Tag: HOWLive

The Non-HOW Design, HOW Design Conference Recap

The Non-HOW Design, HOW Design Conference Recap

Every year I count down the days until I am reunited with my crew. My people. My homeslice designers. Or more commonly known, my count down to the HOW Design Live Conference. But this year, I was watching from afar. I decided to take the year off due to the fact that I switched jobs and moved to a new city.

Remember what momma said, play nice

Its been a month since day 1 of the conference and I was able to soak up all the knowledge possible via Twitter. The main thing I took away from the stellar tweets: be nice to one another. Its amazing how many businesses have employees that feel like they need to throw their co-workers under the bus just to stay ahead. Or, employers that treat their employees as if they are only there to make sure the line on the profit chart continues to point north. When did the world get this way? Has it always been and we’re just now realizing how awful it really is? Yikes, guys. 

After being a HOW Live attendee for 6 conferences, and experiencing the genuineness of everyone, it makes me wonder…if everyone there is so awesome, where are all the people they complain about? Why are they not there learning? Why are there so many designers that struggle at their jobs? I realize not every attendee hates their job or has beef with their boss, but there are some that do. Anyone that has gone, knows that there are countless sessions that advise you to leave your job if you’re unhappy. Or change the environment. Of course, not everyone has such courage. There are those that have bills…families…mortgages…loans…etc, and paychecks make that part of life easier. But, as they say, life is short. Enjoy it.

When I quit my job and moved to a city that I visited once, maybe twice, it was scary. I had to change everything. Where was my local grocery store? Or coffee shop? Who should I see if I’m sick? Will they have the same things that Ames had that I really enjoyed? No idea. Just go and see what happens. Leap blindly. It might just be exhilarating!

If you wait for the right time, you’ll never stop waiting

In Boston after HOW 2014, as I was waiting for my flight home, I took a moment and wrote a note to myself in the same notebook as my HOW Live notes. I told myself that in one year, something needed to change. I wanted a bigger city. I wanted more freedom at work. I wanted the option to be creative. And I wanted to try building my own business. I only looked at that note once since I returned from HOW, but it was always in the back of my mind. Happy to say, mission accomplished…and I survived. 

My current job is no longer a job, because I love coming into work and creating. The people are incredibly talented and want each other to succeed. They are personable and helpful and I couldn’t ask for a more engaging environment. They have fun and work hard. And the company is successful. This job is everything HOW talks about in the sessions. (They aren’t lying…utopia does exist!) I’m still trying to figure out why its not a normal working environment for so many creatives. Maybe I don’t have a head for business, but being nice and pushing each other seems like a pretty common sense way to achieve success. 

Twitter Gold

Usually I would go down the list of sessions I attended and recap each one with little design nuggets of inspiration and feel-goodness. But, since I wasn’t actually in any sessions, I will instead share some favorite tweets:

The reason I do what I do:

I agree! This is so perfect:

A Magical HOW Design Live 2014

A Magical HOW Design Live 2014

It’s been exactly one month since day 1 of the HOW Design Conference in Boston. Everyone has received their swag, put it away, got back to their regularly scheduled lives, and have probably settled back in to their normal routines and attitudes. Which is why today is a perfect today to relive the conference!

Overall Thoughts

One of the first things mentioned was about finding the magic of HOW. I don’t think the magic is in the speakers or the session topics, it is definitely in the people. The people that attend this conference are some of the most genuine people I have met. When they ask how business is going, they really want to know, it’s not just simple small talk. They also really want to meet you.

Attending conferences, for me, is a lot like college. You go to a session, take some notes, take a break and go to the next. Repeat until they are all done, go back to your hotel room, pass out, wake up and have dinner only to return and pass out again from the exhausting task of filling your brain with knowledge. Except during this whirlwind time, you meet amazing people! I’m always shy and awkward when trying to talk to people but it makes it easier knowing that everyone around you is the same way and just waiting for someone to say, “hey, how are things?”

Each year I focus on one certain thing and work to get the most out of that thing. For example, one year I focused on the Exhibit Hall and I came home with so many paper samples, shirts, and other swag! The next year I focused on sessions that motivated me to become a better manager of my work. This year, I focused on the social aspect. I wanted to attend the bar crawls, dinners, and random meet-ups. I wanted to put myself in a situation where I would have to talk to someone and meet more people. I have to say, it was the best conference for me so far. And I’ve attended six, (including this past one). 

Don’t worry, I did a great job of also attending stellar sessions which brings me to my next section…

(I warn you, I went for 5 days so there is A LOT of content!)

Session Reviews

Comedy Improv Training for Creatives – Stefan Mumaw

I don’t have any notes from this session because Stefan told us that if we wanted to be in a session where we would take notes, we were in the wrong session. This is one that I wouldn’t normally do, but again, my focus was to put myself out there and get into the social aspect of the conference.

  • We did a lot of random activities – one even included hugging random people and another was pretending to be on your honeymoon and changing your mood in an instant
  • At first I was shy and reserved but as the session went on, I found myself frustrated with people that were doing the same! I wanted them to let go of their inhibitions just like I was doing and fully enjoy the freedom of looking ridiculous
Fav Tweets from the session:
  • When you let go of inhibitions, that’s when your creativity thrives
  • Instead of brainstorming and throwing darts, learn to riff off each other – much like musicians do
  • Have more COURAGE in design. Don’t be afraid or care about what others say – it only holds you back


Shut Your Monkey: How to Control Your Inner Critic and Unleash Your Creativity – Danny Gregory

This was all about how to quiet that voice inside – your monkey, that says, “you can’t do this” – based off the standing-room-only session, many people struggle with this.

  • He had some really great points about dealing with the “monkey” and talking to it. Example: you’re working on a huge project and it’s due in 2 hours. The monkey tells you your work is awful and you’ll never make the deadline. You reply to it asking “why?” and calm those doubtful thoughts. I do this sometimes and probably explains why people think I’m crazy…I may or may not do this outloud… 
  • In general, I thought this was a great session and it was nice to know that I’m not the only one!
Fav Tweets from the session:
  • To silence the voice that says ‘you can’t,’ get to work. Pretend that what you’re making is awesome and keep going.
  • Creativity is a lion-feed it with inspiration from walks & travels. Ride the lion away from the monkey-the voice that says you can’t


Malcom Gladwell in Conversation with DeeDee Gordon

This was something new for me. I have never been to a session where two people simple have a conversation about design. I have to tell ya, I kind of liked it! Malcom had so many great gems and since I was able to capture most on Twitter, I will jump to my fav tweets.

Fav Tweets from the session:
  • Designers and journalists introduce balance into the way people see things.
  • Find ways to capitalize on your own curiosity
  • You have to bring things into harmony, ie: boarding a plane and thinking about the space on a plane (Malcom proceeded to tell us that the way we board a plane is so inefficient because they didn’t think about the space. Instead of boarding first class then the back of plane and moving forward, we should board the window seats, then the middle and then the isles.)
  • By making the task in front of you harder, I have increased proficiency. Slowing down helps to solve problems because you have to think about it – you don’t overlook anything
  • Being disagreeable is someone that is indifferent to what their peer group thinks of them. But in a nice way. Challenge ideas.
  • Innovation requires three things: creativity, consciousness and the ability to take a lot of crap and stuck to your guns.
  • Stop making the cost of failure so high. Try new ideas in smaller ways and grow it.
  • Inverted risk curve: the notion that endlessly adding resources to an equation guarantees better outcomes.
  • On Steve Jobs: He’s really good at stealing ideas. He’s just in a much bigger hurry than you are. If something doesn’t work, he moves quickly to get it right.
  • Complexity lasts longer than simplicity


Debbie Millman Interviews Seth Godin

This was another session where both of them sat on stage and talked about design. Once again, I’ll direct you to my tweets for all the good stuff.

Fav Tweets from the session:
  • The computer does things for you – we all know how to kern. The craft is looking the client in the eye and saying “no”
  • You have to refuse to become a cog in the system, and make it happen despite the adversities against you.
  • Once you are seen as the person who enables great clients, you will get great clients.
  • Design thrives when someone cares enough to create something that touches someone. It does not thrive when it becomes efficient.
  • Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance
  • Dance with fear. You cannot make it go away. When it shows up, say “welcome”
  • There’s a huge advantage to small…in risk and in boundaries. What’s the tiniest thing that I can master?
  • Don’t start by asking, start by giving anonymously and doors will open because your work will speak for itself.
  • By turning off the tv, you will find time to create art that you love. You might not get paid for it, but youre doing what you love – something I am working on. Since opening k.ray design, I have to limit my TV time. Lots to do!
  • Flaw in our culture: you’re never guaranteed it’s going to work-which creates a fraud mentality. Find your edge and own it
  • Confidence vs. Courage: Courage is the key ingredient to do something remarkable
  • How do you create a ‘have to’ out of your art?


A Designed Life: What Were We Thinking? What Are We Thinking Now? – Michael Donovan and Nancye Green

This session had the same format as the others – two amazing designers talking to each other. This one might have been my favorite out of all like this…but I might be a little biased since Michael Donovan is an Iowa State University grad! So proud. 

