AIGA Gain 2008

Thanks Tim, for the warm welcome. I’m thrilled to join BluePoint, this is a fantastically creative and talented team, and I’m honored to be here. I began my first week at the Proginet offices, and ended the week out at the AIGA Gain conference in Manhattan. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the AIGA, they are the national organization of design professionals in the US, with 62 active chapters across the country. I’ve been a member since my days as a Graphic Design student at Mass Art. The theme of the conference this year was Business and Design. Amidst a very prestigious cast of speakers, the ones that stood out most to me this year were Tom Kelley, General Manager at IDEO, Jeffery Zeldman, Founder of Happy Cog Studios, Chris Bower, Manager of Retail Strategies at Saturn, and Udaya Patnaik, Principle at Jump Associates.

One recurring theme this year was the need to keep up with your market, or help your clients keep up with theirs, as the case may be. Tom Kelley spoke about the race to keep up with the marketplace, and used a great visual analogy of the Red Queen’s race from Alice in Wonderland. Jeffery Zeldman had deep insights into what makes user experience truly successful on the web, I wish he’d been given a longer allotted time to speak, we only got to hear 1 of his 10 keys to successful web design.

Chris Bower and Udaya Patnaik spoke about their work together on the Saturn retail experience. They stressed the importance of staying ahead of your competition, not just with new products but with new ways of engaging the consumer, and new ways of challenging your market. As you may know, Saturn became known for their radical no-hassle no-haggle approach to the car-buying experience. (As someone whose first car was a Saturn, I can attest to how effective this is!). However as you might expect their competition quickly began to copy this approach. So they are now in the process of rolling out a completely new in-store experience across all their retail locations nationally. This was the culmination of what Chris described as a very involved and complex process of innovation and collaboration with their retailers. One thing that really struck me was Chris’ comment that when they got push back from some retailers when they introduced the new in-store experience, he saw this as a good thing. He said he figured that if his progressive retailers resisted these ongoing changes to the standard car-buying experience, then his competition would have a nearly impossible time following!

I thought this was a refreshing perspective, regardless of the industry that you work in. For me it was a reminder to push myself to see outside the proverbial box, and strive for excellence even when it means making my team or my client uncomfortable in the short-term.

— Posted by Liz Moise

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