We Were at the 99U Conference

Author: Forge Team, Tags: Blog, Forge Culture, Our Work

13 July 2017

99 hours at 99U (give or take a few)

At the end of June our very own creative gurus, Jim and Andy, took off for New York City to attend the 99U Conference. So, what’s the 99U conference? Created by Adobe, the 99UC brings together over a thousand creatives from different industries and backgrounds who come to hear from and inspired by creative thought leaders across various disciplines. What follows are some of their favorite takeaways.

Find your path

Be yourself. Everyone else is taken. — Oscar Wilde

For most creatives, the desire to create is usually tempered with the need to make money. But that doesn’t mean we have to feel like sell-outs. All the speakers from this panel made sure their work had some element of giving to others. For Mike Perry, it’s art and design that challenges inhibitions, like a pop-up that invited people to get drawn nude. For Liz Jackson, it’s inclusive fashion that makes people feel good about using the devices they need for better health. Both have turned projects with a purpose into successful careers. Ultimately a creative’s path comes from following your true passions with an open mind. You almost never end up where you set out to go and that’s what makes it great.

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Listen to this: Bad design isn’t just ugly. It can cause real harm. Every year people fail to use hearing aids because of the appearance. This can lead to early onset dementia and early death. But by reducing isolation design has the can reduce physical pain, according to a study done by the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), reducing isolation can reduce physical pain.

Don’t tell stories. Let your customer’s write them.

With the rise of virtual reality, micro-storytelling, and video games, our basic understanding of “story” is changing. How can we create a narrative without a linear through point? How do deliver a story in under 8 seconds? How do we approach storyboarding and character development in these story worlds? And how can brands better utilize these new approaches for their business? To find answers to these questions, the Made in NY Media Center by IFP workshop explored the different meaning one could pull out of the familiar story of Little-Red-Riding Hood, from alternate perspectives to thematic meta-data, the speakers illustrated how the same story can be told in very different ways. The same goes for customers’ understanding of your brand or product. Brands can’t dictate experience or tell linear stories about themselves anymore. Instead they should present their point of differentiation, build a sandbox around it, set the rules, but let people play and explore within them as they will. If you do it right, you won’t force desired behavior, you’ll induce it.

Good advertising can be like comedy. It’s all in the timing.

The art of comedy is one particularly tied to our line of work. Think of your favorite commercial. It’s probably a funny one. But whether we’re making a funny spot or a serious one, the same techniques come into play, from concepting to presenting the work effectively, all while thinking on your feet like an improv performer. Below is a great example, presented by Postlight’s Paul Ford, of a relatively unknown comedian demonstrating the most important element of good advertising – crafting the work.

On that note,

When you’re stuck, forget the brief and just make the work for yourself.

That’s some good fucking design advice. Which is a perfect way to segue into the wrap up workshop of the conference:

The Art of Risk Taking with Good Fucking Design Advice.

Good Fucking Design Advice bring a colorful, design-based approach to products and experiences that challenge the thinking, discipline, and passion of creatives and entrepreneurs. They believe the best creative work is born from uncertainty, that innovative ideas come from the scrapes and cuts earned in exploring uncharted territory, and that risk is the shortest path to growth.

Their workshop was designed to help individuals break through their creative ruts to arrive at fresh ideas and innovations regardless of their role or position. For them, it all has to start with emotion. Does the idea elicit feelings? Does it make you or your client uncomfortable? The idea of discomfort figures big in their approach as many times the outcome isn’t always clear. And that’s okay. Focus on the process but don’t make it a routine. Keep putting yourself back into an uncomfortable place to learn and innovate. And remember, like most things in life it’s always easier to get forgiveness than ask for permission.

That’s good fucking advice, period.

So, what do you think? Did you attend 99U? What did you take away from the experience?