HOW Design Conference 2012

With the HOW Design Conference coming up, I thought I’d find out a little more about the event. There are a total of four events that take place concurrently over a period of 4 days. But which one should one attend? Or is it worth attending all four? Ilise Benun, owner of and national speaker / founder of the Creative Freelancer Conference (with HOW magazine) and SueAnn Stein, Marketing Manager of HowDesign Live, tell me all about it…

An audio interview of this post can be listened to here.HOW Design Live-CFC interview 3-12

Q: How did the HOW Conferences come about?

Sue-Ann: The various HOW Conferences are natural extensions of HOW magazine, which has been an ongoing resource for the graphic design industry on the topics of business, creativity and technology since its inception in 1985. The events transitioned HOW from a print medium to a hands-on, meet-the-experts forum, bringing the magazine to life and providing designers with the opportunity to gain insight and inspiration from leaders in the design industry, as well as to meet and mingle with other creative peers from around the world.
HOW Design Conference was introduced in 1991, and we have since grown to a total of 7 separate events over the past 2+ decades.

Q: How many conferences have there been so far?

SueAnn: There have been quite a few and they have been going since 1991…

• HOW Design Conference was introduced in 1991, and we will be hosting our 22nd HOW Design Conference this June 22-25 in Boston.

• InHOWse Managers Conference was introduced in 2006 and we will be hosting our 7th InHOWse Managers Conference June 21-23 in Boston.

• Creative Freelancer Conference was introduced in 2008 (in partnership with Marketing Mentor’s Ilise Benun) and we will be hosting our 5th Creative Freelancer Conference June 21-22 in Boston.

• The Dieline Package Design Conference was introduced in 2011 (in conjunction with and we will be hosting our 2nd The Dieline Package Design Conference June 22-25 in Boston.

All four conferences are held concurrently at our HOW Design Live event. This is the universal brand that reinforces our goal of “bringing HOW magazine to life” and provides a forum in which all attendees of the four individual conferences come together at the Keynote session, evening receptions and the official opening of the HOW Design Live Exhibit Hall.

In addition to these four HOW Design Live conferences, HOW magazine also hosts three additional events tailored to the needs of our market:

• Mind Your Own Business (MYOB) Conference – introduced in 2000 (in partnership with David C. Baker of ReCourses, Inc.) and held every other year, this business-oriented conference is for owners and principals of creative firms. MYOB 2012 is scheduled to take place October 17 – 19 in Nashville, TN.

• HOW Interactive Design Conference (HIDC) – East & West – introduced in November 2011, this annual conference is tailored to meet the needs of print designers who are transitioning to digital design. Due to the phenomenal response in 2011, we will hold two (2) HIDC events in 2012, with one in Washington D.C. September 27 – 29, and one in San Francisco October 29 – 31.

• The Dieline Forum – introduced in 2011, this one-day conference has a regional appeal, and provides a lively forum in which to discuss packaging challenges and success stories. Co-hosted by, the 2012 event will take place in Los Angeles in October (exact date TBD).

As you can see we are very busy!!!

Q: On average how many people attend the four HOW Design Live conferences? Is there one in particular that is more popular than the others?

SueAnn: All four of the HOW Design Live conferences continue to grow year after year. Of the four events, HOW Design Conference is the largest due to the wide range of topics relating to designers of all experience levels and industry disciplines.

The remaining three conferences (InHOWse Managers Conference; Creative Freelancer Conference; and The Dieline Package Design Conference) typically serve several hundred attendees.

However, these numbers increase when adding in attendees who have purchased our all-access registration option entitled The BIG Ticket. This registration option provides attendees the freedom to move between all four HOW Design Live conferences, so the “firm” registration numbers of the individual conferences are dramatically increased.

Q: Ilise, you are the founder of the Creative Freelancer Conference. When did it all start?

Ilise: The idea was born in late 2007 at the MYOB Conference in San Diego, when Peleg Top and I were chatting with some of the HOW editors about how great it would be to have a similar event for freelancers. We decided pretty much then and there to try it and within 6 months we had 200+ creative freelancers gathered together in Chicago for our first event. So there was clearly a need and it has grown steadily ever since.

