Design Week Portland Recap


This was my first Design Week. I come from a background in academia and research and while attending an event like Design Week Portland would have made a lot of sense for me, it never made much sense for my employer. Markon is clearly the exception to this. The agency (us) were a natural fit for the various workshops, panel discussions, open houses and other events that occurred throughout the city last week. There was something for each of us and all of us together. On Monday, I ventured off on my own for a six hour workshop on data storytelling at the University of Oregon’s Portland campus. On Wednesday morning,  Kristine and Jenna went to Portland State University, for a calligraphy workshop to talk creative uses of font and practice their skills with a pen. On Tuesday and Wednesday we all went to workshops on the creative process and the business of working at creative agencies, and on Thursday we all ventured from agency office to agency office as part of a sort of Design Week Portland crawl (complete with awesome sketching pencils and a glass-crafting workshop!)



Stepping out of the spaces within which you normally work and entering other spaces to learn and share with other creatives is exciting, reinvigorating and incredibly thought provoking.

data storytelling

On Monday - as I mentioned - I went to the University of Oregon’s campus in Portland for a workshop on data storytelling. For me, at its core, this was was an opportunity to learn about how to more effectively tell stories for and about our clients. I listened to representatives from Arizona State University, Oregon Public Broadcasting, the Oregonian, the Seattle Times and even a keynote from the New York Times (imagine me swooning right now!).

My takeaways:

The future of content is one in which narratives and interactive content work in tandem, eliminating any sense of break in the reading experience.

Animated infographics, use of maps, and other visuals to tell stories based on hard data gathered from the environment, events and other activities, are the future of storytelling (though, copywriting and narrative will always have a seat at the table).

Interactive content done well can create a participatory experience for the user, making the narrative an almost tangible experience.

As a copywriter/content strategist at an event largely led by journalists (though plenty of other creatives were represented over the six hours), much of what was discussed in terms of design resonated with me. Content creators need to design for mobile first, they need to scale content features to work with every device and provide downloadable content in lightweight, universal formats. While some of this was completely obvious to me, there is much power in hearing it from industry peers and seeing examples of how their expertise has designed world class work. 

ON Facilitating the Creative process

As a creative agency we were naturally curious about the processes others might be using to manage the kind of work we all day. As a team we attended a few workshops on topics such as develop scopes of work for creative projects; developing creative briefs and re-briefs; and project management for design. 

our takeaway:

We are in great company! At the end of the day no agency can do things quite the same. If we all had the same processes and style then what would differentiate us? Our designers? No one would know that if the onboarding phase was the same agency-to-agency. Will we continue to refine? Yes. Always forward. 

the open house

Perhaps the most rewarding of all the experiences (aside from sitting 3 yards away from the Graphics Director of the New York Times) was visiting other agencies in their own spaces. This provided us with great opportunities to meet our counterparts at other design houses, as well as other creatives floating from agency to agency in a sort of Portland design crawl. 

the final takeaway:

We are part of an amazing design community, full of dreamers and builders who are innovating for brands across the globe. And, it seems, no matter how big the project, how big the brand, these projects share many commonalities, and we're meeting those commonalities in much the same way as any other creative would. In short, we're going to keep on doing things the way we do. 

Here are some random photos we collected during Design Week Portland. Head over to our Instagram for more!