Read Time: 8 minutes
During the 2022 SEGD Conference Experience between June 16-18, SEGD members from near and far gathered in Portland, Oregon to focus on the importance of community placemaking. While it is already a few weeks in the past, SEGD continues to receive overwhelmingly positive feedback about the Conference’s lasting impact on individuals and the profession of experience design overall.
With so many offerings to choose from, attendees curated how they spent their time and left with unique new insights. Some discovered lessons that will guide them throughout their career and others appreciated the focus on timely issues of the moment. Who else has pondered the words “community” and “resiliency” more than ever before?
Continue reading for a selection of key takeaways from the 2022 SEGD Conference Experience, as written by participants Alexander Jeongco (Caffeine and Inkwells), Paula Rees (Foreseer), Rie Takeuchi (The University of Texas at Austin), Joshua Gallagher (Gallagher & Associates, LLC), and Julie Vogel (Clearstory, Inc.).
Alexander Jeongco, Design Director, Caffeine and Inkwells (2022 SEGD Conference Speaker)
Last month I had a wonderful opportunity to speak on a panel at the SEGD conference in Portland.
There was a familiar air of uncertainty and excitement. I remember the exact feeling when I came out of school and wanted to share a little more about the ideas that helped me continue forward.
Much of what I know comes from others. To quote Newton, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Here are some ideas that have helped me:
“Have lots of mentors. Surround yourself with as many mentors as you can find.”
When I left my first professional job, one of my mentors Colin Speer imparted this nugget of wisdom that was passed down to him. With the internet, it’s now possible to get information and ideas from anywhere. You can have mentors who you’ve never met in person and ones who meet with you for coffee every week. Form these relationships and let them frame your journey. You don’t need a grand sage to be an ultimate guide. You can pull bits from everyone you meet, even if they are just a little bit further ahead in their journey than you.
”A career is not a path, it’s a tree.”
I heard this wisdom from the Butterscotch Shenanigans Podcast. When people tell their stories, it often sounds like they’ve taken a clear and linear path – but every story is full of turns and uncertainty. How often has “a simple trip” or “a simple project” really turned out simple? The stories we hear are rehearsed and edited for clarity, but it’s not necessarily the whole truth. Talk to people. Ask them about their experiences and go deep. (Read Range by David Epstein.)
“You’re young. Try things.”
This advice came from a phone call with James Victore (a story for another time). I was fresh out of college and so so anxious. Anxious to get started. Anxious for answers. Anxious to “do it right.” What I learned about myself was that I was looking for an answer to a question that had to be lived – and the only way to get the answer was by trying things and failing (forward). (Read Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke.)
“People are watching you and what you do matters, even if you don’t notice it.”
These words came from my parents. Years after I graduated middle school, my parents ran into people who mentioned that something I had done had a profound influence on their family. There was no like, or repost, or follow. There were no awards or accolades. This taught me that even though we may never truly know the impact of our actions, what we do matters to the community.
You matter. The work you do matters. Even when it seems like nobody is paying attention, they are. Continue to do good work – with and for good people.
Huge shoutout to my fellow panelists and for the SEGD Young Designer Summit (YDS) crew for having me. It was an absolute honor. To everyone in the room, I can’t wait to see you on stage sharing your experiences next year.
Paula Rees, Principal of Foreseer, (past SEGD board president (1994) and member since 1991).
I’ve been fortunate to attend many design conferences by others, but SEGD conferences have always maintained the highest IQ with the lowest ego factor. The heartfelt presentations and generous spirit of open and often vulnerable sharing have been inspirational. Portland’s conference was exceptionally produced and did not skip a beat. The presentations were thoughtful and engaging, including more about the why than the what. The Fellow’s presentations were exceptional in that way.
As a principal, the leadership lunch is worth the price of admission. It offers an unusual opportunity to exchange business challenges with experienced peers, especially delivering work during COVID-19 and meeting the demands of clients in extraordinary times—then to discuss what looks to be ahead. These renewed experiences make one look forward to being with this community the next time we can meet.
