Looking Back, SND Charlotte

It’s hard to believe that the Society of News Design’s annual workshop ran nearly a month ago. I’ve attended two other design exhibitions since then and am about to embark on another two city tour.

For all the design conferences, exhibitions and events that I attend, SND Charlotte: UNITE + REBEL struck me as very special, some quick thoughts:

  • SND is a tight-knit community unlike any I had ever been welcomed into. This was not a ‘conference’ or an ‘expo’ or anything too big to be navigable and useful. This was an intimate workshop to advance the profession and individual careers of news designers. Their focus on inviting and sponsoring the participation of students is admirable. The level of work put in by its volunteers is astounding. I heard from many leaders of the conference that they owe their careers and passion to SND. Wow. The participation and enthusiasm of this group is such a powerful endorsement of SND as an association.
  • SND challenged me, rather than invite me to sit at an exhibition booth and sell my wares for eight hours a day, the conference organizers invited me to give a five minute ‘Ignite’ talk. The Ignite format is meant to be a quick and fun intro to larger keynote speeches, running five minutes as defined by 20 slides each on screen for 15 seconds. The formatting is an aide more than a constraint, you have to have something to say and say it concisely, there’s no way to meander your way through this. Still, it meant getting up and not spontaneously combusting in front a room full of people. I had a blast.
  • SND is multidisciplinary and forward thinking like most of today’s design professions but in unexpected ways. I heard more people talking about experimenting with snapchat in their work than anywhere else. Important professional leaders from the New York Times, Washington Post and NPR all led discussions  that moved from advertisements to innovating the print format to thinking about how we tell stories without missing a beat. Hearing the design thinking espoused at much larger shows broken down into practical examples and initiatives by industry leaders was invaluable to me in understanding what news designers do, and surely far more practicable for the many designers graduating or looking to find their next team or inspiration.

I’d also like to note that since the conference was held in Charlotte, N.C., I raised issue with my team at Top Level Design regarding HB2 and my personal issue with the politics of discrimination. I’m happy to note that we matched my travel expenses with a donation to Time Out Youth, a local LGBTQ Youth Center. This provided them enough funding to host a dance night or provide for their other daily programming.

The volunteers and leaders at SND were truly incredible, shout out to Jon Wile, Kyle Ellis, Matt Mansfield and Steve Dorsey. You all and your wider team and community were able to put on an intimate and effective workshop that rivals the quality and engagement at much larger conferences. Instead of the general creative discussion found at those larger shows, attendees at SND are able to get the encouragement and networking befitting a niche profession like news design.