More than 31,000 colleagues traveled to Washington, DC, to take part in the world’s largest marketplace of ideas and tools for global neuroscience. Among the sea of collaborators, neuroscientists, students and business representatives were my colleague Jane Cirigliano, who heads up our digital department, and me representing our creative team. Not the most obvious place for a graphic designer to be hanging around.
There were over 500 exhibitors in the hall with a constant rotation of poster sessions. As we walked along the back aisle with a former professor of neuroscience turned business owner of a company whose focus is primarily on proteins of interest in the neuroscience field, to the left I saw row after row of companies that are working hard to be noticed.
Booth after booth manned with PhDs turned marketing, sales and portfolio managers, representing products and technology. To the right I saw row after row of posters pinned to boards flanked with academics whose entire world revolves around the information contained on that 36 x 60 laminated sheet of paper. Ideas still in their infancy, bound someday (maybe) for the other side of the aisle, destined to become a cure, treatment or even a mechanisim for tracking and defining a disease, ailment or genetic disorder. A “life-saver” to someone—some, one, human being—like me or my 5-year-old autistic nephew.
Fun fact: As an intern for the Ohio University Libraries at Ohio University in the late 90s I cut my “applied design” teeth on poster sessions for these aspiring scientists, educators and soon-to-be PhDs. They would bring stacks of tables, diagrams, and copy to the media center, where I was interning as a graphic design student, and it was my job to take this stack of information and somehow fit it into that 36 x 60 space. Make it play by the rules but somehow appear unique among others.
At the time, I couldn’t have possibly predicted that my future held a position as creative director within a company whose focus is this life sciences industry. Not me. I was headed to the city to be a designer, working for a huge agency that managed brands like Limited, Coke, or some other household name. While I’ve had those opportunities, the fit was never what I expected. The reward wasn’t there—it wasn’t at all what it was cracked up to be.
But here, at OffWhite, I’ve found a crevice in this gigantic world where, when ideas are seeded and nurtured and cared for properly, they flourish and grow. Our commitment at OffWhite is to finding the ideas that matter most. We nurture them, care for them and see them quietly resolve to the things we really could not survive without.
So as we walked with this gentleman to a quiet place where we could talk and learn more about his business of building proteins and antibodies, I saw how it was – like a flash of light – that I ended up in that very spot at that very time. How I arrived here from the days of the seemingly endless stream of poster sessions that were so “not-design” projects to me. After two days, and many conversations, Jane and I are back in the office now, with a collective of innovative ideas that need fostering, and relationships to build and cultivate that may just be the cause for better quality of life for someone out there.
I love it when life gives you a hint or foreshadows what is yet to come. Rarely can we see it but from hindsight, though when we spot it, it’s our confirmation that we’re right were we belong.