In early September, most of our crew (our designers, marketers, and project manager) headed down to Calgary to attend CAMP Festival 2018 for the third year in a row. CAMP is a creative conference that focuses specifically on design, art, and technology through thought leadership from some of the industry’s top experts.
Our team attended a number of sessions to learn and get inspired by creatives across North America. And we wanted to share some of our favourite things that we learned.
1. Don’t Be a Dick (Jake)
Our industry runs on good, nice, hardworking people. Multiple speakers said the words “Don’t be a dick” as part of their presentations. I see this manifesting in two ways: outwardly and inwardly.
Outwardly: Don’t Be a Dick
In an industry of teamworking and networking, being a good person is important. Our industry sometimes has a reputation for being cutthroat and competitive, but the best creative organizations are the ones that emphasize good, nice people. I would rather share success than step on other people’s heads to move up, and it’s great to see so many presenters from wildly successful organizations echo that sentiment.
Inwardly: Be Nice to Yourself
It’s easy to be hard on yourself and feel like you’re not putting out the level of work you want. The key is to reframe what “success” really means. Setting an artificial standard of success for yourself can be crippling to your creative process, but giving yourself room to try and fail helps you grow.
If you focus on putting in the work and enjoying your time doing it, you’re already achieving a more reasonable version of success (although this doesn’t mean you should stop trying to push yourself to do better work!).
2. Be a Generalist Or a Specialist (Dan)
One theme that really hit home for me was addressed by Jeff Boddy during his session, “The Incredible Shrinking Budget.” He explained the role of “generalists” and “specialists” in a given industry and how, while each serves its purpose at the correct time, it isn’t always beneficial to be one and not the other.
Most of my professional career has seen me play the role of generalist, largely by necessity in the early days. It was highly amusing to hear Jeff recount an anecdote of his escapades into generalization that were shockingly relevant to my own life experiences (this involved a video camera and an elderly man with a swollen prostate).
It’s a difficult balance to pick between the two paths that Jeff mentioned, especially for someone who has many skills and aspirations. A true seasoned pro can recognize which path is best suited for their situation, knows the pros and cons of picking either, and embraces the role they select and all the baggage that comes with that choice.
Mr. Boddy put forth many helpful examples that helped to illustrate his points, and I will definitely strive to learn from those and look more critically at my own future decisions as a result.
3. Always Do Good Work (Sarah)
One of the key themes I took away from CAMP was our responsibility to put good things into the world. Each of us has a responsibility to ensure that the things we create do more good than harm, that they tell meaningful and inclusive stories, and that they aren’t just more noise.
Nishat is the Associate Creative Director at Instrument. She gave an incredibly meaningful talk on diversity, inclusion, and the power that design and language have to be more representative of all humans. At Habit we’re pretty good at thinking about inclusivity, but this talk was a great reminder. Because at the end of the day, if you create something great that only works for a small portion of your audience, is it really great design?
Jeff, head of Design/Creative at The Mill, talked about the low budget trend in advertising today. But he talked about more than just budgets and adaptability. He put forward some great introspective questions I’ve been thinking about ever since: Are you doing enough good work? Or is the work just good enough? Are you just creating disposable content?
At one time or another, all of us have been guilty of sending something out that’s just good enough because there isn’t enough time or budget. What I loved about Jeff’s message was that he showed real-world examples of projects with extremely low budgets or tight timelines and broke down his process for ensuring they still got done on time and on budget without sacrificing quality.
Mike is a multi-disciplinary designer in the film industry. He spoke on the power of metaphor, broke down celebrated films into their building blocks, and showed us what separates a good story from a truly great one. If you’ve ever done any research into story structure, you’ve likely heard of the Hero’s Journey, or the Monomyth.
While Mike’s talk focused on the monomyth story structure, he simply used it as an illustrative tool to bring his real message to light. He stressed multiple times, with urgency, that we need to acknowledge the fact that all humans have the capability of doing dark things. We have a responsibility to tell good stories, because stories have the power to either make lives or break them.
4. Design Simply—But Not Too Simply (Laura)
Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” I never entirely understood this quote. As a designer, my process was to create products as simply as I could. Speaker David Hogue, Ph.D, UX Design Lead at Google, further said, “Simplicity is not simple.” This is what Hogue’s talk was about: how do we achieve the right amount of simplicity?
