I recently attended the ABQ Design Summit 2019 hosted by the AIGA on August 16th and 17th. The Summit was held at the beautiful and super modern CNM Montoya Campus on the Westside of Albuquerque. The 2 day event was a combination of workshops, presentations and networking.

Architectural details seen at CNM Montoya, Westside Campus

The theme of the event this year was a FOCUS on New Mexico Design Talent. The New Mexico AIGA looked within New Mexico and surrounding Southwest areas to find their speakers this year, resulting in a diverse and fascinating speaker panel.



The first day of the Summit started off with a Networking Roundtable where participants could meet and great with each other. Attendees included illustrators, graphic designers, brand managers, writers, UX/UI developers, students, educators and more.

The networking session was followed by a talk from Shandiin Woodward and Ryan Leonski of local indie video game development company, Subliminal. Ryan and Shandiin are true creatives and the cool jean jackets they wore adorned with colorful patches tell you that these two are anything but “business as usual”.

Their presentation was followed by a topic lunch at El Patron (see: legit enchiladas).

In the afternoon we heard from speakers from some of New Mexico’s most recognized brands.

Lauren Tresp

Editor and Publisher of Southwest Contemporary
Lauren Tresp, Southwest Contemporary Magazine
Lauren’s keynote centered around the the cyclical and sometimes imbalanced relationship between artist, art patron, and art curator.

What value does criticism have in the art world? How do we evaluate whether that critique is valid and informative or merely critical?

Tresp reminded Summit attendees that to understand art and be able to critique it properly, we must learn to look deeply. “The more you look, the more you see,” says Tresp. This deeper looking allows us to ask better questions, allow for nuance, and provides time and space for focused inquiry. By thinking critically about art, not only can we understand it more deeply, we also join the larger conversation about art and design and can serve to advance its value in our society.

This topic inspired lots of intense discussion and will probably be explored in a future New Mexico AIGA Design event.

Carlos Contreras

Brand Manager for the One Albuquerque Campaign
Carlos shared the process of how the One Albuquerque brand project came to be and how it is designed as a system that unites smaller entities within the City government. Under this project, there are 24 different logo colors to reflect the various different departments of the city. The t shirt and wayfinding campaign is the result of work by Mayor Tim Keller’s office to bring different departments and services together. By offering different colors of the logo via the One Albuquerque t shirts, city residents can show their support for different aspects of city life like green for Parks and Recreation, purple for Youth and Family programs, or Red for the Fire Department. A portion of the proceeds from the One Albuquerque t shirt sales go towards the Cities Housing Initiative which has a goal of providing housing to 1,000 at-risk or homeless Albuquerque residents in the coming years.

He talked about the challenges of creating a public design project that is both meaningful and effective. More placemarkers similar to the One Albuquerque sculpture Downtown (near the Civic Plaza) will be rolled out in various neighborhoods across the City to help visitors and residents develop a deeper appreciation for and a stronger sense of place.

Zak Rutledge

Lead Designer, New Mexico United
Zac took us on a tour through his sketchbook of unused concepts for the initial New Mexico United Campaign all the way through to the evolution of the final logo and brand design concepts now in use for our state team. Zac starts with loose drawings in a blank sketchbook before taking that initial design concept into Illustrator to develop the artwork digitally.
Zac Rutledge, Lead Designer, New Mexico United - ABQ Design Summit 2019



The second day was opened by my keynote, Digital Storytelling and Experiental Design.

Interface: Digital Storytelling + Experiental Design

Acacia Carr, Author of Uncommon Creative: The Handbook for Unicorns" - ABQ Design Summit 2019


I was asked to provide the opening keynote presentation on Saturday. A key goal of my talk was to highlight New Mexico’s diverse and creative design talent. Over the course of the last year, I’ve met with several local artists, small businesses, entrepreneurs, educators, designers, non-profits and creatives of every stripe to find out what makes New Mexico’s creative talent unique. My goal with this work is to help connect creatives with the right resources at the right time. To do that, I need to know what is working for them and what isn’t.

What kinds of environments and situations create the best opportunities for New Mexico’s creative design community? What leads us to do our best work?

