Our 2017 main stage speakers provided perspectives on the creative career, how to 'fix' design, navigating the unknown, and re-invention.
Debbie Millman is a designer, author, educator and brand strategist. She is the host of the award-winning podcast ‘Design Matters’, the world’s first podcast on design; Chair of the world’s first Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts; the editorial and creative director of Print Magazine and President Emeritus of AIGA. She is the author of six books on design and branding.
Overnight success is rare, and often comes at the expense of valuable learnings. From early-career false starts to her sleeper hit podcast Design Matters, Debbie Millman isn’t afraid to be frank about the incredible patience that good work requires.
Ian Spalter is Head of Design at Instagram, where he leads the team responsible for all things design ranging from cross-platform app experiences to brand & identity. Ian was previously a Senior UX Manager at YouTube, and prior to that, Director of UX and Design at Foursquare. Ian also spent four years at R/GA where he oversaw design development projects such as the Nike+ Fuelband and Nike Running, Basketball, and Training products. Spalter was born and raised in New Rochelle, New York and graduated from Hampshire College.
Big data has never been bigger, but Instagram’s Ian Spalter warns that while data “can inspire” it “will not save you”. Spalter has found unlikely inspiration from the process of professional comedians: the ability to take raw data and contextualize, iterate, and most importantly, understand the difference between “good laughs” and “bad laughs”.
Scott Belsky is an executive, entrepreneur, author, and investor (and all-around product obsessive). He currently serves as Adobe's Chief Product Officer and Executive Vice President, Creative Cloud. Scott's passion is to make the creative world more productive, connected, and adaptive to new technologies.
Scott co-founded Behance in 2006, and served as CEO until Adobe acquired Behance in 2012. Millions of people use Behance to display their portfolios, as well as track and find top talent across the creative industries. After Behance's acquisition, Scott helped reboot Adobe's mobile product strategy and led Behance until 2016, when he spent a few years as an investor and advisor to multiple businesses. Alongside his role at Adobe, Scott is a Venture Partner at Benchmark, a venture capital firm based in San Francisco, an early-stage investor, and is co-founder and Chairman of Prefer, a referrals platform that empowers the careers of independent professionals (aka "Soloists”).
Over the years, Scott has pursued other projects to help organize and empower the careers of creative people. These include 99U, Behance's think tank and annual conference devoted to execution in the creative world; and a popular line of organizational paper products that help organize creative people and teams.
Scott is also the author of the international bestselling book Making Ideas Happen (Portfolio Imprint, Penguin Books, April, 2010).
99U and Behance cofounder Scott Belsky believes the earliest days of a product are its most critical. In this talk, Belsky outlines the key qualities that lead to a product’s early adoption and longterm success.
Natasha Jen is an award-winning designer and educator. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, she was invited to join Pentagram’s New York office as partner in 2012. In 2014 she was acclaimed by Wired magazine as one of nine 'Designers Who Matter'.
Jen’s work is recognized for its innovative use of graphic, digital, and spatial interventions that challenge conventional notions of media and cultural contexts. Her work is immediately recognizable, encompassing brand identity systems, printed matters, exhibition design, digital interfaces, signage and way-finding systems, and architecture. Her clients, past and present, include Harvard x Design, Phaidon, Kate Spade, Chanel, Nike, First Round Capital, MIT, and the Metropolitan Museum, to name just a few. Pentagram made headlines in 2016 for their bold brand work on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
Jen has earned a variety of awards and appeared in a number of publications, including Wired, Fast Company, Kinfolk, Print, Creative Review, Metropolis, Flaunt, and China Art and Design. She was one of the winners of Art Directors Club Young Guns, for which she also served as a judge in 2007 and 2011. She has been a guest critic at Yale University School of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, and Maryland Institute College of Art; and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Storefront for Art & Architecture and AIGA's New York Chapter.
If Google Image search is your sole barometer, “design thinking uses just one tool: 3M Post-Its,” says Pentagram partner Natasha Jen. “Why did we end up with a single medium? Charles and Ray Eames worked in a complete lack of Post-It stickies. They learned by doing.” In her provocative 99U talk, Jen lobbies for the “Crit” over the “Post-It” when it comes to moving design forward.