Fav Tweets from the session
  • Becoming trustworthy and not just selling somebody something goes a long way – Nancye Green
  • In everything you do, bring the value to the party
  • We didn’t do it for the money, we did it for the possibilities
  • They are not clients, they are relationships
  • Keep exercising your brain muscles. If you can’t find passion or creativity in your job, look elsewhere – reason why I started doing things for clients
  • Keep it small. Keep our hands in it. Satisfy curiosity. If we get bored, move on.
  • When you focus on what you want, & do whatever it takes to get there, you have a pretty good shot of getting there
  • Designers don’t come in 1 flavor. Being clear on what you want & what you want to do is critical.


We Are The Stories We Tell – Stanley Hainsworth

Such a cool dude! He showed us journal entries and then told a story about his career based off one of his entries. It was a very cool and unique way to give his presentation. I don’t have a lot of notes from his session only because I was in awe of the work he was displaying.

  • His firm is Tether and when he was going to name it, he said, “I didn’t want to name it after me because I wanted it to be bigger than me – to live longer than me”
  • Stanley has worked for companies like Nike, Starbucks, LEGO, and Gatorade – companies I would love to design for!
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Look for everyone to be a mentor
  • Everyone you meet is a potential client, partner, collaborator, and friend
  • Says his greatest successes came when he took on things that he wasn’t tasked to do.


Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is – Justin Ahrens

I think I have seen him speak at every HOW…and I never get tired of it! His stories are amazing, inspirational and make you feel good about life.

  • His session was about finding your passion and figuring out why you do what you do – what pulls you?
  • Justin is known for being generous and one of the cool things he is doing this year is Wheels 4 Water. A team will be riding from Boston to Chicago to raise money for clean water. To learn more about his journey, check it out here: www.wheels4water.org (I’m super stoked that I have a signed W4W poster!)
  • There are 4 chambers of Passion: Gifts, Habit, Perspective and Reality
  • To grow, see differently – step outside yourself
  • When you look back on your career, how do you want it to look?
  • The projects we love the most are the ones that match our passions – they are the ones that most align with who we are
  • Make a list of what you want to do and get there. Make the most of your time. Change your reality. – Something that I wish I would have done in January like I did in 2013. I didn’t set goals/resolutions this year and beginning to think I should. I have a lot of things I want to do, I just need to get them on paper and create a plan for them. In 2013 when I did this, I accomplished all but 1 of my goals. 
  • Use your super powers.
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Passion is whatever brings out the best version of you
  • Your gifts are the vehicles to get at what your passion is
  • We become what we repeatedly do. Be what you do. What are you doing repeatedly that’s good/bad? Are these habits helping/hurting your passion?
  • We must act out passion before we can feel it
  • Time is that thing that we want the most, but suck at using. Make the most of your time.
  • Take initiative and create your reality


Typographic Master Lessons – Allan Haley

I love typography so this session really interested me. I love learning about new type, how it is used, and unique ways to rearrange it. 

  • Start with the typeface – it is the glue that holds things together
  • Exploit cliches. Tell a story.
  • It should be appropriate but not necessarily the expected solution
  • Celebrate the craft
  • Graphic Design is problem solving, Typography is an art form
  • Play a game with the type
  • Change the paradigm
  • Build a relationship with the reader – get their attention
  • Don’t put a timestamp on your designs – allow them to cross generations by not falling into trends
  • Make memories by creating consistency, keeping things simple, and make a shape
  • Sweat the details – everything matters
Favorite Tweets from the session (that aren’t already from my notes):
  • Use real handwriting. Handwriting fonts kill the message with their consistency
  • For every golden rule in typography, there’s an equally good reason not to follow it


7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Reaching, Writing, and Living – Maria Popova

She is so fascinating! A really stellar speaker with great insight.

  • Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind
  • Do nothing out of guilt or for prestige or status or approval alone
  • Be generous with time, words, giving credit, and resources
  • Build pockets of stillness in your life – take mental health seriously and sleep
  • When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them – you control your integrity
  • Presence is more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity
  • Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time
  • SHOW UP – no specific routine = success, the only thing that matters is that you have one
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Never easy to say, “I don’t know,” but it’s more rewarding to understand than be right
  • Lack of sleep is a failure of self respect and of priorities
  • Skimping on sleep does not show a great work ethic, but a lack of self respect. Your health is important.
  • Inspiration is for ammeters, the rest of us just show up and get to work! – Chuck Close
  • The act of showing up is the simple persistence upon which any body of work depends
  • Show up with presence. Be there.
  • If how you spent today was how you spent the rest of your days, would you be happy?
  • The best way to complain is to make things


