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The Secret Handshake 2015 Recap

The Secret Handshake recently wrapped up their 2015 conference at the Art Directors Club in Manhattan, New York and Bright Bright Great was there to help.

The Secret Handshake is an online advice tool for students and young designers who are looking for no-nonsense advice from creative professionals.

Art Directors Club

At the Art Directors Club we got to meet most, if not all, of the 200 attendees, the amazing volunteers who helped the event run smoothly and each of the inspiring speakers.

We had a great time and we want to thank The Secret Handshake team for another great event and everyone we talked to for making our trip to New York so fun!

TSH Agenda

TSH Crowd

Kayla Kern TSH

Ping Zhu TSH

Jen Mussari TSH

Sophia and Sharlene TSH

Shawna X TSH

Crowd TSH

Panel TSH

TSH Hugz

Posted By
Jason Schwartz

Bright Bright Great Joins The Secret Handshake in NYC

The BBG team recently went to New York City to help to run The Secret Handshake conference at the Art Directors Club in Manhattan.

It always recharges our batteries to help with these events and to get a little inspiration from the speakers, young professionals and students we meet.

jen and nick on plane

We had a great time meeting the 200 different attendees, some of whom came from as far away as Pakistan, and hearing each of the speakers’ perspectives on their work and experience.

A special thanks to Sharlene King (Senior Designer, Morningstar) who MC’d the event and to each and every one of the speakers who contributed to an amazing experience:


Jason at JFK

Alex and Vince

Nick in AirBnB

NYC Skyline


Posted By
Jason Schwartz

BBG Prepares for The Secret Handshake Conference in NYC

The Secret Handshake conference makes its way to Art Directors Club in Manhattan, NY next week (Oct 2 & 3) and the team here at BBG is anxiously awaiting our trip out to the East Coast to once again meet with talented industry professionals and aspiring designers from all over the country.

Tickets are still available for professionals and students and includes a free three month premium membership on Skillshare among a ton of other perks.

Secret Handshake NYC Poster

The Secret Handshake has previously put on hugely successful conferences in San Francisco at Adobe and in Chicago at Morningstar and we know this year’s event in New York will be no different. The stellar line up of speakers includes designers, illustrators, animators, entrepreneurs, and HR professionals:

BBG is incredibly proud to be involved with such a valuable event for young and aspiring professionals across the creative community. We can’t wait to see those of you who are attending in New York and share insight, inspiration, and ideas.

Hike Conference San Francisco 2014 | Photo by Mona T. Brooks GitHub with Daniel Burka Hike Conference San Francisco 2014 | Photo by Mona T. Brooks

Posted By
Jason Schwartz

Apprenticeship Recap – Dayan D’Aniello

Our intern, Dayan, recently returned to school after spending the summer with us. Before he left, we asked him to tell us what he learned during his time in our office.

My name is Dayan D’Aniello and I spent this past summer as a design intern at Bright Bright Great before going back to the University of Florida to finish out my senior year. During my time in the office, I was able to contribute to 5 projects and work on designing a typeface (a little better than just getting coffee, right?).


The important thing with any internship is to pick up new lessons and skills that will help you once you start a full-time job and I definitely learned a lot that will help me as I get started in my career. With that in mind, here are my three biggest takeaways from my time at BBG:

Write everything down.

I mean everything. I took 77 pages of notes from various morning meetings. Client interactions, art direction presentations, art direction feedback, et cetera. While I stopped taking notes in my classes, it was definitely necessary to keep track of all the things you’re asked to do: write it down!

Ask questions, but not too many.

Don’t be afraid to shoot someone a message if you’re in need of some help. There is a limit to this, though. Everyone else is busy most of the time, so try to figure it out on your own first instead of making someone feel like you’re trying to source your answers from them.

Everything moves quickly, be ready to hustle.

This one speaks for itself. There were times I was in the office until 2 AM. On a Saturday. You have to put in the work to enjoy the rewards.

And that’s that! Keep track of what I’m up to during my senior year on my Behance page. Keep an eye out for open apprenticeships here.

Posted By
Jason Schwartz

New Music Video For Jennifer Hall’s “Make It Out Alive”

BBG’s art director Alex Sheyn worked nights and weekends, alongside fellow creators Jordan Balderas and Elaine Short, to create the new music video for Jennifer Hall’s new single “Make It Out Alive” from her newly-released, self-titled EP.

The video went from idea, to plan, to project, to the full-HD 4K video you see above.

With limited budget and the obvious time constraint of the project’s main contributors working on it as a side project, we couldn’t be prouder of Alex’s work on this project and are stoked to see the new video hit the web. Watch it above or on YouTube.

