Inside the Minds of Brilliant Designers General Assembly Event

“After all the statistics and calculations are formulated, the one element that breathes life into marketing is good design” ~ Steve Jobs

On January 11, 2017, I attended the Inside the Minds of Brilliant Designers event at General Assembly. This event featured three speakers who spoke about design. The first speaker was a man named Seth Greenfield who is the Co-founder and CEO of Imperson. Then the second speaker was a woman named Davina Wolter who is a Senior Manager of Design at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Then the third and final speaker was a man named Patrick Fredrickson who is the Project Director of Altitude Design Office.


My event experience:

Sadly, I missed the first speaker because I arrived late after my work shift. I feel like it would have been so much better getting there on time since it started right on time! Before the event begun, I had classes at LMU then had work after classes, and the event started right after work. I rushed myself to Santa Monica to get to this event which was worth it. I then parked in a parking structure across the street from General Assembly and walked over.

Upon walking in, 10 minutes late, I checked in and saw the first speaker for a second then ran to the bathroom for a minute. Although by the time I came out, he was done speaking. There were barely any seats to sit in the audience so a few people stood. Luckily, I saw an opportunity and asked to sit in a seat. I sat in the last row and begun taking notes on my iPhone. Since I missed the first speaker, I saw the second speaker speak for about 10 minutes, then after her, the last speaker spoke for about 10 minutes too.

Once all the speakers were done speaking there was a Q&A. This Q&A lasted longer than the combined time of all the speakers’ presentations. It was about 40 minutes but I learned a lot! Everyone got their questions answered and it was interesting listening to the responses from the speakers. After the event, there was networking but I only stayed for a couple minutes then left to my car.


What I learned from the event:

Every time I go events I take tons of notes. Below I have listed information that the speakers spoke and responses to the Q&A at this event:

Davina Wolter:

Davina talked about how she has to feed herself with stuff that inspires her, and how people should seek out the beauty in the mundane. She believes that the busiest people she knows get it done and that it is okay to be absurd and over the top. She thinks people should find a blog buddy and have fun. Her design project also spoke about a gallery she created totally based on tattoo art.


Patrick Fredrickson:

Patrick mainly talked about a design project he worked on in Phoenix, Arizona called the Arizona Art Center. He believes the team is very important for designers, especially since they could get hired directly from an owner. He’s a big fan of looking at things from a racy perspective and brand teams. While he was working on the design of the Arizona Art Center he talked about how they had fun with the pattern, and one of the best things about being a designer in LA is that LA is the best place to be. In LA he was able to pass certain designs through that he couldn’t in Phoenix. Some advice he gave about when a city won’t pass something is that you can do either: submit and fight with city or rewrite the code. For the Arizona Art Center, him and his team decided to rewrite the code. They really had to design strategy and had a detailed signed plan for the project itself. Patrick also listened to what his son said every day because there were things his son said that made him think.


Q and A:
1) Before you get onto the computer, what do you advise to do before it?

Davina: Davine thinks you should read the objects, hold them, turn them around, and see how they are best presented. She thinks this method applies to any design.

Patrick: Patrick goes on the computer to do research, not to design. He does research so he can see what he can wrap his head around.

Seth: Seth talked about him and how his team goes through similar processes, depending on what he is carrying out. He watched countless hours of movies that he didn’t want to so he could understand what was going on. He talked about how there is so much there when you listen to customers and the most important thing is to listen to what they are saying.


2) How is it like listening?

Davina: Davine believes that working with scientists is a very different experience than working with art historians, it is not only listening to what they are saying about the project or their goals for the project. Part of it is identifying their stakeholders.

Patrick: Said how he saw something about designers saying there is no need for a cover letter. Although, back when he used to hire people, he said the cover letter was the key thing to understand what designer the applicant was cause not every designer is good with inner culture skills. Patrick needs to understand what type of designers they are. He believes designers should find the right set of skills that determine the inner personal skills they need to develop. He believes you should just listen and never say you are wrong, complain, or say that is the wrong thing when designing. He is key for listening to the clients and not blaming them for the choices they make.

Seth: “I’m a problem solver, I solve every problem I see, going into a meeting and with people I work with.” Seth believes when you go into problem-solving mode right away then you don’t listen to what others say; so listen to what they say then problem solve.


3) A girl read an article about how designers should have a seat at the table, so should artists ask to be seen at the table?

Davina: She believes it is important to make your voice heard when you have an idea say it, articulate it, and sketch it. It was important for her to stand up, actually move her body, and start sketching on the whiteboard.


4) How do we fight for creatives to be at the table?

Patrick: He said, “We don’t deserve to be at the table, design continues to fail, design is always catching up.” Patrick doesn’t think designers need to be at the table yet since they don’t prove it, there are actual metrics on if something succeeds. He believes that if designers are not figuring out how to value the work they are doing, that designers still have a lot of work to do.

Seth: “Talking about how to design AI conversations, they decided to give me CCO chief content operative.” Customers only wanted to speak to him since they didn’t care what the product was but how it worked. He knew the design, so he was pushed to the front person since customers wanted to see the product person since the product had to do with design.