Zooming Into Your Creative Zing Zone – Sam Harrison

I have seen Sam speak before and always enjoy his energy. He did not disappoint! His session was about getting into your zing zone – that perfect moment in your mentality for the most effective creativity and keeping an open, explorative mind. One really cool thing that we were able to do was be apart of a world record! Everyone in the entire room (hundreds of people), blew up a small paper bag and at the same time, we all popped that bag. It was incredibly fun and entertaining! HOW Design Live Record Setter for the Most Paper Bags Popped at Once

  • The design you do is important – it is meaningful, magical and sometimes medicinal
  • The zones of your life:
    • ZigZag: anxiety and fear – low creativity
    • Zing: moving forward – high creativity
    • Zombie: comfort zone – low creativity
  • Fundamentals for your zing zone: explore, experiment, exhale, examine, and express
  • What fundamentals of your creativity aren’t you using?
  • Zone in to focus, zone out to daydream
  • Connect the dots and make connections – be aware of where you are
  • Seek the unfamiliar
  • Watch with intent
  • Pitch ideas and catch ideas
  • Try to make every day an experiment – take risks
  • Keep examining your life
  • Inhibit your internal inhibitors and ignore external inhibitors 
  • Rank your creativity in Personal, Work, Social and Family to check it and reevaluate using Stop, Start, Continue – does it inspire you or tire you?
  • Express your creativity by teaching – know how to sell your ideas
Favorite Tweets from the session: 
  • When we stretch out and apply our creativity, we release “imprisoned splendor”
  • There’s nothing more damaging to creativity than entrenched success.
  • Are you filling your life with work or are you filling your work with life?
  • We’re taught how to talk and how to read but not taught how to listen.
  • Creativity is a team sport
  • Exploring is all about paying attention
  • Experiment. It allows you to be kinder to yourself when you make mistakes.
  • Nothing creative comes from always playing it safe
  • Inhibit your inhibitors. Make a difference in someone’s life and it will make a difference in yours.
  • Ignore the external inhibitors and your creativity will move into the zing zone
  • Do you play? Do you allow your inner child some liberties? There’s a difference between being child-like and childish. Allow your inner child to play but not take over.
  • Creativity = Play + Pressure
  • Make time to zone in and focus, but make time to zone out and daydream/be creative. Allow your subconscious to exhale
  • How are you expressing your creativity? Be a walking example of what creativity is.
  • Selling is a transfer of enthusiasm. Know how to sell your ideas and express your creativity


We’re Not Here to Make Sense – Able Parris and Mark Pollard

This session was one that had little tidbits of great information, but I couldn’t hear a lot of it so I didn’t really catch what the whole thing was about. 

  • The work is temporary, the impact is permanent 
  • Make yourself uncomfortable – keep learning
  • The only thing you can control is your process
  • Do it on purpose
  • If change is constant, why is it so hard?
  • Ask questions
  • Collaboration ain’t everything – not having it is
  • Allow yourself to be you
  • Humanity is a skill
  • Design for next year
  • Be proud of your weirdest idea
  • Maybe the opposite is the answer
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re stagnant. Do what scares you to grow. You CAN do it.
  • Design for next year. What will the internet look like next year? How will people interact?
  • If you’re just concerned with skills & output, you’re missing something. Respect each other & remember that humanity is a skill.


To Sell is Human – Dan Pink

We are all in sales. No matter what you do, at some point in time during the day, you have to sell an idea or a product to someone. He spoke about how we view sales people and how it has changed. Now people have information at their fingertips and before, they HAD to go to the car dealership or travel agency to learn about something. The buyers are just as, if not more, knowledgeable than the sales people. I even found a golden ticket under my chair and received a free copy of his book!

  • 3 qualities for effectiveness (new ABCs of selling)
    • Attunement: see the wolrd from someone else’s perspective
    • Buoyancy: stay afloat in the ocean of rejection
    • Clarity: curate info
  • Problem solving -> problem finding
  • Ambivert = the type of person that sells the most. Someone that is not an introvert or extrovert, but more in the neutral territory
  • Self talk needs to change to “Can you do this? If so, how?”
  • Add minor negatives
    • A positive statement followed by a weak negative increases positivity – you have something to compare
  • Make it personal – put a face on your work. Imagine the client’s product from one of their customers. What would it look like if the customer was there?
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Buyers have to beware because sellers have more info. It’s information asymmetry
  • We’ve gone from a world where buyers have little info & options to having many options & all the info – now it’s sellers beware
  • The very best artists are problem finders. People need you when they don’t know what their problem is – not when they do
  • To prepare yourself before a big meeting/event, ask “can you do this” rather than saying “you can do this.”
  • When adding a weak negative to positives, you give people a comparison: “It’s not that bad compared to all the great things”
  • Make it personal. Put a face on your work in the sense that you see the product from the customer’s eyes


Sales & Self-Promotion Strategies for Creatives – Jen Lombardi

This was a great session! Whether you are an in-house designer or run your own show, these are all great things to know. And going to this after Dan Pink’s session worked out perfectly.

