Image Image Image Image Image
Scroll to Top

To Top





In Blog

By Laura M

Who, What, & Why at the HOW Design Conference

On 06, Jul 2009 | 6 Comments | In Blog, Events | By Laura M


Austin, Texas – June 24 – 28, 2009 – The HOW design conference was action packed!  I am still recovering from all the activity and information that was jammed into a 4 day conference. I have sorted through my notes and have compiled a quick set of resources and tips from the conference.

This is Business, Don’t Make it Personal

In the graphic design game, it is important to remember that you are different from an artist. An artist creates and hopes to make a sale.  Designers, on the other hand, have a client from the get go. You have to share your clients goal. If you don’t share your clients vision, the project will suffer, and in turn, so will your business.

With that in mind, it is also important to cover your assets when starting a business.  Get in touch with a lawyer and an accountant to find out about the law in your state and how to get small business tax breaks. Make sure that you are setting yourself up for success by preparing yourself for failure. Just because your business gets into legal trouble doesn’t mean you have to lose everything.

Designer's Marketplace Booth at the Resource Center

Stand Out

The key to obtaining clients and growing a graphic design business is to accentuate what makes you different. If you can become a resource, or even be viewed as an expert in the field, this is icing on the cake. If you have an expertise, or offer multiple services, make sure your clients and prospects know. Leave behinds are also a great way to shine and show off your creativity. Anything extra you do for your clients that takes time and effort will stand out.

To learn more about the business of running a graphic design studio, check out

Where Are Your Priorities?

It is hard to loss focus of the big picture when you are busy at the task at hand. It is also hard to see the right path to the end of a project when you are drowning in “top priority” items.  The solution? Effective prioritization. Determine what has to be done same day, and what could wait. Make a list of your “action items” and determine what can be put on the “back burner”. Make a visual representation of your priority levels and place your jobs within the visual. Chances are, you have more items as “highest priority” then you really need. If you are always rushing to finish these rush items, then your work and your mental state will eventually suffer.

Also, make time for your bigger goals.  Set time aside everyday to think about what your long term goals are and what steps you need to be taking to acheive those goals. Even if you only have 30 minutes a day, any time you set aside will make better off then if you keep working on the task at hand with no regard for the bigger picture.

Learn more about the about the Action Method at

T Bird and the Breaks performing at the Opening Reception

Consider Your Audience

One very important point made in the conference sessions was the lack of consideration for those with disabilities when executing a design. 1 of every 20 people have trouble visualizing colors. There is a site called that can help you determine whether your designs will be seen by those with color blindness. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also offers design guidelines and best practices.

Know Who You’re Dealing With

Our world is getting smaller, and international business is more and more common place. However, it is important to remember that not all country’s employ the same environmental and humanitarian regulations as are in place here in the states. It is important to know what kind of facilities and practices your vendors have in place, even if they are on the other side of the world. Would you really want to save a buck at the cost of another person’s well being?

Functional and Fashionable

It is important to understand a problem to effectively create a solution. In design, if the concept is not functional, then it will probably not reach the goal it was meant to acheive. A good designer can make something aesthically appealing. A great design can make something appealing and make it easy for the viewer of your design to get the message.

Kristen Ley of Cultigraphic Creative

Final Thought

The best thing I took from this conference was the friendship’s I made (totally cheesy, but very true). I met Kristen Ley, owner of Cultigraphic Creative in Charleston, SC during the networking lunch. We instantly bonded, and had a great time at the conference together. She is immensely talented and has succeed in launching her own business.  Her attitude and her work both inspire me to push myself to be better and brighter!

Larry Pelty with Smith and Associates

Kristen and I met Larry Pelty, my other conference buddy, while having a quick bite to eat at Moonshine (yummy restaurant across from the Convention Center). Larry is the Creative Director for Smith and Associates in Houston, TX. He and I have had a very similar path in our creative journey and I think we both learned a lot from each other during the intense four days of sessions.  Larry is extremely intelligent and I can definitely see him be a key resource for web design work for years to come.

I would love to hear additional comments from others who attended the conference.  What did you take from your sessions?


  1. Brian Sullivan

    Hi Laura —

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Design is realy about creating solutions for people. It is not about making something pretty. It must be functional, too. I think great designers learn that they are really problem solvers.

    If you get a chance, check out the Creative Problem Solving model. It was built out by Buffalo State over the last 100 years.


  2. Larry Pelty


    Great info! Here’s also a great Mac app for simulating different types of color blindness – Sim Daltonism.


  3. Laura V

    @Brian Sullivan
    Hey Brian, that session was presented by a guy named Cameron Moll ( He is a web designer and would be a great addition to the Big(D)esign Conference, 2010!

  4. Rather interesting. Has few times re-read for this purpose to remember. Thanks for interesting article. Waiting for trackback

Submit a Comment