, team received a *fourth* wildcard with new information that needed to be included in the prototypes.
“This year, we saw a lot of wearable ideas that were as hilarious as they were ingenious. It goes to show that sometimes the twists and turns (or, in this case, that fourth wildcard) can really make a project come together if you embrace it.”
— Rebecca Stoehr, Front-end Designer, Openfield
Typography has a place in digital media — and improving lives.
Another talk about typography at a design conference? Seriously?! Yes. But this one went beyond aesthetics to solve a real problem in the world: the learning difficulties faced by those with Dyslexia.
According to the Dyslexia Center of Utah, 70-80 percent of people with poor reading skills are likely dyslexic. Additionally, one in five students, (15-20 percent) has a language-based learning disability, and Dyslexia is the most common language-based learning disability.
Session speaker Reneé Seward has been conducting research and developing a typeface aimed at elevating learning outcomes for those who suffer from dyslexia. She’s even created an app that allows students to interact with letters, words and sounds to help them unlock new levels of cognitive potential and learning. Seward described a vision of the not-too-distant future in which typefaces will transcend static presentation in digital media through movement, resizing and animation to better aid challenged readers.
“I was really energized by listening to the talk about the future of typography. It is amazing how underestimated design is to be able to have a significant and positive impact on the world. After hearing Reneé talk about her work in the field of dyslexia and the direction that typography is heading, it just reminded me of how important a tool design can be in our lives. With the ever growing boundaries of something as seemingly simple as typography, it makes me reflect on my own abilities and what changes I can bring.”
— Allison Rednour, UX Researcher, Openfield
Design brings people together.
Cincinnati-based architecture firm GBBN presented the Parallax Pavilion, a temporary installation at the heart of their fourth annual Design Issues Series (DIS) exhibit. Inspired by the 20th century Surrealist parlor game, Cadavre Exquis (Exquisite Corpse), the collective goal was to design and fabricate a structure that celebrates and manipulates perception. Five creative teams from across GBBN’s three U.S. offices contributed to different phases of the project, each team not knowing what would be passed to them.
The resulting wooden structure was a stunning undulating sculpture that invited viewers to interact with the piece from all angles, including from within.
“It was really refreshing to watch a team dive in and embrace the ambiguity of the exquisite corpse process. I think as designers we often times rely on constraints to drive the work we are involved in. I know what it’s like to struggle to get started on a project without fully understanding the problem, and this event was a great reminder to stay flexible and adaptable in any creative process.”
— Allie Lozinak, UX Designer, Openfield
Creatives have a responsibility to understand (and represent) different groups of people.
AIGA was willing to roll up its sleeves and take on a complex topic: the construction of various female archetypes in popular media and culture and how these contribute to the overall understanding of the role of women in modern society. This Woman Up :: Talk Back session raised questions about the ethics and messages inherent in the feminization of digital assistants like Alexa and Siri.
“This was a great event that highlighted just how many other women in our industry are thinking about the same things that are on my mind. Together, we were really able to get a conversation going that challenged viewpoints of different types of women in the workplace.”
— Crissie Raines, Project Manager, Openfield
We need to do our part to inspire the future leaders of our industry.
Co-created by the national AIGA organization + AIGA Minnesota, the EMERGE Mini Conference is one of our favorite CDW events. This conference inside of a conference featured experiences tailored to help emerging designers (those with 0-5 years of experience) hone their skills, discover their talents and grow their careers. Openfield’s Vice President of Product Experience, Trevor Minton, participated in a group keynote that covered a range of topics covering the good, the bad and the ugly from the perspective of an agency-side design leader.
“At Openfield, we feel a great responsibility to be actively developing future talent among our staff and community at large. It was an honor to share my perspective and experience in the hopes that people entering our profession might learn from them.”
– Trevor Minton, Vice President of Product Experience, Openfield
Never, ever, ever stop thinking big.
A venue like the American Sign Museum was the perfect backdrop for the closing keynote speaker, Jennifer Kinon, who has a bright and large career herself as co-founder of New York-based OCD (The Original Champions of Design) and former Design Director of Hillary Clinton’s Hillary for America campaign in 2016.
Annie Davis, UX Lead at Openfield, had the honor of introducing Kinon. After discussions throughout the week about how the regional design community can continue to foster a sense of welcoming, belonging and empowerment, it was a significant way to tie it all together. Davis is also co-founder of the Cincinnati chapter of Ladies that UX, an organization built around creating a welcoming, transparent community of women that work in UX.
Kinon’s keynote was an inspiring reminder that every designer starts somewhere, even if that somewhere might be small, and that we always need to think big and think bigger about the role of design in the world–and our role in it as designers.
Our highlights are just the tip of the iceberg of what was a profoundly interactive and engaging week. Hats off to AIGA Cincinnati’s dedicated volunteers and speakers who made CDW18 a success.
Learning outside the office doesn’t have to be restricted to one week out of the year. Keep up with professional development organizations like AIGA and Ladies that UX all year long. We might see you at a future event!