  • What are you selling and do people want/need it?
  • Find a specific need
  • Discover what will be profitable
  • You are selling you
  • Don’t compete on price – compete on something else like, personality, accuracy, or time management
  • Who are you selling to? Target industries, project types or specific people. Get to know your ideal customer
  • Set goals!
Favorite Tweets from the session:

(phone died during this session so they are short and sweet)

  • Knowing who you don’t want to work with is equally important.
  • Don’t cold call, virtually stalk first. Know your contact.
  • When contacting a potential client, email should be short and sweet & include a call to action


How Design Enhances Business Strategy and Total Value – Nathan Shedroff

Definitely put myself in unfamiliar territory with this session. It was about the business side of design and how organizations can add value by adding value to their company culture. 

  • Goodwill value = a dollar amount above market value
  • Strategy = what should we offer, tatic = should we offer it
  • The qualitiative value creates customers – emotional, identity and meaningful values
  • You need qualitative and quantitative understanding
  • Relationships are the only values that exist
  • Total value = everything that goes into a company – emotions + finances
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Value emerges within experience
  • Experience is strategic – therefore design is strategic
  • Experience creates value. Those companies who focus on total value create more if it, more often.
  • Design is a plan for action 
  • Designers & customer service reps usually know the customer needs but are never invited into the conversation about market strategy


Christine Mau

She’s so amazing, the title of her session is just her name. 

  • When you don’t differentiate, a brand is just a quality promise to the customer
  • Play to win
  • No boundaries! Get out of your own way
  • Mundane projects are an opportunity
  • Use perspective to change a negative to a positive
  • Dare (Strategy)
    • How you’re going to achieve your dream
  • Dream (Vision)
    • This is the “what” that you want to achieve
  • Dance (Culture)
    • This is the “who” you need to achieve it
  • Have courage to stand up and join in
  • Play to not lose – go big or go home
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Mundane projects are not am obstacle but an opportunity
  • You can’t win big if you only make a small change.
  • When you see a lone nut doing something great, have the courage to stand up and join in


= Break for the Freelancer Showcase =

I show my portfolio every year and love it! I think its great to hear what other people think about my work. Some people love it and some people let me know how I can improve certain things. This has pushed me to think differently, go outside the box, and remember to pay attention to the fine details. This year I was able to meet a lot of really awesome people. Some were looking for designers and some were just looking at work. This was a great addition to my HOW Live experience!


How to Start or Grow a Unique Biz, Passion, or Idea with Little To No Start Up Money – Johnny Cupcakes

He is such a cool guy! He has a lot of energy and crazy ideas and definitely knows how to sell them. 

  • Strange is good – it sets you apart
  • Spend an arm and a leg to buy more arms and legs
  • Good packaging design doesn’t get thrown away
  • Do something different
  • Sell the experience
  • Collaboration is advertising for both parties
  • Don’t rush
  • Say thank you
  • What makes you unique?
  • Take risks
  • Put money you make back into your business and invest in new things
  • Your website and business card is the extension of your personality
  • Be happy by doing what you love

No tweets from this session due to the fact that my phone battery decided to take the night off


= Pixels of Fury – Shutterstock Party = 

Stopped by Pixels of Fury party that was hosted by Shutterstock and had a great time with great people and the photo booth! This is one event that I forced myself to go to because I wanted to be immersed in the social side of HOW. After being at Pixels, we went to a local bar and the HOWies took it over. (sorry to the locals!) Intermission was a great place to hang out, talk to people about the conference and enjoy drinks. When removed from the conference scene, you get to know people on a different level and I think that’s what I enjoyed the most. Learning about their life, their careers, and hearing their HOW stories. 


Perfectly Imperfect – Dana Tanamachi-Williams

Love, love, love her work! Absolutely amazing person and speaker. She talked to us about her experiences and being perfectly imperfect. She creates typography from chalk and has been featured in O Magazine, did a wall for Tommy in one of their retail stores and created works for many other amazing organizations.

