5 Things I Learned at My First Design Conference: Creative South 2015
April 21, 2015
Written by Tessa Henley
The Digital Brew marketing team recently attended Creative South, a design conference in Columbus, Georgia. When I discovered Creative South (via Twitter) I felt like a kid on Christmas Day, regardless of the 92 degrees, mid-March Florida heat.
If you are aspiring to be in the design community, Creative South will make you feel like you already are, and if you’re in the design community, Creative South will further deepen your roots.
Here are 5 things I learned at my first design conference.
Do not make professional contacts. Make friends.
For the first time in my entire life, I feel the same way about networking as I feel about cold calling. Outdated, interruptive and disingenuous. I didn’t take this revelation lightly. Networking is important! It is highly beneficial if done genuinely and consistently.
It’s all about the mindset. Approaching a networking event like you’re going to hang out with friends relieves the pressure of having to talk to people. Of course, you still need to talk to people, but if you already think of them as your friends the pressure dissipates.
My advice is to throw your objectives for networking out the door until you get comfortable with the thought of networking with objectives, that is networking with the hopes of getting something out of it. By being personable and friendly, professionals are more likely to engage in business pursuits with you. Therefore, meeting your networking objectives.
Regardless of your industry, position or title, make cool stuff.
One of the speakers at the conference this year said something about a social media marketer. She then said, “I’m sure they’re making really cool things.” She said this with a polite, but sarcastic tone to it. The audience gave a little chuckle. This statement kind of stung. It stung because she’s right.
I fully believe social media marketers can make cool things. I also believe creating a precise and effective social media strategy qualifies as making something cool. Maybe not all people believe their position or expertise allows them to be creative, but that’s a bunch of bolognas. I wouldn’t be surprised if people who believe they can’t make cool shit are just stuck in a rut. They’ve grown comfortable doing their job, accepting the bare minimum, and not pushing their craft beyond their job. Break that cycle! Get inspired and define what you consider to be cool.
In order to do this, let’s look at our next lesson.
Always, always, always find ways to reignite your fire.
If I’m being honest here, I’ve never had an experience reignite my fire like the experience I had with Creative South. Conferences may not be your way of finding the fuel, but that’s not the point. The point is to find whatever works best for you.
Here’s another idea. Documentaries. By meeting friends who have the same passion as I do, I’ve learned that documentaries and Ted Talks are a huge source of inspiration for me. They inspire me because they get me thinking and when I get thinking, I get creative.
Maybe it’s music. Maybe it’s your family or books or art galleries. Whatever it is to you, find it. Cherish it. Cultivate it. Appreciate it. Be consistent with it. Take advantage of it. And most importantly, always surround yourself with it.
Be patient with your endeavors.
This lesson is by far the hardest for me, and it’s not what everyone wants to hear. The final speaker at Creative South 2015, Sean McCabe, said “Nobody was born being a designer. We all started at the same place.” Or something along those lines. You get the picture. This stuck with me because of how blatantly true it is!
The difference between a good designer and a great designer (or anything for that matter) lies in the time invested and how deliberately you practice. If you want to be good at something, give it the time it deserves. Nobody was born an expert. You have to be patient enough to learn.
I take back what I said. This lesson is definitely the most difficult for me. Personal fact: I never took a single art class growing up because I was afraid I wouldn’t be good at it. What a regret! My advice is to push past this and simply start. Guess what? If you don’t like the work you’ve done, or you still feel too novice to publish anything, you don’t have to!
All you have to do is start. I know it’s easier said than done, but the worst thing you can do is trying to find a good place to start. Who cares?! Just start! Pencil to paper, brainstorm, talk to a mentor, whatever works for you to find the courage to start.
To conclude, it was an honor to attend Creative South. Although I’m not a designer myself (I’m an aspiring lettering artist!), I still felt welcomed and encouraged. Which was an unexpected feeling to be honest. What’s that saying? “Go forth, strong one!” Or something like that. Don’t be afraid to do something you may not necessarily be good at. Remember, nobody was born an expert.
Want to keep the conversation going? Connect with us @digitalbrew_co. Cheers!