5) How do you balance meeting a business objective whether it’s to get more people to come through an exhibit with ticket sales, restaurants, or theaters connecting design with the effectiveness?

Davina: She believes if designers can speak about the business objective then designers can get a seat at the table. Fights between what looks good and what the objective is can happen.

Patricks:  “In school when designers do projects we are failing them since we are not teaching them design with the objective, try to never say believe.”  Patrick cares that you meet the objective and meeting the objective doesn’t have to look perfect. “If you want a seat at the table you have to get over yourself, it has to be effective.” He believes we should take analytics and put it into design problems.


6) Do you check inspirations of similar or past designs, and how much do you take inspirations?

Davina: “Not only reading brief and understanding objectives.” She feels there is a reason the two of you guys are flying back and forth about designs if they aren’t coming back the way you want them, then there is a communication problem. “You have to take the temperature of your client, I spent 7 years avoiding the color purple.”


7) Do you find younger generations of people having more money and jobs being more focused on aesthetics? (like the ice cream museum I don’t even know why it is there but there are like 5,000 people taking pictures there)

Davina: “Know where the sweets parts are and go to social media and be thoughtful, where we set up opportunities to indulge in aesthetics and enjoy them.”

Patrick: “Beyond being a chair, a chair that tells a story which gives people a better impression, it is all experience, design has gotten out of the way; there is never a user; there are always multiple people experiencing something on different levels from different perspectives.” He and his team want to elevate the retail experience with design. He went on and on and on finding all the users. He believes that not everyone is going to a museum because they care, some people go because they are with the school or got dragged by a wife, etc, these users are very broad for different reasons.

Seth: “Knowing your audience; you better know what they like; ask them and don’t push back on it; deliver the message in the way you want.”


8) Defining what the customer wants is really difficult at times cause sometimes not even the customers know what they want, what helps you discover what they want?

Seth: “There are two customers, customers paying you and then their customers, you have to satisfy both. Listen to needs, there is a good chance customer will know their audience more than you do. It is important to listen to what they say. They have a test audience and try different things, you could even show sketch-ups, mocks up without giving the opinion of which you like.”

Davina: “We do a lot of evaluation on their audiences, they send out tons of survey monkeys, even do evaluation inside museums; evaluate the problem, coming from a designer or product or stakeholder side it is not always apparent. You need to get out there and dig deeper, don’t get scared of prototyping if it doesn’t work, try it again.”


9) What if there is more than one solution and we already tested? What if there are more than one designers with different ideas? How do you stay your ground, do you compromise?

Patrick: “There is always more than one solution, that’s why there are so many design firms. We will get the correct solution. It is key for everyone in the team to understand who the decision maker is. Not everything is a democracy. Every designer will have a different interpretation, you can’t have an ego. You are always doing it for somebody else so it doesn’t matter what you believe. Your ego has to disappear, you are servicing someone else. Once I let go of my ego it got better.”


10) If you had a product, went to the audience, and found out the product should evolve in a surprising way?

Seth: “Our first thing we created was a virtual Jennifer Lawerance, we had no idea what people would think speaking to the chatbot. Then people would keep asking if the chatbot was real. So then the chatbot said ‘yes’, then people got mad. So then we had the chatbot say what people wanted, so the chatbot said it was virtual thing created by fans for fans. The day we put that in, it got the same responses from about a thousand users which were, ‘I love you’.”

Patrick: “What we do try to do is try to look at what is out there. One of best things about being a designer is that it is your job to be aware of everything that is going on. We are trying to find what someone else created and evolve it into something else.”

Divana: “When you evolve as a designer, you come with something that is uniquely yours then work with clients, and your spark can be changed, morphed, etc.”


11) Seth how do you see the future of AI and how do you think brains should adapt to this new reality?

Seth: “AI is a very broad term. One time google maps was considered AI, I see this world around us having interaction with some kind of AI. Some form of retail instead of having a person, having a virtual agent robot. I see all of this popping around enhancing our lives, and see AI taking tons of jobs away, down the word 100 years lots of jobs. Brains have a unique opportunity since they can actually interact. Building to reconnect again, with my AI is having people listen to individuals and cater to that individual.”

Patrick: “Intel keynote on AI was absolutely amazing, live stream from CES about AI was absolutely amazing, AI machine learning and big data is practically same. Be aware of AI development systems, tons of great talks out there on this.”



Overall, this event was worth attending! I learned about how designers see things from different perspectives and a little bit about AI. It was interesting listening to both the speakers talk about design and the live Q&A at the end. The event started right on time, so it sucks that I was a little late since I came after work.



2 thoughts on “Inside the Minds of Brilliant Designers General Assembly Event”

  1. Hi there are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own. Do you need any html coding knowledge to make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

    1. Hi Aaron! I am using and you do not need any HTML coding knowledge. Although, WordPress can be a little tricky in order to get the site to look exactly as you want. I had to rebuild this site 3 times to get what I liked; since it is not as easy as some other website builders to design your website.

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