Hop Design Fest: Full of Highly Successful Designers & Creative Minds

Written by | September 12, 2014 | Posted in News & Culture, Process

This year I had plans to attend the 5th Annual Hopscotch Music Festival in downtown Raleigh, NC. When I purchased wristbands for the event this year I was expecting a weekend full of sweaty expenditure with some of my favorite bands, bars, and friends. This is my kind of weekend – and I don’t even have to leave town! I accomplished all that and got even more than I bargained for with an early start on Wednesday when I got to check out the 1st annual Hopscotch Design Festival.

The design fest prepended the music portion of Hopscotch this year and it was centered mainly on interactive design. I’m in! Dropped a few hints at the office and bam I’m off with Jayson, (read his take on Hopscotch Design Fest here), to see what this newly-added experience is all about. Big props to Ray for sending us to check things out.


The first annual Hopscotch Design Fest turned out to be a collection of highly successful designers from an eclectic mixture of expertise, backgrounds, and geographical locations. From the great-grand niece of Thomas Edison, to the guy hired to beautify Obamacare, to the co-founder of Good, to the leader and founder of local gaming industry behemoth, Epic Games. The mini-fest was formatted in the true spirit of Hopscotch in that it was scattered throughout venues in Raleigh’s downtown area. We began both days at the Raleigh Convention Center and made stops at Lincoln Theatre, CAM Raleigh, City of Raleigh Museum, Clearscapes, and Stockroom. My phone says we walked about 10 miles on the first day, but I know we wandered a bit trying to locate venues.


There were incredible speakers, but this post would go on forever (and may already seem to)  if I tried to highlight every single one of them and all the chunky tidbits we soaked up in two days. Instead I feel it is most important to relate the fact that each speaker brought unique, inspirational insight and each had equally valuable industry insight to share with us. We sought out those whose topics seemed directly related to the work we do each day, but we also made a point of exploring topics that didn’t seem as obviously intertwined. By going out of our way to mix it up, I believe we found a meaningful core truth in this gathering of creative minds/fearless entrepreneurs.

The fest kicked off with a packed conference room at the Raleigh Convention Center as we heard from Elle Luna, a San Francisco-based designer, writer, and painter. Elle spends most of her time painting these days, but in the recent past worked with teams to design and build Mailbox (acquired by Dropbox) and redesigned Uber’s iOS app to name just a couple notable endeavors. Elle spoke about career choices and identifying the line that can sometimes divide success and happiness. She challenged us to identify what we feel we should do and compare it to what we must do in order to actualize our truest happiness and, as a result, fulfill our maximum creative potential. Framed in the slogan, “Choose must”, it was the morning fodder we needed to open our minds with honest introspection and carpe diem in perfect fashion.

Next up, we heard from Edison’s great-grand niece, Sarah Miller-Caldicott as she shared her research highlighting Edison’s innovative approach to and more importantly the way in which his ideas were incubated and perfected. Coming from a long family lineage of inventors, her words focused us on collaboration as it was conceived by Edison – Capacity, Context, Coherence, and Complexity were the key concepts of the hour.

Harper Reed, the CTO of the 2012 Obama campaign spoke about engaging users and encouraging them to participate. Justin Miller from WeddingPics shared a similar vein of thought in discussing what a company must offer to be invited into the lives of their target audience. We heard from Matt Tomasulo, the leader of the guerrilla wayfinding project, Walk Your City, which promotes informational signage displaying the amount time it takes to walk between points in a community. Tomasulo also presented some interesting insight regarding unused physical spaces and how to activate them by encouraging interaction. We found his thoughts on the subject to be highly relatable to the visual design and UX challenges we tackle at Cuberis on a daily basis. We also sat in for Sha Hwang, information designer and most notably the guy hired to beautify Obamacare. And finally, Casey Caplowe, the co-founder and chief creative officer of GOOD, a media company and community committed to global positive change.

The overarching message became more apparent to us as we hiked around Raleigh, occasionally stopping to cool off with a hoppy, high-powered beverage from a nearby watering hole. We listened intently to our hosts and then quickly hustled to the next, using the hiking time in between to reflect on the messages we received. An over-arching theme rang loudly to us through each presentation – Innovate, break boundaries, don’t ask permission, and never be afraid to change the rules when you have a great idea.

Certainly the last two can be tricky when taken out of context. I don’t (actively) promote anarchy and I believe when you are unsure of yourself, industry rules can give you the structure you need to learn and refine your craft. I think it’s most important to allow yourself to consume all of these statements as they relate to one another, apply them as a single entity of thought, and swing for the fences. For me, compressing them this way exponentially increases their meaning and leads my mind to a more conclusive and concrete statement I will keep with my long after Hopscotch Design Fest  – “Perfect your craft, but never let it contain you.”