About Darcylea Design

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

HOW Design Conference 2009: Events

Everyone seems to anticipate the opening keynote at conference and the craze for swag when the doors to the resource center open. You pretty much need to pack an extra suitcase in order to haul all of that swag back home unless you decide to ship it home instead (which is probably the smarter way to go considering most airlines make you pay for your luggage to ride the plane now, too.) But I have to say that compared to the last two years of attending the conference, it felt like there were fewer vendors and they weren’t as generous with swag as years before. But honestly, I really wasn’t interested in bringing home every piece of swag that I could possibly get. In fact, I was a bit more choosy this year as to which vendors I wanted to stop at. Yes, I did come home with buttons, posters, stickers, notebooks, pens and cool paper shutter shades. But I think that the highlight swag item for me was “Full-Bleed” from Veer. (I have wanted her since before Christmas. And so, when they were handing her out with “Megapixel”, I was only focused on getting her. It was the highlight of my night at the Resource Center!) There was a photo booth set up by Shutterstock but I completely missed out on it! I don’t know how or why I did, but I did. But hopefully they’ll have it back next year!

A new event for HOW this year was the Designer’s Market Place. A friend and I decided to go in together and share a table to sell our goods. I took in greeting cards and calling card sets while my friend and roommate, Kelly Parke, had her Con Survival Kit. I was really surprised by the mob of people that gathered and came to shop the Market Place. I felt that I did well and learned a lot from the experience. I have a better idea of what to expect for next year- what seemed to be most popular as far as my work goes, ideas for table displays, quantity of items, new ideas for other products to offer… Oh and a very big lesson- make sure I have plenty of change on hand!!! I did get a chance to venture off and look at a few other tables. I could have easily spent all the money that I made that night! My purchases? Some buttons and bookmarks from Melissa Ivone-Morris of Operation Nice, two beautifully illustrated cards by , and a numbered, limited-edition tee from Steve Gordon. But I definitely could have spent a lot more! (There were some awesome booths that offered Letterpress- so yummy….I was so very very tempted!!! I did get contact info from a few so they might be hearing from me in the future!) Overall, I was really happy with the turnout- it seemed to have been a great success!

I was also tapped this year to be a reviewer at the Portfolio Review. I was very honored to have been selected- it was only a couple of years ago that I, myself, was showing my work at the portfolio review…nervous about how my work would stand up to others, what sort of comments I would receive, etc. I actually learned a great deal from that experience. I won’t lie, you can’t go into it with thin skin. And if you do, you have to learn quickly to “cowboy up”. But at the same time, it isn’t the reviewer’s job to only see and point out flaws. It tears down self-confidence, makes a person question their abilities and ultimately, leaves them feeling like crap. A good reviewer is one who will take the time to look at a portfolio and notice the strengths the person has, the good qualities of the work being shown, how it is presented, and also making suggestions and ideas to possibly help show the work from a different perspective and show a path for improvement. Last year, when I attended the portfolio review, I was just finishing up my degree and was working on a portfolio class. I had literally torn it apart and was trying to decide on how to recreate it so that it had a polished, professional look to it yet also reflect my own personal touch. Well, while at the portfolio review in Boston, I noticed a sea of black portfolios. But among those black portfolios, there were some individuals who had done something different and I noticed that those were the tables that seemed to gain the most attention. Not discounting the work that was put into all the others that were out there. I am sure there were diamonds among them. However, it was obvious that those who did something different really did stand out. This year, in Austin, I am not sure if the number of people participating in the review was down because attendance was down. Perhaps it was a bigger, more spacious room. I’m not really sure- but I didn’t notice so much of the “black sea” of portfolios this year. They were there but it just didn’t seem as obvious, I guess. In any case, I went in with my little reviewer badge that sported my name on it and met up with some very talented designers on the floor. I hope that those that I spoke with were able to gain value from what I discussed with them, to go on to bigger and better things. Perhaps one day we’ll see their name in lights and I’ll be able to say, “I remember meeting them way back when…” You never know! I know that I learned a lot from the experience and for that, I am grateful.

And how can I forget to mention the Closing Party?! This year’s theme was “Keep Austin Weird”, which coincidentally, is also Austin’s slogan as well! I had the pleasure of walking to the party with the Hoops & Yoyo gang: Bev Carlson, Bob Holt and Mike Adair. And let me just tell you, these guys are off the hook, crazy party animals! Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating for entertainment purposes... But they really are a bunch of fun people to talk to and hang out with. It was nice connecting with them on a personal level because it made me realize that these people who are the creators of animated little characters that so many people idolize…even they have chaotic normal lives like me. Well, when I say normal, I mean well….chaotic....But, anyhow….I think you know what I mean! I had a lot of fun checking out everyone’s costumes at the party. I must say that there were quite a few very creative ones out there. Me? Well, maybe not so creative…I wore a funky patterned sundress and put my hair in cute little ponytails. I looked very “country”. The only thing missing were some cowboy boots and a chicken. We'll just leave it at that!

I always enjoy the closing parties at the conference. It gives you a chance to meet up with people you met while there, cut loose a little bit and just have a great time! I think everyone anticipates what the theme will be in order to come up with cool costume ideas. I am wondering what the theme will be for Denver? hmmmmm........

