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DMI “Value Of Design” Conference Recap

By Russ Starke on May 25, 2011

Brian, Carl & I headed to Amsterdam last week to attend “The Value Of Design” – a conference held by the Design Management Institute (DMI). Why travel to Amsterdam for this? Well, there were a number of good reasons:

  1. We’re extremely interested in the topic, as we’re continuously looking for effective ways to explain the value of design to our potential clients (and the world, for that matter). A conference dedicated to full exploration of the subject, with built-in peer collaboration/discussion sessions, was right up our alley.
  2. We’re interested in making connections in Europe and worldwide, to continuously grow our global insight and also to plan for future partnerships or office locations. A full roster of international design professionals (speakers and attendees) was a huge draw.
  3. Um, it’s Amsterdam. Have you had a fresh Heineken and a hot stroopwafel?

So, in keeping with tradition, I’ll provide our high-level impression of the conference and Brian will provide interactive sketchnotes for some of our favorite sessions. Be sure to hover over each sketchnote image for links to lots of great information and resources.

dmi-amsterdam-sketchnote

Overall, we were really impressed and felt that we got a lot of value for the investment. As we debriefed, some telling things rose to the top. For instance, there was absolutely no talk of ninjas, superheroes, rockstars, or zombies. Not that those things aren’t fun… just, tired. There were plenty of laughs besides.

The venue (the Felix Meritis) was a brilliant choice, and infinitely better than a conference room at a hotel complex. There were a few logistical problems due to the uniqueness of the space, but the organizers handled them very well and we’ll take that any day as the price to pay for two days at such a distinctive location. The food was great, the pacing felt right, and there was ample time for networking, breaks, and reflection.

Perhaps most importantly though, we were amazed and heartened by the speakers not only sticking around for the rest of the day after they were finished, but for the rest of the conference. They participated in the breakouts and exercises, asked questions from the audience, ate meals and attended happy hours with the rest of us as equals. You might think this isn’t out of the ordinary, but it is. It made a big difference.

dragons

So what of the sessions themselves? As with all conferences, some hit harder than others; par for the course. However, there was healthy skepticism openly and professionally offered when warranted (as opposed to only passive aggressive Twitter-snark), rich discussions as a result, and on the whole, very strong content. It was interesting to have so many speakers all orbiting around a central issue—at times it did make us long for something “off-topic”, but in the end it was one heck of a concentrated punch. We’re DMI converts, and grateful for all of our new friends and connections worldwide.