This is the first all remote conference for designers that gained a lot of traction within the design community. I spent a lot of time connecting with attendees and speakers on the conference Slack group. I made at least 10 new connections from this conference alone. There were a ton of fantastic speakers. However, there were four talks that really stood out for me.

The Atomic Unit of Design is the Team

Peter Merholz (Co-founder of Adaptive Path) talked about “The Atomic Unit of Design is the Team“. It felt like the problems he talked about with teams of designers being in silos, and how a hybrid approach aims to solve many of the issues, really hit home for me.

Source: https://tinyurl.com/atomicdesignteam
Source: https://tinyurl.com/atomicdesignteam

Design For Belonging

I thought the talk called “Designing for Belonging” by Lara Mendonca was very inspirational. As a person of color, diversity and inclusion are very important aspects of joining any organization. She really explains that there needs to be another part, a sense of belonging, in order to really affect change. We, as designers, need to keep this aspect into our every day design decisions.

Cooperation vs. Collaboration Culture

This talk “Cooperation vs. Collaboration Culture in a Distributed World” drew me in because of Wendy Johansson‘s work with John Maeda. It was very interesting to hear how the subtle differences between cooperation and collaboration can have on the culture of a company (especially in times like these, where everyone is forced to work remotely and distributed).

Sketch Notes of the talk by Elba Ornelas

Career Progression and the Path to Leadership

The talk “Career Progression and the Path to Leadership” by Todd Warfel was insightful and timely. Todd leads his talk with “People don’t leave companies. They leave managers and leaders.” He also explains that one of the top cited reasons is that people no longer see a defined career path where they can grow.

Source: https://s3.amazonaws.com/kajabi-storefronts-production/sites/62804/themes/1935362/downloads/T6IsI4AQwSCZjprFi58A_Zakiwarfel-Career-Progression-and-the-path-to-leadership.pdf

He also says that many companies have bands and tiers for compensation, but not a lot of companies have a written document that explains what the designer will be doing in 4 years time, in 10 years, and so on. Without this clear understanding of career progression, it is no wonder that designers keep job hopping.

Final Thoughts

I wonder if this is the new normal for conferences? Besides the timezone issues and talks going over their allotted time, it worked out really well with the way they simulated the experience of attending a live in-person conference. If they held another one next year, I would definitely attend again.