HOW Design Live 2016 in Atlanta can be summed up in two words: incredible y’all!
The experience was truly inspirational. As I write this, I’m hoping to offer key insights and take-aways to my fellow creatives, but I’m finding it to be quite the challenge! The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. From hearing designers’ personal stories to learning key processes that are effective in the industry — every session and lecture complemented each other to create a well-rounded, professionally (and personally!) uplifting experience.
HOW Design Live
Let me backtrack a bit. If you are unfamiliar with HOW Design Live, it’s a 5-day annual design conference, featuring a plethora of speakers and workshops covering topics relevant to graphic designers, brand strategists, and all of us in this creative field.
Along with spectacular keynote speakers and events, there are multiple lecture sessions running simultaneously throughout the day. Each session has a specific focus, such as creativity, packaging, management, interactive design, and more. With so many great options, choosing which session to attend was tough!
Every single speaker left a lasting impression on me.
I could easily speak about the humor and inspiration provided by the talented Pum Lefebure of Design Army fame. Or how Stefan Sagmeister‘s case for beauty is one that should ring true to everyone (why aren’t more public and living spaces crafted with the care that went into Moscow’s gorgeous train stations?). Or how bloody goat heads dance in my head now, thanks to Cartoon Network’s head of design Jacob Escobedo.
Every session offered something different. I was deeply moved by Veronika Scott‘s story and mission to serve the homeless people of Detroit. In a nutshell, her non-profit The Empowerment Plan helps homeless people have a better life by providing coats that transform into sleeping bags. Equally important, they are helping to end the cycle of homelessness altogether by hiring and training people within the homeless community to manufacture the coats. Their story is a powerful one.
So, instead of rehashing each session, I’ll try and pinpoint an overarching theme and take-away. The best I’ve come up with is this:
Design and Live Your Beautiful Life
A number of speakers spoke passionately about how they’ve deliberately crafted their lives (and professions) and challenged us to do the same. The central themes I gathered are relevant to both life and creative work. As I read through all my notes, here are a few gems that stand out to me:
- Integrate PASSION into every day life
- Get out of your comfort zone and learn new things
- Create relentlessly
- Be proactive
- Be courageous and fight indifference
Integrate Passion into Everyday Life
Passion is vital for sustaining any endeavor. Do work you’re passionate about and the results will shine. Even if you’re doing something you’re not passionate about at the moment, there’s likely some aspect you enjoy that can spark your passionate energy. When it comes to your daily life, what are you passionate about? Do you make this a priority? Life is lived every day. If your passion isn’t woven through your daily life, why not? Making time for your passion will ignite a flame within that will permeate every aspect of your life.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Learn New Things
To create engaging, innovative, and exciting work, you have to try new things. Staying within your comfort zone, as comforting as it may be, will ultimately limit your true potential. Your work runs the risk of becoming repetitive, stale, and predictable. You’ll also need to keep up with technology to keep your work relevant. With life, you’re closing off a vast world that is open and available to you. Is there a new experience you’ve been longing for? Or something you’d like to do that feels out of reach? Stretching beyond your comfort zone is how you grow. That first small step can be life-changing. Learning new things is one of the best ways to keep your brain healthy too!
To become exceptionally good at anything, you simply have to put in the time. Allow your brain to learn and grow with each new creation. There is no shortcut. The more you do, the better you’ll get. There will be more masterpieces within a vast body of work than a smaller one.
Make that idea happen! We all have great ideas. What’s keeping them from becoming reality? Setting aside time to think and plan out how we want to move forward with an idea is the first step. It can often feel easier to react to stuff (emails, requests) than to move forward proactively. Give yourself that time and space to be deliberate. Thoughtful planning and deliberate action will allow you to create your best work and live your dream life.
Be Courageous & Fight Indifference
Your ideas and creations won’t take shape if you don’t stand up for them. Your boss or client may not get it at first. Or they may completely ruin your design in an attempt to create it their way. Indifference will lead to creating work that you’re not thrilled about or proud of. Find the courage to stand up for what you are doing. Pick your battles wisely and learn how to explain your point of view after understanding the view points of others. Indifference in life means other people are designing your life for you.
Georgia on my mind
The conference wasn’t the only source of inspiration during my trip down South. Atlanta has a special place in my heart. I grew up in the area and am indeed a Southerner at heart. When I heard the conference would be in Atlanta, I was already sold. A lot of my friends and family are in Georgia so I made an extended trip out of it to visit everyone, which truly heightened my experience.
The cherry on top was getting to spend time with some former Jackrabbits: Vinny, who was participating in the conference as well, and Aaron, a dear friend who left the New England cold to live down South.
While HOW Design Live had several after-hour events that involved partying and networking, I ultimately passed on all this fun to have my own fun hanging with friends and family. I couldn’t have been happier! True to my one big take-away about designing my own beautiful life, I was living what I was learning.
I crafted the experience I wanted by pursuing a scenario that would be personally and professionally uplifting. When you are clear about what you want in life, and deliberately put those in focus, the path to those things opens up. I am truly grateful that Jackrabbit recognized how important this trip was and gave me the opportunity to attend the conference. And with that, I’ll end with this: