After a long and continually sidetracked session of browsing through the likes of Behance, Google, and Pinterest, I found myself drawn to the overall design of The 99U Conference 2016 in NYC. Because I had no prior knowledge of 99U or their conference (which, after a quick search, I found to be "Behance's effort to provide the missing curriculum for creating an incredible creative career...through [their] website, popular events [their annual 99U Conference brings together 950+ leading creatives for two days fully focused on the mechanics of making ideas happen. Through a series of intensive talks and master classes, the world's leading creative visionaries and researchers share best practices on idea execution], and bestselling books."), it was inevitably the visual narrative alone that grabbed my attention. The conference brand was well executed, beautifully and minimally. The designers used only four colors throughout all of the materials (black, white, red, and teal). All materials included one, a handful, or all of the following shapes: squares, triangles, circles, zigzagged lines, and parallel diagonal lines. These two factors alone (color and shape) made the conference materials appear extremely cohesive.
However, here's where I was left questioning: Upon first glance, all of 99U's conference materials employed a sans-serif typeface throughout. However, as I looked closer, I found that the phrase "The Conference - May 5/6 - New York City - Making Ideas Happen - Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center" (used on multiple materials), and the phrase "Creative Career Offsite - Friday, May 6th - 9:15 AM," (used on session tickets), were both printed in a serif typeface. These two phrases were the only visible usages of a serif typeface throughout the wide array of conference materials, and I couldn't help but wonder why that design decision was made. In my opinion, it took away from the cohesiveness of the conference brand. I was also left questioning the effectiveness of the repeated shapes - what was the meaning behind them? They looked trendy and cool, certainly, but was there a point beyond that? I couldn't seem to think of one. And because I knew nothing of 99U before laying eyes on their conference materials, I also knew nothing of their conference. As an uninformed party viewing their promotional materials objectively, I would have absolutely no idea what the conference was about - both their posters and promotional video, while visually beautiful and cohesive, give virtually no clues. A simple title of "The Conference" paired with seemingly random shapes just doesn't provide enough visual or readable information. Now, I'm assuming most if not all of the conference goers are aware of 99U and the purpose of the conference, so it's possible that my critique is irrelevant. However, if they were hoping for new followers, I deem their promotional materials somewhat ineffective.
When it comes to the materials used at the conference itself, materials that will be seen by those who have signed up for the conference and are aware of what they signed up for, I believe those did a better job. They're minimalistic, yet provide all of the necessary information to guide you through the conference (such as large and small scale schedules, speaker biographies, session tickets, and name tags). Less necessary materials were also designed, showing that the conference brand designers put immense thought into the small details that rendered the conference into a cohesive and all-encompassing experience (such as stickers, a mini-guide to NYC, and a tote bag in which to place your conference goods). Overall, I think the conference brand designers did a good job of responding to the needs of their young, creative audience - the designs were fresh, clean, minimal, trendy, with avant-garde uses of shape and color. The designers put thought into making the materials unique and memorable, yet cohesive.
[Creative Director and Designer - Mark Brooks, work found on Behance]