Whew! I'm back from Monday's excellent SEED Conference in Chicago.
What a great event! The Illinois Institute of Technology and Rem Koolhaas' Tribune Student Center building, was an incredibly cool venue. Funky lines and the architectural space provided a unique backdrop for the sessions of the day.
All of the sessions were very good, though the most interesting for me as a designer was hearing Carlos Segura speak. He talked about taking risks and thinking deeper for clients and going beyond only what they ask to figuring out what they really need.
I was especially inspired by the Corbis Stock Photo case study, where Carlos' team changed the stock agency's overall approach to consider their clients (designers) and in doing so, changed an entire industry.
Segura also stressed keeping small, working on projects and with clients you really want to work with. Good work comes from these situations, and by staying small you aren't constantly taking jobs you dislike just to keep everyone busy. In fact, this turned into a thread that connected all of the talks of the day.
Jason spoke very briefly, so he could open the floor for lots of Q&A time. He recommended these 5 items:
- Watch out for red flags
- Keep your team small
- Make sure your staff has alone time
- Keep meetings short and focused
- Make tiny decisions instead of massive ones
Jason also recommended a small team size, though his perspective focused a little more on communication issues with small vs. large teams and scaling projects to fit your team size rather than scaling your team to fit scope.
I resonated most with Jason's call for alone time. I work remotely, but even though I work alone, there is always a temptation towards IM, email or phone calls, and I find that blocking out chunks of alone time makes a difference. I know this may be a tough one for the multi-tasking generation, but I think it really can help your focus.
I loved Jim Coudal's candor and relaxed approach, and especially his openness in sharing his firm's successes and failures. He shared several stories and films, and drew ideas from them. My take away:
- Be curious
- Choose people on their taste
- Don't be afraid to fail
Jim talked about his curiosity and how many of the things he's been curious about have turned into business ideas. Curiosity helps with client work, since you can get to speed quickly and often see a problem from a different perspective than the client.
He also talked about identifying people and hiring them on taste over technical talent. Not untalented people with taste, but rather if you had to choose between two people and one had good taste, go with taste over talent.
Coudal suggested that failures are OK. They're learning experiences which often create opportunities that might never have happened otherwise. You have to learn to identify and capitalize on unexpected opportunities that often grow out of failures.
Discussion Session: Segura, Fried & Coudal
The most interesting of the sessions was the final hour or so of open discussion time with Carlos, Jason and Jim at the front of the room. They fielded all sorts of questions from attendees about their ideas. Questions about small teams, marketing, simplicity, community, building products while still managing client work, questions about creating apps that rely solely on other platorms (Facebook), and more.
Of all the sessions, this was the one I and the 4 other guys I met, thought was the best of all. Why? Because they had a chance to respond immediately and candidly to random questions. I also enjoyed hearing them discuss and explore ideas in depth that hadn't come out in their talks. Finally, it was interesting to hear their similarity of thought and subtle differences of approach and opinion on the same questions.
As mentioned last week, I took my pocket Moleskine sketchbook along and captured 17 pages of sketchnotes, from the entire day's talks and discussions, including Carlos Segura, Jason Fried, Edward Lifson and Jim Coudal.
I didn't try to capture everything said during yeterday's event, since others were probably doing that.
Instead, I took time to listen and analyze the talks, distilling and capturing the main ideas I was hearing. By doing a bit of on-the-fly processing, it forced me to boil down what was being said, then express it in ink on the page in a way that would be meaningful to me and to others who might read my sketchnotes later.
To make the notes interesting, I played with typography and images with the sketchnotes, to provide a little texture and depth beyond pages of gray text.
SEED Sketchnotes on Signal vs. Noise
Awesome! 37signals noticed them too: Mike Rohde's SEED Conference 2007 sketchbook notes. Thanks Matt!
Pretty cool to have speakers and sponsors mention notes taken during the event. :-)
Overall, SEED Conference was well worth the time and price to attend.