Scheduling two conferences within a week of each other definitely was a very ambitious goal, but missing CROP and Creative South were not options. I wanted to return to Creative South, but I wanted to attend the first graphic design conference in Baton Rouge even more. I think this was the beginning of the creative changes in the community, and I want to be a part of that.
Day 1: Workshops
Hey! I know that guy!
The first workshop to kick off CROP was a lettering workshop by Winston Scully. Fun Fact: Winston and I went to Southeastern Louisiana University. I was two years ahead of him in the program, but Winston stuck out as a lettering artist from day one. While this wasn't taught in the program, and even some of the instructors tried to steer him away from that direction, I admire his determination to learn and use the resources available to him. He made his own path, thus making him a house hold name in the department. I'm pretty sure the instructors still use his name and success to inspire current student coming in the program.
Winston went to San Francisco to continue his studies and brought what he learned to the workshop. He broke down the history of letters, reviewed their unique anatomy and explained everything so everyone would participate in the activity for the workshop. He had us put his practices in action to create a unique letter-logo. While mine wasn't very original, I really just wanted to practice letter anatomy, since I really have never did it before.
Winston's workshop was truly an excellent start to this awesome conference!
Locals Come out of the Wood Work
Some local vendors came out to speak to tell local designers what they can office them and their companies. Of which were Vivid Ink, Creative Bloc and Big Fish. I professionally use Vivid Ink for signage and large scale printing, but I had no idea their New Orleans location does screen printing. Something to think about when our convention comes around next June!
Power of Social Media
Post Parlor is a new company out of Baton Rouge who specializes in social media marketing, and they are brilliant at what they do. Jody, one of the co-owners, proved that by having us post about another person at the workshop. The post did have to have the conference hashtag #crop16. I was paired with my friend Tony and since he favorite color is orange, I'm happy we found an orange house close by for his photo background. Mine just showed my personality, as a silly, laughing fool. We were asked to answer who we are, where we're from and if we could invent one thing what would be it. You can find these posts below. By doing this, we now had a database of everyone at the conference and we were able to know a little bit more about the people in the room. We were all in shock how something so simple could be so powerful.
The last workshop of the day was icon designer and super nice guy Kyle Adams! We learned that if you try to visit kyleadams.com, it won't bring you to his site. Instead, some six year old kid bought the domains, doesn't really use the site, but refuses to sell the domain to Kyle. Kids, right?! Anyway, Kyle really broke down his process of designing icons and showed us how simple it can be do design icons. However, when he gave us the assignment to design an icon for a donut shop, everyone in the room really over thought everything he said. He gave us a client "brief" and we all over thought ever little thing the client said. Kyle showed us how only a few key words will drive the project home.
He was very interactive in the sketching process. He walked around, answered questions and was a really humble guy. After looking at his Dribbble and Instagram all of the time, I was taken back by how humble and nice he is. You can see his final product below and as you can see, it's really simple and direct as an icon should be.
Let's After Party
After the workshops, we some time until the after party to kill some time. So our group moved our vehicles closer to the after party location and grabbed some dinner at Raising Canes, one of my favorite fast food joints, then headed off to the 4th floor of the Shaw Center. Sadly I have never been there, but man what a great place for a get together. Great people, good food, and a wonderful view of the Mississippi River and Mississippi Bridge going to Port Allen.
Something I was excited about was meeting up with Creative South founder and huggable man Mike Jones. He is someone else who is kind, humble and wants to get to know more people in the industry. He has a way of bringing people together and making them feel welcome. Truly an extraordinary man. Something that took me back was he remembered our group from the previous week. He ran into so many people during Creative South, I would be surprised if he had gotten us mixed up with another group; but he didn't. What a guy!
Another person I was able to talk to briefly was Aaron Draplin and what a great guy. He has a pretty dry sense of humor to him, but he is such a strong voice for the industry. When I talked to him, we didn't talk about design a whole lot. Instead we talked about family. It was wonderful to see his close relationship with his family was similar to mine. The way he talked about his relationship with his father was the same way I talk about my mother. I love her with all of my heart and she always has my back, even when I don't have the greatest ideas. It was a great conversation to have with someone who has a similar relationship with their parents as I have with mine. The moral of that story is family will always have your back no matter what, so remember to love them.
Industry Print out of Austin, Texas came out and had us pull the squeegee for our Draplin prints. I even took a pull to get my print and these prints were pretty sweet (Thanks for getting this video Jonathan). I was so excited about the print, I somehow ended up on Draplin's Instagram. Everyone I knew was more excited about that than I was. After talking with him, I realized he's a down-to-earth guy how loves our industry like I do.
Day one of crop was jam packed day, filled with advise, knowledge and wonderful people. The first day really set a tone for this conference, and it started off strong. I'm looking forward to the second day.
Day 2: Let's talk
Who? Mike Jones!
