Made By Few 6: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Explore Design

Made By Few is a conference “for the makers of the web.” This past weekend the 6th Made By Few event was hosted in Downtown Little Rock featuring 11 speaker sessions, 4 workshops and 2 after-parties. In this post I’ll highlight my favorite speakers and big takeaways from this delightful conference.


Deva Pardue

Deva Pardue showing a slide at Made By Few about lessons she learned in design school, including "how to talk about design" and "how to survive on $40 / week"

Deva kicked off the conference first thing Friday morning with a discussion of agency vs in-house design work. She confronted the idea that in-house design is boring: “If you’re bored, you’re doing it wrong.” Innovative design happens when brand standards are used as the foundation, not the rule book.

Deva also spoke about her work at The Wing, a network of work and community spaces designed for women, where she is now the Senior Creative Director. With locations in New York, D.C., and California, Deva and her team draw inspiration from Women’s clubs and the suffrage movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to achieve multiple aesthetics in their spaces. Each Wing space is unique, but unified and recognizable.


Jason Mayden

Jason Mayden shows a slide at Made By Few with his life purpose on it: "to build stronger children, rather than fixing broken adults."

Jason’s talk that afternoon was all about dedication and “the sport of design.” Throughout his career, Jason has viewed “no” and a delayed “yes,” and “what if” as “why not.” From his work at Nike to starting his own company, Super Heroic, Jason discussed creativity and service as empathy. He practices immersive empathy, rather than design thinking, and designed “the first ever shoe created specifically for children.”

His discussion was centered around children: his own childhood growing up in Chicago and being told by his parents that “if you put your mind to it, you can be anything you desire,” to his own children, and using play as a catalyst for societal change. Children dressed as fictional characters hold themselves to a higher ethical standard, and are their most exemplar selves. This is part of the reason why he started Super Heroic, “to build stronger children rather than fixing broken adults.” Each pair of Super Heroic shoes also comes with a cape.


Kelli Anderson

Kelli Anderson shows a slide at Made By Few with images of news casters from various networks holding a fake New York Times newspaper she made with headlines such as "Iraq War Ends," which were distributed to cause people to question their reality and imagine a world like the one detailed here.

Kelli’s talk on Saturday at Made by Few was really all about magic. She’s an artist, designer, and tinkerer, and explores the lo-fi appeal of every day objects in a world of advanced technology. Magic, Kelli said is an “experience that reveals a blindspot in one’s understanding of the world.” She works to create surreal experiences where people expect it the least, to get people to question the fundamentals of their world with commonplace materials like newspaper.

To Kelli, design is tinkering and translating problems into a physical idea by making obstructions tangible. Frequently she’s found that, “I made it. I have no idea why it works.” From this she’s learned that simple things aren’t actually simple. Her books “This Book is a Camera” and “This Book is a Planetarium” allow readers to explore the lo-fi appeal of paper. “What happens between the user and the object is where magic occurs.”


Saul Colt

Saul Colt displays a slide at Made By Few saying: "Important Take Away: If you can't or don't feel like playing on other people's terms... just change the rules..."

Saul was the last speaker of the conference, and discussed “what good ideas look like and how to recognize when you have one.” As an experimental marketing agent, Saul talked about his theory that shareable experiences are at the root of everything. These shareable experiences are what will cause people to connect with and share your brand. In his opinion, every idea must fit into at least 2 of 3 buckets:

  1. Make people laugh
  2. Make people think
  3. Make people cry

In his work, he tries to inspire people, rather than influence them. No idea is too small or too imperfect to make an impact and force people to ask questions.

Made by Few: A weekend of inspiring dedication and magic

A large two-story display of balloons at the front entrance to the Made By Few conference.

All in all, Made by Few was an incredibly inspiring experience, especially for a developer who is curious but shy about design. The speakers all came from different backgrounds, shared parts of their history and work experience, and really engaged with the audience. I left with a full brain and a full heart, inspired to play, experiment, create, and participate with this community.

Cade Collister
Cade Collister