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The HOW Design Live 2014 kick off next Monday, in Boston brings an amazing, interdisciplinary speaker line up, including creative heavy–hitters Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Stefan Sagmeister and Maria Popova. But what also caught our attention were the changes in the Creative Freelancer Conference (now the Creative Freelancer Business Conference) founded by Marketing Mentor’s Ilise Benun and the newly added HOW Leadership Conference presented in partnership with Sterling Brands’ Debbie Millman. The changes speak to the ways that boundaries between types of creatives—print designers, animators, web designers, illustrators, photographers etc. have blurred (if they were ever truly there to begin with), and to the increasing need for business and leadership skills in graphic design.

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Debbie Millman

Millman and Benun shared what to expect this year and why we should be excited. Read on for our interview with Debbie Millman and check back Wednesday for our interview with Ilise Benun.

Q: What sparked the idea of creating a leadership conference as part of HOW Design Live?

Debbie Millman: I love working on events and bringing people together for inspiration and education. I also love the HOW Conference—I couldn’t imagine not going every year—I feel like the HOWies are family. So it was a perfect intersection of my affection for the conference and my desire to add meaningful discourse to an already awesome annual event that bore the idea of the HOW Leadership Conference.

Q: Who is the Leadership Conference designed for?

Debbie Millman:
The Leadership track is design for The HOW Leadership track will be a very special set of presentations featuring some of the most remarkable and innovative thinkers of our time. Speakers have been chosen from a diverse cross-section of disciplines to create an environment for participants that are one part learning, one part observation, one part renewal and one part elevation.
The common denominator that all the HOW Leadership speakers share is brilliance. Malcolm Gladwell in Conversation with DeeDee Gordon, Dan Pink, Seth Godin, Maria Popova, Karl Heiselman, Jake Barton, Paola Antonelli, Moira Cullen and the list goes on … they are simply some of the best minds in design and branding today. It’s like having a dream team of amazingness all in one place, over three remarkable days.

How Leadership

HOW Leadership Conference

Q: What aspect of the conference do you think attendees/readers will be most excited about?

Debbie Millman: The HOW Leadership track will offer something that no other design or branding conference provides: Every speaker will be at the peak of their power; every speaker will be sharing remarkable, real-life stories to inspire, educate and challenge the audience. Each presenter will be on stage for a 30-40 minute presentation and will be followed by a 15-minute Q&A with me. With each session, I hope to leave the audience motivated and moved.

Q: How have you seen designers role as leaders change over the years?

Debbie Millman: I think leadership has changed for everyone—not just designers. As I was putting together the content and speaker recommendations, I kept in mind one of the greatest (if not the greatest) definition of leadership I have ever come across. It was written by David Foster Wallace, and it is from his masterful book of essays titled Consider The Lobster:

A real leader can somehow get us to do certain things that deep down we think are good and want to be able to do but usually can’t get ourselves to do on our own. It’s a mysterious quality, hard to define, but we always know it when we see it, even as kids…. If you’ve ever spent time in the military, you know how incredibly easy it is to tell which of your superiors are real leaders and which aren’t, and how little rank has to do with it. A leader’s real “authority” is a power you voluntarily give him, and you grant him this authority not with resentment or resignation but happily; it feels right. Deep down, you almost always like how a real leader makes you feel, the way you find yourself working harder and pushing yourself and thinking in ways you couldn’t ever get to on your own. In other words…a real leader is somebody who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.

Q: It seems to me that now is a particularly important time in the industry to redefine/reassert designers’ role as thinkers not just implementers—would you agree?

Debbie Millman: Absolutely. I believe that the discipline of design has more impact on our culture than any other creative medium.

There’s still time to register for HOW Design Live 2014 and to get an extra $50 discount.

Keep your eyes glued to this space as later on this week GraphicDesign.com will post a further interview with Ilise Benun to find our more about the 2014 Creative Freelancer Business Conference.

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