If you’re in Chicago, join us at the video release party this weekend (8/22). Download the EP here.

Jen Hall Cover Art

Posted By
Jason Schwartz

Opinion – What Does @3x Resolution Really Mean (iPhone 6, @3x.png)

By: Jason Schwartz

This is just a shot in the dark. Until the new iPhone 6 is announced, there really is no way to know true specs, resolution, or graphic requirements, but I wanted to point out a few of the logistic pieces addressing the rumors.

Over the last few months there has been a good amount of writing/guessing at the new iPhone 6 display resolution. Daring Fireball wrote a great article about how he came to the conclusion of definitive pixels.

I wanted to talk about 2 things.

First let me use Daring Fireball’s explanation as to what @2x and @3x mean:

“@2x means the same “double” retina resolution that we’ve seen on all iOS devices with retina displays to date, where each virtual point in the user interface is represented by two physical pixels on the display in each dimension, horizontal and vertical. @3x means a new “triple” retina resolution, where each user interface point is represented by three display pixels. A single @2x point is a 2 × 2 square of 4 pixels; an @3x point is a 3 × 3 square of 9 pixels.”

When the “retina” or @2x resolutions came to iOS devices and the Retina MacBook Pro, immediately the internet looked broken. It was a sea of blurry images that brought back memories of early web. Designers were better than that, but all of the work they created to date was pretty much outdated, they just hadn’t caught up yet.

Three years later, most companies still don’t know that their websites are blurry on retina Mac computers and certain devices.

Since that introduction, good web designers have been incredibly diligent about creating for retina to make sure that pixel perfect really means pixel perfect.

The addition of the @3x resolution means a few things.

  • 1. Servers will now be serving up much larger images. This adds to load times as well as data that sites will need to serve. Since hosting has data caps depending on where you have purchased, this might require more expensive hosting for media intense sites.
  • 2. Designers who create in Photoshop will need to make assets at 3x instead of 2x. This is a big deal for a good portion of designers who still don’t work in code. For anyone who has created a 2x page at 2800×100000+ pixels you know that it destroys your memory. Only the best computers will be able to handle huge mock-ups at these sizes.

This change may warrant new expenses for designers.

  • 3. Depending on execution, adding the @3x will add time to both design and development. Not every designer uses .SVG for icons and scalable elements. Not every designer even understands the reality of @2x images yet. Adding a 3rd component into the mix makes for additional work whether it be in site problem solving, data architecture, hosting, or creation of elements.

I’m interested to see what happens once the next iPhone comes out.

Update: The iPhone 6 has been announced with no change to the retina imagery, we’re still going strong at @2x.

Posted By
Jason Schwartz

New Work: Uncle Goose  2.0 – Interactive E-Commerce Experience

Bright Bright Great has had the absolute pleasure to work with the fine folks over at Uncle Goose in Grand Rapids, MI over the last five months helping to facilitate the launch of their new 2.0 website. BBG handled not only art direction and front-end development, but also creation of a double CMS system, one for product management and sales and one for retailers as well as introduced the most requested feature, a dynamic “Uncle Goose Create-A-Name.” Due to the absolute spectacular quality and existing brand identity of Uncle Goose’s product it created an amazing platform for BBG to create with.

Art Direction
Brand Identity
Palette exploration and addition
Front-End Development
Responsive Viewports (for mobile & tablet)
Back-End Development (sales portal & reporting)
Accounts & Profiles


Uncle Goose Website Designed Uncle Goose Website Designed Uncle Goose Website Designed Uncle Goose Website Designed Bright Bright Great for Uncle Goose Uncle Goose Website Designed Uncle Goose Website Designed Uncle Goose Website Designed Uncle Goose Website Designed Bright Bright Great for Uncle Goose Uncle Goose Website Designed Uncle Goose Website Designed Uncle Goose Website Designed Bright Bright Great for Uncle Goose Uncle Goose Website Designed Uncle Goose Website Designed Bright Bright Great for Uncle Goose Uncle Goose Website Designed Uncle Goose Website Designed Bright Bright Great for Uncle Goose Uncle Goose Website Designed Uncle Goose Website Designed Uncle Goose Website DesignedBright Bright Great for Uncle GooseUncle Goose Website Designed by BBGUncle Goose Website Designed by BBGUncle Goose Website Designed by BBG

Posted By
Jason Schwartz

Hike SF Conference Recap April 4 & 5, 2014

On behalf of everyone involved to make Hike San Francisco a reality over the last 9 months, I’d like to send a giant thank to everyone who attended Hike SF over the weekend.