Q: Why was the Creative Freelancer Conference created? Tell me more about it.

Ilise: Most creative freelancers, of which there are more and more every day, have no business training to speak of, so we first aimed to provide training tailored to this largely-ignored market on 4 essential topics: marketing, money, client relations and work/life balance. In addition, freelancers literally work in isolation, often from home, without easy access to resources, whether to get feedback, constructive criticism or answers to their business questions.

So we set out to build for creative freelancers a safe, non-competitive environment where they could come together — in real time and in person – with their colleagues to learn what they need to learn about running a creative business. We also wanted to create what you just can’t find online: real community, inspiration and generosity. And so far it’s worked. It’s become a place serious freelancers flock to. We get the ones who are willing to invest money so it’s a very high quality group of people sharing substantial information very generously. People leave inspired and confident that they can do make their own business work.

Q: Is there a limit to the number of people who can attend?

SueAnn: The venue typically determines if a cap must be placed on our attendance numbers. This year’s HOW Design Live will be held at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center so capacity is not currently capped.

Q: How can you buy tickets?

SueAnn: Registration for all four HOW Design Live conferences (HOW Design Conference; InHOWse Managers Conference; Creative Freelancer Conference; and The Dieline Package Design Conference) as well as for The BIG Ticket can be accessed at

Q: There are four different conferences. It’s difficult to choose, tell me a bit about each one.

SueAnn: HOW Design Conference offers in-house, agency, studio, and freelance designers a jam-packed program that enables them to balance the three key components of graphic design: creativity, business and technology.
InHOWse Managers Conference is the only event specifically designed to provide in-house managers with the managerial, motivational and financial tools they need to build a respected and highly effective creative team.
Creative Freelancer Conference is the only business conference where creative solopreneurs (designers, writers, photographers, illustrators) develop the business skills they need to maximize their freelance income. Presented in conjunction with Marketing Mentor.
The Dieline Package Design Conference is sponsored by HOW, and features an impressive roster of today’s leading package design visionaries who share their knowledge and expertise with attendees from around the world. This conference also includes the prestigious 2012 The Dieline Awards Ceremony.

Q: Ilise, tell me a bit more about this year’s Freelancer Conference? Do you have any special guest speakers? Any secrets on what the conference might hold that you can disclose?

Ilise: We have a roster of great speakers for this year including David Baker, Sarah Durham, Ed Gandia, Marcia Hoeck, Cameron Foote, Luke Mysse, Dyana Valentine, Allen Murabayashi and more. But one new aspect of CFC for 2012 is that we’ll have 2 tracks to choose from: one for new freelancers and another for veterans. Also, my personally favorite part of the event is the 6 AM “net-walking” where we early-risers get a bit of exercise and make a few friends while walking through downtown Boston. So bring your walking shoes!

Q: What do you think people get out of the conferences?

SueAnn: There are a variety of reasons why people attend the various HOW Conferences, ranging from the inspiration and education provided by our speakers (who are also today’s most respected design thinkers and business/marketing consultants) to the once-a-year opportunity to spend time with their peers, sharing success stories and commiserating about industry challenges. Others may attend to expand their network, looking for job opportunities and/or to identify new talent. Plus, the free resources/products distributed by our sponsors/exhibitors is a huge bonus to our attendees.

In general, attendees are seeking inspiration, information and instruction from both industry leaders and creative peers in order to create outstanding work and build a successful career. For some, it is a yearly gathering that provides a creative jolt and a renewed appreciation and passion for design. For others, it has been called a “life-changing experience” that has dramatically altered their personal outlook and professional career track.

Q: Have you decided where to hold the 2013 conference yet?

We will officially announce 2013 HOW Design Live conferences’ location at the 2012 event. Stay tuned…


It sounds like Boston is going to be buzzing with people from the graphic design industry this June – whether a freelancer or in-house manager, or someone with an interest in package design, it seems there is something for everyone! I’d like to thank both Ilise and SueAnn for sharing the event information with us.

For more information on the conference please visit