Questions and answers with James Helms
How many Big Design conferences have you attended?
Good question! I’m not exactly sure but 5 or 6 years, for sure. I was invited to contribute to a panel while I was at Bottle Rocket, and I was blown away by the breadth of content and the number of folks who were engaged in the design, experience, gaming, usability and research space here in Dallas. It was like a whole new world opened up!
Can you briefly tell me what your talk is about?
I’ve been working this presentation for a while – in response to a lot of conversations I’ve had with my own designers and with others at various portfolio review and mentoring events: How to use design mindsets, tools and behaviors to approach your work and career more strategically. I’m hoping it feels like a how-to guide for designers looking to have more influence in their current role, or make the leap to their next big thing.
Why that topic?
I’m super passionate about helping designers grow – and about designers having more influence, collectively. It behooves all of us to clarify how important design is – and designers are – in helping businesses achieve their business outcomes (reducing expense, creating value and desire, driving revenue and growth). Maybe most importantly, design is such an empowering capability, I find it a little sad that some designers seem trapped in their tactical role as ‘deliverer of things’ – and I want to help them realize that those ‘things’ are the keys to the kingdom.
Why did you choose to speak at Big Design?
I love Dallas. I’m an adopted son of this town and the Design Community here has been tremendously generous with their time and experience. Both – the city and the community – have shaped my career and my life. This is a simple way for me to stay connected to my city, designers, and emerging trends and talent. And hopefully give some of that back.
What are you looking forward to at Big Design, other than your talk of course? Why?
I’m always happiest just meeting up with old friends and making new ones. I’m constantly surprised by how much the Design community here continues to grow and evolve. I’ll be setting aside time to talk to designers trying to transform their careers, trying to get their first job or their next job. And I always like connecting with other Design Leaders to hear what they’re focused on, struggling with, and where they’re finding success.
What keeps pulling you back to the conference year after year?
This community is critical to my goal to develop a pipeline of the best design talent in Dallas. Best meaning: amazing craft, cutting edge skills and capabilities, remarkable humans who are humble, curious and brave — at all levels, backgrounds and perspectives. The content draws the community. And the Vibe is unmistakably Dallas Designers. Since I’m one of them, this is one of my happy places.
For someone who is trying to pitch the conference attendance to their boss, what would you say is the biggest selling point of Big Design?
- Content focused on the current opportunities and challenges in our Industry (experience delivery, accessibility, ethics, best practices, new technology and the skills to understand, test and wrangle that technology for better business outcomes.)
- The Opportunity to network and build relationships with other designers for pipelining.
- Personal growth and development: workshops and talks (like mine) devoted to helping designers take control of their goals, aspirations and careers.
For our out-of-town guests, what is the coolest thing about the DFW area?
The ridiculous breadth of cheeseburgers available. I mean SERIOUSLY this is the cheeseburger capital of the world. Barbecue? Sure. Sushi? Maybe. Tacos, okay fine. But CHEESEBURGERS that would make you cry.
What is the best way that people get in touch with you?
The twitter: @jamesh_str
Is there anything else you’d like to add about Big Design?
Super stoked for the new venue! For those that don’t know, this thing started super tiny in a little hotel in Addison and was busting uncomfortably at the seams two years ago, when the Big Design crew subsequently made the move to their present location in Southside. It is now as cool as the conference: with space to spread out and a scale that matches the level of the conference and the aesthetic of the city.
James Helmes is the VP of Design at Intuit, in Plano, TX. James has had a career in brand design, creative direction, and experience strategy, which led him to Intuit.