What literally started as a lunchtime Skype chat between Laura and myself where we said “Hey, I love what you do, let’s do something amazing together,” turned into something that even the two of us couldn’t have imagined, so we thank you.

We hope you had an absolutely invaluable experience and walked away inspired, knowledgable and with at least one kernel of genius, one quote, one piece of advice that you take to heart.






Bright Bright Great Creative Director & Hike Co-Founder Jason Schwartz.

Hike Conference San Francisco 2014 | Photo by Mona T. Brooks Jason Schwartz & Laura WinnHike Conference San Francisco 2014 | Photo by Mona T. BrooksHike Conference San Francisco 2014 | Photo by Mona T. BrooksHike Conference San Francisco 2014 | Photo by Mona T. Brooks GitHub with Daniel BurkaHike Conference San Francisco 2014 | Photo by Mona T. BrooksHike Conference San Francisco 2014 | Photo by Mona T. Brooks Jason Schwartz & Laura Winn Hike Conference San Francisco 2014 | Photo by Mona T. BrooksHike Conference San Francisco 2014 | Photo by Mona T. Brooks Mike MonteiroHike Conference San Francisco 2014 | Photo by Mona T. BrooksHike Conference San Francisco 2014 | Photo by Mona T. Brooks CrowdHike Conference San Francisco 2014 | Photo by Mona T. Brooks

Photos by Mona T. Brooks

Posted By
Jason Schwartz

Interview – BBG Creative Director Jason Schwartz and Smart Design’s Laura Helen Winn talk Hike with Design Feast

Hike Con 2014

In advance of April’s Hike Design Conference in San Francisco (and October’s installment in Chicago), BBG’s own Creative Director Jason Schwartz and Smart Design’s Laura Helen Winn sat down with the folks at Design Feast to talk about how the conference got started, design, and more.

On being a designer and event maker

How did you arrive at the idea of making the conference Hike?


I arrived at the idea because I started doing small creativity events under Form and Future at Makeshift Society. The events took Form and Future’s designer interviews offline and in front of a real audience, and covered topics from chocolate-making to a panel of small business owners. It was a lot of fun. After a few months, my boyfriend asked me when I was going to put on the Form and Future conference. I laughed it off because it seemed too big of a project to do on my own. But when I met Jason through a mutual friend, I still had the conference notion in the back of my mind.

The first time we Skyped, I was asking Jason for advice about keeping my side project going. I had this half-baked idea to turn it into a magazine that I talked through with Jason. Even while I was talking about it, I knew it didn’t have legs. He told me to be focused and have a plan, but more importantly, to dream about making something bigger than I could even imagine. I remembered the conference idea, and my gut told me, “this is it.” So I Skyped with Jason for a second time and pitched him the idea of co-founding a brand new conference stemming from The Secret Handshake plus Form and Future. Even though I’m in San Francisco and he’s in Chicago, Jason was crazy enough to say yes!


Laura and I had connected through a mutual friend in Chicago and once we started talking, it was natural that The Secret Handshake would want to collaborate simply based on our missions. Since we are located in two far apart cities, naturally we wanted to make this as hard as possible and throw a conference in two cities in one year.

What were essential activities/steps you took to start and establish this event? And why were these activities/steps important?


Like I said before, hosting events at Makeshift turned out to be a lot of fun for me. I really got into designing the experience, from the snacks to the ambiance to making everyone feel really comfortable, both the speakers and the audience. It felt like, ‘hey, I can really do this.’ Beyond that, the mission of Form and Future is the real important factor. I’m a new designer who can attribute my career to some talent, luck, and a lot of guidance from various mentors. That’s important because not every new designer has mentors, and it can be difficult to find satisfying work without people helping you develop your own point of view along the way.

The second Jason and I started working on Hike, I knew we were a good fit as creative partners. My weakness has been trying to handle side projects all on my own. The first thing he said was, “We need a board, we need volunteers, we’re going to need a lot of help.” It made me nervous to be honest, but I took a deep breath and said OK.


Laura and I talked for a few months before opening up the conversation to peers and getting people involved. Because we opted for a two-city conference, we pretty much needed to create an established pocket of volunteers in both cities.

There is a welcoming pattern of individuals making gatherings, such as Tina Roth Eisenberg who invented CreativeMornings; Rusty Meadows started Nearly Impossible that made its debut last November; Emily Ruth Cohen and Sheri Koetting made Evolve to debut during Spring 2014. Why do you think this is?