One of the consistent themes I came across was the importance of being part of a creative community. Designers benefit from the support, critique and connections of a broader creative community. And that broader creative community includes connections to government, local non-profits (of which there were several represented via attendee presence at the Summit), local business and other design creatives.

To read more about my keynote specifically, please read Interface: Digital Storytelling + Experiential Design on my Blog.


Cory Campbell, Art Director, La Cumbre Brewing

ABQ Design Summit 2019 (AIGA)ac


My presentation was followed by a great talk by Cory Campbell, Art Director for La Cumbre Brewing.

Cory tackled common problems designers face…the real life issues that go much deeper than bad kerning. The Designer Problems Cory covers are things like feeling inadequate as a creative, how social media affects us as designers, and other super on point issues for designers and creatives.

Saturday was a two track morning (lecture or workshop) so I did not get a chance to attend Lyn Bain and Ben Nargi’s (Albuquerque UX Group) UX/UI Workshop, but I did speak with a participant who attended and they were able to prototype a simple app during the course of the group workshop.


EME Design Studio

A highlight of the event for me was getting to hear from husband and wife design team, Iris Morales and Joel Martinez of EME Design Studio. Iris and Joel travelled the world together as young creatives before founding their creative studio EME Design Studio in El Paso. Their vibrant award winning design work is influenced by the bold colors and rich symbology of their Mexican heritage.

Joel and Iris are also the designers behind the El Paso Strong heart icon t-shirt that helped raise $100,000 for the victims and survivors of the recent mass shooting in El Paso.

Their message was this: Design is a powerful tool. We can use it to unite, or we can use it to divide.

Designers have a responsibility to make this world a better place.


Color-ology Workshop with Brandi Sea

For the afternoon, we had a choice of hearing from Ruth Cisneros, Copywriter and Founder of Coffee + Creatives or attend a color workshop with BrandiSea, Design Strategist and Founder of DesignSpeaks Podcast and BrandiSea.com.

It was a tough call but I chose to attend the Color Workshop with Brandi Sea.

During Brandi’s Color-ology workshop, we created a color palette for ourselves based on the emotional attributes and associations of color.

Brandi also talked about her visit to San Francisco’s Exploratorium where she was reminded of the true power of color. The Exporatorium has an installation in which you place an LED lit glass globe on your head. The globe changes colors as you turn a dial controlling the LED light that lights up the globe. Brandi described how she went from feeling calm and cool while moving the knob through the colors until she reached the red LED light setting. Once immersed in red light, she suddenly felt hot and began to feel uncomfortable. The temperature of her surroundings had not changed, but her brain perceived red to mean warmth and her body responded accordingly. As she returned the dial setting to a cooler blue, she began to feel cooler and calmer.

This is an excellent example of the power of color in our emotional and physical response to visual stimuli.

Learn more about working with Color and Your Brand on my Blog.


Caitlin LeMoine and Luke Dorman, Graphic Designers, Meow Wolf

The event was closed by keynote speakers Luke Dorman and Caitlin LeMoine, lead graphic designers at Meow Wolf. We got to see examples of several Meow Wolf graphic art and design projects including a sneak peak of Meow Wolf’s upcoming Dark Palace music festival artwork (so good). We also got a chance to learn about how Meow Wolf approaches work culture in balance with creativity and a diverse set of talents.

Caitlin LeMoine, Meow Wolf - ABQ Design Summit 2019
Caitlin LeMoine talking about the Portal Bermuda design concepts



All in all, it was a fun event full of interesting conversations and plenty of “a-ha” moments for myself as well as my fellow attendees. If you are a designer living in the Southwest or beyond, I hope you will join us for next year’s Summit! In the meantime, get connected to the design community by joining your local AIGA Chapter.

ABQ Design Summit 2019 (AIGA)ac
ABQ Design Summit T-shirts being printed on site by Ink Theory

ABQ Design Summit 2019 (AIGA)ac
ABQ Design Summit T-shirts being printed on site by Ink Theory

Special thanks go to the New Mexico AIGA Board and Volunteers who put in the time to make this year’s Summit a success as well as event partners and sponsors A Good Sign, ARI Graphix & Signs, CNM and Ink Theory.