Voices

How the Big Design Conference Came to Be

Big Design co-founder Brian Sullivan shares its origin story.

Big Design

SERIES: PART 2

Editor’s note: The 3-Day Big Design conference has kicked off its 11th year and runs through Sept. 22 at Gilley’s Dallas. We thought it was a good time to kick off this multipart series about Design in Big D. The series digs into the scope and depth of the Dallas-Fort Worth UX/UI industry as the region becomes a hot spot for design talent and companies. For more information on the Big Design conference that runs Sept. 20-22, check out our calendar.

Here, Big Design co-founder Brian Sullivan shares part of its origin story.


About 12 years ago, I challenged a group of local design leaders to put on a first-rate conference in Dallas. I explained that it made sense because we had so many connections to top talent, recruiting agencies, big brands, hiring managers, and great speakers. We started planning the next day.

Big Design was designed to be a low-cost, high-value conference experience. Our organizers were tired of expensive conferences, where attendees wait in line and are turned back at the door. We wanted our attendees to hear from different disciplines — development, user research, design, usability, filmmaking, and product management.

New voices, fresh perspectives

We believe the currency comes from the conversations: new voices, fresh perspectives, different disciplines, case studies, practical tips, and inspirational talks. We decided to put on the conference we wanted to go to. We end up working the conference, but our attendees tell us they love it!


Design studios are sketching workshops, where key stakeholders produce sketches individually and critique them with a group. On the surface, design studios appear to be simple to do: sketch and critique. The single best thing you can do at the start of a project is a design studio. Yet, most people do not run very effective design studios.

Excerpt from
“The Design Studio Method,”
by Brian Sullivan

Every Big Design has had international attendees. People want to speak here. One year, we had a power hour of speakers from Disney, Netflix, Amazon, Walmart, Pixar, Adobe, Sabre, AT&T, USAA, and Facebook.

Our values center on learning, sharing, and growing. We shine a spotlight on the Dallas design community—our talent, our companies, our expertise, our city. The conference has grown every year. We are expecting more than 1,200 people this year; we started with about 500.

Killer keynote speakers

We have killer keynote speakers. We have had two Academy Award-winning artists. Phil Tippet, who created the Death Star and Millennium Falcon for Star Wars, and the dinosaurs for Jurassic World, was a recent keynote speaker. Other keynotes were leaders from Amazon, Facebook, Sabre, Spotify, Netflix, and Capital One.

In our 11th year, the conference has moved to Gilley’s Dallas to enhance the Big Design experience. We will have more than 80 speakers and 40 booths, and are hosting “An Evening with Stephan Martiniere” on Sept. 21. Martiniere is the top concept artist in Hollywood. His movies include “Star Wars,” “Avengers,” “Ready Player One,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Big Design Conference was the best-kept secret (and dare) in Dallas. Until now.

DFW Experience was first published in Sept. 2018 in a Dallas Regional Chamber brochure: “Design With a Big ‘D'”.

READ NEXT

PART 1: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
The DFW Experience

Part one examines DFW as a UX hotspot. Today, four out of 10 Texas user-experience professionals work in Dallas-Fort Worth.

PART 2: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
How the Big Design Conference Came to Be

Part two looks at the beginnings of the conference. Big Design co-founder Brian Sullivan shares its origin story.

PART 3: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
Corporate by Design

Part three shares insights for how design pros help companies such as Walmart, Accenture, Bottle Rocket, Sabre, and more gain competitive advantage.

PART 4: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
Leading by Design

Part four covers a few big thinkers who are leading by design at companies such as Capital One, BBVA, Intuit, and USAA. Whether it’s slaying piles of paper receipts at tax time or making shopping an adventure, these Dallas area thoughtleaders are making their marks in their respective industries. The common thread? Dogged persistence. 

PART 5: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
Meet 6 UX/UI Experts Delivering Solutions

UX/UI designers and experts are integral parts of many company operations and span across almost every industry. The Dallas-Fort Worth region has no shortage of thought leaders who are helping create the solutions for some of today’s most popular products. Here are six you need to know.

#DesignThinking #UX/UI #DesignWithABigD

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Brian Sullivan is co-founder of the Big Design Conference.

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