The 99U conference is an annual design conference which draws many of the design industry’s leading speakers and over 1,000 attendees. Many of the main talks were held at Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center in NYC. This year’s list of speakers included design influencers from Instagram, Pentagram, AirBnB, Mike Perry Studios, and Adobe, just to name a few.
99U is an inspiring event that enables amazing creative minds to share knowledge and best practices between all designers. This year, the event was sold out and all the event spaces were packed, which just added to the excitement!
My Volunteering Experience
I helped with preparations the weekend prior to the start of the three day event, and mostly handled registration the rest of the time. Through this, I met many creative business leaders, freelancers, art directors, illustrators, and designers, and I made a lot of friends since everyone at the conference had similar passions and interests.
In my two days of volunteering I was also able to catch a few talks while working. I would definitely go back as a guest to have the fully immersed experience of listening to as many talks as possible and attending the studio sessions. I ended up leaving on a high and feeling inspired all over again with new goals for myself.
A Glimpse into a 99U Studio Session
Thadeu Morgado, a partner at Work & Co. and previously partner and UX design lead at Huge, gave a presentation on “Building Your Team.” Many of his key points revolved around building a strong team having an open mind during the hiring process. Work and Co. gets résumés from about 500 applicants per month but will only interview around 3 of them. Their approach is that they are always looking to hire the best team, and thus they are always hiring.
Thadeu also confided that Work and Co. does its best to minimize design processes. When presenting to a client, he lets his work speak for itself without worrying about flair. Instead, he just pulls up Sketch on his phone to show his work! But what I believe was more important was that in his vision for their company, they should work under a mindset for unlimited growth.
It was amazing to hear about that Work & Co. started a few years ago and now has over 200 employees and offices around the globe. Thadeau claims this success comes from their focus on hiring multidisciplinary designers, all of whom have their own specialties and flairs.
Speaker: Natasha Jen
My favorite talk that I attended was Natasha Jen’s “Design Thinking is Bullshit.” Her presence and talk were captivating. She explained that each design process requires unique thinking, and that you should cater each project to a different approach. She explained that there is no single way of “design thinking,” something many non-designers tend to believe.
Simply put, design thinking is an approach to problem solving for designers. However, Natasha’s argument was that it can be all too isolating to focus on a single approach, especially when it comes to being creative. Individuals ultimately need to break away from the step by step process and adopt a method that works for them. I could relate because I wireframe in my own illustrative way, and she highlighted storyboarding as one way to wireframe!
Everyone in attendance at the 99U made it amazing and inspiring. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to be among so many forward thinking minds. My message to our readers would be to jump on opportunities such as 99U. Attending conferences like this is a great way to gain new perspectives and shake things up. To constantly grow is one of my mantras, and the more experiences you have in life the more you learn and grow!
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