I think it’s because sharing knowledge is inherent in the design practice. In order to become a designer, you have to learn about the designers who came before you and the designers who came before them. The thing I miss the most about art school is the class discussions we had about a reading or an artist’s body of work. Hearing people with conflicting opinions share their point of view and occasionally reach an understanding of each other is real magic. I guess I just want to keep that dialogue and magic going as I pursue my career.


This falls into whatever the category the “gathering” falls under, i.e. inspiration, education, networking.

In the education space, schools are having a hard time keeping up with the pace of our skills, and students are graduating with tons of unanswered questions and needed skills. Think about how fast our industry changes versus others. Six years ago, the iPhone didn’t exist. Four years ago, tablets really didn’t exist and weren’t widespread. In the past two years, responsive experiences started to become widespread, and Apple made the first play for “retina” internet.

Schools can’t keep up with things changing yearly. By the time Seniors have gone through four years of classes, they may have missed huge changes to how we work that happened within the previous twelve months, because they already took that class three years ago.

It’s tough.

The real reason behind the scenes for all gatherings is really networking, even for education. People come to learn, but also it’s about getting thirty seconds of FaceTime with people from across the country you’re excited to shake hands with.

Were there principles and practices from your work as designers that translated well toward designing a conference? If so, what were some of those?


Communication is key. Surround yourself with people who are smart, motivated, talented, and fun to work with. In my experience, the best design projects are those where people with differing opinions and specialties create something new together. In planning our own conference, we essentially have the opportunity to create our ideal project. Jason and I are also well aware of the challenges that come with design projects. I think knowing to expect common challenges, like miscommunication and people getting spread too thin, has helped us be prepared for the process of getting a bunch of people together to throw a conference in two cities in one year.


OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Lots of OCD.

The first volunteer meeting at Smart Design in San Francisco

Compared to other events related to design disciplines, what makes your conference different?


What makes Hike different is that it’s a conference specifically for new designers. Organizations like AIGA do a great job of fostering the student design community and posting job boards, but there’s no Brooklyn Beta for design students. There’s no Build for design students. We want to make something really special that tailors to a very specific audience at a crucial point in their lives. Hike is about more than getting a job. It’s about finding your own voice, and taking action in order to build the life you want to live.


One of the main issues I’m having with a good amount of conferences I attend is that presenters are showing a glorified version of their portfolio. I can see why that is inspirational, but I’m at a point where I’d just look at someone’s website and understand the who, what, when, where, why and how.

I want Hike to be fully functional. I want speakers to focus specifically on what it takes to create and develop personal brand, which extends into job hunting, résumés, portfolios and following a path that is right for you. This is the difference between benchmarking, “I like that designer’s work,” and, “Whoa, I never thought that was how an application process worked behind the scenes.”

I really want to lift the curtain for a peek into the other side.

How do you find, select, and invite your speakers?


We brought Jennifer Maples on board for San Francisco content, and Kelly Knaga for Chicago content. These ladies are absolutely rocking it on finding speakers and planning the schedule far beyond what Jason and I could accomplish. Early in the project, Jason and I invited all of our volunteers to make a list of dream speakers. Most of our speakers have been invited by recommendations from people we know. There’s a level of trust that’s really important when inviting people to speak, whether or not they have a good reputation as being reliable and relevant. Jennifer and Kelly have done an amazing job at designing a speaker list that’s well-rounded, useful, and true to Hike’s mission.


Our whole team wanted to find speakers that had substance to their presentations beyond just showing work. Each speaker will be going deeper into how they vetted the process, what they’ve learned, processes their companies use and how they look for people currently.

We also wanted to avoid usual suspects. You most likely won’t see the same speakers at Hike as other conferences.

What are must-don’ts in making an event?

You must not be afraid of anyone or anything. You must not take anything personally. You must not tiptoe when providing honest feedback. You must speak up. You have to trust other people to carry your vision. You must not burn any bridges. You must only bring in people and organizations or sponsors who truly support you and your cause. Don’t take money from people who don’t align with your values. Don’t burn yourself out trying to handle it all–spread out the responsibilities. Don’t take that as an excuse to shove responsibility onto other people: own everything you do. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.


No portfolio presentations (unless specifically that is focused on making a good and presentable portfolio.) No filler. No lies.

Provide more value to every attendee than the price of admission.

San-Francisco-and-Chicago-hosted brainstorming sessions to name the conference

Concerning events, like conferences/summits/workshops, what are their purpose or obligation in our society, the world?


Like I said earlier, sharing collective knowledge is really important for the design community. Seasoned designers have a unique opportunity to shape the minds of young designers, and that’s really important. Christopher Murphy talked about this very thing in our interview. One day, his mentor told him that as teachers, they’re literally designing the minds of their students. It blew his mind to think of teaching that way. He takes his job really seriously, and I admire him for that.

