Refueling with Creative South 2016

Can you say late post? It's been so crazy for the last couple of weeks, I'll start off with talking about Creative South. The 4th annual Creative South conference in Columbus, GA took place from April 8-11, 2016 and boy was it some jam packed days. It was the most emotional and life changing event I've ever attended. I went to Creative South last year and I was there to network and have a good time and sure enough, the conference was just that. I went back this year with the same intentions and came out with results I never could have imagined. 

Day 1: Workshopin' it

The first of the three days began with workshops. I did three -- Icon design with Meg Robichaud, Social Innovation with Antionette Carroll and Women in Design with Lydia Kuekes and Niki Litts.

Let's Make Some Icons

Seeing Meg's workflow as she created a little Yoda icon was so helpful. The way she uses her resources gave me another perspective on how to use resources and references. One thing that she did that I always had a challenge with was making different variations of the same thing. She made three of each character in her icon set and then she picked which ones went together and BOOM you have your icon set. I always stopped at one variation of a design within a project and left it at that. This made me want to challenge myself to do more than one variation. It'll take more time, but the rewards are worth it. Seeing her tips on creating an icon series inspired me to want to create my own icon series.

I even met my TypeFight opponent, Lee Jordon, during this workshop. She earned ten points for Gryffindor in my book, as she was a delight to meet and I was even more excited to know my opponent was in such great spirits about our match the next day.

Getting a Reality Check with Social Innovation

Antionette Carroll and me after Designing Solutions to Human Rights Inequalities: A Social Innovation Design Workshop

Antionette Carroll knew how to run a workshop! Having us interact with each other and working with people you've never met before was exciting. It amazed me how much you can accomplish together, even with people who are total different from you and come from different walks in life. Anionette was also a remarkable woman. When people asked me about the workshop afterwards, I told them she was as powerful as Beyonce and Oprah. She was strong, powerful and was such an inspiration to me, just as a woman. She also reminded me of the power design can have on the people around you. Being at a day job that has me do annual projects over and over that don't really have a whole lot on impact, she reminded me of what design can do not only for me, as a designer, but what it can do for the community that I love and support. Thank you Anionette for your wisdom and strength.

How to be a badass woman

I ended the day with learning how to be a badass woman from Lydia Kuekes and Niki Litts. These two powerful fire crackers weren't holding anything back! They discussed how women have a right to stand up for themselves in the industry and it's ok to be a firm voice. We owe it to ourselves and our fellow women designers to do so. The graphic design industry is still male driven, just as much as any other industry and I was so surprised by that. I didn't hit me until the following day how many more men attended this conference than woman! Coming from a design school that was 80% dominated by women, it was weird for me to see so many men that are designers and how they are still dominate the industry. This workshop was a huge eye opener and inspired me to have a more firm voice and work to join other women who continue to leader the design industry. 

Safe to say the first day of Creative South left me with a lot to think about. Going in completely uninspired and unmotivated, I began to really rethink my daily routine and how I spend my time. Am I really capable of doing all of these great things I want to do? Can I really make a difference with my craft and if so, what will I have to do to make it? So many more questions I asked myself, but the night came and it was time for the Welcome Mixer on the Pedestrian Bridge and a evening with Ink Wars included. Sadly, neither were on my list (had an allergic reaction to something) and I was just crossing my fingers I was going to be ok for the first day of lectures. 

Day 2: Ready to Rumble

Day two rolled around and I was feeling much better. Tired, but better. The morning at Creative South began with the welcoming from Mike Jones and a talk from my good friend and inspiration Peter Deltondo.

In this corner, the Atomic Dropcap!

  My TypeFight letter "c"

My TypeFight letter "c"

Right after Peter was done, it was time for me to run to the vendor hall for my very first TypeFight. Let it be know, I did not prepare at all. No prepared file, no practicing, nothing. I didn't do shit to prepare myself. I just wanted to jump into the ring a have a great time. My opponent on the other hand was very energetic and ready to rumble. I was thankful to not be in the ring alone, as my good friend Naomi Durman was one of the four matched going on in our time slot. We entered the ring with our TypeFight names and I will toot my horn in saying I had the best name -- Monica "Atomic Dropcap" Velasquez! Don't know where they came up with that, but hell I ran with it! The match began and an hour later I designed a the letter "c". We weren't allowed to post anything to social media about the TypeFight, so I had to wait a day to see who won our match. I was nervous and excited.

Meet your heroes

Nathan Goldman and Dan Kuhlken of DKNG with my tired-looking self

I continued the afternoon with wondering around the vendor hall. Grabbed some swag, talked to a few people and broke my bank with everything I bought. One highlight was walking through was talking to Dan Kuhlken and Nathan Goldman of DKNG. I bought three prints and some postcards, but the icing on top was being able to talk to my heroes. Yes, DKNG are my design heroes since my undergrad. I am so inspired by the attention to detail, their creativity of incorporating textures within their screen prints and their laid back attitude. People say you should never meet your heroes, but I was so thankful they were as humble as they were and let me talk with them and pour my heart out. That and we took a picture together! Thank you Dan and Nathan for making the young, aspiring designer's heart sing.

How many fonts did you use?!

