Like so many creative professionals, Andrew Gibbs of The Dieline wrestles with work-life balance. Gibbs, who founded the leading website devoted to packaging design and serves as its editor-in-chief, has a full plate: managing the website, writing about design, running The Dieline Awards for outstanding packaging design and serving as the program director for The Dieline Conference, part of HOW Design Live.
Gibbs says he recently moved The Dieline’s HQ to a creative co-working space called The HUB LA, and built a new core team of staffers “who are incredibly talented at what they do.” Both moves have allowed him to shift his own responsibilities so he can tackle key projects and take a bit of time off.
We recently caught up with him to talk about what’s new for him, and for The Dieline Conference in 2014.
First, tell us what you’re working on now in your “day” job that’s cool and exciting. Aside from the Dieline Conference programming, what’s keeping you busy these days?
First of all, 2013 has been a year of major restructuring of The Dieline from a business perspective. It was the year of finding a new balance in all areas of my life. I have restructured every major area of the business to allow me to finally take some stuff of my plate and find some long-needed balance in my professional and personal life!
I had the opportunity to lead the design and development of the HOW Design Live 2014 identity, branding, and website design. Being the largest creative gathering in the world—and with Debbie Millman joining HOW Design Live (with the HOW Leadership Conference)—we decided to rethink the concept of the conference design itself. We decided to give our attendees their dream design conference, designed by designers, curated by designers, for designers. It has been incredibly fun and a HUGE design challenge!
I also recently launched The Dieline Awards 2014 website. I’ve been writing more as well—I recently began writing a monthly column for Entrepreneur Magazine debuting in this month’s issue, while working on some fun pieces for other print and online magazines.
Currently, I’m working on our first-ever holiday gift guide with my team of editors. I am also putting finishing touches on a VERY big project that will be unveiled in January. It’s been a behind-the-scenes project for over 6 months now, something that will change The Dieline as readers know it.
How has the Dieline Conference evolved since the first event in 2011? Does that evolution reflect the changes you’re seeing in the packaging industry?
The conference is still evolving. Our first conference was our intro to the conference world and we were flying by the seat of our pants! We have learned what works and what doesn’t, so we have worked out many kinks by now. On the programming side, the conference content has evolved from being a star-studded affair, to include a more balanced mix of speakers of all levels. We saw our attendees getting younger and hipper year over year, and we knew they would want to see someone like them onstage. We had to mix it up with the next generation of designers and companies our attendees find aspirational and relevant to them—along with the all-stars.
We have seen a rise in young designers on The Dieline through our submissions and The Dieline Awards, so our evolution is definitely in sync with our audience. Also, one of the biggest evolutions for The Dieline Conference is the evolution of HOW Design Live itself.
Attendees now have the option to attend The Dieline Conference, along with any HOW Design Live session, plus any of the 12 keynote sessions which include Stefan Sagmeister, Paula Scher, and Dan Pink. With a large percentage of HOW Design Live attendees also designing packaging, this structure allows designers the option to create their dream design conference, however they see fit. The new structure was implemented after discovering many of our attendees were having to choose between sessions and their favorite speakers, which didn’t make sense to us.
When you’re considering speakers and topics for the conference, what do you look for? What’s your “creative direction” for the conference?
At the start of each new design conference, Ivan Navarro, partner and director of events at The Dieline, works with me and our team of editors to come up with a relevant theme to focus the content around. We do a lot of research of our readers, our past conference attendees, and our own internal board of advisors who consist of top package design industry experts.
“Every conference has a theme and we base that year’s content around that theme. Ultimately each speaker or session will have to be engaging and render some tangible information to our attendee. No one wants to sit through an hour of anyone’s work, unless it is absolutely heart-stopping or practical to the audience. We’ve had sessions where speakers such as Louise Fili and Moira Cullen have presented their own work and completely captivated an audience and even received a standing ovation. But the level of their work was so developed and exceptional, that’s an hour people will gladly sit through and be completely silent.
Having the right balance amongst our speakers is also key. We never wanted to seem exclusionary so we were very cognizant of the fact that our speakers had to cater to the veterans of the industry as well as the emerging generation of designers. Working with designers who may not have a design pedigree yet, but who are producing amazing work is another thing we do.” — Ivan Navarro
We look for speakers who are relevant, engaging, and truly passionate about what they do. We look for speakers who want to share their vast knowledge with our attendees, not speakers who are looking to just promote themselves.
The program features several case study sessions on high-profile packaging projects—what can other designers learn from these behind-the-scenes presentations?
Process explorations not only explain the design decisions behind some of the most iconic designs and brands in packaging, but they also present the real world obstacles and applications that designers have to be well-versed in to be successful. Sometimes a design decision is not based on aesthetics but based on cost or manufacturing, so learning about real-world scenarios is like free business advice—and when it’s coming from Starbucks or Method, that’s priceless.
What’s new on the program for 2014? And what are you especially excited about for next year?
We have a couple of our favorite speakers joining us again, but every other speaker is new to the conference. Our session content has also been curated to reflect the trends and concerns of designers in 2014.
I’m really excited for the new HOW Design Live schedule. All 5 program directors got to help pick the 12 big keynote speakers. I’m excited to return to Boston and, especially excited for HOW Design Live as a whole, because we’ve worked hard to elevate the design conference experience for everyone.