Now You Know Y (the Conference), Part 4

Posted inDesign Inspiration
Thumbnail for Now You Know Y (the Conference), Part 4

When Candice López showcased her Urban Art Trail project at Y, professionals and students immediately signed up to get involved. "They worked together in a massive community beautification project that includes utility boxes, murals, sidewalk poetry, mosaics, birdhouses, and benches." Above: one of the original murals, titled The Joy of Urban Living.


This is our fourth and final conference report. This time, Y’s achievements and legacies within and beyond San Diego’s design community are considered. Be sure to look back to posts one, two, and three. And note that Y16 is in just one week.


Adam Rowe: President, erowe design and “utility bills payer”current Y Conference Chair

Guy Iannuzzi: CEO, MentusAIGA/SD Board (Marketing Resources) in 1996

Bennett Peji: Civic Brand Designer and City of San Diego Commissioner of Arts & Culture; AIGA FellowAIGA/SD President in 1996

Candice López: Professor, San Diego City College Graphic Design; AIGA FellowAIGA/SD Board (Education) in 1996

David Conover: Owner, StudioConoverAIGA/SD Board (Membership) in 1996 and Y1 Co- Chair


At last year's Y, Ric Grefe, right, learns that moderating duties involve onstage psychiatric counseling. Photo by Kirby Yau.


The conference has grown from a locally recognized event to one of national recognition. In his opening statement at the AIGA National Retreat last year, Ric Grefe spoke about our ongoing success and singled out our conference as a role model for other chapters.

I believe that what continues to set the Y Conference apart comes from its original inception and intention: to be an inspirational experience for our attendees in a small, intimate environment. The original passion that the conference was built around is still embodied, year after year..


I really don’t think design conferences are that different from each other. Although the topics vary greatly, over a long period of time they all end covering the same themes and issues. They even end up using the same speakers, which shouldn’t be surprising.

What makes our conference unique is the location. San Diego’s proximity to Mexico has continued to fertilize Y with a Latin design sensibility. This is further driven by the Latin roots of many noted senior local designers and illustrators, many of whom have been key in the establishment and management of the conference..


The Y Conference directly inspired the Esquina Norte Conference in Tijuana, the first ever design conference in Baja California. That annual conference draws in 300 to 400 attendees throughout Mexico and Latin America, and some US residents, such as myself..


The conference more than fulfilled its original purposes, by energizing our community and bringing vitality and financial stability to our chapter. I don’t think any of the original board envisioned that our homegrown conference would go on for this many years..


The Y Conference has exceeded my expectations. And I’m reminded of this every time some attendee from outside this little cul-de-sac of California says some kind words about it. It’s remained an affordable, inspiring, design-related conference that continues to satisfy the audience’s wishes. The mere fact that it continues today, 16 years later, is testament to all the hard working volunteers. And hats off to Greg Laubach, our tireless, underpaid but over-valued event coordinator/director..

Do-gooder Bennett Peji, doing more good at Y14. Photo by Kirby Yau.


The premise that design can serve the greater good has always been at the root of the San Diego chapter and the Y Conference. I have always felt blessed to be in the company of such good people who just happen to be designers.

We have been led and inspired by Candice and MaeLin Levine to see how design can be an amazing tool to transform our underserved communities. Without that authentic social consciousness, this would just be another conference that could disappear without being missed.

The most wonderful thing about the AIGA as a whole, and the San Diego chapter specifically, is that it practices what it preaches. It draws in the designers at the board level who really want to make a difference in our community. These are the people who don’t just talk about how things should be better, but who are willing to work at making things better..

From top: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 conferences. Photos by Kirby Yau.

Thus concludes our four-part series. If you have memories of past Y Conferences, please feel free to share them below, in our comments section.

Parts • 123.

ópez #DavidConover #AdamRowe #YDesignConference #MaeLinLevine #AIGA #GuyIannuzzi