It’s also amazing to me that the more time we spend on our devices, the more we treasure our time away from them. Services like Foursquare document the fact that you were in a physical place with your friends. That’s really special. Events that bring people together are important the way a long talk with a friend is important. Giving people the space to learn, grow, and reflect on their own lives and shortcomings. A safe space to examine yourself, and determine what you can do to be better and provide better experiences for the people around you. Reflecting on why we make rather than how we make is important, and I think the obligation of events is to support this kind of thinking, sharing, and growing in any given community.


Additional viewpoints. There are a lot of designers who just work at one job with the same team for a sizable amount of time. Other perspectives are out there. There are other ways of doing things, for better and worse.

Who are your influences related to design?


My own mentors and friends are the most influential. The funny thing about mentors is how they’re woven into your life at just the right time. Dan Saffer, the creative director at Smart Design, is a current influence. He demonstrates qualities that I aspire to in leadership: understanding the desires of the people he leads in order to help them become better designers. It sounds simple, but so many people don’t get to that level of understanding with their staff. Design is about relationships, so my influences are the relationships I have with other designers.

Ryan Freitas and Shawn Collins at taught me how to be wrong, how to be right, and how to listen to feedback. Mandy Brown is always teaching me something, most recently not to quit my side projects. Marc O’Brien’s work inspires me to run as fast as I can towards the things I want to do in life in regards to design, even when I don’t know what they are yet. Jennifer Maples teaches me how to be a better adult. Linda Eliasen is a better illustrator than I’ll ever be. Xiulung Choy makes technology look fun and he values fine art. I could go on and on–I’m very lucky to have people in my life who support me and encourage me, whether they know it or not.


Andy Warhol. Process and body of work. Dieter Rams (Braun), who possibly lead the most influential product design department in the last decade. There’s a reason why Apple does things the way they do. 😉

How important is it for you to follow your instincts?


It’s very important for me to follow my instincts. My Meyers-Briggs personality type is XNFJ, in which F stands for Feeling and J stands for judgement. Essentially I use my own intuition to guide my actions. Most recently, intuition led me to work with Jason. Following my instincts is the reason I’m a designer in San Francisco today. It all started with a hunch that I should go to art school, because art had been my most consistent interest in life to that point. I learned to recognize through experience that when I followed my intuition, it led me to more satisfying experiences. Another way to think of it is being honest with yourself, about your own strengths and limitations, about what you really want. When you go against your instincts is when you get into trouble, and find yourself where you knew you shouldn’t be. When you follow your intuition, you learn to recognize when you’re exactly where you should be. It feels like home.


Depends. I modify my instincts based on situation. I always have a gut feeling, however how I act on it is modified per scenario.

How do you get the word out about Hike?


Talking! We’ve been sharing the news with our close friends, mentors, colleagues, anyone we meet, really. It’s an easy party conversation. “What do you do?” “I’m planning a conference.” People tend to have a lot of questions, and it’s fun to share the story.


Help us!

How do you attract sponsors?


Through the relationships and connections that we already have. It’s not so much attracting but just asking people, very plainly and nicely. Have I mentioned how important relationships are?


Top secret. Actually a lot of the sponsors have been our friends and network. The board has some really great connections out there.

What is your definition of growth, as it relates to event-creation and management?


My personal definition of growth is only as much as the community needs. On the local level, I’m in favor of keeping the events on the small side. I prefer when people can get to know one another without being overwhelmed by a thousand people. On the national level, Jason and I are interested in hosting the conference in more cities in the future. I’m from Tennessee, so it would mean a lot to me to host a Hike event in Chattanooga or Nashville. Events don’t have to be huge to be important. It’s the quality of the community and the willingness for people to participate that’s most important to me.


We just want to fill enough seats that the thousands of hours were worth it to us. We’re not really focused on opening a Hike in every city, like CreativeMornings, or anything at this point.

How would you describe Hike’s culture? And why is it important?


Hike’s culture is fairness and a lot of fun. It’s funny, because I haven’t thought of Hike having a culture until just now. I think Jason and I set the tone for the board and our volunteers with our personalities and the way we work together, which includes a lot of laughter and trusting each other. We make decisions quickly because we don’t have time to debate forever. It goes back to instincts: we agree on something and it’s settled, unless we later think of a solid reason to go in a different direction. We all have a common goal to get this thing off the ground, and we all trust each other to pull weight. We all need each other, and we all like each other.