Hogue used Amazon dash buttons as the ideal example of too much simplicity. Dash buttons allow users to immediately reorder a product once they run out by simply pressing a brand button. But this process becomes complicated when you take real-life consequences into account. For example, what if multiple people realize they’re out of a product and each of them orders more?
Hogue provided instructions to find the right amount of simple.
- Design for the user, not yourself. What’s their process? What are their pain points?
- Don’t lead with tech. Just because if can be done, that doesn’t mean it should be done.
- Use data, not assumptions. Products should be iterated based on real-world data. It’s not a one-and-done deal.
- Don’t be a copycat. When you copy a process, you disregard any investigation into whether or not it even works.
To make your process as simple as it can be, take into account users, tasks, functions, and real-world consequences—and take steps to prevent your solution from being too simple.
5. Use Your Head, Heart + Hands (Mikaela)
The creative process is not straightforward, and anytime we approach it, we all approach it a little bit differently. Jason Theodor spoke on how everyone approaches a problem differently, with head, heart, or hands. To be truly successful, you use each throughout your creative process.
Those who lead with their heads tend to be curious. They do research before beginning. Those who lead with their hands are disciplined and can do something to move their project forward every day. Those who lead with their hearts are empathetic and need to connect with what they are doing before they begin. This doesn’t solely dictate your process; it’s just how you begin.
One thing that really resonated with me is the issue of what questions to ask to ensure each of the different creative approaches and questions are satisfied. Answering the how, what, and why to move us closer to mastery on each project. I’ll take this to new project meetings to ensure we satisfy each of the approaches and have the answers to create something holistic and meaningful.
6. Keep Up With Technology (Meg)
Chelsea Klukas led us through a discussion on thinking about the design strategy behind automation and technology tactics. While you shouldn’t use technology just to jump on the bandwagon, there are a few tactics in technology automation we’re all starting to interact with. If they align with your customers, thinking about how they work, how easy they are to use, and how they’re designed is essential to making automation work for your business.
You know those automated texts you get from your cell phone company about the latest promotion? Businesses are starting to adopt texting automation (and messaging automation on social platforms) to point users to where they need to go. And bots that are really well done actually seem like real people.
When you’re thinking about your bot strategy, create a flow chart of all possible responses to ensure your bot can answer any question. Make it easy for users to act by including links directly in the message. If it’s appropriate, include fun graphics like memes and emoji to keep things casual. And make sure your responses are immediate. It’s a text message, after all.
Remember a time without Siri? Me neither. And now we have Alexa and Google’s Smart Speaker & Home Assistant. These tools aren’t going anywhere, so it’s important to think about them for any online strategy.
In the past we’ve asked our questions on Google as quickly as possible. But now we ask voice assistants for help in the same way we’d ask a human. For example, you might google “Edmonton weather,” but you’d ask a voice assistant, “Hey Siri, what’s the weather in Edmonton today?” Voice assistants bring up similar results as search engines, but it’s still important to make sure your SEO reflects all the ways a person looks for an answer to their question.
As consumers, we’re always on the go. That means mobile searching is happening more frequently. In Canada, we spend 63% of our digital time on mobile. So when you’re developing an online strategy for websites, landing pages, and advertisements, think about designing for the mobile experience.
That doesn’t mean you should actually design a mobile version of your website first or throw away the possibility of your website being viewed on desktop. But it’s a good idea to shift your thinking, consider how a user engages with your content on a mobile device, and make sure it’s easy to use.
7. Calgary Has Pretty Great Food
If you know us, then you also know we love our food. Like we do anytime we leave home, we checked out a few of the best food spots in the city to see how they stack up with the food in good old Edmonton. You’ll want to check out these gems if you’re ever in Calgary.
- Bridgette: Shareable plates and cocktails (and lots of them)
- OEB: Breakfast and brunch
- Meat and Bread: Meat and, well, bread
- Rosso: Breakfast and our morning caffeine fix
- Native Tongues: Tacos galore (which made Sarah really, really happy)
- Two Penny: Chinese food and cocktails
We’re already getting psyched for CAMP 2019, and we can’t wait to learn more about what’s going on in our industry. Think it sounds like fun? Keep an eye on the CAMP website for updates and we’ll see you next year!