DesignThinkers expands its horizons beyond portfolios to focus on ideas and dialogue

As someone who has been part of the DesignThinkers conferences from the very beginning – including participating in the planning when I was president of RGD Ontario – it has been interesting to witness the evolution of this event, especially in the last few years.

In the early years, many designers, particularly the younger ones, wanted to see and be inspired by famous graphic designers and their portfolios. So in the early days, the conference had a strong ‘portfolio show’ aspect to it, with notable designers showcasing their most compelling projects and telling interesting anecdotes about them.

The organizers of the conference over the years have worked hard to take things beyond this focus on the craft of design and toward thinking that is at its heart, so as to establish and drive dialogue on the broader areas of communication and branding.

This year, the 11th for DesignThinkers, clearly illustrated to me just how far we have come in that respect, with the proof being the diverse array of speakers and topics covered.

DesignThinkers 2010 showed that this conference has clearly arrived as a forum, one that goes beyond just looking at other designer’s work, in order to serve as an important crossroads for design ideas, dialogue and insights. I used to typically hear delegates remark: “Wow, did you see that guy’s work?” Today I hear comments like: “Those are amazing new ideas that could actually change the way I do business.”

That’s an evolution that represents significant progress. In the last few short years – and this year in particular – we have sounded a new note in terms of presenting a diverse array of industry-leading thinkers and ideas. It’s not that we ignored this element in earlier years but, to a large degree, it was more a matter of many people not feeling they could fully understand how a broader focus was of benefit to their growth and business.

But the profession has indeed become more sophisticated over the last decade and we are now ready to fully embrace this broader thinking. We have come of age, if you will, and today the conference simply has to be seen as a fixture on the North American circuit of design conferences.

DesignThinkers is certainly now a must-go event for professionals in our field. Each year we are now seeing a couple of speakers who are onto something really new and sharing their experiences and ideas with the rest of us.

Interestingly enough, not only is the event driving a new level of buzz within the industry, it’s also creating new levels of excitement among the speakers themselves. We are hearing more and more from them about how DesignThinkers has become an important conference that continues to attract interest among the industry’s top names.

DesignThinkers is now broader and richer than ever in terms of its approach and content and that bodes extremely well for the future. As the industry continues to grow and evolve, there is no doubt that the conference will continue to build on its reputation and brand as a highlight of the design conference calendar.


JOHN FURNEAUX R.G.D. is Managing Director for Toronto-based Identica Branding and Design, and Past-President of RGD Ontario.

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About rgddesignthinkers

The Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario (RGD) is the professional body for graphic designers in Ontario. RGD grants graphic designers who qualify the right to use the designations Registered Graphic Designer and R.G.D., a quality signal of standards of professional practice. RGD has approximately 2800 members. Attracting over 1,000 participants and a full line-up of fascinating speakers, DesignThinkers is Canada’s largest, most important graphic design event. It’s an occasion to listen, learn and interact with peers from across the country.
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