Scott Dadich, Condé Nast’s Executive Director of Editorial Development, and a few of his VIP friends are putting on what could be considered the “must-attend” show of the year for media creatives. The upcoming Abstract Conference brings together some of the most impressive names in the world of editorial design including Pentagram’s Luke Hayman; Creative Director of Fast Company, Florian Bachleda; Creative Director of The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, Dirk Barnett; Chief Creative and Editorial Director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Gael Towey; and Design Director of The New York Times Magazine, Arem Duplessis. All of it moderated by SVA’s chair of Design Criticism, Alice Twemlow.
Here, Dadich answers a few questions about the need for another design conference, what attendees can expect from this event, and the many charms of Maine in June.
From the website:
ABSTRACT is a day of in-depth, highly visual and interactive sessions led by some of the most accomplished design and media talents currently working in the United States. From a business-focused discussion of design as a driver of innovation—and revenue—to an in-depth practicum on launching an iPad publication, ABSTRACT promises to enlighten, challenge, and inspire.
Q: How did the idea for this conference come about?
A: SCOTT DADICH: A few years ago—over steaks at Peter Luger—Arem Duplessis, Luke Hayman, Dirk Barnett, Florian Bachleda and I were commiserating about the lack of focus on great editorial design in the American conference scene. So it might have been the meat coma or maybe the manhattans, but then and there, we committed to doing something about it. I suggested we start our own conference, in the tradition of great symposiums like TED. An economic implosion and an iPad revolution later, we found ourselves in conversation with the good folks at AIGA Maine. We always knew we’d want to bring in and collaborate with the great talents of the design world as the conference grew. And unanimously—having seen the revolutionary work that Gael Towey has done with Martha Stewart Living on the iPad—we knew we needed her experience and POV in the mix, so we asked her to join our team.
Q: It’s an impressive list of partners. How did you decide who to work with and what each person should bring to the table?
We’re enormously lucky to all be friends and admirers of each other’s work. The Society of Publication Designers has been a tremendous catalyst in forming strong cross-title bonds between designers in the publishing community, and I’d say we owe SPD a debt of gratitude. We’ve all collaborated and worked together at one point or another, but I think more importantly, we’ve all learned from each other. AIGA Maine knew immediately if other folks had a chance to be exposed to what I’ve learned from Arem, Luke, Gael, Florian, and Dirk, ABSTRACT would be a very good conference.
Arem’s going to talk about art direction and big assignments, bringing great ideas onto the page, working with world-caliber photographers, artists and illustrators. Gael’s going to reference her 20+ years of alchemizing the essence of one woman—Martha Stewart—into a multi-threaded brand empire, from print to TV to retail. Florian has a unique way of bringing unexpected inspiration to bear in intriguing editorial frameworks and design structures, so he’s going to pull back the curtain on his process. I’m going to explain how we’re using the ideas we pioneered for the WIRED app to bring a new kind of digital publishing to Condé Nast, specifically, how we’re using this moment of innovation to transform the company. Dirk’s done quite a few magazine redesigns and relaunches in his career, so he’s going to focus on how he works with designers and editors to bring new life into stagnant brands. And—speaking of brands—Luke is going to share his Pentagram work, where he’s done a masterful job of helping brands move from the physical to the digital realm with craft and precision.
Q: What is your ultimate goal for this conference? What did you see missing from the design conference world that you wanted to provide?
Everyone in the communication design industry is struggling with what some folks are now calling “cross-media.” The lines have blurred; there are more ways to consume information than ever before, requiring designers to rethink how they create and shape content. Whether you’re a two-person boutique designing and publishing newsletters, a small-budget city magazine, or a global enterprise organization needing to revamp entire networked operations, most everyone in media today is trying to figure out more efficient ways to design, develop, and repurpose content cost effectively. ABSTRACT will address these struggles and more—creative, branding, business and technical application of cross-media design and workflow. But really, the six of us believe truly great design can drive commerce and innovation. That principle is what we care most about.
Q: Why is it called “Abstract”?
The nature of communication design itself has become abstract. Twenty years ago, we had two primary visual communication vehicles: print and broadcast. The internet changed all of that, both from a content creation and consumption perspective. I think a lot of us find ourselves asking, “what is publishing?” “What is my responsibility to design? To photography? To storytelling?” Anyone who claims to have all of the answers is lying, but hopefully, in open conversation and collaboration, we can bring some visibility to the new landscape. ABSTRACT aims to offer order to the chaos; where there is confusion, we hope to bring clarity. Where there is reservation, we hope to bring inspiration.
Q: Why Portland, ME?
Funny coincidence! One day last August, AIGA Maine President Dave Weinberg was updating his LinkedIn profile and grazed pixels with his college buddy, Florian Bachleda, now creative director of Fast Company and founding partner of ABSTRACT. It didn’t take either of them long to realize that AIGA Maine would be the perfect partner for this conference. ABSTRACT perfectly demonstrates AIGA’s mission—to advance design as a strategic tool, professional craft and vital cultural force. And Portland, Maine is quite “abstract” as well—a juxtaposition of cultures—with a thriving creative/arts community (voted best place to live by Forbes magazine in 2009). Like media, Portland is in flux, evolving from a primarily agricultural, manufacturing, and tourism-based economy to one that includes sustainable creative economy initiatives. Not to mention, June is the perfect time to visit Maine. Lobster roll, anyone?
Click here to download Scott’s recent online presentation, “Magazine Publishing on the iPad.”