Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the Color Conference, organized by the Printing Industries of America, for the second time. Last year, when the event was held in December in Phoenix, there were about 175 attendees. Although I don’t have the final numbers due to the many walk-ins at the event, the estimate is a 30% increase in attendance, with about 25% of attendees being from the brand/design community. That’s a stunning achievement, the largest attendance in 10 years, no doubt helped by the beautiful San Diego location, and the fact that it’s pretty darn cold in most of the country! WhatTheyThink was pleased to be a media partner again this year, and we captured some great video you will see rolling out over the next few weeks.

The conference featured 34 industry experts presenting 40 sessions across four tracks:

  • Print and Production
  • Brand and Design
  • Emerging Technology
  • Sponsor Technology

For me, a highlight of the conference was listening to Dr. David Hogue, Lead User Experience (UX) Designer at Google. He first defined user experience, pointing out that it is not the work of a single person, but requires a team of people. It encompasses many aspects of usability and engagement. Envisioning the user experience is integral to the product development process, and not something that can be painted on at the end. He stated that it is hard work, and that it can be difficult to coordinate all the roles that are involved in the process, and to gain the deep insights into what people need required to create a great user experience.

While Hogue claimed that after 20 years of doing this, he still has a hard time explaining his work – and the concept of user experience – I thought he did a fabulous job, bringing in examples from the physical world to demonstrate his points and diving into the psychology of the user interface. It was unfortunate that all of the sessions were not able to be recorded, but at least the slides are available here. Hogue was kind enough to sit with us for a video interview, so watch for that as well!

I was impressed overall with the quality of the keynote speakers, including Brian Yap of Adobe, who shared his fascinating creative journey; Don Boyarski, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, who shared his fascinating research on design, color and motion. These two speakers were interesting because they drew in so many examples of their own work and (in the case of Boyarski) student work to demonstrate their points. It’s worth downloading their presentations. Even though there is no audio, the presentations are pretty self-explanatory.

Both Lisa Price of 3M and Barry Sanel of Diageo, who talked about their print quality/color management programs. And, of course, what would the Color Conference be without a word from our standards gurus! Ray Cheydleur of X-Rite, who is extremely active on a variety of standards bodies, did a standalone session on standards, and the formal program ended with Brunch with the Standards Gurus, where a panel of standards experts weighed in on the state of standards, and where they expect them to go.

The conference organizers have done a great job of broadening the content, which in turn broadens the audience, as demonstrated by the growth in attendance. I find at this conference that attendees are very engaged, and most sessions generate lots of questions and interaction. The one complaint I heard was that there was not enough time for networking and having in-depth conversations with the sponsors. The sponsor area was open for a lot of 15-minute breaks, but you barely get introductions done in that amount of time! Show organizers heard this message loud and clear, so expect to see more time for interaction in the sponsor area for those attendees who are looking for solutions, or just looking for information.

PIA will be announcing the dates and location for next year’s San Diego event. When we departed the conference, they were already investigating four different resort properties, since the Grand Hyatt Mission Bay, while a lovely property, was too small to accommodate what they hope will be another bump in attendance in 2019.