RE:DESIGN/Inspire Conference 2013 - Los Angeles, CA


Everyone needs a little inspiration - even creatives.

This was my line of thought when I entered a contest online at designworklife.com for the chance at free tickets to the RE:DESIGN/Inspire conference in L.A. Amazingly I received a congratulatory email days later stating I had won (I never win anything [doesn't everyone say that?]) and made arrangements to get myself to the land of stars and smog. Now, after two days in Culver City (home to Sony Pictures, the Kirk Douglas Theatre, several art galleries and mementos of bygone days of Hollywood), I have time to catch my breath and share my experience.

The bulk of the conference was held in the Smog Shoppe, an eclectic event space nestled in the middle of art galleries and bustling Venice Boulevard. The interior space was covered with "living walls," which in themselves offered a bit of inspiration for conference attendees. After some sips of coffee and a bit of mingling, the conference officially kicked off.

RE-DESIGN Inspire Conference - Smog Shoppe interior


Noreen Morioka

Partner, AdamsMorioka

President, AIGA Los Angeles

RE-DESIGN Inspire Conference - Noreen Morioka - Adams Morioka

Morioka, hilarious and incredibly talented, opened the conference with a little bit of self-reflection by way of some fun association games. (I have them listed at the bottom if you wish to play.) Afterward, Morioka discussed the importance of having three words that define your company - hers are clarity, purity and resonance. Additionally, she emphasized the three deadly sins of design, which are sloth, envy and pride. It was very apparent that all designers - myself included- have performed these sins during their careers, and probably still continue to in various aspects. Marioka then shared some fantastic work samples, including branding and collateral from the 82nd Academy Awards and my personal favorite, branding work for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. Different font variations for one logo, emphasizing the idea of different voices. Each font/logo variation was utilized in different print and digital applications. Genius.

Association Games

  1.  Re-arrange the following list of animals in your preferred order:
    • Cow
    • Tiger
    • Horse
    • Sheep
    • Pig
  2. Define each with one word:
    • Dog
    • Cat
    • Rat
    • Sea


  1. Cow represents
    • Tiger represents
    • Horse represents
    • Sheep represents
    • Pig represents money
  2.  Dog is a symbol for yourself; word describes you
    • Cat is a symbol for your love interest; word describes him/her
    • Rat is a symbol for your enemies; word describes them
    • Sea is a symbol for your work; word describes it

Nicole Jacek

Creative Director/Founder NJ(L.A.)TM

RE-DESIGN Inspire Conference - Nicole Jacek  NJL.A.TM

Jacek is proudly German ("Everyone Needs a German!") and a powerhouse to boot. No other presenter emphasized the idea of creating your own destiny better than Jacek, by way of outlining her journey from the Mercedes Benz factory line to working for The Designers Republic in London, Karlssonwilker in N.Y.C. and then opening her own design shop in L.A. What really impressed me was her "20 Projects" mail piece that she created as a way to win new work for Karlssonwilker. The result was impressive: 20% of the total mailers resulted in paid work contracts, including projects from Vitra and Mini/BMW.

Karin Fong

Director, Imaginary Forces

RE-DESIGN Inspire Conference - Karin Fong  Imaginary Forces

Fong led a discussion rooted in the idea of "heroes" - the heroes being ourselves and what our origin stories and special powers might be. The presentation started with a powerful clip of a live action trailer that Imaginary Forces created for the "God of War" Playstation video game series (watch trailer HERE). Fong also shared a commercial she directed for Herman Miller's "Get Real" series of authentic furniture from Eames, Nelson, Aalto and Noguchi (watch ad HERE).

Petrula Vrontikis

Creative Director, Vrontikis Design

RE-DESIGN Inspire Conference - Petrula Vrontikis  Vrontikis Design

Vrontikis, a teacher at Pasadena's Art Center, led an interesting discussion on the idea of the new generation of designers taking on characteristics of nomads, do-gooders, storytellers, peddlers and Swiss Army knives.  The most interesting bit, I felt, was the theme of nomad. Vrontikis explained that new designers are, like nomads, always adjusting and adapting to their work, technology and their geography. (For further reading on this topic, read "Secrets of Generation Flux," published in Fast Company magazine.)

Vrontikis also described how new designers are do-gooders - interested in participating in social and community work. Finally, Vrontikis stressed the importance of all designers being Swiss Army knives, or more specifically "transmedia" savvy. Gone are the days of specialists - designers are expected to design in multiple platforms.

