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party scene at 99U Conference 2019 with interactive design on the large screen

99U Conference 2019

More Than Ever, Creativity Demands Courage

The theme for 99U 2019 was 'The Creative Future,' which permeated conversations among attendees and sparked unexpected connections.

This year, the 99U Conference theme was ‘the Creative Future.’ Groundbreakers, creative thinkers, and design leaders shared their thoughts on where we’re at and what we’ll need for what lies ahead. The theme permeated conversations among attendees and sparked unexpected connections. As speakers dug into the future of creativity, it became apparent that something else will be necessary for our creative lives ahead: courage.

From fearless drive in the wake of faceless tech, to taking a leap into our unknown skills and untrammeled spaces, here’s how 99U speakers encouraged creatives to brave the unexplored as they tackle their own work and our collective creative future.


Vivienne Ming

Dr. Vivienne Ming underscored the role of courage within creativity in the context of creating AI/Photo by Ryan Muir for 99U

“Right now, artificial intelligence is fundamentally a tool and you’re the artists. It is a huge mistake to think AI will solve our problems. But taking creative people that know how to explore the unknown and have the courage to do what they think is right, that is fundamentally what creativity is about.” Dr. Vivienne Ming, Co-Founder & Executive Chair, Socos Labs

“The key to creativity is finding a way to listen to yourself.” Zach Lieberman, Co-founder, School for Poetic Computation

“The superhero thing has never really gone away from me. There’s always a part of me that is really, really hoping that I’m going to be able to save the day.” Ashley C. Ford, Writer, Editor

Giorgia Lupi

Giorgia Lupi spoke on data and how to embrace and channel chaos/Photo by Ryan Muir for 99U

“Boredom is the beautiful, blank, unexplored space we will probably lose altogether, if we’re not careful. We need to seek it out. We need to bask in it.” Kyle T. Webster, Design Evangelist, Adobe

“What if there was no such thing as normal? How would we proceed in our design?” Kat Holmes, Director, UX Design, Google & Founder,

“That confidence to leap into the unknown is a form of mastery.” Tim Brown, CEO & President, IDEO

Michael Ventura

Michael Ventura told the audience that commitment and bravery are key to see change/Photo by Ryan Muir for 99U

“Our world is random and messy. Collecting data does not make it more perfect or more controllable.” Giorgia Lupi, Partner & Design Director, Accurat

“Listen very closely to what’s not being said.” Jessica Orkin, President, SYPartners

“If you can be brave enough to imagine past your understanding, you can change everything, and not just the world, but the people in it.” Ashley C. Ford, Writer, Editor

Ashley C. Ford challenged the audience to look past the constraints of how we typically see the world and those in it/Photo by Ryan Muir for 99U

“Words have never mattered more. A single word can elevate something or it can change your perception. Even if it’s just your own perception.” Anna Pickard, Head of Brand Communications, Slack

“Empathy requires attention and commitment. Be brave, because this isn’t something everybody’s willing to do. But if you are willing to do it, you will see change.” Michael Ventura, Founder & CEO, Sub Rosa

“The opposite of courage is conforming.” Brian Collins, Founder, COLLINS

More Posts by Emily Ludolph

Emily Ludolph is a director at West Wing Writers. She has published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Artsy, Airmail, Eye on Design, JSTOR Daily, Quartz, Narratively, TED Online and Design Observer. 

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