#IRDC2016: Hash-tagging it Out

A collective synopsis, as told real-time by conference attendees
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Posted September 26, 2016

Hashtags are a lot like reading between the lines. You see the photo and read the caption, but if you’re going for honesty, you scroll further; you read the hashtags. Take me to the juicy details, the sarcasm and the blunt truth. (#Truthbomb doesn’t have 140,000 tags for nothing.)

As a conference attendee to the International Retail Design Conference (IRDC) this year, I wasn’t able to soak up every ah-ha breakout session moment, meet every eager guest I had on my to-meet list or accept every tempting dinner invite. When asked to write this blog recap for IRDC, I felt like I’d been plucked out of a school of fish. The conference was such a shared experience for me. I realized quickly I needed to lean on other conference-goer highlights to shed light on the full experience, to divide and conquer via the sea of social media posts shared during the event. So I’m writing this blog, guided by the IRDC posse, to give you not only my thoughts, but the thoughts of real-time conference attendees based on the deep stuff – the hashtags.

Below are my top six hashtag selections, used by attendees on Twitter and Instagram, which helped hash out IRDC 2016:

1. #Getinspired: In the opening keynote, riCardo Crespo’s formula, “FOMO/NBDB/HSF: Fear of Missing Out, Never Been Done Before and the ‘Holy Shit’ Factor – three things to strive for when creating innovative design,” set the conference tone for me.

I was craving inspiration (Never Been Done Before) and risk (‘Holy Shit’ Factor). Chute Gerdeman’s presentation, “Building the Bridge between Business and Creative,” did both by exposing their projects with businesses that had failed. They did something that they didn’t have to, and there was a memorable, vulnerable element. It resonated in a real human way, took down the persona of perfection, and then went on to explain how we can all collaborate smarter.

2. #Orangeisthenewtrash: I love this hashtag from @r0xyr0ad (Roxanna Scotto, ASA Retail Studio) on her Instagram photo of her team’s Iron Merchant masterpiece! Britanya Hodge (@britanyahodge), Maxam Design Intl. Inc., of the purple team, also “put it all out there” with a photo enticing voters to “Vote Purple!” This year’s annual Iron Merchant Challenge incorporated a pretty serious topic about cleaning up litter in a fresh, fun way. It was a win-win, challenging both participants and spectators alike!

3. #Empoweringwomen: There’s a little book I am obsessed with, and wish every woman and man would read it. It is called “Lean In,” by Sheryl Sandberg, and in an unbiased way, it lays out the challenges women face in the workplace. Sheryl would’ve been so proud of speakers Deborah English and Whole Foods Market’s Gabrielle Rosi, whose session, “Women in Design: Let’s Take over the (Design) World,” had the audience feeling empowered and refueled. Lightbulbs were going off, and the whole room was illuminated with the hope of equality in the workplace. It is a conversation that we need to continue until it is reached. Here is a light-hearted video I’d like to add to the conversation: “Pinksourcing” by Kristen Bell.

4. #Montrealmoments: You know that moment when you’re looking down from your hotel room (@b_page), sipping French wine (@alisajane12), catching a wink-wink (@faithbartrugdesign), or spotting a graphic rooster on a brick wall (@jamesfarnell)? Those are #montrealmoments. IRDC 2016 was full of them! City tours, one even with a Cirque de Soleil performance at City Host JPMA’s Montréal showroom and factory, revealed many surprises. As attendees strolled through Old Montréal, they revealed amazing food adventures that help define this exciting city. Here are a few of the top places we all enjoyed: Ristorante Beatrice, Barocco, Le Place d’Armes, Mlle Catherine, Kem CoBa, Maggie Oakes, Liverpool House, and my favorite, Delices (try the Canadian maple cranberry gelato – #yougottaeatthis)!

5. #Keepdancing: Nowadays, you have to reveal something new in order to inspire an audience. In his presentation, “Creative Courage: Challenging the Status Quo and Making Big Ideas Happen,” Welby Altidor intertwined his personal life with passion for his work and shared a very intimate story that proved impactful and inspirational. His family, and specifically his father’s support, was the love thread throughout this incredible presentation on super powers, doing the impossible and giving everyone a voice. He also had the most quotable presentation on Instagram. My favorite is the post from @adesignedlife: “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Welby is one to stay connected, too, @welbyaltidor. I will remember his presentation about drive, dancing and love. (Besides, isn’t love the special sauce for all “good guy” super powers?!) Let’s be the good guys in this business.

6. #Ingoodcompany: Mixology magic happens when people from different job titles are stirred up in the same place. It doesn’t matter if you are a ceo or just starting out, anyone can let their enthusiasm lead the way for a great conversation. At the conference closing party at the Time Supper Club, I was able to mingle with the #bigwigs and have exciting conversations with brand new designers. Every table, every party, every elevator and every hallway at IRDC was an opportunity to meet someone new.

For me, the conference was a success, based on the relationships I was able to further build upon, and the brand new ones I am looking forward to developing in the future. But I’m not the only one. It looks like many new friendships were formed (@r.vinneyconsulting), connections were made (@idlworldwide) and selfless promoting (@gsdayla) abounded. What a great year!

Be sure to join VMSD next year for the 2017 International Retail Design Conference in New Orleans, Sept. 6-8, 2017. To learn more and receive insider updates, please visit irdconline.com.

Faith Bartrug of FBD Studios (Columbus, Ohio) has more than a decade of experience in transforming national brands. Her background includes brand strategy, environmental design and visual merchandising, and she has been able to practice what she preaches with leading design firms and clients such as Starwood Retail Partners, Neiman Marcus, and JCPenney.