Mamio’s Insight

This year, the Design Thinkers Vancouver Conference 2019 curated an impressive and diverse lineup of talented speakers across a range of industries, each bringing a unique perspective from their field.

We have curated our key takeaways from the conference to share with you because we believe sharing is caring.

Austin Kleon is a New York Times bestselling author of three books: Steal Like an Artist; Show Your Work!; and Newspaper Blackout. His talk was titled “Creative is Not A Noun” in which he discussed creative processes and practices in a contemporary, ever-evolving world. These are my key findings from Kleon’s talk.


  1. Be Scenius, not Genius

Kleon started his talk with the inspiring and disarming idea that “you don’t have to be a Genius to be creative.” (Phew!)  The core idea is that being a Genius is based on an egosystem, whereas being a Scenius (intelligence of a whole operation or group of people) relates to an eco-system. A Scenius mentality retools your mind by drawing creativity from those around you. In other words, it promotes collaboration. This concept connects to a well-known saying in the design world: “Collaboration is the key to success.”


  1. Steal like an artist

Kleon also touched upon the importance of ‘stealing like an artist’ because nothing we do is original. As the saying goes, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Keon expanded on this idea by discussing ‘good theft’ vs ‘bad theft’ in the creative process.


  1. In the digital age, don’t forget to use your digits

Another key idea of Kleon’s was to “use your hands”.  As the digital age has evolved with the growth of digital tools and software, it is easy to forget to use our hands in the creative process. Believe it or not, doing things the analog way may still be more efficient. As a senior designer, I am constantly encouraging our designers to quickly sketch out ideas on paper rather than burn through unnecessary hours on pixel pushing a digital sketch.

 “In the digital age, don’t forget to use your digits” – Lynda Barry


  1. Process vs Product

The old mentality of “the artwork should speak for itself” is no longer relevant. Today, campaign design is all about storytelling. In order to convey a story successfully, it’s important to show the client your process and take them behind the scenes. Clients are more than an audience member who simply sees a finished product. They are important contributors to the process. As designers, we recognize that clients know their products and services better than anyone else could. Getting them on board advances a collaborative relationship where they can share their knowledge, thus leading to more authentic and impactful storytelling. Remember that old saying about collaboration I mentioned earlier?

Collaboration is the key to success.


  1. Creativity is Subtraction

When starting any creative campaign, we like to take the client through a brand pyramid building exercise. This helps to identify their core values, needs, wants and market positioning goals. It’s common for a business to try and ‘boil the ocean’ by wanting to promote every aspect of their business, rather than focusing on one or two key factors that lift them above the rest. This boils down to the idea that creativity is subtraction. Constraints give us the ability to determine what should be left out. It’s important to properly distill a message that will connect with your target audience.


As a digital marketing agency, Kleon’s keynote talk was a welcomed perspective which gave us a lot of food for thought. Do you agree with his key points?

As always, there were too many learnings from the whole conference to fit into one blog post. Stay tuned for more key takeaways from the Design Thinkers 2019 conference in following weeks.