  • Teachability matters
  • Seek out teachable moments
  • Play
  • Create for the sake of creating
  • Unplug to create unique designs – she doesn’t look online for inspiration because she doesn’t want to create something that someone else has already done
  • Flourish your skills
  • Keep drawing and keep making things
  • Who is flourishing because of the time, skills, and resources that you have?
  • Its ok to not bail on your full time job as soon as your dream is gaining traction – it gives you the options to say “no”
    • SO happy someone said this! A lot of the time the speakers tell you to do what you love and drop the 9-5 job. While I would love to do that, I’m not ready to let the stability go
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.
  • To encourage = to put courage into someone
  • Unplugging is the best way to create unique work
  • When you keep your day job, you only have to take the opportunities that fit your dream best
  • Continue pushing your limits with work that inspires you
  • People won’t know what you’re capable of unless you show them
  • Self initiate your labors of love.


Becoming an Idea Witchdoctor – Stefan Mumaw

Once again, another energetic session by Stefan! We did some creative exercises and he told us about how we can become amazing creatives. 

  • You can always reach higher – we stood up and he told us to put our arms in the air as high as we could…and then told us to reach higher and everyone’s arms moved up
  • Change the answers – go to absurd first and then pull back
  • Be more novel – get closer to absurd than ordinary
  • Creativity is a process, not a talent
  • Change the rules so you can see something else
  • Add restrictions – when you make it more difficult, you become more creative
  • Change the problem – we didn’t invent the problem, we invent the solution
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Creatives are an infinite well of ideas. You can always reach higher. There are always more ideas to come
  • Problem solving with relevance and novelty = creativity
  • If there is no problem, you can’t be creative
  • As we make the problem harder, we become more creative. Change the problem.
  • To kids, rules are changeable.
  • By solving problems, most people come at it from the ordinary/typical…try coming at it from absurdity first 
  • Find the most absurd idea for your problem and pull back. Much easier to go that way than push forward


Learn by Doing and Have Fun Doing It – Jim Krause

He spoke about small design projects that you can do with items you already have. A lot of his projects are outside and not on the computer – which is something everyone should do!

  • Remember to leave things alone and take breaks
  • Harness the power of restriction
  • Make a date and create
  • Direct a mini movie – it doesn’t have to have a story, just an idea
  • No excuses! Everyone has 10min to spend on something creative
  • Take pictures that are so wrong, they’re right – change the rules
  • Make an instant photo studio and play with lights and your camera settings
  • Stuff gets real on paper – there is no undo. It’s a great way to connect your brain to your eyes and hands.
  • Make kid stuff – like paper mache
  • Do and Learn


Design As Idea – Bob Gill

If you read anything from this post, I sincerely hope this is it. This guy was absolutely fantastic! He had common sense about design and told it with a ‘grumpy old man’ attitude. (Reminded me of my grandma) He was entertaining and told amazing stories. He told us everything in our life was dopey and that if we ever said we had a concept, he would throw us out the window. The Big Bang is a concept, we’re not smart enough to have concepts. He applied for a job with Paul Rand, and Paul Rand told him to stay in the business. This guy has done phenomenal things and is a true Mad Man. I love that I was able to hear him speak! 

  • Nothing in your head is worth anything because of culture 
  • Counter culture by finding new experiences
  • Your life would be more interesting if you had more opinions – ALWAYS have an opinion!
  • The best way to get a visual image is to never think of a visual image
  • Clear thinking comes from honesty
  • Practice solving problems
  • The next time you get a job, have no idea what it looks like
  • Listen to the statements – it will design itself 
  • Only show one idea – you can’t trust the client to pick the right one
  • Know that you might not be the best designer for everyone
  • Have a partner and push each other by feeling like the other is smarter
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • The challenge with trying to be original is the culture in which we live. “It’s brutal.”
  • For every 100,000 graphic designers, 99,000 don’t get it. It’s like basket weaving & that, in my opinion, isn’t work for grown-ups
  • Counter the effects of culture (steering your design ideas) by going out and looking for new experiences.
  • Have no idea what the next big thing looks like – there’s nothing in your head worth anything bc someone else put it there
  • Once you find an interesting statement, listen, and it will tell you what it should look like, independent of culture.
  • Experiencing life leads to great design. Use common sense & observe until you have something truthful.
  • Sometimes you are just not the right designer for the job. Don’t convince. Stay true to you.
  • I’m begging you to have an opinion about something! It stretches your mind. Have an experience!
  • There’s no formula. I don’t know… just be brutality honest with yourself.
  • Spend every waking moment redoing your portfolio
  • The inside people have it worse than the outside people. That’s why I’ve never had a job.


