Most Innovative Meetings 2019: #12 How Design Live

The conference builds a sense of community that extends well beyond the actual event.

Event highlights included an interactive journaling wall, a live design battle, and 10-minute speed coaching sessions.
Event highlights included an interactive journaling wall, a live design battle, and 10-minute speed coaching sessions.
Photo: PWP Studio

How Design Live calls itself “more than just a conference.” The annual event for graphic designers and marketers, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in Boston next May, offers a creativity-inducing environment focused on community.

The event’s 3,000 attendees—who hail from every U.S. state and 33 countries—are encouraged to connect online before the conference and socialize during the event through pub crawls, morning walks, lunch outings, and more. Through an attendee group on Facebook that boasts more than 1,200 members, people share tips and advice, refer job openings and clients to one another, and collaborate on projects. Guests are also encouraged to join—or create—“How-ie” group meet-ups in their own cities.

“It’s really an opportunity for them to encourage each other throughout the year, well beyond the event itself,” said Amy Conover, How’s content director and conference producer.

That sense of community is reinforced during scheduled sessions, most specifically in the conference’s annual kickoff event, “How Connection.” Led by author and creative director Stefan Mumaw, the session involves interactive games designed to promote connections and engage introverts.

“It’s a great way to draw people together, because the event is best shared,” explained Conover. “Everyone gets the opportunity to find their conference buddy, to find their tribe for the rest of the week. And that’s really how we pull people into the larger How-ie community.”

New for 2019 was a daily video series, led by Conover and Alex Withers from How partner InMotionNow. The videos, which recapped the day and featured interviews with speakers, gave an informal look behind the scenes. “We’re very authentic and inclusive, and it was a fun way for people to get a sense of the personality of our brand,” said Conover.

How began as a print magazine in 1985, and evolved into a conference in 1990. The 2019 event, produced by Emerald Expositions, took place in Chicago in May, drawing speakers from HP, Taco Bell, and PepsiCo plus speed-coaching sessions and a live design battle.

After next year’s Boston event, Conover plans to survey the community to choose future locations for the conference. “We’re listening and we’re making changes based on their suggestions,” she explained. “They are why we’ve been here for 30 years. We didn’t do this on our own.”

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