Monday, July 20, 2009

HOW Design Conference 2009: Sessions

You know, for the first few days or so after the conference, allowing more to be absorbed, I have to admit that I had this feeling of disappointment in some of the sessions that I attended. There were a few that I really had been ones that I staked high interest in but ultimately felt disappointed in them for not living up to my expectations. And unfortunately, I ended up walking out on those. It happens. Not saying that they were horrible sessions or there wasn’t benefit in what the speakers had to offer because I know that isn’t true. I’m just saying that for some of the sessions that I walked out of, it was more about the fact that it was information that really didn’t apply to me nor the direction that I desire to go in. I do wish I would’ve attended some of those freelance sessions given by Peleg Top and Ilise Benun. In the chaos of trying to keep my schedule straight, I forgot all about those sessions and honestly, there wasn’t anything printed in our booklet about them (unless I missed something?) and I don’t even remember seeing any signs for them. But that could have been my fault for not being more observant, too. (There were moments that I could probably say that my personal theme was “Lost in Austin”. Stories to entertain, for sure, but perhaps for another time…) But in any case…I am going to move onto the good stuff now-

(Photo courtesy of Kelly Parke)

I did attend quite a few sessions that really did knock my socks off. I really enjoyed sessions that provoked my creative brain to explore ideas, made me look at things in a different perspective and really did leave me feeling inspired. I won’t lie- those speakers that were engaged with their audience, they threw out entertaining videos, made us dance, threw glitter on us, wore clown noses, offered up prizes of lil ninja dolls and cool posters or made us go out to promote our favorite PMS colors (and for one of my roommates benefit- “VOTE FOR PMS-580…Going KINDA Green” LOL)...Well, we’re a bunch of creative designers (or well, I like to think so) and so we’re easily distracted by these things. We are like a bunch of preschoolers that just want to pick up a book to look at the pretty pictures. We like hands-on stuff. We want to “ooooh & ahhhhh”. But it’s also through these methods that we learn and allow that inner child to come out and play. It’s by allowing the freedom of creative thinking to make the impossible ideas become reality. Yet, at the same time, we are also in need to learn how to deal with difficult clients, learn or improve skill sets, become more business oriented, improve leadership skills, become a better team player, learn to write better (and hopefully without typos…oh, I do hope you’ll forgive me…), learning how to promote and market yourself in these crazy economic times and of course…networking.

(Photo courtesy of Jeff Fisher, Logomotives)

Regardless of those sessions that I couldn't jive with, the ones that I did enjoy really did make up for it! Once again, I left the conference inspired, motivated with new ideas, more knowledgeable in areas that I wasn't as knowledgeable in and feeling more connected then ever before! So would I say this justifies the expense for next year's conference? You betcha!

(And just in case you didn't know...next year's conference will be in Denver June 6-9, 2010!)

Friday, July 17, 2009

HOW Design Conference 2009: Networking

First and foremost, I have to say that one of the most awesome and powerful experiences that you will gain from attending conferences such as HOW Design Conference are the networking opportunities. The conference provides networking opportunities such as the Networking Lunch (great for new conference attendees) and a Networking Kickoff that takes place before the conference officially begins. It allows people to meet and mingle with others, share information, experiences, contact information, etc. It’s also a great way to make new designer friends to hook up with and attend sessions, make lunch dates, shopping excursions, site-seeing and not to mention fun after-conference events that you wouldn’t experience otherwise. At the end of the conference, not only do you get to go home with a giant stack of cool designer business cards and names and numbers loaded into your phone (and not to mention all the twitter follows), but you also go home knowing that you made some great friends who are also going to understand and support you on the business end as well. And personally, I can attest to this- I met a gal at last year’s conference in Boston and from there we were able to form a friendship and collaborate on a project that actually paid my way to this year’s conference. So right there is proof that networking at conference can be very beneficial!

(Photo courtesy of Kelly Parke)

I also have to throw out this little toot for the HOW forums- When I decided to attend my first conference, considering that I didn’t know anyone that would be there, I decided to venture into the conference forum-land. And I have to say that it was one of the best things I ever did, especially where networking is concerned. The forums provided some familiar names to meet up with at conference. I was able to not only meet some of these online buddies but I also found a roommate that year (which substantially helped save $$$!) Plus, it also gave me so many opportunities to join in on fun events that took place outside the conference. And many of these people that I have met on the forums, I consider good friends to this very day. More than that, I’d even say they could be considered family, in a sense. As my friend and fellow HOWie, Patti, would say, “I LOVE MAH HOWies!” And honestly, if I couldn’t find a way to afford going to the conference itself, I’d try hard to come up with the money so I could see my HOWie friends. They’re THAT awesome!

(Photo courtesy of Kelly Parke)

(Photo courtesy of Kelly Parke)

(And I can't resist posting a pic of Donovan w/ my super cool hula hoop!)

So next time you are at a conference, whether it be HOW or AIGA or MacWorld or whatever, make sure you get out there and meet people!

Next topic: Sessions

HOW Design Conference 2009: Just getting started!

HOW Design Conference June 24th – June 27th, 2009: Austin Texas
(Over the next week, I am going to touch on different aspects of the conference! There's just no way that I can squeeze it all into one short blog. I'm just way too long-winded for that!)

If you have ever been to a HOW Design Conference, then you can totally understand and appreciate how fast paced and exciting it can be! This year was no exception! I have been slow in getting this posted because I really have wanted to think about the conference and absorb all the information that I learned while there. Plus, I really wanted to justify this post with information that is worthy of sharing with others, that is also beneficial to them and not just a “show and tell”. I could share all the pictures I took with you and prove that it was a good time. However, I don’t think that they would provide much justification or could prove ROI with your company or clients (or even with yourself if you are one of those lucky ones, like myself, who have self-paid) without explanation (or sharing other experiences not photographed) to show how beneficial conferences like this can be.

First topic will be covering Networking. This is a very important topic when it comes to attending a conference as its about meeting others in the field, having conversations about experiences, asking advice, etc.