What would happen if 100 of the most creative, design-driven college students in the country worked together alongside top brand creators, product designers, and entrepreneurs? That’s what Mihika Kapoor ’18 had in mind when she started planning the first-ever Designation Conference. In its first year, the Conference has already gotten top executives from IBM, Fox, Google Ventures, and more to pledge their participation.
The conference, which will be held on Sunday, April 9, at the New York Academy of Sciences, will focus on three schools of design: graphic design, product design, and design thinking. According to the conference website, the first part of the conference will focus on visual design in print media and digital advertising and how it has shifted towards millennial tastes. The second part of the conference will focus on product design, particularly on how designers and engineers can work together to “express content and capabilities visually within the constraints of the industry.” Finally, the last part of the conference will expand on the role of design thinking in “iterating and transforming multi-billion dollar industries.”
Kapoor came up with the idea for the conference after noticing the increasing extent to which the professional world recognizes the importance of design. Having previously worked at Facebook as a product design intern, Kapoor felt that Princeton, along with other top schools, was not providing its students with access to a design-oriented education. For her, the Designation Conference is a means to fill this gap.
Kapoor has spearheaded the conference planning process with the aid of 10 other Princeton students. Kapoor recruited them back in January of this year when it became evident that she needed a team to help her coordinate the conference. “We have an incredible team full of designers and coders and photographers and just people who are passionate about the topic. From the first team dinner in January, there was a really powerful dynamic. Everyone has brought such unique perspectives and contributions to the conference,” Kapoor said.
Amanda Morrison ’19, who joined the team as Chief of Staff for the conference, has been working on everything from sponsorship and marketing to logistics. “The second the idea for Designation was pitched to me, I was hooked. We often think about design as simply a visual art form, but it is so much more. It is transforming every industry and the way consumers experience brands, products, and everyday life,” she said.
Morrison noted that since the conference’s primary focus is naturally design, a lot of the team’s energy has been “spent on creating a brand for the conference and leveraging design and social media to do so." She added, "I help connect the dots that maintain a cohesive team that remains enthusiastic about bringing this conference to life.”
The conference application went live on Monday, Feb. 20, and each member of the team changed their profile pictures to promote the conference. Vincent Po ’18, who joined the team as the Director of Media, was in charge of photographing and designing the profile pictures.
According to Po, the sticky notes, which are a key feature of each profile picture, were Kapoor’s brainchild. “She came up with the idea for sticky notes before and asked us all to draw small pictures that either represented ourselves (I had a camera, of course), or something about the conference, like thought bubbles, exclamation points, etc. It was definitely a great idea since it gave all of our photos a unique vibe, compared to most publicity photos for conferences and the like,” he said.
Kapoor says that the most rewarding part of planning the conference has been getting to see the ideas in her head come to fruition and watch as everyone else also gets excited. For her, the best moments have been “when an executive gets really passionate about having the opportunity to share their experiences with students, or when a student tells you they hope the conference is offered many years into the future. At the end of the day, when the core audience is excited about the event, we've done our job.”
As for challenges, Kapoor says that the biggest difficulty for her has been trying to maintain a sense of balance. “When there are so many moving parts, as there are with Designation, you have to be extremely flexible and loose with prior commitments to accommodate the schedules of executives, sponsors, venues, student application cycles and more. But it’s truly worth it when it’s a cause you care about,” she said.