Creative South, the Coachella of the graphic arts industry, wrapped up a little over a week ago. Leaving the conference, I rode a Creative Cloud® of momentum back home to the Hoosier State and then head-on into the pile-up of projects waiting for me back at Well Done.

Now that we’re caught up on all things client, I’d say we’re due to unpack from the trip. Wrinkled in the bottom of the duffel, we’ve got a glance at the conference agenda, a few Field Notes® from a first-time attendee, and a short sermon on the significance of being a member of the creative community.

 

 

Conference Agenda

Creative South, held each spring in Columbus, Georgia, touts itself as a weekend of creative thinking, collaboration, and exploration. It’s a chance for graphic arts folks to connect and share ideas and experiences with other graphic arts folks through a day of workshops, two days of inspiring speakers, and nightly extracurricular functions involving drinking craft beer and drawing on stuff. While the structure of the weekend follows what you might expect from a typical professional development conference, Creative South never really felt like a typical professional development conference. More on that down the road.

Workshop Field Notes

Crafting Your Killer Talk with Scotty Russell & Brian Manley

Whether you’re pitching in-progress work to your in-house team or pushing the polished presentation to a boardroom of bored members, you’re going to need to know how to catch your audience’s attention, hold it, and convince them they ought to buy what you’re selling. This workshop offered some strategies and an exercise in articulating awesome ideas, because after all, great work doesn’t sell itself—it needs to be sold, and sold well.

Takeaways:

  • Sketch your talk like you would a logo—scribble rough ideas down and work those loose concepts into shape.
  • Identify the main points of your talk and structure three points to support each of those points.
  • Follow this format: Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em (Intro), Tell ‘em (Body), Tell ‘em what you told ‘em (Conclusion).

 

Speaker Field Notes

 

Mackey Saturday + CGH

You want to make your logo timeless. Getting a brand identity right the first time means putting in the work on the front end to ensure the design is built for the long haul. Now what would new kid on the block and recent CGH partner, Mackey Saturday, know about the long haul? Consider the company he keeps, and the companies his company has kept for 60+ years—icons like Chase, NBC, National Geographic, PBS, Mobil, and the Smithsonian to name drop just a few. Saturday spoke about the lessons he’s learned along his journey from popping ollies on the West Coast to flying up to NYC to join the ranks of logo design legends.

Takeaways:

  • Simple is always better.
  • Turn over every stone.
  • Follow the brand guidelines—unless you wrote the brand guidelines.

 

Bob Ewing

Indiana-native, hand-lettering sensation, and all-around humble dude Bob Ewing gave an honest talk about design aspiration, the importance of family, and using your talent and passion to give back. For 500+ days straight, Bob drew a new word or phrase to hone his skills as a lettering artist. His passion led to co-creating a non-profit button subscription service called Inch x Inch with proceeds from the project going to art education in schools. Side note: The conference wordmark was Bob’s own creation.

Takeaways:

  • Start today.
  • Family matters.
  • Turn a negative into a positive.

 

Preach

Reflecting on Creative South 2017–Mike Jones

What sets Creative South apart from other conferences isn’t how it felt—it’s that it felt. That sounds like a bunch of poetic wax, but get this: The official tagline of the conference is “Come as Friends. Leave as Family.” and the official hashtag isn’t #LearnCon17 or #MediaMaxConfNow, it’s #HugNecks. That’s right. The jovial conference host, Mike Jones, will literally pick you up and hug you if you’re within his burly arm’s reach.

Maybe it’s the sweet white peach tea talking, or just a strong reaction to my first prolonged exposure to Southern Hospitality, but there’s something special down there at Creative South. There’s something special about being surrounded by professionals that do pour their hearts into what they do and actively seek ways to get better at doing it.

One way to get better is to be a part of a creative community—to have a network of people you can learn from and go to when you just don’t know how to get the perspective grid tool in Illustrator to turn off (shift +⌘ + I), or you think you’re a no-good hack UI/UX designer (You’re not). And when the time comes you’ll be there, ready to share with a friend what had previously been shared with you, and your knowledge will serve to lift another designer up. And that’s my main takeaway.