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Most of the content I consumed at INBOUND 2017 is somewhat relatable to my role as a designer, but crucial to my role as a human being. Many of the speakers at INBOUND explored similar themes - empathy, communication, leadership - and wove call-to-actions into their storytelling around each. Despite not being as tangible as the content many of my colleagues enjoyed, I believe many of these intangibles can be applied into how I work for and with other humans on a daily basis.
This was probably the most reoccurring theme during the four-day marketing conference in Boston. During a session about the intersection of business and design, Brian Solis, implored us to remember we’re designing for humans. He told the story of how in places like China and the Netherlands, municipalities have created cellphone-only walking spaces. This anecdote served to illustrate how technology has taken us out of real world situations. Essentially, we’re at a point where we have to design additional experiences in order to make up for the shortcomings of others. For me this was a call-to-action to create experiences that enhance human interaction rather than detract or prevent it.
In a similar talk on the human-brand experience, Chief Brand Officer of Uber, Bozoma Saint John, described her journey from being born in Connecticut, to spending her youth in Ghana, to a “chief seat” in Silicon Valley. Acknowledging who she is today is because of who she was as a child, Saint John highlighted how authenticity has been a large part of her individual success. She believes that the ability to share authenticity in intimate spaces, like the workplace, with acquaintances (clients), or during an Uber ride, can lead to a more fulfilling experience. People want to connect with brands that reflect not just their interests but their hardships as well.
Many of these brands find themselves in the unique position of being considered “passion brands.” Jeff Rosenblum, Co-President of Questus describes passion brands as those that capture our collective consciousness. During his spotlight session on day three of INBOUND, Jeff advocated for companies to move toward becoming passion brands. What I liked most about Jeff’s talk was his enthusiasm for producing better content with a sharper focus on storytelling. Brands like Patagonia and Yeti do wonderful jobs of putting the human story into their marketing efforts. This connection to humanity popped up time and time again through many of the talks at INBOUND.
A big part of our humanity, how we interact with the world and our fellow humans, is called into question when we take on leadership roles. So our work should reflect how we see the world and what kind of mark we want to make. As a design leader at Impulse Creative, it is up to me to strike a balance between what’s possible and what’s appropriate. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Whether I’m working with a client, or collaborating with a colleague, I have to innately know when something may not work for the end user. Humans use our products, see our marketing, and absorb our content. People should be at the center of why you do what you do.
While I perhaps sharpened some of my practical design skills during INBOUND 2017, I learned a lot about the type of person I want to be throughout my career. An empathetic individual who puts the story of others ahead of him own. With this as my call-to-action, I hope my design work and interaction with coworkers and clients only grows in more positive ways. I want to tell more stories - and more importantly have opportunities to listen to the stories of others. The content at INBOUND had me engaged and inspired, now it’s up to me to walk the walk.