Industry News

Volume 1, March 23, 2021 – HOW Design TODAY

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“To say that something is designed means it has intentions that go beyond its function. Otherwise it’s just planning.” — Ayse Birsel, Designer, Author, Co-founder, and 2016 HOW Design Live speaker

Stephen Gates EXIST LOUDLY

Our creative community needs leadership now more than ever.

Our quest for real leadership started long before this pandemic, but COVID-19 has created some new problems. It has mainly and painfully exposed your company’s sins and failing leadership models that have been lurking under the surface for a long time—such as when leaders are really just managers who care more about deadlines than people; when leaders lack trust, which used to short circuit creativity but now has your calendar filled with meetings as they try to figure out if you’re really working or not; and so much more.

Leadership should come from anywhere, not just from the people who sit atop an org chart. But so many of us have felt powerless or unsure of where to start on the path. Let’s look at how we can break down some of the barriers that may be keeping you from having an impact and stepping up to make a difference.

To understand the root of the problem, we need to go back in time to company cultures where everyone was too intimidated to talk to their boss or the corporate executives. This mindset came out of the industrialized processes that prioritized an assembly line–style hierarchy in which the chain of command was everything. As the world evolved, this mindset did as well, but it only got more entrenched into new leaders. They found ways of creating executive floors, private elevators, executive entrances and cafeterias that insulated them and protected the hierarchy by keeping them away from the rest of the company.

As Linda Quarles, Director of Strategy + Organizational Design at frog, described in her HOW Design Live Virtual 2020 session, “With social media providing new levels of transparency and changing expectations of creative and tech talent, companies need to start competing not just on their customer experience, but on their employee experience as well.”

What does that look like?

It goes beyond flexible work arrangements and creative office environments (though they’re certainly part of it). Think meaningful work. Companies that stand for something. Inclusive cultures. Authentic leadership. Belonging.

Quarles’ session, “The Closing Culture Gap Between Creative and Corporate Culture,” explored this setting—and shows how designers can work alongside leadership to thrive within it.

What did attendees take-away from this session? Here are a few comments:

Understand your corporate management like you would a new client. Speak their language – what keeps them up at night?

The expectations slides clearly illustrate some of the challenges and opportunities me and my team are facing right now. It really hit home. Excellent session!

Knowing how your company makes money and what the business is measured on! Have heard the ‘speak their language’ line before but this was the first time I’ve heard the very actionable advice of sitting on earnings calls, reading annual reports, etc.

Excellent. Great info and advice about corporate politics.

We’re opening up the HOW Design Live video vault to share some of our most viewed and top-rated sessions from the past 5 years. These videos have only been shared with registered attendees in the past, so we hope you enjoy this peek into some previous HOW Design Live sessions! Have a certain session request, let us know!


We love showing our support of the HOW community and are looking forward to sharing some of the awesome projects this diverse community of incredibly talented creatives puts out every day. This week we’re sharing a branding and web design of Path Unbound, a design portfolio and self-employment business education company. Thanks to Stella Guan of Path Unbound for the submission!


There are plenty of trail-blazing women in the design world. This article celebrates just some of the glass-ceiling-shattering trailblazers who inspire us to be better designers. Their work crosses disciplines and breaks boundaries which makes them important role models to designers of all genders around the world, which is why you’ll see some familiar names that have hit the HOW Design Live stage!

In each issue of HOW Design TODAY we’ll be featuring a design project from our community.

Submit your work here to be included in an upcoming issue

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