It’s important because when I imagine the opposite—a group of people who have big egos and selfish motivations—it sounds like a nightmare to me. I only want to work with people who are better than me and who respect each other. We’re really lucky to be working with our group of volunteers. Once a week, Jason and I have a “holy shit” moment. Everyone on our team is amazing. We couldn’t do this without them.


The entire day of the conference will not be speakers presenting to you. There is a focus on collaborative sessions where your input will be shared with smaller groups.

The board meets weekly on a Google Hangout. Special guests include Jennifer Hansen’s cat.

How can people learn and be informed about the Hike conference?


Through our website,, and on Twitter @hikecon.The full website will be up in early February with our list of speakers and more details about what Hike is.

What conferences/gatherings do you enjoy experiencing?


I enjoy experiencing small local gatherings here in San Francisco. Jennifer Maples’ StrategyTNT, at Makeshift Society, brings in speakers who discuss design strategy and their careers. Joe Robinson hosts a Designers+Geeks event where I saw Aarron Walter from Mailchimp speak at the Yelp headquarters. Julie Horvath’s Passion Projects at Github are a big one. She brings women in to speak about side projects, from code to lettering and illustration. It’s been really amazing to see Julie grow the idea and community over the last year, and I can’t wait to see where she takes it this year. Julie is another design inspiration for me, in that her hustle is so fierce. If we all worked half as hard as Julie, I don’t even know what would happen. We’d spontaneously combust.

At a higher level, I enjoy events where I can really connect with everyone involved, from the organizer and speakers to the other attendees. It really helps me get out of my own work and remember that I’m part of a huge community of people with different strengths and passions.


In 2013, I went to a lot of conferences. I’m starting to get a lot less hyped about events where speakers just show a glorified portfolio as their presentation. For me, I’d rather hear a speaker talk about life in general for 45 minutes.

I’m more hyped about shared creative experiences, like hackathons and passion weekends. I think the coolest ideas are coming from these, and that they are absolutely valuable for people who attend and learn new skills, see how others work and make some cool connections.

On creativity, design, working

Design writer Alissa Walker wrote an article called “Women in Industrial Design: Where My Ladies At?” Where are the Ladies in Design/Development/Strategy/Business, et al., at?


We’re right here! *waves hands* A common explanation is that women are raised to be more passive and less aggressive than men, which leads to us shying away from the spotlight. I have to admit that it does feel weird to put myself out there and shout, “Hey, look at me! I’m making cool things.” But I think there’s more to the story than that.

Kai Brach of Offscreen Magazine just posted an explanation of the unbalanced gender line-up they’ve had with their interviews. It seems like there are a handful of women who become well-known for their trade, and end up doing a lot of interviews. I think they become our representation of women in the industry, and the rest of us can just keep on working. We’re so focused on cranking out work that we aren’t taking time to produce talks and answer interviews. I’ve got to admit that it feels strange for me to be doing it now, but I know that this is what it takes in order to share your message. I’m more passionate about sharing the Hike story than I am afraid of putting myself in this uncomfortable space.

By the way, it’s incredibly satisfying to see my company, Smart Design, mentioned in the article. Femme Den started in our New York office, and now there’s a contingency of San Francisco folks who are refreshing it and reviving the whole movement. My colleagues are starting a feminist literature book club, and expanding the concept beyond marketing. Smart Design is an incredible example of how a modern workplace should be: it’s pro-women, pro-work-life balance, pro-employee happiness.

So where are the ladies at? We’re right here, making an impressive amount of work for you.


Our Hike board is all ladies but myself. They are out there. Most of our volunteers are also female.

My agency, Bright Bright Great, is also more female than male.

How do you handle disagreements while you’re working?


We talk it out! Jason and I are very, very different, and that’s part of what I love about working together. When we disagree on something, we just talk about it until we reach a mutual understanding. We respect each other enough to listen.


We are a small team (under 10), so that allows us the opportunity to talk everything out. Since we base all of our work on usability and functionality, the disagreements are usually about how to make something better, opposed to typical feedback like “I don’t like that.”

Disagreements become so much more clear when data and analytics are involved.

What part of your work is particularly trying,and how do you deal with it?


There are a lot of moving pieces, and often things get lost in translation. I’m taking on several different jobs at once: project managing, sponsorship, and contributing to marketing outreach. We deal with it by talking to each other a lot, and talking to our board members a lot. It takes a lot of patience, because it can be frustrating to not know what’s going on. Things flow more smoothly when Jason and I are checking in and carving out our responsibilities on a daily or weekly basis.


Being the small team, my role is running the company (Operations), all sales (Sales Director), leading all creative (Creative Director) down to things like paying bills and emptying the trash. Time is the biggest factor I am up against.