I finished off the afternoon by attending a lecture by Bethany Heck. In her dry way, she discussed her career and her views of the font "rule" -- never use too many fonts. I am guilty of using more than a couple of fonts, but they went together and she completely agrees with that. You want to combine two or three san serif fonts because one looks great as a header, while the other two work best as sub-heads and body copy? Go for it! She encouraged young designers to break the rules, but make sure it looks good and you can justify it. I'm all for that!

Fun & Games with Good Friends

After that, I left the theatre early, as I was very exhausted and was tired of looking constipated in any photo I took that day. The group I was with ended the night was pizza and a few rounds of Heads Up (download it from the app store and Google Play). I've never heard of the game before, but I had such a blast. I also realized I know nothing about music and pop culture. Something to note for the future.

Day 3: Time to Wrap It Up

After two exciting days, I was pretty worn out. Even running on low fuel, I was ready to take on the day! I knew I was going to listen to lectures all day, so lets just say I didn't drink as much coffee as the previous two days.

Be the person you know you can be

The day started off strong with creative life coach Scotty Russell talking about how to stay inspired. His presentation was so powerful, he was the only speaker to get a standing ovation. He was so inspiring and such a great speaker, I was ready to take on the creative world! Shortly after was Carlos Basabe, with his story of standing out and taking on his dreams. His story hit me hard, as someone who feels like I stand out (and not in a good way). I had tears in my eyes when his talk was finished. Two great speakers to start off the last day of Creative South! I didn't think I could handle it.

The man, the myth, the legend

What a lovely group photo with Mike Jones!

Our group stepped out to stretch and walk around and sure enough, a friend ran into Mike Jones. He was so humble and sweet when he talked to her it was amazing. Seeing someone so well known being so humble, I was taken back. I manage to talk to him for a little while before asking for the famous Mike Jones hug. If you ever meet him, you HAVE to get a hug -- it's the best hug ever. He was even sweet enough to talk to our group and take a photo with us. Thank you so much Mike for your kindness and hospitality. Shortly after seeing Mike, we ran into Matt Dawson, the founder of CROP conference in Baton Rouge. We were all excited to go to CROP right after Creative South (another post about CROP will follow this one). 

The grand Finale

DKNG -- Live and In-Person

The lectures rolled on in the afternoon with the Forefathers Panel, Noah Elias and after was the talk I was waiting for all day -- DKNG. They were very humble when presenting their work and explaining their workflow. They're so efficient in their work and time management. Even their teamwork is spot on, by delegating tasks needed to make the company work effectively. They're such an inspiration for me, it's no wonder I consider them my design heroes. 

Creative South ended the lectures with the one and only Aaron Draplin. Mr. Draplin had a very unique talk. It was honest and forward. He talked about his work, this new book deal and what it took to write a book. I had a feeling it took a lot, between working with lawyers and writers, but the way he phrased the process, it sounded exhausting! Nevertheless, he got through it and it's coming out May 27th. I'm really looking forward to preordering it and will patiently wait for it to arrive. I have to say, my favorite part of his talk was when he talked about his dad. The way he described his relationship with his dad is how I am with my mom. My mom is the strongest woman I know and she is at the top of list of heroes. I love you, Momma! Safe to say, I really enjoyed Aaron's talk and loved his honesty. I'm looking forward to what he has coming in the future.

Creative South wrapped up with some giveaways and a very interesting dance off. It was so entertaining and something I wasn't expecting. Safe to say, I will never get on that stage with such bravery. I commended the people who participated in the dance off. We also found out who won our TypeFights and I won! Was not expecting that, but I was very happy with the results. Thank you Lee Jordan for being such a fun opponent. I'm crossing my fingers for a rematch next year.

Take Aways

I've fallen behind as a designer — I no longer have a portfolio that I am happy with, nor does it contain very strong pieces. I always here "create the work that you want to do" and it now hit me that I need to take that advice. I'm already working on some personal projects to strengthen my portfolio. I want to be a competitive designer and I know I have the chops for it. Plus I lucky enough to have a day job that wants to see me grow and improve. It's up to me to take the initiative to grow and improve. 

Community is so important — Seriously -- having a community of designers and just people who you can relate to is so important. I'm grateful that I have such a strong and supportive community of designers. We call our community the Coffee Clique (as of this post) and they're the reason why I look forward to Wednesdays. We get together and talk about our jobs, chew the fat on the world of design and I'm crossing my finger we'll to collaborating on fun projects soon. 

Graphic Design is a powerful communication tool — The way something looks, the way it flows and just the construction of a piece makes a world of difference when you're trying to visually communicate. Graphic design has to potential to have impact in one's community, business or just about anywhere it's applied. Believe in your craft and it will make a difference.

Safe to say, this year's Creative South has changed my life and the way I view my work. I am more motivated than every to create. It could just be the conference high, by I'm riding with it as far I can I take it. Thank you to Mike Jones for hosting such a fantastic event, thank you to the speakers and workshop facilitators for inspiring me and helped me realize that change is needed in my workflow and thank you to the astounding group of friends that I had the pleasure of traveling with. Naomi, Tony, Amanda, Mandy, Danielle and Dillon -- thank you all so much for being so amazing. I love you guys.