Putting Together and Pitching a Digital Portfolio that Lands You Work – Diane Domeyer

Great tips about creating an online portfolio. I am constantly working on updating mine and trying new things with the layouts. 

  • You have 20 seconds to grab someone’s attention
  • Things to keep in mind: easy navigation, descriptor, and images
  • Making work, makes work – go create
  • Keep it simple
  • Include stories behind the work
  • Focus on making a connection
  • What are you doing outside of the workplace? What are you really passionate about?
  • Craft it for the viewer
  • Sample should illustrate the types of projects
  • Stand out but remain professional


Defining Your Personal Brand: Why Are You? – RiCardo Crespo

This guy had so much energy! It was great to hear him speak and tell his stories. This session was all about why you do the things you do and what makes you, you.

  • Purpose: why you are you
  • Responsibility: how you do
  • Action expresses priority
  • Why do you matter?
  • Whats your promise?
  • Think big, talk small
  • Whats your default? What comes naturally?
  • Exceptional people show you why they are
  • Resonate with your “guests”
  • Don’t just be the best, be better and keep moving
  • Be continually better – surround yourself with smart people
  • Applied credibility: what do you do so well consistently?
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • A good designer is more than the execution of skills
  • If, 9 times out of 10, you’re asked to make the logo bigger, you’re not communicating effectively.
  • The key to life is right on our phones: the shuffle symbol – are you ready for this?!
  • Projection is related to the other end of the bridge which is perception
  • Your purpose is the collective of your audience’s perceptions and expectations, validated by the desired experience
  • Do you need your job? Or does your job need you?
  • Black belt syndrome is holding someone back just enough so you can still be top dog. Stop it.
  • Being able to say 10 words in 2 is a science–it’s an art form.
  • Design for the actual problem not what people assume is the problem.
  • Don’t ghost. Ever. Be at the meeting. Stop texting or emailing. Being a ghost is being there, but not really there.
  • Be bold, be audacious, but use smaller and simpler words.
  • Every day, bring the HSF (holy shit factor)


Basic Principles of Identity Design – Sagi Haviv

He spoke about different identities he worked on and how they came to that conclusion. He has worked with large companies as well as universities on their branding.

  • Show the design idea in applications – app, books, banners, pen, etc
  • Does it matter if you like the logo right away? You’re looking for something to last a long time – think long term
  • Criteria for good design: appropriate, memorable, and simple
  • A logo doesn’t tell a story – it is the essence of the brand
  • Don’t underestimate your client
  • Presentation is everything
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • When you see good design, it’s never love at first site. You want your logo to live long, doesn’t matter if you like it right away
  • The logo is a vessel … People project their feelings of the company on to the logo.
  • A trademark gains meaning and power over time! We think of a logo as a flag: bold – distinctive – memorable.
  • Your logo is the tie you wear into a meeting. Your brand is what people say about you after you’ve left.


= Neenah Paper Closing Party = 

Always a good time! This year’s theme was, “Your Design Superpower.” There were a lot of different super heros – both creative and ones that you know. Drinks, food, and very fun people make for a great night! I both love and hate going to the Closing Party – love because its always a good time, hate because I know that means HOW is almost over. 

Thanks to Neenah Paper for another successful party!


Creating a Business Action Plan – Corwin Hiebert

This session was good for both my full time job and k.ray design. Planning and organization are always great things to do in any position and I wanted to gain more ideas on the subject. Even though I am already pretty organized, its always nice to hear other ideas. 

  • Make your bio better – why should clients like you?
  • Force yourself to take make next steps
  • Have a Think and Drink – time where you can present your business ideas and collaborate with someone
  • Insert deliverables
  • Stay accountable and productive
  • Clients come from great relationships
  • Work on your priority items first – give your items a status: top, neutral, and low
  • Set reminders
  • Collect questions and answers
  • Living the dream is hard work
  • Build an environment that gets you organized, keeps you focused, and limits your narrative
  • Identify you primary objective
  • Assign due dates
  • Treat your business like a project
  • Create your momentum
  • Remove chaos and mystery
  • Define success
  • Items for a great business plan:
    • Have a perpetual clarity about your business
    • Become familiar and imitate with your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to your business
    • Describe and connect with your unique brand – your logo is not your brand
    • Define and research your target market and audience 
    • Build and tweak your business offerings
    • Plan and implement your marking mix
    • Establish your pricing approach
    • Get in touch with your finances 
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • Work on your business, not just in your business -Michael Gerber
  • Get intimate with your SWOT analysis. Always be evaluating.
  • Pursue marketing activities you’re interested in. If you say, “I really need to start blogging” you shouldn’t be blogging 
  • Define success and always establish next steps when thinking about your business
  • Create a matrix of awesomeness