To make sure that my day as well as my entire team’s days are as valuable as possible, we have pretty tight processes around we do everything. We use tools to allow us to succeed like Freshbooks, Basecamp, and other apps.

I think our processes are extremely smart. That affords us time to make sure our work is done.

What is your workspace like? How does it contribute to doing the quality of work you want to do?


My workspace is wherever my brain, notebook, and/or computer are. Smart is incredibly supportive of the conference, so I end up conducting a lot of business there. Otherwise, I work from my bed, my kitchen, my backyard…right now I’m in a coffee shop. I moved three times last year, so I’m a very mobile person. I’ve learned that I only need a comfortable, spacious place to get work done. I’ve just got to be relaxed and focused, and I seek cozy environments that help me achieve that mindset.


Bright Bright Great is a wide open space. Everyone sits together forcing everyone to collaborate on all projects even if designers, marketers, etc., aren’t on that specific project.

You can peek into our space here. We are also putting up lots of photos of our space on Instagram at brightbrightgreat and on Facebook.

What tools do you use and recommend to work on ideas and make them grow, to collaborate and get things done?


I work almost entirely in my inbox and Google drive for collaborating. We use Basecamp to manage what our teams are doing, and set up different projects for each team: marketing, design, sponsorship, and so on. It’s not perfect, but we manage to get things done. I personally use IA Writer and Google Drive for any longer-form writing that needs to be done. The calendar on my iPhone is also very important.


There’s a lot of tools out there. I recommend you have at least one to handle the following:

How do you stay creative? What are some of your sources of motivation/inspiration?


I stay creative by being really kind to myself. I work when I feel like working, and I take breaks when I’m not getting anything done. I don’t look at many inspiration blogs, they tend to overwhelm me. I’m inspired by all the I spend away from my computer. I love traveling, getting to know California, cooking meals, and film photography. Remembering to enjoy life is what motivates me to keep working on my dreams. If I worked all the time, I would get really burnt out. I worked a lot in college and made a lot of great work that I’m proud of. But in hindsight, I wish I had spent a little more time drinking wine and shooting the breeze on my best friend’s front porch.


We don’t work long hours, which I know is not the norm. Everyone is required to put in a full work day at our office, but all of that other time is about being out in the world and getting excited for how many amazing things are out there.

Every person on my team must have at least one other creative skill that they are a master of. For example, design and photography, design and modeling, design and music creation. We get each other excited with our skills, and learn together, which is always fun.

What is your definition of bad design?


My definition of bad design is anything that solves problems that don’t need to be solved, or aren’t actually problems at all. I was just talking about this with my boyfriend last night, about how bad design and all the money in Silicon Valley is laughable. But at the same time, sometimes really stupid ideas lead to amazing products that can have significant cultural influence. Twitter is a great example of that. The founders didn’t know exactly what they were making or why, and now people use it to connect with one another in ways that were unimaginable when the idea was first conceived. It was just a silly little thing.

If everything were designed seriously and with purpose, how would we know what’s actually good and relevant? We need bad design to really appreciate good design.


Anything that doesn’t solve the problem posed. Because I am a hard-ass at work, we not only strive to solve the problems but end up with solutions that amaze.

If you were posed, “Laura and Jason, I have an idea for a conference. How do I get this real?” What’s your response?


Find someone to work with. Don’t try to do it on your own. Understand why you’re making it, and be very specific about who your audience is. Most ideas are broad enough to encompass a whole spectrum of people, but you really need to define your target audience and understand them completely. By focusing on one specific group of people, you’ll find your own voice and direction is much clearer.


Creating a conference is bigger than you, even if this is just your idea or brand. Working with a team of amazing people who you can count on and will share the load is really what it’s about.

Other aspects of your work that would be interesting to creative practitioners and aspiring product/business makers?


I’ve said it twice, I’ll say it again: relationships. Cultivating relationships is the single-most important part of a creative career. You will be a much better person for seeking mentorship and connecting with your creative peers. They will teach you more than you can imagine.


The reason why we are doing this in the first place is because of The Secret Handshake and Form and Future. This is interesting for the students and young creators, because the content is so strong. How did the best designers do it? What did they do to get to where they are today? How do they define success?

How do the cities of Chicago and San Francisco contribute to your work? And what makes each special for startups/business/creativity-at-large?


San Francisco is obviously a huge tech hub, and that’s a big part of what people hear. It’s the “new Silicon Valley.” I’m more interested in the less-discussed side of San Francisco, the part of the city that still fosters artists and creatives and entrepreneurs who aren’t exactly tech-focused. Rena Tom, the founder of Makeshift Society, really opened my eyes to that part of our city. Personally, San Francisco contributes to my work by it’s incredible weirdness and beauty. There’s such a rich and conflicting history here, and it’s really interesting to live here right now. I hope the city can find a way to support its artists and residents without just catering to the ultra-rich.


