Almost to the end of the conference now. The spark session for the morning showcased Jennifer Severns, Chief Experience Officer for the American Marketing Association. She discussed the amazing task of re-branding the AMA and how it was achieved since there were over 1000 moving pieces to get that change to flow.

AMA Logo History - HOW Design 2017
AMA Logo History – HOW Design 2017

With all the chapters and sub groups and panels of the AMA having their own visual identity, there wasn’t any consistency (even though some of their logos were pretty great). However, with an organization like the AMA, without the visual consistency, some of the power behind the branding was lost from group to group. The design alone wasn’t the only part of their re-branding that needed to take place. Since the AMA vision hasn’t ever changed, the organization needed to adapt to the every fluid changes in the marketing world. Their new logo and branding provided a new visual component as well as a new understanding of where they wanted to go as an organization.

As someone with a background in communication, design, and marketing, it was amazing to see how they handled this situation. Within the first year of the new launch, 80% of chapters had already begun or completed their own brand analysis and update. Another reason why the AMA holds the authority they do in the marketing sector.


The morning keynote featured Dana Arnett, Founding Partner and Vice Chair of VSA Partners. Dana not only is a world renowned designer but with him being an Illinois native, he walked us through the history of Chicago and focused on layout, architecture and design.

Dana Arnett - HOW Design 2017
Dana Arnett – HOW Design 2017

Dana was in charge of putting together the bid campaign for the 2016 Summer Olympics, which included not only the logo, but so many different pieces and icons that are requested for the bid. Chicago went though an entire “buy-in” launch and had advertising and signage all over the city. As we all know, Rio took the honor, but it was great to see how a campaign gets moved forward for the olympics. As a previous designer, it makes me want to challenge myself to come up with an Olympic bid campaign just for my own personal goals and portfolio. Hopefully that will be something I accomplish and showcase on here in the future.

The sessions that stood out today for me were the following:

Communicating Your Best Ideas – Eleanor Handley, GK Training and Communication

Eleanor Handley - HOW Design 2017
Eleanor Handley – HOW Design 2017

Eleanor is a college professor and a trainer in public communication. Myself being a previous Intro to Speech instructor and communications professor, I knew I would look at this session in a very different light. I wasn’t there to necessarily increase my own skillset, but I utilized this session to help validate my own teaching content and methods. One of the key phrases she utilized was “Access your genuine self.” This phrase was a thought that makes perfect sense when coaching others on their presentation or communication skills. There are so many things our bodies do naturally that we overlook.

Communicating Your Best Ideas - HOW Design 2017
Communicating Your Best Ideas – HOW Design 2017

She not only discussed the basics on how to become a more confident presenter, but had the audience work though some exercises that they are able to put into practice right away. She emphasized how our communication cycle needs to continuously grow and to do this we need to warm up, have transparency during our conversations, and practice. For more information on her training, you can visit


Beyond WordPress: How to Choose the Right CMS – Bright Umbrella

Bright Umbrella - HOW Design Live 2017
Bright Umbrella – HOW Design Live 2017

This session was an interesting one for me due to one thing, they pretty much trash talked WordPress. Now as anyone in the web industry knows, WordPress is the leading CMS used everything in the world. The presenters even showcased that 52% of ALL websites on the web, are WordPress sites. Now I understand what they are trying to say, but for the most of the presentation it really felt like they were WordPress bashing.

However, the reason why this session stood out, was due to the options they provided (finally) that other developers might like to use. Now all of these have a license fee (which I’m not a fan of), but it does come more complete as an “out of the box” package.

1.) CraftCMS

2.) Statamatic

3.) ExpressionEngine

Now out of all of these, CraftCMS is one that was suggested to me before by a fellow UX/Web designer on a few occasions. That being said, this confirms that I clearly need to look into what CraftCMS has to offer. The nice thing, they have a free account for an individual developer looking to use the platform. I’ll hopefully find some time this summer to explore it and add another blog post specifically talking about my use and exploration.


The final keynote of the day was by Lisa Condon, Illustrator and Writer. She calls herself a late bloomer, as she didn’t start to play in illustration until her 30’s. However, she has many books that have been published, and she continues to create and have success through her personal projects.

Lisa Congdon - HOW Design Live 2017
Lisa Congdon – HOW Design Live 2017

Due to her quirks and “weirdness” growing up, she worked on personal challenge projects that inspired her and helped her to create. It was then from most of these projects, that she was able to get professional and paid jobs. Her “365 days of hand lettering” project started a lot of her success. She suggests that you dedicate and protect your personal time for projects that you want to do. Challenge yourself, express yourself, use these as a chance to practice. This day-to-day work is what will allow us to continue to grow, continue to be creative, and continue for us to be fulfilled in the world of creation.



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