2018 main stage speakers inspired us to tackle our biggest creative challenges, covering topics like leading with compassion, creating otherworldly experiences, and effecting social good.
John Maeda is an American executive spearheading a new convergence across the design and technology industries. He joined Automattic in 2016 as Global Head of Computational Design + Inclusion and previously served as Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), a world-leading venture capital firm.
An internationally recognized speaker and author, his books include The Laws of Simplicity, Creative Code, and Redesigning Leadership. He holds degrees in Electrical Engineering + Computer Science from MIT, an MBA from Arizona State U, and a PhD from University of Tsukuba in Japan. He has appeared as a speaker all over the world, from Davos to Beijing to São Paulo to New York, and his talks for TED.com have received cumulative views of over 2 million to date.
Maeda serves on the Board of Directors for wireless hi-fi innovator Sonos and the global advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy. Prior to his work in industry, Maeda was a tenured research professor at the MIT Media Laboratory and 16th President of the Rhode Island School of Design.
The prolific John Maeda—whose career has spanned Cooper Hewitt, MIT, and KPCB—now leads computational design and inclusion at Automattic. In this conversation with Adobe VP of Design Jamie Myrold, Maeda shares his insights from a long and varied career on the history and current state of diversity and inclusion in the design industry.
One of our favorite creative doers and community galvanizers, Tina returns to the 99U Conference main stage following her 2014 talk that inspired thousands to 'Create, Don't Complain'. Among her many projects, businesses, and achievements, Tina is the founder of the global lecture series CreativeMornings, ubiquitous designer temporary tattoo brand Tattly, and beloved design blog Swissmiss.
As CEO of Creative Mornings, Tattly, and the newly launched Creative Guild, Tina Roth Eisenberg oversees some highly creative teams. Rather than follow traditional leadership practices, she’s writing her own rules that prioritize joy, generosity, and confetti. In this inspiring talk, Eisenberg explains how she’s building a workplace her employees are excited to go to every day.
Tea works on a range of projects with cultural organizations and practitioners to enable artists, writers, and performers to use digital tools to amplify or augment their artistic, theatrical, or musical practice. Her output includes seven books, 17 websites, six apps, a feature film, three plays, two concerts, four museum exhibits, and some teddy bears that talk. She is an AGI member, on the board of the Biennale of Sydney, D&AD’s 2018 Digital Jury President, and a mentor to young female creatives worldwide.
Tea Uglow gave herself a unique and imaginative title to match the unique and imaginative work she does at Google Creative Lab Sydney. As “Experimental Person-in-Charge”, she has worked with artists, writers, and performers on seven books, 17 websites, six apps, a feature film, three plays, two concerts, four museum exhibits, and a teddy bear that talks. In this talk, Uglow explains why her success as a leader is rooted not in what she knows, but in what she doesn’t know:
– Why the best creative leaders value the skillsets they don’t have
– Why creatives shouldn’t have to-do lists
– And how her journey as a transgender woman shows that you can’t truly plan your life or career
After breaking ground in national government as the creative director and digital strategist for the Obama White House, Ashleigh now leads the creative studio at Automattic, a company with the mission to democratize publishing and commerce. She is a fervent advocate for design's ability to break barriers and create positive social change.
After breaking ground in government as the creative director for the Obama White House, Ashleigh Axios is now working to democratize publishing at Automattic, the parent company of WordPress. In this passionate talk on the role of design in social change, Axios asks creatives to embrace the good feeling that comes from helping others, even if chasing that feeling can seem self-centered. Her primer to doing good with a creative skillset includes:
– Why the problems that keep you up at night are your best motivators
– How to scale your vision for a better world
– And how the Obama White House empowered social change with impactful design
Few 99U speakers have a better window into your psyche than Todd. A former filmmaker, Todd joined Netflix almost 12 years ago, and in his current role as Vice President of Product, he leads the team that leverages vast amounts of data, sophisticated algorithms, and best-in-class user interfaces across numerous viewing devices to create easy, compelling ways for Netflix members to find something great to watch.
