We sent a team of people to this year’s SXSW to meet with clients old and new, learn about the latest trends, and mingle with our peers (sometimes over BBQ and tacos). Here are our highlights.

Edelman/Future of Storytelling Open House

Global marketing firm Edelman held a series of events throughout SXSW but the one that left the biggest impression on us was their open house.Partnered with Future of Storytelling and hosted away from the SXSW hubbub in Edelman’s Austin office, this open house showcased bleeding edge technology through immersive digital experiences, not just focusing on the tech itself. From Haptx’s haptic gloves that let you “feel” the grass and rain in a VR countryside to Quantum Interface’s gesture-based menu navigation to the Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive, in which you can ask questions to recordings of Holocaust survivors, it felt obvious that these experiences are the future of interaction. Being able to talk in depth to the people behind each of the eight installations was truly inspiring.

Redefining Play to Impact Health and Beyond

Michelle Lee, lead of IDEO’s design for play team, transported us all back to our youth at SXSW this year. Her talk titled, “Redefining Play to Impact Health and Beyond” brought out our inner child by opening things up with a favorite childhood game, lava (if you need a quick reminder - close your eyes. Imagine jumping around from point A to point B, but don’t step into the lava between!) Michelle challenged us to think critically about the value of these types of childhood experiences in our every day lives – How can we incorporate play more in our adult lives and industries? How can we turn a traumatic experience, such as an MRI as a child, into a playful experience? In a practical example, she shared how IDEO utilized their imagination and incorporated play to rethink and redesign the daunting reality of healthcare. It reminded us that any experience can benefit from a little childhood creativity.

smart car in a Bubble

smart fortwo in a Bubble

With so many things going on at SXSW, its a constant battle for attention from attendees. Companies brought out their best in hopes of making a strong impression on the conference’s attendees. Daimler AG took a variety of approaches, with a premier sponsorship, speaking slots, and their own innovation park, called the me Convention. What stuck out to us most, and was surely sticking with people, was sight of a smart fortwo car in a bubble rolling down the main drag of 6th Street, led by a marching band and police escorts. After rolling down most of the strip, the car stopped and a singer jumped out of the car and performed a number. That’s one heck of a way to show your car is emissions-free.

Run As You Are

VoteRunLead teaches women to run for office. A brilliant and interesting far cry from most of the other content at SXSW, their session, Run As You Are, was both a workshop of practical tips for starting a run for office but also a hype session, with the moderators working to convince everyone in the room that they were not only capable of running for office, but of winning. Through paired and solo exercises, everyone in the room explored the possibility of running for office and exactly how they would engage their friends, families, and networks. In making the process so relatable, it was nearly impossible to leave the room not feeling pumped about your own ability to create change.

Innovation By Design Live! @ Fast Company Grill

Oonie Chase, frog’s Executive Creative Director shed light on the question, ”Where is design headed?”. She took the stage alongside David Rosenberg, Head of Business Development, GIPHY, Mark Rolston, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Argodesign and moderated by Eric Schurenberg, CEO, Mansueto Ventures. Each leader shed light on the latest innovations in design, from graphic to experiential, to digital, and beyond, weighing in on what’s next. Dialing in to demonstrating innovation by design, the Fast Company Grill managed to provide a necessary calm amidst the chaos of SXSW while sharing some pretty strong points of view.

Next year’s SXSW will be held March 8-17, 2019.