Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Two art directors walk into a haunted bar…
Both leave with new friends and spooky Instagram selfies. Okay, not a great joke, but the punch line pretty much sums up my amazing experience at this year’s Creative Works Conference.
This past October, along with rock star deepster Amy Coffman, I journeyed to Memphis, Tennessee for the 3-day conference—best described as an awe-inspiring graphic design event where like-minded creatives come together to learn and find inspiration in each other and the all-star lineup of design industry speakers.
To say we were excited is an understatement. And little did we know just how much this conference would mean to our careers, goals and our friendship.
This year, the conference was held at Memphis Central Station—a renovated passenger train terminal and prime downtown location for experiencing all that Memphis has to offer. Across the street sits Memphis’ oldest restaurant, the Arcade, where you can dine in Elvis’s favorite booth and eat the best sweet potato pancakes of your life. Next door is Earnestine and Hazel’s, a brothel turned haunted dive bar famous for their soul burger, and the host for a Creative Works after party. The powerful Civil Rights museum and Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated is also only a few blocks away. The people, culture and rich history of Memphis served as the perfect host for feeding my creative soul.
And as if Memphis wasn’t inspiring enough, the conference itself taught me so much about how others in my field got to where they are and how they continue to grow. I could easily write a book about each presenter, but instead I’ll just share a few of my favorite takeaways.
My three takeaways from the Creative Works 2015 Conference:
1. Push. Push. Push. Over deliver. Because when you’re happy, your client is happy.
This is my new motto, thanks to Bobby C. Martin Jr., founding partner of The Original Champions of Design. With every project he and his team take on, they keep this idea in mind. A client needs a new logo? How about a new logo that comes with it’s own new custom typeface? Throw in meticulously designed brand standards, a little 24-piece iconography set, some copy tone and voila—you delivered something truly helpful and meaningful to your client they didn’t even know they needed. Your client is extremely happy, and more importantly you are proud of the successful identity system and brand experience you provided. All because you decided to push, push, push, and over deliver. Because when you’re happy, your client is happy.
2. Do work that makes you feel awesome.
You would think this is a given, but it’s not. Meg Lewis, champion speaker (we’re talking confetti cannons and Mr. Bean video clips) and designer thinks this attitude is the most important aspect of design. Why wouldn’t we only do awesome work for awesome clients? The design and advertising industry is all about providing a service that helps people but at the same time we as designers need to help ourselves—i.e. mental health. At the end of any project, everyone should feel awesome about the awesome work that was created. Sure sometimes you have projects that aren’t very high on the fun scale, but you can still make that project awesome (see takeaway 1) and feel good about the work you have accomplished because you had the right attitude.
3. Making friends is where it’s at.
The importance of community was the star and underlying theme of this conference. All the speakers and attendees were simply there to inspire one another, share ideas and leave ready for new challenges. No one has it all figured out, and that was something everyone there agreed on.
For me, experiencing the city of Memphis with Amy was my main sense of community. Together we met new people, fangirled over Meg Lewis, ate at beauty shop-themed restaurants, got a little lost in Thatcher, Missouri, and most importantly we learned from each other and left the conference with more confidence in ourselves and in each other as a team.
Experiences like this only happen once in a lifetime. Just kidding, we’re already planning a trip back next year.
This post was written by Sally Terry—an assistant art director at deep and purveyor of smart, thoughtful design. To feed her creative spirit, Terry is also a collector of natural curiosities, music and vintage art.