Top Takeaways from TYPOSF — Focus

By: Judy Chu

From April 30 through May 1, 2015, TYPO International Design Talks hosted their fourth annual design conference, titled “Focus.” For those of you unfamiliar with this event, TYPO is a two-day conference compiled of design lectures by industry veterans and superstars. It’s like a TED conference devoted to design. Here are my top takeaways from this year’s TYPO SF — Focus:

Learn to be a Marketer

Designers have the skill sets to solve problems and create innovative solutions, but if they don’t know how to market their product, no one will notice it. This is extremely important for entrepreneurs that want to gain credibility and influence. To get started you should find mentors and seek meaningful conversations with those who share a common interest and have a personal narrative to tell the world.

Glance is the New Currency

Our behavior of reading and storing information has become an automated process where we unconsciously extract visual information as we read. In the past, click traffic was the metric used for determining how well content circulated the web. More clicks meant more visitors and that lead to more income. Due to the rapid evolution of technology, people no longer have the time to “click” on links but instead, preferred to have access to information upfront. As a result, “glances” or “impressions” have become the new currency, according to Nadine Chahine, Arabic Specialist at Monotype.

“Have the guts to face the client and say you don’t know” Daniel Gjøde, Founding Partner at Stupid Studios

This was one of my favorite quotes from the conference and one I’ve always struggled with when sitting through client calls. Let’s face it; we don’t always know the answer. Nevertheless, it’s not something a client wants to hear. Though we may not have an immediate answer, these are the instances that offer problem solvers the benefit of exploration. One thing I’ve learned from school was if you already know the answer to a problem at the beginning, chances are your client and everyone else does too. Exploration grants problem solvers the ability to push beyond typical solutions in order to come up with fresh and creative solutions unique to your clients.

Being Weird is Good

Normal people are boring. In fact, there’s no such thing as “normal” because we’re different and special in our own way. At Eastwick, we’ve established a monthly employee recognition program named the Quirky Awards, for those who embrace our brand attributes: quirky, obsessed, curious, pragmatic, and driven. This award encourages our team to be evangelists of the brand and embrace the qualities that make them unique.

Volunteer Yourself More Work at Work

Pro bono logo design by Mobile Design Agency in historical Dashilan district, Bejing, China.

Tash Wong, Chief Coaster Officer of Coastermatic, reminded us that everyone has the same amount of time in a day and if we cared enough about something, we’d make time for it. Kill two birds with one stone by volunteering more at work. You’ll complete more client work as well as master new skill sets, especially in an agency setting where the work is so fast-paced.

Make Something New Each Day

Illustration by Erik Marinovich.

Incorporating a new habit into your daily routine is hard enough, so making something new each day can be pretty daunting. Not only that, but the thought of potentially running out of ideas makes the overall task even scarier. Creating something new on a daily basis challenges the brain to not get stuck on a single idea and promotes experimentation. Experimentation encourages a person to put on different lenses and it often leads to exciting discoveries that create fanatical clients.

Success Means Taking Time Off

According to Gjøde, Stupid Studios enforces a 37-hour workweek and encourages their designers to work on personal projects. This kind of work culture allows employees to work on what they’re passionate about as well as continuing to build their personal brand – all during work hours. Fresh and new ideas can develop for clients after given time to work on personal projects.

Having time to work on personal projects is good, but paid time off is even better. Eastwick recently announced a sabbatical program to offer those who’ve worked at the agency for 4+ years an additional 4-weeks paid-time-off. This gives loyal employees an opportunity to take a breather and return refreshed and motivated, setting them up for success.

Final Thoughts

Walking away from the event, I’ve gained a better understanding of where my design focus lies and have become fascinated with agency work more than ever. Rather than designing for a single internal client, agency life allows me to design for multiple clients in different industries giving me the opportunity to broaden skill sets, refine my design process, and learn from different people.

Daniel Gjøde, Founding Partner at Stupid Studios.

Did you attend TYPO this year? If so, what are your takeaways? Share them in the comments below.

Click here to watch released recordings of this year’s design talks.

Additional reads

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey
  2. Thoughtless Acts” by Jane Fulton Suri & IDEO (Ellen Lupton Talk)
  3. Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design” by Chip Kidd


  1. Ada’s List — Community dedicated to women who work in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
  2. Tech LadyMafia — Community supporting women who work in and around the Internet.
  3. Orbital Boot Camp — An intensive 12-week course focused on helping you launch your project to the public
  4. Makeshift Society — Creative community in San Francisco and Brooklyn that help small businesses.