New York to Boston to Denver, and Back Again

That was a busy weekend. Here’s how I spent it.

I woke up at about 4:00a on Friday morning and flew to Boston for the Society of News Designers conference, which was great fun. In our session just before lunchtime, Tom Bodkin and I had a very lively public debate about the merits and flaws of digital design, which I think some members of the audience recorded. I’m only sorry I couldn’t have stayed longer.

Then it was off to Denver for the AIGA National Design Conference. I got just a few hours of sleep that night before reporting to the impressive and immense Denver convention center (they have an awesome sculpture of a bear giving drivers-by the ass in front of the building) the next morning, to be introduced for my solo talk by the extremely classy Kurt Andersen, who asked me some sharp follow-up questions after I was done. It was a little frightening, too, to speak for twenty-five minutes in front of some 2,500 attendees, but I’m proud to say that I did not mess up, at least.

But Wait, There’s More

I’d nearly forgotten beforehand but I had agreed to appear later on that afternoon with Bill Drenttel, Allan Chochinov, Alissa Walker and Tina Roth Eisenberg for a panel on design blogs moderated by Steve Heller. I was a little afraid this one would tread too much over familiar territory, but it turned out to be quite a fun exchange.

I stayed out pretty late on Saturday night, drinking and socializing with attendees and getting to chat with lots of designers whose work I had long admired from afar. It was really fun. But I was exhausted by Sunday morning, and slept nearly all the way back to New York. I’m going to bed early tonight.

Tom Bodkin and me at SND Boston. Photo courtesy of William Couch.
2,500 designers at the Denver Convention Center, where I spoke. Photo courtesy of Liz Danzico.
Kurt Andersen asking me a follow-up question after my talk. Photo courtesy of Stu Alden.
The blogging panel at AIGA Next. From left: Steve Heller, Tina Roth Eisenberg, Alissa Walker, Allan Chochinov, Bill Drenttel and me. Photo courtesy of Liz Danzico.


At both conferences, lots of people asked me about documentation of the talks that I did. I believe that some attendees recorded the talk that Tom and I gave at the Society of News Designers Conference, but I haven’t seen any surface yet. As soon as I do, I’ll post a link here.

The same goes for the panel discussion on blogging from Saturday at the AIGA National Design Conference, though I’m not sure if any audience members recorded that one. And of course, I my own slides from my talk, entitled “Control,” on the main stage there in Denver, which I’m posting below via the presentation sharing service SlideShare. I went back and added some notations for slides that had none when I presented them, hoping to help readers here make more sense of the flow. This was a brand new talk and I’m really proud of it because I think it pushes me beyond the territory of just being That Grids Guy, and into an area of bigger ideas on how we think about practicing design. Hopefully you’ll agree.

Annotated version of my slides from the AIGA National Design Conference. A larger version of this deck is available directly at this SlideShare link.
  1. I enjoyed your main presentation and the panel discussion. Keep up the great work. And as comments are the only way of engagement on this medium we loosely call blogging, I’ll keep it in mind to comment more often. Take care.

    PS – you’ll find the Wells Fargo Blogs I mentioned during the panel discussion at the web address I left.

  2. It was great to meet you this past weekend… though you probably don’t remember me. Your presentation was great and very relevant and the analogy of speech to conversation is exactly what I need to explain to the rest of my agency the differences on how one should approach an interactive design problem.

    But yeah, we’d all love to download that presentation. 🙂 Keep up the amazing work!

  3. Khoi – it was a pleasure and an honor to sit in on your session and speak with you afterwards. The debate you and Tom had was great – I wrote up an overview of it for the SND Update blog ( The difference and similarity in opinions about design and its translation online between the two of you shed light onto a perspective I’d not considered, but have spent a lot of time thinking about since.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to stop by Boston – I know a lot of the attendees enjoyed your and Tom’s session.

  4. Both your presentation and panel discussion at the AIGA conference were informative and inspirational. Thanks for sharing.

    I saw you in the security line at the Denver airport and you looked totally wiped out. You seem to have recovered quickly.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. Thanks for the inclusion of your slides. I was scribbling notes during your presentation – so the visuals will help make it all make sense again.

    Kudos on the great talk.

  6. Khoi, thank you. I just found your presentation and read through it. You’ve captured an important distinction that only now do I realize I’ve been hunting for for years. I’ve long moaned that “the web is not print” but yours is the first and best and most meaningful elaboration on it that I’ve seen.

    I’m not sure what the answer is, but I know that you’ve finally provided me a framework to ponder.


  7. I was working during this session so missed the presentation – so glad to read it now. Thank you for posting it. I look forward to hearing more from you on the subject.

  8. Khoi,

    Many thanks for your presentation at SND Boston. This was my first SND (only Kiwi in the audience I think) and coming from an academic background (again not too many of us), I found the session with Tom one of the most stimulating.

    I asked the question at the end of the session, that it seemed that the usually perceived outlooks of designer [Tom]/technologist [yourself] were reversed somewhat, with Tom being the more gun-ho /optimistic of the two of you as to future directions for news on the web. This fascinated me, even more so when Tom told me rather flippantly that “the paper is dead”. I appreciated that you weren’t negative about the future, more that you were playing the conservative role.

    As much as I LOVE newspapers and all of the design solutions that these throw out, I am very excited about the possibility of ubiquity [device independent] news information. I feel that the role of the designer and the journalist will be even more pivotal to the success of a news organisation in this era.

    I know it’s the next step, but I was a little surprised how excited Tom was about the Times Reader. Personally, I feel it’s too device dependent {the newton rises?}. But then again we need to take these steps to get where ever the future will go. We wouldn’t have had the iPod and iPhone without the classic Sony Walkman.

    However, that aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation and well done surviving that weekend. I look forward to the NY Times presentation at SND Vegas.


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