How do you keep evolving a brand’s identity, building and improving upon what’s been done before? How do you keep a team that never sleeps from burning out? What happens when you bring together designers, writers, developers, researchers, strategists, program managers, directors, and producers to explore what design is, and could be?
On June 13, 2016, Salesforce held our second-ever Design Leadership Conference, a one-day symposium bringing together our creative, digital, and product teams. This year’s theme, “World Interrupted,” featured keynotes and fireside chats with some of the world’s most exciting innovators in architecture, transportation, product design, storytelling, UX, food cultivation, and bioscience.
Led by Chief Creative Officer John Zissimos, the day served many purposes: “Salesforce is a very special place. All I ever found in the world of business were cultures that treated creativity as a commodity, or even worse, gave it lip service. At Salesforce, creativity, innovation, and equality are key values that are cherished and admired. It’s a place where talent has a voice, and where education is always ongoing,” he explained. “We have a team of people who are working incredibly hard every single day — they are so focused, and there is not enough of them. There has to be a day when they can dislodge, stop working, get inspired, and see the world in a new way. The Design Leadership Conference is that rare opportunity.”
The creative, digital, and product teams focus on how our brand looks and feels, how we convey our message in fresh and exciting ways, and how our customers experience our website and products. They are disciplines that require equal parts creativity, problem-solving, and a willingness to experiment. “We bring in speakers from different industries, professions, and walks of life to help us look at things in new ways,” said Zissimos. “Listening to new ways of thinking and asking questions is so important. This day is fundamental to everyone’s growth and passion for what they do. Without it we can grow stale. It’s also energizing to discover that, maybe you’re not the only one hungry to find a new idea and having a really hard time getting there.”
“When most people think of design, they think of visual design — such as graphic design and motion graphics,” said Mike Mazza, Lead Designer for the Brand team, who put together the day’s agenda. “While we have that, we also wanted to broaden people’s thinking on design across a specific theme — disruption — as it relates to design systems, processes, and products.” The day featured various expert presentations and discussions on how humans will engage with artificial intelligence; how microbes (and good ideas) can spread and even affect other people; how Elon Musk’s Hyperloop will connect cities and people at new velocities; how architecture relates to and reflects the world around it; how diversity and inclusion are evolving across creative agencies; and even how one author partnered with director J.J. Abrams to reimagine storytelling in how we engage with and share physical books.
Hosted in the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the location itself set the tone for a day of inspiration, beauty, and surprises. “We wanted a design-centric space that would speak to the theme,” said Taylor Hilficker, Business Manager, who orchestrated most of the logistics around the event. “In putting the event together, we kept asking ourselves: How do we inspire people who are constantly our inspiration? How do we bring creatives and business types together and push the boundaries of what creativity means?”
Each session ended with a Q&A from the audience, where colleagues asked questions on everything from the details of the physics behind Hyperloop to honest, personal questions around how any underrepresented group can feel safe while still challenging the status quo. “It’s fun to see how ‘design’ can mean so many different things,” said Hilficker. “We bring in these speakers, and then their talks take on a larger resonance beyond what we expected.”
“I liked that there was so much diversity in the panel topics, and that there were opportunities for open dialogue and discussion,” said Elle Cardenas, Senior Graphic Designer. “I feel very lucky to work in a place that values creativity.”
“The Design Leadership Conference inspires us and creates a sense of community where we can all learn together,” said Dustin Maberry, Web Designer. “It was great to see leaders from so many different realms speak — and to think about how their insights might apply to my own work. It also shows how much our Creative department values design and innovation, and that we are committed to keeping our team inspired.”
“The other incredible element of this conference is that it’s an opportunity for our entire department to create something truly beautiful and inspiring for one another,” said Zissimos. “We develop a theme for the conference, find great speakers, build a website and registration process, find a great venue and build a stage, map out the day’s experiences, and then capture it all on film. Watching the team do all of this is incredibly inspiring to me. It’s much more than one day, it’s so much more.”
Click here to watch all of the sessions from the Design Leadership Conference on Salesforce LIVE. Check out the slideshare below for more highlights from the event.