HOW Design Live Sneak Peek: What’s New for 2017

The HOW Design Live program team is currently working to develop the full agenda for next year’s event, May 2–6 in Chicago. HOW returns to the city that’s hosted its most talked-about, best-attended events, with plans to reinvent the program in keeping with changes in the design field.


We connected with HOW Design Live Group Show Director Gary Lynch to get a preview of what’s in store for 2017:

The biggest programming challenge for HDL each year is topping the previous speaker lineup. How are you and the programming team working to recruit an even more impressive roster for 2017?

That’s our challenge every year: How do we top what we’ve just produced? We take this task very seriously and spend a considerable amount of time researching and evaluating hundreds of potential speakers. We have an obligation and a responsibility to our attendees to deliver the best conference experience imaginable. Attending a conference is a big investment of time and money and we need to make sure we not only meet, but exceed everyone’s expectations.

Immediately after the conference ends, we start with a clean slate, planning and evaluating every aspect of the conference. We gather all our data, factor in anecdotal feedback we received and look at industry trends to decide what type of conference we want to produce.

What are some of the changes attendees can expect in Chicago?

We’re seeing a growing interest in hearing from senior level creative professionals at large consumer brands. These sessions typically attract the most attendees; the presentations are polished and the speakers provide insights into the thinking behind major branding campaigns, discuss how their teams operate or, in some cases, share their personal stories. So in 2017 attendees should expect to see more speakers from major brands.

Our attendees have also indicated an interest in more instructional sessions and we plan to add workshops, Master Classes and more “how to” breakout sessions to the program. We will also incorporate more non-session activities such as studio tours, typography tours, museum tours, etc., to create a more holistic experience.

The other consistent takeaway from feedback is how popular our keynote speakers have been over the past several years—in particular, the speakers who may not be recognizable names to everyone such as Brené Brown, Simon Sinek, Tiffany Shlain, Veronika Scott or Amy Webb. Attendees may be unfamiliar with them prior to the conference, but oftentimes they are among our highest-rated speakers.  This year we looking to add a new mix of keynotes who will delight and surprise our attendees.

You’re reshaping the event from a series of programs tailored to designers’ roles (i.e., in-house or freelance) to one focused on different disciplines like marketing and design. Why the change?

Since 2010, when the concept of HOW Design Live was first introduced, it’s been evolving from an event that held four simultaneous conferences (HOW Conference, In-House Managers Conference, Creative Freelance Conference and Dieline Packaging Conference) to a single conference with four to five tracks serving different design disciplines and career choices. We’ve learned that our attendees don’t look at the program or plan their conference experience the same way. Someone who works in-house or manages an in-house creative team isn’t only interested in the “in-house” track, but may also be interested in sessions on packaging design, creative leadership, interactive design or marketing.

For 2017, the program will focus more on the multidisciplinary and multiplatform type of work that is being done rather than the work environment. An attendee will still be able to create a conference schedule filled with sessions that address the unique challenges and opportunities of their particular work environment, but they’ll also find a program that addresses the evolving challenges and opportunities facing designers today and how to prepare for the role of design in the future.

Can you talk about a couple of big trends in the design field that you’re seeing, and how you’re meshing the program with those trends?

Design is becoming more multidisciplinary, more multiplatform and more collaborative with areas such as marketing and business. Design has the power to create user experiences that engage and inspire people to action. Successful marketing campaigns are rooted in positive user experiences and a high level of customer engagement which, in turn, enables businesses to prosper and grow. Design plays a critical role in the operation of a business. That’s a position of strength that is becoming increasingly evident within the design profession. It is more than just having the skill to create an engaging user experience, it’s having the ability and willingness to collaborate with the marketing and business units of an organization. That shift will create more career and business opportunities for every designer who embraces that role.

Why should a designer who’s been to HDL before come back to the event in 2017?

If your goal is to advance your career or grow your business then attending HOW Design Live every year is essential. We often say that HDL is career/life changing because there are many, many designers who attend every year who tell us that HOW Design Live has had a material impact on their careers, their businesses and, in some cases, their lives. That’s pretty powerful stuff, but you need to be present every year to fully leverage that power.

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