Finding Inspiration: DesignThinkers Conference 2016

DesignThinkers 2016

Like any other profession, a marketing team is composed of a variety of individuals. Each of us is skilled at something unique, and when put together with the skills of others, we create a strong team. But even a team that runs smoothly will reach the ceiling when their members stop investing in their skills. For a team or a business to keep growing, so must its members.

img_1988-1Recently, our talented branding consultant Alona had the opportunity to visit the 2016 DesignThinkers Conference in Toronto, put on by the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD). Every year, design icons from across the globe gather to share their experiences, insights, and advice with an audience of student and seasoned designers alike. For designers working in-house especially, it’s easy to get used to doing the same thing over and over. Conferences like DesignThinkers allow the audience to see the ongoing work of other designers, and perhaps discover what other designers are doing that you’re not. Above all, it’s an inspiration to keep being creative.

Since not all of us can fly out to Toronto and experience this opportunity, Alona took the time to share some of talks she found most inspiring.

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Emily Lessard – New York City

There’s this really big tourist destination called New York City… you’ve probably heard of it, thanks to Emily and her team. At her speaking event, she described to her audience the process of rebranding one of the largest tourism locations in North America. What the city was putting out into the world in terms of marketing wasn’t consistent with the personality of the city itself, and it was Emily’s job to fix this inconsistency.

Alona had the opportunity to listen to Emily discuss the trials of working with this brand that had already been created. She and her team decided to take the history of the city and incorporate it into every element of its marketing–the theme of the photography, the colour, the icon set, etc. Every piece of the brand was designed to reflect what was at the heart of New York, which combined with the enthusiasm that Emily expressed, Alona found inspiring to her own work.

Visit New York City’s new website at to see the creativity this team put into their project, and perhaps it’ll inspire you too.


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Leland Maschmeyer – EOS Lip Chap

Leland was approached with the task of making EOS (Evolution of Smooth) a competitor with Chapstick. When your lips are dry, do you ask for a lip chap or a “Chapstick”? Like Kleenex, the Chapstick brand was already burned into the minds of consumers. Leland needed to find a strategy to make EOS an equally obvious choice.

The solution came after lots of research. It may seem self-evident, but Leland realized that it’s hard to locate a skinny lip chap tube at the bottom of your bag. This inspired EOS’s spherical design: it allows dry-lipped people to quickly find their lip balm based on touch, without dumping out the contents of their purses (or backpacks).

When the product hit the market, it had an unexpectedly huge positive response. Customers weren’t only buying it, they were also sharing pictures of it, and collecting all the colours! EOS became not only a competitor with Chapstick, but became more popular than the former leading brand–a great example of creative thinking.


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Erik Kessels – The Hotel That Couldn’t Care Less

Hailing from Amsterdam, Eric’s communications agency was approached by a budget hotel asking for help with a rebrand. It might seem like an every-day project, but there was a problem: Eric and his team weren’t sure how to do it. The budget hotel was just that–a budget hotel. How does one create a great brand from something that seems pretty…ordinary?

Eric took the situation as an opportunity to be inspired. Looking for the good in the situation, Eric came up with an incredibly bold approach: honesty. If you visit the website of the Hans Brinker Hotel, you’ll find that there’s no gloss applied there. The website humorously advertises the hotel as “The Hotel That Couldn’t Care Less, but We Will Try.” Stuffed with bright colours and photos of young adults going wild, the website claims, “What you see is what you get…just don’t look too closely.” Erik and his team created a brand that makes the viewer want to visit the hotel because it’s ordinary.

So the next time that you find yourself in a similar situation, be inspired to give it another go.


You may not be a designer (and neither am I), but these examples demonstrate that inspiration can be found in even the strangest places. Take the time to invest in yourself, whether your strengths are in writing, administration, public speaking, trades, or customer service. When each member of a team takes the time to invest in their skills, there’s no telling what that team might achieve.



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