Thoughts on Design Thinkers 2016

On Thursday I spent the day in Toronto attending the annual Design Thinkers Conference. Last year I attended both days of the conference and I thought it was a great experience so I decided to go for a day this year to see some speakers (and collect a bit of free stuff!) Here are my thoughts on some of the presentations that I was able to see at the conference!


Tobias Frere-Jones

Tobias Frere-Jones is a typeface designer who is responsible for creating Interstate, Whitney, Gotham and Retina. This talk was straight forward, practical and to the point. He discussed the work on his typeface Retina, which is designed specifically for screen applications and small print. He brought up some things about type that I had never considered before like the way open forms can create greater legibility and the importance of creating shapes that distinguish different letters and numbers. His talk will definitely help guide me when selecting typefaces for different applications like screen and small print.


Kenya Hara

Kenya Hara is a Japanese graphic designer and curator. Hara encouraged the audience to cherish the unknown through a process called ex-formation (like the opposite of information) in order to unleash creative potential and view everyday things from a different perspective. Hara had some great work to share from his students, as well as his own pieces. It was great to see the many different ways that his students interpreted their projects. It was inspiring to see so many clever, entertaining ideas. Seeing work from his architectural exhibition made me realize that I definitely take the way that the suburban house functions for granted. It was interesting to see how architecture could respond to a demographic’s needs. One design was for the elderly and featured a fridge and storage units that could be accessed from both the interior and exterior of the house to make delivering goods easier. The talk offered some great inspiration as well as a new perspective on architecture.

Fredrik Ost & Erik Kockum

Fredrik Ost and Erik Kockum are both creative directors at Snask in Sweden. They encouraged the audience to “Make Enemies and Gain Fans” by creating work that is bold and stands out. The pair were both very engaging storytellers and their enthusiasm definitely matches the energy of the work they create. They spent most of the time talking about their experiences, their studio and presenting their work. Although there wasn’t really a clear takeaway thought from this talk, I still enjoyed it because it was super entertaining and I enjoyed seeing a lot of the work that Snask makes.


Erin Sarofsky

Erin Sarofsky, owner of Sarofsky Corp. is a designer and animator specializing in title sequence typography. I was excited to see Sarofsky’s talk since I was familiar with her work going into the conference. She had a lot of practical, straight-forward advice to offer about the importance of research and concept. She talked about how creating different iterations of concepts can help you to work beyond the obvious (her example was not using ants in the Ant-Man title sequence). It was interesting to hear some of the thoughts behind work that would be so familiar to many people.

It was great to see the works and hear thoughts from internationally admired designers. It was a very refreshing experience after spending so much time working on projects in what can feel like a bubble. It definitely reminded me how important it is to leave the computer behind and go seek inspiration elsewhere. Hearing from designers that I had never heard of previously made me feel a little more connected to the world of design and reminded me how important it is to keep up to date with all of the amazing design that is being created all over the world!

Thanks for reading!



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