What the What – AIGA Design Conference, NOLA 2015

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Another design conference in another fun city. Our industry sure knows how to be inspired and entertained all at the same time.

My time in New Orleans was split between the formal AIGA Conference and with my design family which includes professional illustrators, writers for Neenah and AIGA, design magazine editors (remember STEP magazine?), and amazing agency owners. I’m still not sure why this awesome crew has welcomed me into their circle, but I’ll stick around till they kick me out! …speaking of getting kicked out, creatives tend to get a little loud and feisty and almost kicked out of fancy vrbo rentals – whoops.

As with all conferences, the best moments are never spent sitting in a session. They appear on the sidelines in random, almost fateful, conversations and introductions. It was great to meet many of the design “legends” in person who I’ve heard so much about. It was also great to have more time and inspirational conversations with my little family. The most memorable moment was finally chatting with Jamie Saunders who is my original connection (via a random tweet five years ago about how much I love using Neenah Paper) with this whole amazing group. How amazing one little thing can change the course of your life. 

Students and volunteers presenting the work as the workshop wrapped up.

Students and volunteers presenting the work as the PlayBuild workshop wrapped up.

Before the conference, I was able to participate in a workshop with the KIPP Central City Primary school in NOLA. AIGA and a local nonprofit, PlayBuild organized an event for 6 to 10-year-olds around design thinking. The kids were able to meet some professional designers, see their work and ask about process. Then, they were matched with us volunteers and, together, we completed a design project around the upcoming New Orleans Tricentennial. It was a bit chaotic with that many kids splashing paint, feathers and marshmallows around, but quite fun! Hopefully we inspired a few future designers.

At the conference, there was one particular session that grabbed my complete attention. Christopher Simmons from MINE in San Fransisco, Calif., did his touring talk called “This is Progress”

What are we missing out on?

What are we missing out on?

His focus was less about his own work (which I heard enough of from other speakers) and more about the social impact we have as designers. How you can design a beautifully modern and welcoming McDonalds, but the food is still shit. How you can design a cup to measure and record all of your caloric intake through a phone app, but you’re then tied to using said cup for everything – even a nice glass of wine. He started the talk with a commercial from Verizon. A family – out camping under a vast blanket of stars – all snuggle into the tent and start a projected movie inside as they go to bed. The Verizon tagline is “What are you missing?” With 100 billion stars in our galaxy, and people hiding inside their tents, tethered to a mobile device for entertainment, we’re missing the Entire Fucking Universe!

So true – and scary. We are crossing profound, enigmatic lines in this age of tech, and we, as designers, play a pivotal role in staying true to human nature – to keep truth, sensuality, interaction and honesty in our products and designs. To focus on not losing but enhancing the human experience, the power of relationships, our connection with nature and our abilities as we grow and change.

These are the kind of thoughts that make me proud to be in more of a nostalgia industry. Stationery is tactile. The customer connects to the product through the texture, feel and temporary aspect of it’s use. Then the recipient connects to the product and – more importantly – connects back to the customer through this significant way of communication. I’m honored to bring this experience to so many people.

What happens in Nola stays in Nola, right? Well, here are a few fun moments I can share…

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I had a nice little inspirational chat with Henry, the baby alligator. And, even though our boat broke down on this swamp tour, the scenery was quite relaxing.

I visited three lovely paper/stationery stores; Papier Plume, Scriptura and box.paper.scissors.

I visited three lovely paper/stationery stores; Papier Plume, Scriptura and box.paper.scissors. Always refreshing to visit new paper stores in new cities!

After discovering this Old Fashioned card (my father’s favorite drink), I visited the ladies at Grove Street Press and placed a wholesale order for the store. So fun to make an order right in their studio! One of our card letterers, Felix Sockwell, making himself at home in their cute space.

After discovering this Old Fashioned card (my father’s favorite drink), I visited the ladies at Grove Street Press and placed a wholesale order for the store. So fun to make an order right in their studio! Here’s one of our letterers, Felix Sockwell, making himself at home in their cute space.

Oh my, the food! Matt Porter and I killing some bbq shrimp. We ate at so many amazing restaurants, I can’t remember what I ate where or their names, but it was ALL amazing. My advice is skip the beignets and stick to the crawfish.

Truly, there were few shenanigans, and mostly eating. Oh my, the food! Matt Porter and I killing some bbq shrimp – bib required. We ate at so many amazing restaurants, I can’t remember what I ate where, but it was ALL amazing. My advice is skip the beignets and stick to the crawfish. A couple must-trys Acme Oyster House and the Court of Two Sisters

Friday Finds: Actually Favorites

Our most popular line of cards in both our wholesale catalog and in our retail store is the Actually Line. The sentiments are real, to the point and say what we all actually want to say. No bullshit. Here’s our staff favorites…

S_actually_sorry copyKerianne: When sarcasm is so much fun, it’s really difficult to make a decision about your favorite Actually card. I can’t help but smile and feel a little pang of guilt when I read this one. When you grow up with siblings, something like this has probably come out of your mouth at some point. If brothers would just apologize first, you wouldn’t even have to tell them it was their turn.

L_actually_chapstick copySusan: This card was written for me! I have a Chapstick every where in my home and purse and while my husband is most important, he is always a bit more appealing with my lip addiction in his pocket.

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Tarah: So my life, and anyone else’s who has a weird ache and internet access. I’ve been positive I had cancer and rare diseases too many times to count yet I’m a perfectly healthy 20 something who has never been hospitalized, not even once. PS: Doctor and nurse friends love to hear what new disease you have haha…

Abbey: I spent thirty minutes trying to decide on one favorite, and then said – fuck it – I’ll narrow it down to two! So here’s my five favorites…

L_actually_lovesong copyLisa Loeb is my hero. Her 1995 album – Tails – sings my heart. And my favorite song – Sandalwood – goes something like this “She can’t tell me that all of the love songs have been written, ’cause she’s never been in love with you before…” This card means the world to me (secretly hoping someone will buy it for me someday).

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This card is from our new Fall additions. So I’ve never been in labor before, but as a gal with some gal pals, I tend to hear ALL about it – whether I want to or not. Honestly, it all sounds horrible. No thank you. Props to those birth-moms out there. Me and my vagina are quite thankful for our adorable adopted child!

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Most of our cards are nice, and then a little mean like a love punch to the gut. But this card starts nice, ends mean – then finishes with a “hey! wait a second!” It’s perfect for any occasion and for any person. I send it to my brother for everything.

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Hands down, most popular card we carry. I stock this card weekly at the store and although I don’t have hard data, I believe it receives the most laughs too.

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Another card from our new Fall additions. I’ve been called weird more than a few times (which I’m quite proud of), and I wanted a card to reflect a sense of celebration in each of our weirdness.