Steve Selzer is a designer, manager, and creative leader at Airbnb. Over the last decade, he has led design for a broad range of companies — from startups to Fortune 500 companies spanning education, finance, entertainment, consumer products, transportation, communications, and social enterprise.
Today, Steve leads the Business Travel design team, which is focused on transforming the experience people have when they travel for work. He also leads the Payments design team, whose focus is two-fold: enabling more people to transact on our platform, and empowering Airbnb Hosts to be successful entrepreneurs.
Prior to Airbnb, Steve was a creative director at global innovation firm Frog Design. He is passionate about human-centered design and focused on building products that responsibly advance the human experience.
As experience design manager for Airbnb, Steve Selzer doesn’t fear friction; he embraces it. Avoiding friction means removing “opportunities for serendipity, confrontation, and personal growth,” says Selzer. In his 99U talk, he not only outlines how his team navigates friction they encounter, but how they strategically create it.
Rick Webb is a writer, angel investor, and consultant to such startups and marketing companies such as Tumblr, Soundcloud, and Percolate. He currently serves as COO at Timehop.
In 2001, Webb co-founded The Barbarian Group, an award-winning digital ad agency. He served as its COO for the first ten years of the company's existence. Webb left in 2011 to pursue angel investing in technology and advertising. He is an angel investor in Foursquare, Percolate, Sherpaa, Nestio and Timehop. He is an advisor to several other tech startups and marketing services companies, including Hard Candy Shell and Small Girls PR.
Webb is author of Agency: Starting a Creative Firm in the Age of Digital Marketing, released by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015, and Man Nup: A Groom’s Guide to Heroic Wedding Planning in 2016. He is an avid writer on technology, advertising, economics, and government. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in International Economics in 1992. He serves a board member of the VCU a, one of the most renowned advertising graduate schools, and was named as Creativity Magazine's '50 Most Creative People in Marketing' (2008). He was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska.
As co-founder of creative agency The Barbarian Group, Rick Webb helped define the then-burgeoning field of digital marketing. When Barbarian experienced rapid growth, Webb had to get comfortable with delegating creative control, and when the agency was sold to holding company Cheil Worldwide, he and his partners had to relinquish control of their operations and even contend with a corporate scandal. In his 99U talk, Webb takes a detailed look at the birth and life of a creative organization, and the messy realities of the coveted “exit”.
Farai Chideya has combined media, technology, and socio-political analysis during her 20-year career as an award-winning author, journalist, professor, and lecturer. She is a fellow at Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, studying media coverage of the 2016 election. She was, most recently, a Senior Writer covering politics and data at ESPN's FiveThirtyEight, and a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She is the author of six books, the most recent of which is 2016's The Episodic Career: How to Thrive at Work in the Age of Disruption.
With deep knowledge in a variety of disciplines, including the future of work, politics, culture, race, and technology, Chideya frequently appears on public radio and cable television, and has worked for CNN, ABC, and NPR, and appeared on numerous other networks. Chideya is also the former longtime host of National Public Radio's News & Notes. Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Chideya graduated from Harvard University in 1990. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
In her book, The Episodic Career, author and professor Farai Chideya considers how professionals can protect themselves and achieve their personal definition of success in an age of uncertainty. In her 99U talk, Chideya focuses on how creatives in particular can not just survive, but thrive amid disruption.
Paul Ford is the co-founder of Postlight, a digital product studio in New York City with clients that include Vice Media, Goldman Sachs, and Time Inc. He was previously a Director at the digital strategy firm Activate, where he created product strategies for global information and finance firms like Thomson Reuters, Credit Suisse, Condé Nast, and many others. In addition to his consulting work, he is widely known as one of the world’s leading writers on technology and culture, and is the author of 'What Is Code?', an essay that took over an entire issue of Bloomberg Businessweek to explain the real world of programming to millions of people, and for which he received a National Magazine Award.
