Design Thinkers is Canada’s biggest Design conference. Organised by the RGD (Registered Graphic Designers of Canada), the event takes place annually in both Toronto and Vancouver.
This year’s theme was ‘Question Tomorrow’, exploring the ways in which we as designers are both individually and collectively tackling the design problems of tomorrow and beyond. We’re living in a climate of what feels like constant evolution; AI is seemingly unstoppable, with social media and news outlets awash with headlines proclaiming the immanent demise of creative careers. This in itself is a huge point of discussion, one that certainly divides opinions and generates its fair share of concern.
Pum Lefebure spoke of the way in which her studio, Design Army, has recently integrated AI generated visuals into a stunning campaign for Georgetown Opticians. Hit with a 3 week window within which to conceptualise, develop and deliver the campaign, her team turned to AI for a solution. Thas Naseemuddeen on the other hand openly spoke of the ways in which her LA based agency Omelette is experimenting with utilising AI as an internal tool; one that helps speed up the admin, research and development process, but does not (as of yet) feature in any final client work.
This wasn’t the only topic of conversation though, another theme that emerged was that of human connection and creating for the greater good. In a world of visual noise, it is extremely refreshing to hear from the likes of Theresa Fitzgerald, who’s work at Sesame Street has helped combat Syria’s refugee camp education crisis (it’s incredible), alongside that of Alex Center of CENTER for Convict and Tom Hingston of Hingston Studio for David Bowie and Kasabian.
There was also a host of simply ridiculous work from a purely visual perspective. Specifically that of Liza Enemies of Studio Dumbar, who wowed the audience both with her energy and Dumbar’s motion design work for The Northern Jazz Festival, DEMO and D&AD to name a few (it was actually rude how good this work all is). A special mention also goes out to New York native Cey Adams, who’s 40+ year career within the world of Hip-Hop saw him creatively direct projects for the likes of Jay-Z, LL Cool J, DMX and The Notorious B.I.G.
As simple as it sounds, dialogue was at the centre of it all; be it in regard to how terrifying AI can be, how difficult designing for real change is, or simply how to make people smile though our work. The world of design is a competitive one, there’s no secret there; but it’s also a collaborative one. It’s an industry in which we actively seek the constructive critique of our peers, love to share ideas and constantly take inspiration from one another, seeking to do better and think more creatively.
So what’s the future of design? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to that question. From a simplified perspective it’s a combination of factors; adoption of new technology, pushing of creative boundaries, facilitation of open conversation, active collaboration and the desire to do good.
I’ll conclude with a quote that resonated from Debbie Millman, ’We can talk about making a difference, we can make a difference, or we can do both’.