Event Review: Design Leaders Conference

OFFSET interns Brake and Kristen had the opportunity to work at and attend the talks at the Design Leaders conference hosted by Design Enterprise Skillnet and the Institute of Designers of Ireland
After a full day of being immersed in the festivities they had this to say about the experience:


The Design Leaders conference offered me a behind the scenes look into some incredibly talented and established design agencies, where I was able to converse and listen to their stories of startup, success, failure and perseverance. As someone who lacks a background in design, I found the conference to be enlightening, informing and inspiring. Having a creative personality, there was much that I learned from the two speakers that I sat in on, that I could apply to the facets of my own creative lifestyle, despite the fact that it doesn’t center round design. That for me, shows how truly influential and exceptional these creative visionaries are.

I had the pleasure of sitting in on the talks of David Palmer from LOVE Creative and Katharine Pulford from Logitech. Both had very similar underlying themes to their talks. They touched on the extreme importance of diversity, perseverance and lack of boundaries. As David Palmer said, “don’t pigeon hole yourself, creativity has no boundaries; do everything.” I learned that these members of the design community are as successful as they are because they don’t limit or restrict themselves. David stressed that we all have to believe in ourselves and not give in to fear or lose our nerve, and that’s when we’ll all make the best creative work of our lives, because we’ll be willing to explore and branch out and strive for newer, better and more innovative ideas and opportunities. That is an important standard that all creatives need to strive for in their lives.

At Logitech, Katharine is all about being in front of the innovation before it starts, driving it forward through her and her teams ideas that encompass energy, fun and love, something that David’s team also empowers. LOVE believes in creating something that people will love, not just like, hence their name. These fundamental ideals and principles were inspiring, and are a basis that all creatives must be reminded of from time to time, for David and Katharine stressed on the importance of remembering that they are creatives, above all else, and that they do not come from money-making agencies, but from creative agencies, that are design-led. They both continue to strive forward in their respective roles, with their companies, because they focus on the importance of that creation and its importance to the people of their world.

Overall, the experience I had working and attending the Design Leaders Conference was motivational and influential on my own creative spirit. Watching and conversing with the attendees and speakers of the conference told me that they were also impressed upon in a positive and enlightened manner by all that the speakers had to say. It was well crafted, well organized and well done by Skillnet and I am very grateful that I was able to attend, for now I feel greatly, creatively inspired, and it’s extraordinary. Well done, Skillnet.



I attended the Client Panel and a lecture by Blair Enns of Win Without Pitching. The Client Panel consisted of Linda Sheehan, the Senior Brand Manager at Glanbia, Judith Byrne, Dulux’s Head of Marketing for Ireland, Amy Forde, the Head of Marketing for Iconic Offices, Alina Uí Chaollaí, the Marketing Director for Largo Foods, and Aidan Power, the Director of Customer Brand and Marketing at KBC. This panel gave the clients’ perspective of their relationship with the agencies and discussed how they used creative agencies, and how they helped the business. They also talked about the signs of good and bad relationships with the creative agencies. Aidan said the best relationships were when the agency checks in every two to three months. They were questioned on whether or not agencies should bill by hour or by project and the general consensus was that either is fine, as long as the agency is transparent about it. The Client Panel was quite enlightening and it was very interesting to see the relationships with the creative agencies from the perspective of the clients. The clients, who came from various different professional backgrounds, brought a variety of perspectives to the table and it made for a very fascinating discussion.

Blair’s lecture  was about how he works to de-program people of their old behaviors. He said that it’s best to ignore external conditions when it comes to their business and not worry if this is the right time to enter the market; they make the right decisions for their business to succeed now. The rest of the businesses, by contrast, return to the old programmed behaviors upon facing resistance.

Blair talked of five rules that he has to attain success, which he framed as the requirements of “Blairtopia.” The first was that there is no exit. By this he means that you can’t sell your business and you can’t ever retire. Blair thinks that you should spend 90% of your time doing something you love. You prepare for the long hall when your peers have a time limit on their business. The second rule is that you can only have ten clients at any one time. This will force you to be selective and you will only choose the very best partnerships and not waste your time on deals that aren’t beneficial. The third rule is that unpaid written proposals can only be one page long. Blair stated that this saves time for everyone involved and there is no reason why you can’t get everything you need for a proposal into one page. The fourth rule is that you need to untether from time. You can’t sell hours or days, and there should be no relying on timesheets. Blair noted that a business is able to have a culture of efficiency or a culture of innovation, but not both. The two concepts are opposed to one another. Creativity requires the ability to relax. The fifth rule is to say what you think at the moment you think it. Blair promoted an idea he called “kind ruthlessness.” He believes that if you get your concerns out immediately, it prevents it from being a problem later down the line.

Blair Enns’ lecture was intense and eye opening. He was extremely committed to his line of work and had given a great deal of thought as to how to achieve success in it. He was an engaging speaker who clearly loved his job and I found his talk very enjoyable, as well as the overall conference. It had an excellent list of speakers and the programming was engaging. The conference had a fun atmosphere and everyone seemed to be having a good time. I would definitely recommend going to this event in the future.