HOW Design Live is one of the biggest design conferences in the US, featuring world-famous designers discussing their work and offering insights on how they were able to land jobs or achieve some of the projects they showcase. Three talks in particular stood out at this year’s event, which took place earlier this month. Find out why they resonated and follow up for yourself with the suggested reading and links below, along with bonus content from previous conferences.

Debbie Millman Interviews Seth Godin

Less of a formal presentation and more of an hour-long chat, this HOW talk was easily one of the most thought provoking. Similar in style to Millman’s Design Matters podcast, this conversation dissected people’s ability to be creative, as well as their tendency to get in their own way. It highlighted a few books written by Godin, but the one it prompted me to pick up immediately after was V Is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone.

With V, Godin wanted to create a reason for even printing a book, so he created it in the format of a children’s picture book. In it, he approaches some heavy insights via a style that remains comforting and familiar, bringing us back to the time where we first learned to read.

Comedy Improv Training for Creatives with Stefan Mumaw

Having gone to a few of his talks, to say that Stefan Mumaw was made for public speaking is a vast understatement. There’s something about Stefan’s ability to work a crowd and engage people that puts his presentations among the most popular happenings wherever he goes. Using improv techniques, Mumaw creates exercises that help boost and grow your creativity. As with his 2013 talk, where he told the crowd that he could make you more creative by the end of his time slot, he delivered on this promise. Experience the results for yourself via his excellent book of creative exercises, Creative Boot Camp.

Improvisation and Design With Jake Barton

Something every designer loves to see is someone interacting with a piece they created, whether it’s a person flipping through the pages of a book they made or someone else buying a poster they designed and taking a photo of it on their wall. Jake Barton’s profession is all about human interaction. Part of the company Local Projects, Barton did a talk about the art of thinking on your feet in live time.

Not to be confused with Mumaw’s talk specific to comedy improv, Barton’s used improvisational ideas from not only comedy, but also jazz and visual art, such as that of Jackson Pollock. You can sketch something, plan, and argue and dissect an idea, but you never really know how a person will really interact with it until it actually happens.

Barton showed off work that spanned from a museum display where people could pose however they wanted and a program would find a piece of art that mirrored their pose, to an interactive playground that helps teach kids physics as they play. He also stressed that the art of adjusting and adapting in real time is an essential part of the design process and something everyone should embrace. Watch a TED Talk with Barton to hear more.

Failure: How the Worst Moments in Your Life Can Turn Out to Be the Best (2013)

Openly honest and raw about every moment in her career that she was rejected, this 2013 HOW Talk by Debbie Millman charted her career through her failures. For a conference that, for the most part, has people talking about their own success stories and work, this was a breath of fresh air. For many, it can be difficult to relate directly to the designer superstars that have world-renowned work, but it’s a whole lot easier to identify with being rejected.

Millman’s style of talking/interviewing has such an honest open approach, that I’ve been an avid subscriber ever since to her above-mentioned podcast, Design Matters, which hosts consistently great candid interviews focused on design culture. Experience one of her presentations for yourself in this CreativeMornings Featured Talk.

Under the Covers with Chip Kidd (2012)

Some of the best designers in the world have their side projects — it’s an inherent part of the craft. At times, they can be woven into their full-time jobs, and it’s the passion that always shines through. Chip Kidd, who revolutionized book-cover design, has done quite a few jacket designs revolving around his all-time favorite superhero, Batman.

In his 2012 HOW talk, Kidd focused less on his career as a top-tier graphic designer, and more on his newly released Batman comic, Death by Design. It’s an inspiring thing to hear about projects like this, because they tend to be the purest example’s of the artist’s creative style. There’s an excitement that can’t be hidden when someone talks about something they truly love, as was evident when Kidd waxed about how he created a storyline, crafted his version of the bat-symbol, and explored all the other details of his process.

Bonus: View Chip Kidd’s massive Batman collection and check out a similar talk Kidd gave about this comic.

Have you seen a talk or presentation that sent you scrambling to learn more? If so, share it with us in the comments!