As VP of Product for Netflix and self-proclaimed “enabler of iconoclasts”, Todd Yellin leads the team that helps millions of people find something great to watch. In this talk, Yellin explains his unique approach to leadership, which includes:
– Why leaders should never say never
– How to empower your team to make decisions (and mistakes)
– Why a simple hand-raise is fundamental to the diversity of voices and ideas at Netflix
– Plus, what we can learn from Titus Andromedon, Michael Scott, and Paul Blart Mall Cop
Mona has attracted praise for her unique, illustrated presentations of data on everything from pay inequality to pet safety on airlines for the Guardian US. She previously worked with FiveThirtyEight and the Economist Intelligence Unit, hosted a regular data segment on NPR called The Number Of The Week, and co-created the Emmy-nominated video series Vagina Dispatches.
As data editor for the Guardian US, Mona Chalabi contextualizes big numbers with her signature illustrated — and often provocative — data visualizations. But her end goal isn’t just a shareable image; it’s to make sure readers understand the big picture. In this talk, Chalabi shares her approach to storytelling with data, including:
– What common mistakes to avoid when presenting data
– Why data visualization can never be totally subjective
– How repetition and surprise can be wielded to emphasize important information
Jason is the creative CEO behind Super Heroic, a mission-driven business focused on providing quality play-performance footwear, apparel, and technology for children. An accomplished design leader, Jason previously oversaw products and innovations for the Jordan Brand as the Senior Global Design Director at Nike, and serves as an advisor to Stephen Curry’s Slyce platform, portfolio companies at venture firm Accel, and the College for Creative Studies.
Whether working as the CEO behind Super Heroic, a mission-driven business focused on providing quality play-performance for children, or in his former life as Senior Global Design Director at Nike, Jason Mayden believes the mindset of playfulness can make heroes of us all. From the joy of Haribo gummy bears to Batman, Mayden’s true purpose is play and designing products that make the most vulnerable among us—children—embrace their inner hero. In this lively talk, Mayden shares:
– How his incredible design career started with a 1-800 phone call
– How he finds design motivation and inspiration in fatherhood
– How design solutions can equip kids with empathy and kindness
The often humorous, sometimes dark work of the artist known as 'adamjk' can be seen everywhere from tote bags at New York's iconic Strand Bookstore to enamel pins on the shelves of Urban Outfitters. Adam frequently speaks and writes about the realities of creative work, notably in his latest book, Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives.
The often humorous, sometimes dark work of the artist known as ‘adamjk’ can be seen everywhere from tote bags to enamel pins to his books on creativity. Yet the prolific Kurtz doesn’t claim to be an expert: in this uproarious talk, he offers some useful panaceas to the pressures of creative perfection:
– Why execution should be only half of your design focus
– How honesty and kindness have propelled his career
– What factors (besides talent) contribute to creative success
Audrey is the Director of Product Design for Driver and Growth at Lyft. In her role, she leads a multi-disciplinary team to define and craft the experience that more than a million drivers use.
She was previously the Director of Product Design at Thumbtack where she helped to build the team, redefine the brand, and chart a new vision for the product experience. Prior to Thumbtack, Audrey was Managing Creative Director at SYPartners where she lead the design of SYP’s self-branded product business and designed their very first consumer digital product, Unstuck. Simultaneously, she was also fortunate enough to lead product and strategic design efforts for clients such as Oprah, Kiva, and Starbucks.
Audrey believes in the power of design to change behavior and create positive impact in the world. When she isn’t busy working on digital products and building teams, she’s being a mom, making things by hand, and often outdoors.
Audrey Liu, Director of Product Design at Lyft, takes issue with how companies incentivize creative teams. Instead of dangling perks like kombucha and in-office massages, Liu asserts the need to connect designers with the fulfillment of solving real problems. In this insight-packed talk, Liu advises leaders on:
– How to connect your team’s accomplishments to real world impact
– Why creatives need to do the right thing, not just the most measurable thing
– How to activate empathy by literally putting your designers in the driver’s seat
Tiffany is a catalyst-at-large in the world of women’s leadership and the author of Drop the Ball, a memoir and manifesto on how to cultivate the single skill you really need in order to thrive: the ability to let go. Tiffany helped launch Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In initiative, and recently served as Chief Leadership Officer to millennial professional network Levo. Tiffany serves on the board of Girls Who Code and Simmons College and has raised nearly $20 million toward for women and girls worldwide.