Rie Takeuchi, M.A. in Design focused on Health, The University of Texas at Austin, Class of 2022
I had such an amazing time at the SEGD Conference. As soon as I arrived, I received a warm welcome. Everyone I met at the conference was so supportive and inviting.
During the tour hosted by TriMet and Mayer/Reed, I enjoyed learning about sustainable station design, the improvement of TriMet signage and wayfinding, public art and the integration of a bike-friendly city.
As a recent graduate and a career changer, I really appreciated the mentoring session and getting my portfolio reviewed. Hearing how the mentors started their careers was inspiring. Following our conversations, I gained more confidence in my abilities and myself; their encouragement was very valuable to me.
Also, I learned a lot about the industry and the power of creative storytelling from the designers and artists presenting their stunning projects. Having recently earned an M.A. in Design focused on Health, I initially attended the SEGD Conference in search of a career opportunity in signage and wayfinding systems particularly in the health sector. However, the conference broadened my horizons; I have also become interested in branding and exhibit design in a variety of other industries.
I felt a sense of belonging while I was there for three days. It made me want to attend it again next year.
Joshua Gallagher, Brand Director, Gallagher & Associates, LLC (2022 SEGD NYC Chapter Co-Chair)
What is it like to watch your expectations of a design conference shift in real time? I kept coming back to that thought during the SEGD conference this year. To say that these last couple of years have altered people’s behavior and thinking is a dramatic understatement.
However, I think it’s safe to say that we are all only now beginning to understand where to direct those emotions and that energy. Designers love to say that they are doing good work, that they are making change for the better, but at what scale? And for what audiences?
Oftentimes at past conferences I would seek out the work and thinking that I considered to be cutting edge, captivating enough to make me want to refine my own creative practice. The injection of visual stimulation so I could leave feeling as if my output would now be better. I never really approached these types of events for anything other than that.
Yet, in Portland this year I found my mind focused on so many other things other than making our portfolio appealing to future clients. Community, resiliency, community, resiliency, the words turning over in my mind as I fought through fog of travel and shifting time zones.
By leading the programming with speakers that had so much richer and more authentic narratives to share other than, “yeah bro my work is kick ass let’s collectively drool over it”, I realized that this is what could help design actually become a tool for good.
An empathy bomb went off as I was sitting in the audience listening to people share deeply personal experiences to strangers, the shockwave of which I wanted to embrace head on. So often design in America (and beyond our borders) has been a tool to leverage power. But we rarely get a full picture or perspective of who and what is affected by that creative imbalance.
Almost all of the designers I know, myself included, have a difficult time defining where their practice ends and the other aspects of their lives begin. We must continue to realize that a design approach doesn’t need clear boundaries, simply a framework that is more thoughtful and inclusive.
This conference gave me hope that those voices and perspectives are continuing to gain momentum and find the platforms they need to spread. I applaud SEGD for doing the hard work of pushing people into intellectual areas where they might not be the most comfortable.
This is how to accelerate thinking that benefits us all, not just a small few, and that’s a world we should want to design for.
Julie Vogel, President, Clearstory, Inc. (Past SEGD Board Member and Treasurer)
I wanted to thank you for a wonderful conference. It was fantastic. I say this fully aware of the fact that it was my first conference and live national SEGD event since Covid.That truth does taint my experience, just like the first site visit to a project, the first in-person holiday gathering, the first time to a museum, or the first time in a restaurant. AND it was my first time ever to win an SEGD raffle prize ; )
HOWEVER and regardless.
The team did a fantastic job. There was so much thought and attention to detail: the comprehensive mentoring access; the casual but available leadership roundtable; the strategic plan solicitation exhibit; the graduate resumes… I am sure the exhibitors were so grateful for Cybelle’s meeting… so many little extras. AND I thought the focus on how values drive culture and the examination of inclusion were extremely timely and spot on.