On the Road: Experiencing Head, Heart, Hand

Written by
AIGA Colorado
November 19, 2013

On October 9th, 2013, with the fund­ing assis­tance of AIGA Colorado and ques­tion­ably legal doses of enthu­si­asm, four Communication Design stu­dents and one Design Research stu­dent from Metropolitan State University of Denver took off to Minneapolis to expe­ri­ence AIGA’s bi-annual design con­fer­ence Head, Heart, Hand. Here is the con­fer­ence expe­ri­enced through their eyes.


Shannon Torphy, Design stu­dent and dog-fosterer-for-friends
When Ben Livitz of Studio On Fire, a let­ter­press stu­dio in Minneapolis, spoke to a full audi­to­rium, he didn’t explain typ­i­cal let­ter­press processes. The work he pro­filed was a let­ter­press repro­duc­tion of an odd and some­what vio­lent diner scene done in water­color for the band Atmosphere. The process of recre­at­ing this (which I still don’t com­pletely under­stand due to its com­plex­i­ties) not only had to cap­ture minute details of human emo­tion and form, but also had to stick to two col­ors in order to be afford­able. This sin­gle sam­ple of Studio on Fire’s work sums it up quite nicely: the pieces are mod­ern but tac­tile, detailed and com­plete works of art. Studio On Fire is a refresh­ing reminder in our dig­i­tal design world of the impor­tance of tex­ture, craft and the ded­i­ca­tion it takes to become an expert.


Micaela Haluko, Design stu­dent and musi­cian extra­or­di­naire
One of my pri­mary inter­ests as a design research stu­dent is inves­ti­gat­ing how we inter­act with design and how it shapes our daily lives. I was really inspired to hear about projects that pro­moted inter­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tion. The Step ONE pro­gram, coor­di­nated by John Bilderback, brings healthy and afford­able options to the food deserts of Tennessee. George Aye’s Greater Good Studio designed a school cafe­te­ria to encour­age healthy choices and reduce food waste. In both of these pro­grams, design was used not only to cre­ate an impact­ful response, but also to for­mu­late the ques­tions nec­es­sary to really under­stand the “hyper­local” human expe­ri­ence. Expanding design beyond its dis­ci­pli­nary realms to effect change is some­thing I plan on car­ry­ing into my own career.


Jarrod Joplin, Design almost-graduate and father of nin­jas
This being my sec­ond AIGA bi-annual con­fer­ence, I some­what knew what to expect. However, as with any assem­bly of like-minded peo­ple, I was sur­prised and delighted as my fer­vor for design was renewed. My favorite thing to do at con­fer­ences is to spark up con­ver­sa­tion with ran­dom peo­ple because the play­ing field is flat. Yes, there are the giants of design present, but really we are all there to be in a place where the love and pas­sion for design as well as our quest in the field is mutu­ally given and received. As a result, we all feel the syn­er­gis­tic expe­ri­ence that hope­fully will last for the next two years until we can get to the next con­fer­ence and expe­ri­ence the whole thing anew. Thank you AIGA and AIGA Colorado for allow­ing us to con­vene, to share, to soak and to glean from one another in this jour­ney of design. It is a wor­thy one!


Matt Albert, Design stu­dent and snow and sea enthu­si­ast
In many cir­cum­stances, an object or expres­sion is defined through look­ing at its oppo­site. We define night by day, light by dark, even the let­ter C would be noth­ing with­out the neg­a­tive space of its open counter. Head, Heart, Hand was a whirl­wind of inspi­ra­tion; one could have eas­ily been over­whelmed by all of the work­shops, tours, talks, books and per­son­al­i­ties. Having trav­eled with a group of friends and col­leagues, we were able to gather ever so briefly to chat in between ses­sions and grab lunch together. On the sec­ond day of the con­fer­ence, we all met at a Tibetan restau­rant near the con­ven­tion cen­ter. The energy at the table that day was so charged and the con­ver­sa­tions were in-depth and inspired. During busy times moments such as these are often over­looked as they are so brief but for me, these moments can be more inspir­ing than a work­shop or lec­ture. They give us bear­ing and allow us time to ques­tion things and process what came before and what is to come after. I am going to the next AIGA con­fer­ence in New Orleans, and I am truly look­ing for­ward to lunch!


Toby Kelleher, Design almost-graduate with the pony­tail and super soft sweaters
The most insight I gained from the AIGA Head, Heart, Hand con­fer­ence was the value of a strong nar­ra­tive com­po­nent in graphic design. Through a strong nar­ra­tive, design is able to craft a mes­sage that is per­sonal, can cre­ate rela­tion­ships and spark curios­ity within the reader. One such speaker was radio pro­ducer Eve Claxton, who through a non-design per­spec­tive estab­lished five essen­tial steps in cre­at­ing a great nar­ra­tive story: 1. Make it per­sonal, 2. Keep it short, 3. Follow sequence, 4. Provide mem­o­rable details and 5. Keep it focused. Furthermore, it was the duo behind the New York Times Data Visualization Team with Steve Duenes and Matthew Ericson, where I learned that sta­tis­tics may be reported with a great story that explores form with the intent of paint­ing a clear pic­ture of infor­ma­tion to engage and delight.


Head, Heart, Hand was truly inspir­ing and a huge suc­cess. We rode bikes, we met peo­ple and we learned some cool nerdy design things. We can’t wait until the next one. Thank you AIGA Colorado!


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