Gearing Up for 2016 SXSW Interactive

Posted by Mitchell Communications Group on March 11, 2016


It’s time to pack a bag and head to Austin, Texas for the 2016 SXSW Interactive Festival. For the past several years, Mitchell has sent team members to this conference to gather insights on the intersection of design, innovation, technology and digital. While it can be an overwhelming experience with over 33K people in attendance, the event always gives us valuable access to industry innovators and leaders.

This year, our vice president of digital strategy, Ann Newland, and our creative director, Jameson Sheppard, will be heading to the annual lively event. There are a number of trends they’re particularly interested in, including the future of transportation, self-driving cars, diversity in tech, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, and the convergence of it all.

They combed through hundreds of titles and descriptions to bring you a list of their most anticipated sessions of the week:


Opening Keynote – Casey Gerald

Gerald, who is the co-founder and CEO of the MBAs Across America, will open the festival as a keynote speaker. He started a movement for MBAs and entrepreneurs with a Harvard Business School student address that drew widespread attention online and sparked a larger conversation around his ideas.

Gerald received an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in Political Science from Yale College. He was named one of the “Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company and has emerged as an influential voice on the awakening that is changing business and society — making purpose the new bottom line in our lives and work.


New World of Photography and Visual Storytelling

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore has set out to make portraits of as many of the Earth’s species as possible to create a visual Noah’s Ark. He’s using both social media and traditional media, with the goal of creating a connection between animals and the people who can help protect them.

Related Session: The Rise of the Visual Strategist


The Linguistic Secrets Found in Billions of Emoji

An exploration of how different cultures and nationalities use emoji, and what kinds of patterns emerge when we look at the 6 billion emoji sent from our smartphones each day.

Related Session: Why GIFs?


Design in Tech Report

KPCB Design Partner John Maeda will examine the intersection of design and technology and its implication for business. The former president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Maeda is dedicated to linking design and technology. In his career as a programmer and artist, he’s been committed to blurring the lines between the two disciplines.

Related Session: Designing Happiness


Gen Z: The Most Influential Consumer

Anyone under the age of 18 belongs to Gen Z, which makes up more than a quarter of the United States' population. Their average weekly allowance is $16.90, which amounts to about $44 billion a year. However, their attitudes, expectations and behaviors are different from previous generations. This session will explore how retailers are creating better experiences to satisfy the shopping expectations of Gen Z.

Related Session: Gen Z Startups: Influenced by Media, Reality and BS


Internet of You: Wearables and Under-Skin Marketing

In this panel featuring Allana Cotton of Samsung, Douglas Ziewacz of UnderArmour and Thom Gruhler from Microsoft, the future of wearable technology will be examined through the lens of how each of us contributes to the data machine. The challenge moving forward will be using that data to connect with consumers on a relational level and move beyond the device itself.

Related Session: How Fashion is Making Tech Wearable


The 170 Year-Old Startup: AP

This year, news and public relations is taking a more of a central role at SXSW as the convergence trend continues. In this session, Kathleen Carroll will be exploring 170 years of transmitting news and content. From horseback to fax to virtual reality, this will undoubtedly be a fascinating review of of the past and a look toward the future of not only distribution techniques, but also survival tactics for an organization continuously reinventing itself.

Related Session: Dan Rather: One Newsman, 11 Presidents & A Century of Election News Technology Shifts


While the number of distinguished speakers, workshops, mentor sessions, book signings, and meetup events are too numerous to count, one thing is for sure…SXSW is a fantastic breeding ground for creativity and inspiration. We can’t wait to see what this year has in store.

Follow the Mitchell Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts during the event, as Ann and Jameson will be taking over and sharing pics from their experiences. They’ll also follow up with more extensive blog posts, so be sure to check back!


Topics: Creative, Mitchell Team, Digital, SXSW