HOW Design Live Highlights: Get a Dose of Optimism with Brian Collins

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Our preview of notable HOW Design Live conference speakers continues with Brian Collins. The creative juggernaut and brand strategist, now chief creative officer of COLLINS:, has been a good friend of Print and HOW over the years, and he always delivers an engaging performance—whether in branding work or in live talks. You can still get tickets for his talk and the entire conference, and if you use the promotional code PRNT12, you’ll get a 10 percent discount off the full conference rate. (Details on that discount at the bottom of this post.)

Back in 2005, Collins was one of one of four designers brave enough to participate in “Ironic Chef,” a live, improv design competition organized by Print for that year’s HOW Conference. (We like to think we were at the vanguard of such entertainment, which has now become commonplace.) In front of an audience of hundreds, Collins, using only colored markers, paint, scissors, paper, Scotch tape, glue, and selected images, demonstrated quick conceptual thinking in his design and branding assignments, rendering inventive solutions for a United Nations “moving announcement” (the main building in New York was undergoing renovations) and Chicago’s 2012 Olympic bid. Armin Vit, also speaking at this year’s HOW fest, ultimately won the competition that day (samples of his winning designs are here and here), but he and Collins were neck-and-neck throughout.

Brian Collins, chief creative officer of COLLINS:

“Designing the Brand Experience,” Collins’s presentation at HOW that year, was the stuff of legend: It started with a gospel choir. The title of his presentation this year is “Yes Is More: The Need for Optimism in an Age of Anxiety.” Need we say more? He is a showman par excellence, and we expect something spectacular—something appropriately optimistic—for this year as well.

Collins was lauded in the pages of Print‘s November/December 2000 issue for his work at Ogilvy & Mather’s Brand Integration Group, which created seminal branding campaigns and reboots. Contributing editor Steven Heller wrote the profile, and the piece included some choice Collins-isms:

“I subscribe to Charles Eames’s definition that ‘design is a plan for action,’ rather than the common advertising credo that design is a plan for decoration.”

“My role is to make sure the ideas are relevant to the opportunity we’ve been given by the client. Is it big enough as an idea? Is it weird enough? Is it [the] best work? Could we do better?”

“Too many graphic designers are sheep in sheep’s clothing. They are willing, if not eager, to marginalize themselves by letting others provide them with content to decorate rather than develop the discipline to become authors of their own work.”

“The work that we do should have a sense of inevitability about it—it should sell itself.”

The discount code PRNT12 is good for 10 percent off the regular individual full conference rates for HOW Design Conference, InHOWse Managers Conference, The Dieline Package Design Conference, or Creative Freelancer Conference. It cannot be combined with other discount offers.

About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →