First-Time Conference-Goer Shares His Take

In-house design manager Ed Roberts sent us a note after the InHOWse Managers Conference in June with kudos about the event. It was his first HOW conference, and he agreed to do a follow-up Q&A with me about his experience. He talked about discovering that he wasn’t alone in facing the challenges and triumphs of being a creative person in a corporate environment:

First, tell us a bit about yourself, your design career and your current role.
I’m a native North Carolinian and proud NC Public Power resident. I graduated with a bachelor of environmental design in graphic design from the College of Design at North Carolina State University. My career started as an assistant art director at American Scientist magazine, designing information graphics for some of the world’s leading scientists. In 2000, I began working as an art director in the high-tech business-to-business advertising industry. After working in the advertising and government sectors developing identity systems, promotional advertising, environmental graphics, websites, packaging and publication design, I joined ElectriCities of NC, Inc. as the Creative Lead in 2009.

What initially prompted you to register for the event?
I became aware of HOW conferences six years ago while attending an AIGA conference in Boston. Several designers and I were at lunch discussing breakout session choices and the discussion shifted to how beneficial the HOW conference was that year. Unfortunately, I was the only one at the table who didn’t attend, but I was intrigued and the intrigue never left me. I was not able to attend the last AIGA conference. When it came time for me to decide which conference to attend this year, I remembered that lunch and the intrigue I felt and registered for the InHOWse Managers Conference.

Thinking back to your first InHOWse Conference, what was the most influential or inspiring information or advice that you brought back to your office?
I left the conference feeling like I was no longer isolated or stranded on an island like Tom Hanks in a Robert Zemeckis film. I left feeling like I was a member of a thriving, vibrant community of smart, motivated people who are just as passionate about producing good design as I. I left Chicago feeling good about myself as an in-house design manager and the direction I was taking my team.

How did you share that information with your team and implement it into your workplace?
When I returned to work I immediately met with my team and debriefed them on the entire conference. Several weeks later I shared more information, specifically Sally Hogshead’s outstanding presentation and my F-Score test results. I gave anyone who was interested the URL to take the F-Score test, even my manager. To my surprise, everyone took the test and enjoyed sharing their results.

What was your networking experience like at that first conference?
I’m so glad that I reserved a spot at the lunch roundtable with Andy Epstein. It was a small group of design managers sharing ideas and receiving incredibly useful advice from Andy.

Did you connect with other in-house managers and stay in touch with them after the event?

Stay connected with other HOW-goers by following the #HOWLive hashtag on Twitter. And stay tuned for upcoming information about HOW’s brand-new Interactive Design Conference coming to San Francisco this November 2–4.