Businesswoman and Drop the Ball author Tiffany Dufu may seem to do it all, but for years she hampered her own growth with the expectation that she must do it all—be the perfect woman, mother, wife, mentor, and author. In this talk, Dufu shares her manifesto on how doing less allowed her to feel more fulfilled. Her hard-won insights include:
– Where unrealistic expectations for our work and personal lives are rooted
– Why we need to ditch the to do list
– Why the key to delegating is clear communication
As the visionary CEO behind Meow Wolf, the immersive art installation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Vince Kadlubek is combatting the mundanity of our everyday world with an alternate reality that surprises and challenges visitors. In this talk, Kadlubek shares his belief that people are hungry for mind-blowing experiences — and it’s up to creatives to deliver them. His pro tips include:
– Why the experience movement is capturing and enrapturing audiences
– How creatives can upend built environments
– And how a mind-blowing experience can start with an average refrigerator
The work of Christine Sun Kim is inspired and informed by her experience of the world as a deaf woman, artist, mother, and partner. This 99U talk, delivered in ASL and interpreted live at Alice Tully Hall by Beth Staehle, asks all creatives to consider how their outputs are colored by their own experiences, abilities, and empathy:
– How empathy for her hearing partner and baby informs her work
– How she better understands sound through illustrated diagrams
– Why a framework of “house rules” is essential to any creative process
Marcelino J. Alvarez is the founder and CEO of Uncorked Studios, a product design studio located in Portland, Oregon. Uncorked is a design studio that connects people, technology, and context to create meaningful change. Uncorked partners with the world’s top brands, including Google, Intel, Adidas, Diageo, Care.com, Samsung, Skype, the Bezos Family Foundation, Magnum Foundation, and more to build products with purpose.
Previously, Alvarez served as Executive Interactive Producer at Wieden + Kennedy. He produced the Nike Chalkbot, a robot that printed messages of hope and inspiration on the Tour de France in 2009 and 2010. He’s a cofounder of Safecast, an open data initiative to help residents of Japan report and understand the levels of radiation following the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster, and Incúbate, the first design-thinking workshop and incubator in Havana, Cuba.
Alvarez has spoken at the Concordia Summit, SXSW Interactive, Interaction 18, Mobile as a Platform for Change, Cre8Con, Techfest Northwest, Design Week Portland, Bonfire, TIE Oregon, and the InnoTech Conference, and has appeared as a guest on Think Out Loud, Up Next, and Conversion Aid programs. He sits on the board of the Freshwater Trust and Portland State University’s Center for Retail Leadership, and is an investor in the Oregon Venture Fund.
Uncorked Studios CEO and co-founder Marcelino J. Alvarez has worked on projects and products that took him to communities in Cuba, Lebanon, and Japan. In this talk, he explains:
– How his own Cuban heritage inspired his design philosophy
– How designers and entrepreneurs can produce work that truly benefits communities
– And why mundane solutions are often the most necessary
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).
Behance and 99U co-founder Scott Belsky is often asked about the inception and acquisition of the companies. But the biggest lessons are found in the sometimes-messy, oftentimes-exciting, and always-challenging experience between those bookend moments. In this talk, Belsky shares his perspective on:
– How to sustain momentum, and morale, during periods of uncertainty
– Why resourcefulness is the ultimate future-proof skill
– What circumstances inspire true innovation
– And how to spot the best opportunities
Will Allen is a VP at Adobe where he leads Community Products, including Behance, Adobe Portfolio, Adobe Talent, and 99U. Millions of people across the globe use Behance and Adobe Portfolio every month to showcase and discover creative work. Prior to Adobe’s acquisition of Behance, Will acted as Behance’s COO. Previously, he created strategic partnerships with global brands at TED and was co-founder of the consultancy Industry Digital Media.
We dove into new disciplines and frameworks over two afternoons with some of our favorite creative individuals and organizations. Hands-on workshops explored everything from animation and hand-lettering to effective feedback and innovative thinking.