I am very pro-Chicago. I think it’s no where as visible as New York City, or San Francisco, but there are amazing things happening here, as well as amazing talent.


Posted By
Jason Schwartz

Venture Beat – The 4 Dangers Of Hiring A Web Designer + Response

VentureBeat posted an extremely offensive article today talking about the dangers of hiring a web designer. Yes, this was sponsored, but it’s pretty shallow and minimally thought out.

Full article here… you should read it –

Here’s our response from our Creative Director, Jason Schwartz.


This is borderline offensive and honestly, pretty shitty especially coming from someone “in our industry,” sorry guys.

Whomever put this garbage together should really dig deep into what a “web designer” does, the problems they solve and how the good ones work.

1. They’re expensive.

Great web designers of varying levels of skill sets and talent range in price. They also do different things. If you are approaching this from a “make me something pretty” standpoint, yes it might be expensive to reskin your brand.

However, that said, web designers often solve problems working on websites, mobile sites and applications (as well as marketing) that can wholly change your business.

For example, changing the experience of how people check-out of your store, use your product online, or even engage with you can mean the difference of millions of dollars, active returning brand fans and even business development.

If you are saying that $50,000 for intimate problem solving and shoring up user experience on a website that annually nets millions of dollars, you are insane. Creating good experiences allows people to come back and engage with you in the future.

If that costs money, so be it. If you don’t think it’s worth spending money creating, updating and growing the digital tools for your brand, you probably are misinformed about what a “web designer” does anyway in this day and age. Web designers solve problems with your interactive properties to make you money and convert people to do what you want them to do. Gone are the days of pretty pictures. We’re smarter than that, folks.

2.They’re too slow.

“The beauty of the web is the speed it allows business to happen.” Agreed, there are also web designers out there who are willing to jump daily on projects for you. Projects happen at varying speeds and honestly, that depends on what goes into making it happen.

There is no excuse for poor communication and slow execution from any employee/contractor that you hire, however let’s take this AdWords campaign for example and break it down. Calendars should be set by the company paying a web designer to do work for them. Set deliverable dates!

A marketing person needs to lead with specific messaging and intent. They need to work with the designer to make sure that what is being launched to handle that traffic is correct. Unfortunately, that’n not even a designer problem. Non-updated headlines, elements below the fold etc should’ve been shored up in QA. Do you not look at the work people are doing for you? ESPECIALLY, if they are contractors and you are spending $10,000/day on it? C’mon, last time I checked, that’s a pretty big budget. So much in fact that there should be multiple QA checkpoints.

If the designer billed you for less than an hour of work on that, kind of sounds like the designer wasn’t that expensive (See Point 1 after all) and that sounds like bad campaign management.

3. They don’t know your business.

It is the business of a good designer to not only be able to make something attractive, but as your relationship grows, be able to solve creative and experience issues that should improve the ways users use your interactive properties.

Over years, yes a design should know pretty well what you do. That’s been a long-term partnership that probably expanded beyond your website.

“I had the data that showed this change had lowered by conversion rates by over 35 percent, and I know how much that was costing my business.” That is your responsibility as a manager to assign to-dos to your designer to make that change.

Not only that, but if this sticky-point can raise/lower conversion rates by THAT MUCH, there should be whole additional conversations about what this interaction should be doing in full. That conversation includes management, QA, designers, developers and marketing. Remember, you are leading someone to do work for you, lead them, its your responsibility as well to make this successful.

4. They can disappear with your website

Every reputable designer has a contract. In that contract it should very clearly state how check-ins, hand-offs and site updates and Git pushes should happen. As a manager it is your responsibility to set up a project calendar that clearly includes these dates. The reason why contractors have different rates has to do with this as well as talent. You want to work with someone who is “legit,” that means they need to make themselves a legitimate and active registered LLC and costs go up.

“After a couple of months the guy decided to leave the country” shouldn’t matter. If having accountability as a company/LLC is important for you to go after them, use web designers that are registered as a business. Most are.

Being in the country shouldn’t matter at all. After all this is the “Web.” Good work and amazing projects happen with teams scattered across the globe. There has never been a single instance in the 7 years of my interactive company that I’ve had to drive to a developers house to find them.

Contracts are pretty cut and dry. Use them to control project flow.


Related Articles:
The 4 Dangers of Hiring Freemium Web Design Services like Webstarts by Sharlene King

Posted By
Jason Schwartz