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SXSW 2018

Since it was my first time to attend SXSW, I took a lot of Zoe’s (2-time attendee and Hale Advisors President & CEO) insights and let those drive my decisions for which panels to attend. She was right – the sheer number of events across downtown Austin was immediately overwhelming. Once I arrived, I focused on learning things that would be not only interesting, but also immediately useful to myself, Hale Advisors, and our clients – not tomorrow or eventually, but NOW.

With drones flying/filming the event from overhead and mechanical arms taking part in a lightsaber duel, the Convention Center trade show was oozing excitement and emerging technology. After the initial awe set in, I was able to chat with the CEO of an agency specializing in analytics and email marketing. He walked me through a demo of their video in email service – where videos are playable directly within the email client. I immediately thought of at least one client where this could be of use and couldn’t wait to share it with them. I also touched base with an electronic caregiver service, similar to Lifeline. However, this company combined the idea behind a rapid response device with the monitoring capabilities of FitBit, allowing caregivers 24/7 connectivity to their patients/loved ones. These two connections stuck out to me the most because in a sea of shiny objects, they were actually relevant and useable for our clients today.

Elon Musk made an appearance for a session with SpaceX, which unfortunately I was unable to attend due to overflow. But – I assume the Moody Theater was chockfull of fan-girl-like techies drooling over every word of the Tesla CEO’s answers during this impromptu Q&A. Had I been as overzealous, perhaps I would have made it to the convention center on time to receive a ticket. That experience has been bucketed into my “oh shucks” list of do-to’s I couldn’t make.

@suzybiz launch party featuring Shaggy

In happenstance, I made the acquaintance of some folks working for a new real-time consumer research agency and managed to gain access to a private-invitation-only launch party where…wait for it… Shaggy was performing. Singing along to ‘Angel’ and ‘It Wasn’t Me’ was a fun flashback and reminder that corporate business doesn’t always have to be consumed by black suits and ties.



Regarding the panels I attended, I felt that I got the most out of the ones on design and branding. The following key takeaways resonated with me most:

Customers need to know not only what you do, but also who you are.
Brand personality isn’t limited to advertising but should be seen in every aspect of your brand, from your products/offerings to your internal company culture. Consider creating a persona for your brand to help define company values.

User experience exposes a lot about a brand’s culture.
Relying on a single visionary for innovation reduces sustainability, especially in the event of that visionary lead parting ways with the company. Think of Apple and the new iPhones not having a headphone jack. Do you think Steve Jobs would have signed off on that UX atrocity? A well-planned roadmap with a steady growth is healthier than growth at any cost. Immediate profits can fuel the fire and overshadow simple issues until they are no longer manageable. A lack of diversity internally can cause a “tone deaf” symptom, highlighting that the company doesn’t understand the customer. Consider Apple Healthkit: reproductive health/menstrual tracking features weren’t added until 2015, certainly due to a lack of women included the development process. Or even Google and its AI facial recognition technology, which labeled African Americans as gorillas and vice versa. Had the internal testing group been more ethnically diverse, the entire dilemma likely could’ve been avoided.

Applying behavioral science to design can help you better understand the customer, deliver a better user experience, and provide a more effective service or product.
Think first of the action you’re asking of a customer (the prompt), and then consider the motivational issues and the customer’s ability to carry out that action. High motivation + low ability = customer helplessness; low motivation + high ability = customer annoyance. Because simplicity changes habits in the long term, provide an experience that requires the scarcest resources possible. For example: a customer has 10 minutes of spare time and your meditation app’s minimum session is 10 minutes – is that giving the customer a high ability? Not really. But if the session was only 3 minutes, that ability would skyrocket.

Facilitating customer trust in technology is essential, especially in the medical devices industry.
It took western society 50 years to trust elevators without an operator manning the controls. To build consumer trust in new medical devices, such as pocket-sized insulin pumps, medical device companies need to first understand the psychology of their customer. 



Bud Light Bottle Design, SXSW 2018, @zuzubee @mouf_ltd

The last panel I attended was about fearless design and street art and how to take that mindset into branding oneself not just as a designer but also as an artist. When you think of street art, you might immediately envision graffiti or half-thought out tags from vandals and the like. But this panel opened my eyes to another side of artistic thinking – where a designer is able to express their thoughts without being stuck in corporate restrictions. One example discussed was the  Bud Light bottle design for SXSW. The ability to blend that street art perspective of free thinking into a corporate space was truly inspiring. I was even able to connect with some of the local artists in the community, assist in some paper-mâché activities, attend the Hope Outdoor Gallery on the other side of town and find even more inspiration from the array of stylistic decisions made by the local artists participating in that event

Hope Outdoor Gallery, @HopeCampaign

Hope Outdoor Gallery, @mleeding

Hope Outdoor Gallery, @tourmalinetodd







SXSW was a little overwhelming but overall an incredible experience. Now that I have a grasp on the magnitude of offerings the conference can offer, I’m hopeful I can attend again in the future. I’d like to close with a quote from a SXSW panelist that stuck with me like crazy glue.

“Don’t fall in love with the solution, fall in love with the problem.”

Thinking this way can shift anyone’s perspective. Getting too close to your solution (whether it’s a mobile app, a medical device, or even an idea) makes it easy to forget the ‘problem’ or why customers need your solution in the first place. Falling in love with your ‘problem’ ensures you’re focused on what really matters, and not infatuated with your own design or idea and opens up possibilities for innovation.

Thank you, SXSW & Austin, for the priceless learnings & memories. XO

Tina Niemynski is the Creative Director for Hale Advisors. Prior to joining the Hale Team, she worked as a graphic and web designer under the LLC Tina Louise Creative. She has been designing print and web for ten years. In her free time she enjoys creating fine art projects and creative writing.