Inside 99U Conference 2016

May 11, 2016 · 5 min read

Last year (5th-6th May 2016) I had the pleasure of volunteering at the 99U Conference by Behance and Adobe. I wrote a blog post about the event on my company blog, and I’d like to publish it as well. Here goes!

99U Conference 2016 event was hosted in New York and was devoted to exploring the mechanics of making ideas happen. The packed schedule included several talks, studio sessions and master classes. The atmosphere was incredible, filled with ideas and inspiration.

Day 1 — Thursday May 5th, 2016

The schedule for the first day of the conference was quite impressive. A few studio sessions were held in various locations through New York, while on the main stage we saw some very inspiring speakers — from Jason Fried (founder of Basecamp) to Tristan Walker (founder of Walker & Co).


Ryan Carson, CEO & Co-Founder @ Treehouse
Kristy Tillman, Design Director @ Society of Grownups
Jason Fried, Founder @ Basecamp
William Deresiewicz, Author of Excellent Sheep
Tristan Walker, Founder @ Walker & Co

Studio Sessions by Shinola, Verdes, Google’s 30 Weeks, SYPartners, Firstborn, Spotify, MoMA, Shake Shack, Frederator and The New Yorker.

Master Classes by Jason Fried, Ryan Holiday, Scott Belsky, Maria Konnikova and Michael Bungay Stanier.

A lot of creative ideas and suggestions came up from the first speakers’ session. I found particularly interesting the way speakers talked about productivity, collaboration on the workplace and idea generation/creativity.

Ryan Carson’s talk was very motivating — he made everyone reflect on what they wanted to do and what kind of impact they wanted to have on their working life. One of his points in particular was very strong: “There is not a peak in your life, there is just now”, he said, urging us to live in the present and being deliberate in our actions. His talk made me think a lot about the way we are used to face our working days, often putting on hold tasks and ideas — and I was motivated to act and be more conscious of my process.

Jason Fried made some great points as well, giving useful tips on user experience, creativity and productivity. Instead of following always the same path, Fried urged creatives to find different ways to do things, in order to have a more effective process — and he suggested to look at our work from other perspectives.

After the first day of the conference my brain was full of ideas and inspiration — and I felt very privileged because during my volunteering shift I was able to catch up a few of the talks on the big TV screen in Alice Tully Hall, while getting to know amazing volunteers and interacting with the attendees. One of the cool things of a design conference is that the audience is very interesting and diverse, and things are as vibrant on the stage as they are off the stage.

Day 2 — Friday May 6th, 2016

On the second day of the conference people were more relaxed, because they had already seen how it worked, and they were able to navigate the spaces with more confidence. The speakers’ shortlist was, once again, impressive — I was very excited to hear Jennifer Daniel (Graphics Editor at The New York Times) and Cap Watkins (VP of Design at Buzzfeed) speak.


Dan Mall, Director @ SuperFriendly
Effie Brown, Executive Producer @ Project Greenlight / Duly Noted
Jennifer Daniel, Graphics Editor @ The New York Times
Cap Watkins, VP of Design @ Buzzfeed
Yuko Shimizu, Illustrator
Tobias Frere-Jones, Founder @ Frere-Jones Type

Offsites by Claire Lew, Jeff Sheldon, Ayse Birsel, Chris Guillebeau and Brennan Dunn.

Jennifer Daniel’s talk was incredibly funny and real: she talked about how having twins and being a mother often relates to being a freelance designer. Her points were very strong, such as how social media tend to show a “perfect” version of people, when reality is quite different. I loved how she finished her talk: “What are we afraid of? Are we afraid that people will think that we can’t do it all? Well, we can’t do it all”.

And then Cap Watkins arrived on stage, with a fun presentation full of GIFs and a few useful tips for collaboration in the workplace and how rules should be broken. He said that in his opinion designers should code and then proposed a scale of importance to be used in order to collaborate better with colleagues when making design decisions.

The illustrator Yuko Shimizu shared a few concepts that I really appreciated, such as having a clear picture of what kind of artist/creative one wants to be, choosing between the “pop star artist” (with Justin Bieber as an example) and the “original artist” (Bjork was the example). The pop star artist will have more jobs and more money, but at the same time less freedom and respect; the original artist on the other side is going to have less money and suitable jobs, but more creative freedom and respect.

Shimizu underlined the importance of saying no; she also said how learning from other artists is essential, but not ripping your peers off is even more so. Coming from a freelance path, I completely agree with her points and was very inspired by her creative confidence.

And then the second day of the conference was over and left us with a mix of excitement, inspiration and a bit of sadness because the conference had ended. After the final announcements attendees and volunteers started leaving the location, knowing that it was not completely over, because the afterparty at MoMA was still waiting for us.

Participating at the 99U Conference, foremost as a designer and then as a volunteer, has been interesting and truly inspiring — one experience that I would recommend to any creative out there and that will surely reflect on the way I work and create. So many great suggestions and inspiring tips, and a lot to reflect on in the next few weeks — as Jason Fried said, I’m going to deconstruct my process and then go from there.

Thank you Behance and Adobe for this wonderful opportunity!

See my Storify here.


Written by


Digital Designer based in Bristol. #Startups, #Design, #Typography, #Arts, #Photography, #Literature, #Films, #Writing lover.

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