Over the last week I was able to take part in the annual HOW Design Live conference, and as a testament to the speakers and their collective messaging I’ve decided to write this post.
My trip started out on a low note, which was fine with me because it meant that my experience had nowhere to go but up. For the record, United airlines is, simply put, the worst. United is the airlines that once delayed my flight from Miami to Jacksonville for 45 min. because they needed to refill the refreshment cart, which would have been understandable had the flight crew not informed us that the flight was too short to serve refreshments once we were in the air. But I digress, in this instance they had just delayed my flight by two hours due to “crew availability”, which I can only assume means that someone quit because a better airline hired them.
Once in Chicago I had to rush to get to the hotel where the conference was being held, and even with my frantic pace I was unable to make it in time for the first group of sessions, arriving at 12pm (central). All things considered, it wasn’t too bad, and the ladies at the registration desk were very organized and helpful, I must commend them on that. Luckily for me I pack light, because although the conference started at 11am, hotel rooms would not become available until 3pm. To make matters worse I was a schmuck and forgot to book a room in time so I had to stay with a colleague who was gracious enough to let me crash on the spare bed in their room.
The next 4+ days were a whirlwind of advice, knowledge, and reflection that consumed my brain. Simon Sinek spoke to the importance of seeing people in the work place as that, people, and the risk of technology addiction with social media. Tina Roth Eisenberg spoke about her children inspiring her to peruse a greater sense of life and how she shares that through her personal projects. Karim Rashid expressed his optimism for the future as we transition to the digital age from the analog. Tom Peters had a pure unfiltered look at the market and business and expressed how we as designers have to look at who we are designing for. Michael Bierut gave a glimpse into his process and how design can be a catalyst for positive change in people’s lives. Jessica Walsh express the need to play within your work, and the positive influence that can have on your projects. Paula Scher showed the power design can have on devastated communities, and helping them rebuild their identity through design. Now, imagine all that, plus Aaron Draplin, Von Glitschka, Michael Hendrix, Matteo Bologna and about 30+ speakers not mentioned, all crammed into five days plus an exhibit hall filled with paper companies, printers, marketers and about any representatives of every other industry that touches graphic design in any way.
I’d have to say my main take away from the conference was simply to Create Change. I’m not even talking about on the social/economical/political landscape, but merely in your own life. Between all these success stories, all these major players in the design world, I was able to pick-up on one very important trait; allow your passion to run your life. Almost all of these designers were able to grow more outside of their day jobs, seeing problems are finding inspiration outside of client work. What I noticed from all of the creative speakers was a balance of work and personal design, and more importantly how personal projects provoked stronger and better results with client work.
As a self-appointed ambassador of the last week I urge you to find those projects you’ve been delaying and pushing back, and finally do something with them.
As for HOW Design Live as a whole, I felt like they really outdid themselves for the 25th anniversary of the conference in terms of sheer size and scale. I can only assume that if they continue to push the degree and caliber of the speakers they bring in, the conference will have to divide into an East & West division, each occurring once a year. Towards the end of our five day journey I was beginning to succumb to speaker fatigue, and I just need a chance to let everything sink in. Along with the speakers there was plenty of networking, which lead to new friendships that I hope to continue outside of the conference.
I can’t put into words how important these conferences are to your development as a creative. Whether or not you choose to attend HOW, or maybe Creative South, you should seriously consider approaching your employer or start saving away a little each paycheck so you can go experience one yourself. The atmosphere and energy these events create, being surrounded by people who care as deeply about design as you do, is truly as inspiring as the speakers themselves.