Day two started off with running into some familiar faces before going into the Shaw Center to the lectures. Of which were my co-workers at my internship at North Oaks Medical Center. Pam, Brandi and Allison are not only beautiful ladies, but are inspirations as designers and professional women. It was wonderful seeing them again.
The first speaker to start of day two was Creative South's Mike Jones. By the way, it took me forever to understand "Who? Mike Jones!". A friend had to explain it to me and even then, I took a while for me to get it.
Mike was just as wonderful in his talk as he is in person. I told us great stories about how he came into the industry, life lessons and how Creative South came to be. His faith really astonished me. I rarely see people with strong, genuine faith and he pours his heart into it. He lives and breathes by it and lets it carry him though his career and life. He believes in serving others with his talents to better the world and he practices this wonderfully. Creative South is proof of that. He also makes everything he does personal. It drives him to give every project his all and helps him grow as a designer. I can relate because I try to practice the same methods. The only difference is I don't practice this in a healthy way. He is truly a kind man and if you ever get the chance to see him, don't hesitate to get a hug!
Be Free When Freelancing
The next speaker up was Ashlee Jones from New Orleans. No relation to Mike Jones! She's a lettering artist who freelances out of New Orleans. From what I saw, she primarily works with local business and restaurants in the area, as well as some custom chalk boards for weddings. She had such a great personality and was so funny in her deliver, even when it wasn't deliberate. She was also very straight forward with her process and what is required to be as success as a freelancer as she is.
Ashlee began her talk with her obstacles from the previous year and what she learned from them. One I related to was creating a balance of life and work and creating a balance for myself. I'm the person who brings work home with her if I didn't finish everything I wanted to do and that means I bring home work with me every evening. It's a habit I need to break, but I also need to be satisfied in the work I finish in the work day. So since I bring work home every night, I don't have time to work on freelancing and personal projects. I took pictures of her slides so when I'm ready to get back into freelancing, I will have copies of her advice as a freelancer. She's pretty organized and manages everything very well, based off her advise. She knows that she has to wear different hats to be successful and following her on Instagram I see she's experienced and switches roles very well. I'm looking forward to more work from her and hope to hear another talk in the future.
Let's Talk Some More
The talks continue with some strong names like Brian Steely and Jason Craig. Brian Steely has some pretty strong work and it's all single stroke weight likes (I think I said that right). All of his lines in his illustrations where all the same stroke weight. It's amazing and crazy the pieces of work he's completed that look phenomenal and it's all same-weight strokes. Go check out his Dribbble to see more of his work.
Jason Craig was right after lunch, so you can agree that everyone was a little drained. However, he woke us all up with great advice about how to be a successful creative! How to keep everything simple, love what you do and continue to improve because you're not the best designer in the world. Really great stuff to keep us grounded and keeping striving to be better.
Sister, Sister Success
The afternoon continued strong with Amy & Jennifer Hood, the founders of Hoozpah. These power house sisters have taken the industry by storm and had a wealth of knowledge to share, based off their experiences. One key topic they discussed was how your attitude really makes the differences in experience for you and the client. As a good friend of mine says, "Focus on what you want to create". If your attitude is negitive, you're going to have a horrible experience and most likely you'll loose the client. You need to go the extra mile to teach your client and help them have a great experience. If it wasn't meant to be, then that's perfectly fine. No experience is wasted time, as long as you take something from it.
Also, always remember to be grateful for opportunities that come you way. If you go into a project or new job with gratitude, you will have a great experience and so will your client or new employer. So take life by the horns and don't forget to smile!
It's Aaron Draplin... Again
The last talk of the day was the one and only Aaron Draplin. Similar to his talk at Creative South, he walked us through the making of his book. From the publisher approaching him to make a book, to the extreme schedule to get everything done, to his favorite sections. When he talked about the section on his father and what he meant to him, it took me back to the conversation we had the day before about our families. It made me want to call my mom and tell her I love her.
Officially Wiped Out...
After this, my little introverted designer self took on two conferences in two weeks. Social anxiety offically kicked in and I was done after Draplin's talk. There was another after party and I didn't go, because I was so tired. Safe to day, I'm done with conferences for a while.
Take Care of Yourself — You can't do your best work if you're run down and tired all of the time. You need to create a balanced life of work and play. If you work hard, play hard and don't continue working. Find a hobby or do something in your community. You work will thank you later.
Anything is possible — Who would have thought a graphic design conference would happen in somewhere so stale as Baton Rouge. As someone who lives and works here, I am amazed how Matt Dawson and his team were able to pull off such a great conference in Baton Rouge. And for the first year, it was amazing! So if you want to create your own community or even start a conference in your area, go for it! Pull a team together and get to work. Make a difference in your community.
Talk to Your Heroes — If you see people like Kyle Adams, Mike Jones or even Aaron Draplin at an upcoming conference, don't hesitate to say hello. You may see them as celebrities in the industry, but at the end of the day they're people like you and me. Don't be scared to ask them a question, grab a photo or even get a hug. They're amazing people and there's a reason why they're as amazing as they are.