On the Road: Experiencing Head, Heart, Hand

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!


By AIGA Colorado
Published November 19, 2013
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