Design Driven NYC #19

I must say that FirstMark Capital continues to raise the bar with Design Driven. Just when you think they can’t beat their own standards, they go ahead and prove you wrong. Last month on Tuesday, July 12th, I attended a special, 19th installment of Design Driven NYC hosted at the United Nations. This event featured five powerhouse speakers that presented on vastly different topics, all connecting back to design. Not to mention, this event brought together almost a thousand designers from New York City. I’d like to share brief reflections on each presentation and my takeaways from that evening.

1. Co-Designing with Machines
By Amber Cartwright, Design Manager for Airbnb
Airbnb is known to be a design-centric company so I was eager to hear what Amber would discuss in her presentation. Her talk focuses on the areas where humans cross paths with machines and artificial intelligence. One of the most impactful implications of incorporating machines was the ways in which we can expand our own capacities that we, as humans, don’t have. Ultimately, the lesson of the day is that machines should do what they’re good at, which is to make processes more efficient, so that we, humans, could do what we’re good at. I definitely see the design industry taking more and more advantage of machines and artificial intelligence in the future and am looking forward to seeing what people do with that power.


2. Equinox Hotels [video unavailable] By Verena Haller, SVP for Equinox Hotels
“Comfort is the enemy of results.” What a powerful piece of guidance! This presentation was filled with realistic, yet bold takeaways that all designers could apply to their projects. I liked her presentation because she shared her story as a designer and incorporated aspects of her life into the work she does. Verena spoke about her passion for skiing and wanting users to feel the same thrill and energy of the sport when visiting the hotel. The brand identity (also referred to as the brand DNA) was crystal clear and the user persona was a very specific type of client. The attentiveness to detail that she and the rest of the design team have is unbelievable. I would love to experience the Equinox Hotel when they open in 2018!

3. Design Culture: Creating Workplaces Where Design Can Thrive
By Braden Kowitz, Design Partner for Google Ventures
Design is everyone’s business. In his talk, he breaks down the three tenets of a strong design culture. The first one is that companies need to have faith in quality. Investing in quality can be a risk because it’s immeasurable and stakeholders are not willing to put in time, effort and money into intangible projects. However, doing so can highlight the most important design goals and get the team focused. The second is to hold design accountable and bringing together and harmonizing surface value, user value and business value. Finally, it comes down to design being everyone’s job. He advocates for everyone in the organization to align themselves through UX research and exposure to customers. He wraps it all up by encouraging us to own and shape our culture and fix problems to create a happier culture for all.

4. Fireside Chat: Past, Present, and Future of Web & Interaction Design
By Jen Simmons, Designer Advocate for Mozilla and Jeffrey Zeldman, King of the Web
I enjoyed this fireside chat because it took me miles down memory lane. I love history and had fun understanding the growth of technology and the internet through analogies. I especially loved the Neolithic and Industrial Revolutions references. My biggest takeaway was the importance of considering how a product can potentially hurt users. Designers often talk about the value that products bring to users and businesses but not necessarily the way that they can be harmful. They provided relevant examples that got me thinking about how to take this into consideration. I do wish they had visuals for planned references so that the audience could feel more involved in the chat but the beauty of this was how organic the conversation flowed.

I genuinely enjoy participating in Design Driven every month because I’m exposed to designers from all walks of life. This community has professionals of every level from industry veterans to those who are starting out. The gorgeous view of the east river, complemented by the perfect breeze, was an added plus for this particular installment. Their next one, Design Driven #20, is scheduled for Tuesday, September 13th from 5:45pm until 9:00pm. It will be held at BuzzFeed’s office at 54 West 21st Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10010. Let me know in the comments what you found most intriguing from these presentations and if you’ll attend the next installment.




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