Design Thinkers is quickly becoming a calendar highlight for us at Kenshō. The conference organised by the RGD (Registered Graphic Designers of Canada) takes place annually in both Vancouver and Toronto, the latter attracting over 2,000 multi-disciplinary creatives from across North America and beyond, all coming together under one roof to explore topics surrounding the conference theme ‘Question Tomorrow’.

Our industry currently finds itself shrouded by uncertainty and rapid change. We operate in a crowded, fast paced and increasingly competitive environment, one that challenges designers to innovate, pivot and diversify in order to maintain a competitive edge.

So what were our takeaways from the conference, how do we best navigate this landscape in order to thrive in such an unpredictable world?

Embrace Change

As expected AI was a big topic of conversation, we’re at a point where the majority of us have integrated both AI Chatbots and Generative AI into our daily workflow, and guess what… it’s not actually that scary! This technology has streamlined repetitive tasks, allowing us to allocate more time and energy to what really matters; conceptualisation, ideation and creation.

Renato Fernandez of TBWA/Chiat/Day Los Angeles aptly described AI as ‘the end of the blank page’ AKA a designers worst nightmare, whilst Hajj Flemings of Rebrand Cities confidently stated that in a world full of questions ‘the best way to predict the future is to create it’.

Ultimately, we need to fully leverage all the tools at our disposal in order to stay ahead. AI is here to stay, it can do incredible things and free up copious amounts of precious time. In such a rapidly evolving industry those who don’t adopt new technology will inevitably find themselves being overtaken.

Nurture your Creativity

As designers we all share a common affinity for simply being creative. Many of us experience a moment or period within which we discover that we are innately creative individuals, a realisation that opens up a world of possibility and opportunity. But the question begs, once your passion has become your career, how do you maintain or reignite that spark and curiosity?

Emmi Salonen of Studio Emi spoke on ‘how to nurture and sustain creative wellbeing’, within which she explored her own struggles with burn out and creative block. She attributes a resurgence in her career to a period of time in which she took a step back from work to explore her relationship with nature. Tina Roth Eisenberg, founder of Creative Mornings, took us on a journey to explore how creativity might be a discipline of optimism. Her mission to create organic community has been a driving force in allowing her to lead an incredible career, spanning 25 years and positively influencing thousands in the process.

Creativity is our currency, sustaining and nurturing it is our responsibility. Each individual will have their own means of doing so, be it through sketching letterforms, photographing interesting compositions, writing poetry, reading books, listening to podcasts, finding community or simply being in nature, the list goes on. We often find ourselves consumed by our work and lose sight of these small rituals or habits that truly keep us curious. Make time for them, nurture them, enjoy them.

Advocate for Design, Advocate for Yourself

Design is often an undervalued service, incorporated as a second thought and with limited budget. In an overly saturated industry many of us may resort to underselling ourselves in order to try and maintain a competitive edge.

Emily Cohen of Casa Davka was very vocal on her position, we must collectively advocate both for ourselves, and for our industry. Competitive edge is not gained by underselling our services, but by educating on the value we provide, quantifying the positive results of our efforts, and standing together to move past bad practices that hold our collective industry back. It is imperative that we prioritise ourselves, our staff and the integrity of our work above all else.

Design Thinkers also quite simply allowed us to spend time in the presence of some truly great individuals; Chris Do’s ‘Natural Born Seller’ talk was a masterclass in the business of design, the enigma that is Stefan Sagmeister captivated us with a look into his data-driven design practice, and Paula Scher, the certified Queen of Graphic Design, demonstrated at her 75 years of age that she’s still at the very top of her game.

We want to extend a huge thank you to the RGD for their hard work behind the scenes to put this all together, we’ll see you in Vancouver in May!