The presentation ended with a video showcasing Vrontiki's students' work and a pretty spectacular video of treatments to the Swisscom logo by San Francisco-based Moving Brands, emphasizing the idea of transmedia. (watch video HERE)

Jason Kernevich

Dustin Summers

The Heads of State

RE-DESIGN Inspire Conference - Jason Kernevich and Dustin Summers  The Heads of State

I have to admit I was a little star-struck when I saw these Philly-based designers. I have been a fan of their work for a few years now. These guys make beautiful, whimsical posters and illustrations.

Kernevich and Summers shared with the group about their struggles being pigeon-holed by their clients and how they overcame this by implementing "Workweek Projects" into their quarterly schedules. They explained that these weeks are supposed to help them set aside time to engage in enriching design projects that help push them in new directions, which in turn help them land new work. This reminded me of something we do here at Carbon8 called "Figure It Out Fridays" - we dedicate first Friday afternoons every month to researching new design, UX, SEO and marketing practices via the net, books, magazines or classes. On the following Monday we report back to the group on our findings and discuss how they can benefit Carbon8 and our clients.

Kernevich and Summers also showed a variety of work that resulted from their Workweek Projects, including their Wondermade Marshmallows branding and an amazing/labor-intensive mural they created for Nike for a relay race held in Philadelphia.

Frank Ockenfels

Photographer, Artist

RE-DESIGN Inspire Conference - Frank Ockenfels

Ockenfels is an amazing photographer and artist. He is known for his photos and portraits of celebrities - David Bowie, Natalie Portman, Jack White, Bruce Springsteen to name a few - and his gorgeous journals that he's kept over the years. Ockenfels explained that initially the journals were intended to provide a way to vent about projects, clients and his own shortcomings. But eventually the journals became a focus of his work.

Ockenfels' journals contain contact sheets and photos from shoots, bits of paper, tape, fiber, torn pieces of books, writing and sketches. They are absolutely exquisite and I was completely entranced during his slideshow. After seeing these works of art, clients began to commission Ockenfels to create journal pages to be used in magazine spreads and feature stories.

Something that really stuck with me from this presentation was Ockenfels' observation that most clients' reluctance to agree to groundbreaking design concepts is due to the fact that "No one wants to be first. It's too scary."

Personally, Ockenfels was my favorite presenter thanks to his work and his down-to-earth personality. Plus, he knows David Bowie. ;-)

Jeff Castelaz

Co-Founder of the PabLove Foundation,

President of Elektra Records

The last presentation of the day was a somber one, as Castelaz bore his soul to us and told the story of his son who passed away from cancer, and the resulting formation of the PabLove Foundation, which provides funding and support for children with cancer.

As Castelaz spoke, it was clear that his intention was to remind us that we always need to provide a way to help others in need. As designers this can be done through pro-bono work, social media interaction, funding and just talking. That last part is especially potent, as Castelaz also shared with us some of his dying son's final words - "Tell someone."


Sadly I had to make this a half-day, thanks to an early evening flight I had to catch back to Denver. Here's what I saw.

Heather Parlato

Creative Director, Parlato Studios

I arrived at this presentation a little blurry-eyed, thanks to an uncomfortable bed the previous night, but thankfully Parlato's bubbly personality and enthusiasm helped me perk back up. Parlato offered suggestions for creative outlets for people who create for a living, including: co-op studios, cocktail mixers, cooking, gardening, playing an instrument, sewing, walking, taking cell-free vacations and on and on. In the end, Parlato wrapped everything up with a great underlying message: once you realize that you're good at a lot of things besides what you do for a living, you start to respect your creative process, and in turn you feel confident enough to insist that others respect it as well.

Charlie Hess

Design Director & Photo Editor, Chess Design

A true veteran in the field, Hess led a discussion on what it means to be a good art director and designer in general. Hess emphasized the importance of allowing for the unplanned/unknown, which a lot of the time winds up being the best solution for a client's needs. Hess also confessed that a lot of his daily inspiration comes from his Instagram photo feed.

Jennifer Sterling

Jennifer Sterling Design

RE-DESIGN Inspire Conference - Jennifer Sterling right Charlie Hess center

Sterling shared selections from her work portfolio, including a cover for Print Magazine and a controversial book design for "365." Sterling's work is dominated by the juxtaposition of typography and shapes, something I personally am a fan of. Sterling discussed her solution to problematic clients, which involved an online interactive interface called "Think Tank" that allows clients to manipulate layouts, images and sounds to help them understand how even one small change can affect the entire feel of a design.

As I drove off to LAX to grab my flight home, I felt extremely lucky to have been a part of the conference, especially considering the caliber of the people presenting. I left with a couple new friends, ideas and a refreshed understanding of why I love design so much. 

Erin Behrenhausen

Erin Behrenhausen is Art Director for Carbon8, and has over 15 years of experience as a designer in the Denver area. Erin is passionate about strong, clean design that creates an emotional impact, and believes that typography and balance are the foundation of good design.

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