Something funny happened on Paul Ford’s way to developing his dream project: he found about 1,000 reasons not to do it. “When you need to do a thing, everything you do is about the thing you’re not doing,” says entrepreneur and writer Ford in his 99U talk.
But his procrastination gave way to other fruitful projects, and even the inspiration to finish the very task he set out to do in the first place.
Julia Kaganskiy is a cultural producer across art and technology. She previously served as global editor of the Creators Project, a partnership between VICE Media Group and Intel. In 2010, she founded #ArtsTech Meetup, an initiative that brings together digital artists and professionals from New York’s museums, galleries, and art-related start-ups.
Kaganskiy has been profiled in the AOL/PBS series 'MAKERS', named in Crain’s New York Business’s '40 Under 40' list for 2015, and cited by Fast Company (2011) and Business Insider (2013) as one of the most influential women in technology.
As director of arts and technology incubator NEW INC, Julia Kaganskiy helps creatives and makers navigate everything from cultural shifts to financial challenges. Through it all, she’s developed a framework to navigate the unknowns in the creative career, without losing confidence in your ideas.
Irene Au is design partner at Khosla Ventures, where she works with early-, mid-, and late-stage startup CEOs. Au has unprecedented experience elevating the strategic importance of design within internet companies, having built and led the entire user experience and design teams at Google (2006-2012), Yahoo! (1998-2006), and Udacity (2012-2014). She began her career as an interaction designer at Netscape Communications, where she worked on the design of the internet’s first commercial web browser.
Au also teaches yoga at Avalon Yoga Center in Palo Alto where she is part of the teacher training program faculty and is a frequent author and speaker on the relationship between mindfulness practices, design, and creativity.
Khosla Ventures design partner Irene Au learned some of her most valuable design lessons not from the companies she advises, but from a close collaboration with the residential architects who helped her family design their dream home. From how to choose your clients to anticipating their needs, mindfulness and intention rule when it comes to fruitful creative collaborations.
After a chronic neuromuscular diagnosis in 2012, Liz Jackson began to wonder why her eyeglasses were fashionable when her cane and all other assistive products were stigmatizing. This epiphany, spurred Jackson to found the Inclusive Fashion & Design Collective; an ecosystem of products, ideas and people who prioritize the exception rather than the rule. The IFDC's mission is to increase the impact of beautiful, functional products in our everyday lives and in the global economy by supporting designers and retailers in the making and marketing of products for all needs.
Jackson -- sometimes known as the 'Girl With the Purple Cane' -- and colleague Sinead Burke have spoken everywhere from TED to the White House on inclusive design.
Liz Jackson is leading a revolution in inclusive design by rethinking disability as a branding problem: “We are disabled not by our bodies, but by the world around us. It is a social construct. Disability is nothing more than a brand, the world’s ugliest brand,” says Jackson. From problematic “inspiration porn” to the lack of disabled people involved in the industrial design process, Jackson’s talk is a powerful call to action for all designers.
Mike Perry is an artist, animator, creative director, brand consultant, poet, and designer. His work encompasses paintings, drawings, sculptures, art installations, books, murals, all of which are made to conjure that feeling of soul-soaring you have when you stare into distant galaxies on a dark night, when you go on long journeys into the imagination, when you laugh and can’t stop laughing.
The key to Perry’s working method is the recognition that art and objects, go through many iterations—discoveries, coverings, uncoverings—until they’re finished; people do the same until they are fully revealed. He likes to cultivate collectives of celebration, exhibition, and revelation.
Bryan is a master of pushing boundaries and driving innovation. He’s led the Photoshop and Creative Suite product lines, held CEO positions at two venture-funded startups, and today he guides Adobe’s Creative Cloud and Document Cloud businesses. People look up to Bryan — and not just because he’s 6 feet 7 inches tall. He is recognized as a skillful, fair leader. He’s also known for his dry wit and is a proud connoisseur of the bad pun. Bryan is a true global citizen. He is still working on his English skills but also speaks French, German, and Spanish, and he is a passionate world traveler.
99U Studio Sessions were hosted by creative organizations across New York City. The intimate, informal sessions were an opportunity for attendees to acquire new skills, and learn about the inner workings of our host companies.