The Six Designers You’ll Find At Design Conferences

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Oh, the Archetypes You’ll Meet

The next time you go to a design conference, look around. Not just at the conference signage. Or at the booth with shiny freebies. Or at the olive tapenade. But at the people.

One of the great things about design conferences like HOW Design Live is the diversity of people who attend. In one room you can see crisp suits and retro sneakers, nose piercings and pearl necklaces, and blue-haired people mingling with gray-haired people. You can overhear Southern twangs and intriguing European accents, “developing empathic awareness” and “so freakin’ awesome” at the same round table, and jokes everywhere about Photoshop, logos, and Quark (heh heh).

So, you’ll never know who you might meet at a design conference. Except you can always count on finding these six character types somewhere in the crowd…

The Big Cat

Always calm and cool, The Big Cat is the design star who has won too many design awards to list.

Key features: Wears stylish glasses that cost more than your last five projects (combined) and carries a Sharpie for autograph requests. Such as in books they’ve written.

Unique behaviors: Goes onstage at some point. During key moments in the conference, The Big Cat may be busily composing emails on one of their iPhones. They’ve seen it all before.

The Starry-Eyed Newb

“Elated” doesn’t begin to describe how The Starry-Eyed Newb feels. This conference is an event they’ll never forget.

design conference Newb

Key features: Lugs a conference tote bulging with freebies. May wear an assortment of shiny buttons and pins.

Unique behaviors: Eyes sparkle with unrestrained joy, hope, and inspiration. Repeatedly checks the conference schedule out of FOMO. Blushes when a Big Cat passes into view.

The Pale Freelancer

The Pale Freelancer is amazed to be seeing so many humans at once. And even more astonished that all these humans know what RGB and CMYK stand for.

design conference Freelancer

Key features: An astonished expression. Skin is pale from minimal outdoor exposure. Hair may need a trim. Figure may be slightly emaciated, caused by late payments from clients.

Unique behaviors: Stares at crowds, often silently from the edge of a room.

The Flirty Networker

Passionate about all forms of “visual communication,” The Flirty Networker is busily scanning the room for love.

design conference Flirty

Key features: Cologne or perfume may be smelled from three seats away.

Unique behaviors: Offers their business card readily, being sure point out their personal email address. Also, winks.

The Documenter

Nothing onstage slips past The Documenter. They even photograph the acknowledgements slides.

design conference Documenter

Key features: Toned shoulders from extended and repeated arm lifting. Eyes often squinting.

Unique behaviors: Totally absorbed with the conference, but from the tiny dimensions of their phone screen. Wouldn’t notice if a Big Cat sat down next to them.

The In-House Designer

Glad to be out of a cubicle for a few days with all meals covered, The In-House Designer is a well-fed creature.

design conference InHouse designer

Key features: Appears at ease in business casual attire. Carries a notebook for diligent note-taking. May emit pinging sounds caused by incoming work emails or Slack messages.

Unique behaviors: Takes maximal advantage of food opportunities. Whips out a company credit card at restaurants. Keeps all receipts.

Whether you are a Starry-Eyed Newb, a well-fed In-House Designer, or not quite any of the above, HOW Design Live is a design conference where you can meet future bosses, collaborators, clients, and friends (and maybe significant others, with all those Flirty Networkers out there). Because, despite all of our differences, everyone goes for the same reasons: a love of design and a hope to connect with others who do, too. So join us at HOW Design Live so you can tell that Big Cat you admire their work. And give that Pale Freelancer a warm smile. Or lend that Documenter your charger. As for that Flirty Networker…well, you’re on your own. Register now for HOW Design Live!