A Celebration of Authenticity: What I’ve Learned about Brand Minimalism – Andrew Gibbs

Andrew is the founder of the Dieline and fascinates me. A few speakers at the conference have been right around my age and they always intrigue me. I wonder what my life would be like if I took my parents up on the idea of starting my own firm after college. Would I be a HOW speaker? Would I be wildly successful and work on things for O Magazine? Or be featured in multiple publications? Who knows…but its fun to think about. Right now I have the drive to become something great. After college my focus was sleep. Andrew took us through his experience as he started the Dieline and found a passion for packaging design.

  • Critical thinking + Simplicity = Effective communication
  • Secret to brand minimalism: celebration – keep the core of the brand
  • Be true to your brand, and yourself
  • Becoming an expert really does take 10,000 hours – dreams don’t work unless you do
  • It takes a ton of research and inspiration
  • Fake it til you make it
  • Design = perception
  • To be your true authentic self, you have to be relevant
  • The era of complexity has run its course
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • I went to art school because I never wanted to run a business. – A.Gibbs
  • Brand minimalism is communicating in simplified forms 
  • Good design is authentic – it is true to the brand. Good designers are authentic – they are true to themselves


Design and Happiness – Stefan Sagmeister

This was the closing of HOW and what a way to end the week! He spoke about happiness and how people find it and the way we interact. We watched videos of people in the Happy Museum and a video of him trying to talk to strangers on the street. At the end of the session, we sang a happy song to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

  • Levels of happiness:
    • Joy/pleasure
    • Satisfaction
    • Fulfilling potential
  • Factors affecting happiness:
    • Activities/something new
    • Life conditions
    • Genetics
  • Worrying solves nothing
  • Be more flexible
  • When you seek out the things you really want to do, you increase happiness and well-being
  • Negativity bias = you see the negative over the joy
  • NOW is better
  • Be thankful
  • Have humility
  • Before you sleep, ask: What worked today?
Favorite Tweets from the session:
  • The only things that can make you happier: marriage, friends, & religion. Money, location, race, & age do not matter
    • They did a study and found out that a rich person is no more or less happy than someone that is poor. Same for race, age and where people live.
  • All of us are pretty awful at figuring out what will make us happy in the future.
  • This life would be much richer if I’d be willing to risk more.


Photo Gallery

Images of Boston, the conference center, events and my session notes.


Thats all, folks!

If you read through everything, thank you! I hope you enjoyed the HOW recap as much as I enjoyed the conference. If you can, attend the HOW Design Conference in Chicago next year. It is an phenomenal experience and one every designer should have. The people are genuine, the conference speakers are entertaining and knowledgeable, and the sessions are inspiring. It really is the happiest place on earth and very magical. Sounds silly, but thats the best way I can describe it. 

Thanks for reading!


Pssst…one more thing

This is what #HOWLive inspires, crazy cool projects like this poster created by Noel Dolan:


Download the poster PDF


Stop Being Serious and Go Play

Stop Being Serious and Go Play

The HOW Design Conference is my home away from home.

HOWLive - Neenah Closing Party HOWie Group
Image of the HOWies from HOW Design Live on Facebook

If there was an utopia for designers, HOW would be it. If there was a Christmas morning for designers, HOW would be it. If there was a place where a creative could go to feel at home and normal, HOW would be it.

It is amazing to think that I have been fortunate enough to attend 5 HOW Design Conference and at each one, I learn something new. I learn something new about myself and the design world. It is an amazing place to be! San Francisco wasn’t too shabby either.

I have for you here my HOW Design recap. The sessions below are ones I got a lot out of and want to share with you. I also displayed my portfolio at HOW and have comments about that experience. This year, the conference only used the #HOWLive hashtag and didn’t have separate tags for each session, so if you have time, get on Twitter and view the tweets! Lastly, you can view the image gallery of all my notes from the conference. Enjoy!

Session Reviews

How to Steal Like an Artist

Austin Kleon

  • Steal like an artist – so many ideas come from other artists. Nothing is original.
  • The artist is a collector – I have so many things that I will do something with one day. And that one day will be a creative masterpiece!
    • Create a “swipe file” = a file of “stolen” ideas
  • Don’t wait to know who you are to get started – just show up and do what you do.
  • Write the book you want to read and create the art you want to see
  • Steal the thinking behind the style. Don’t outright copy, but understand the process and expand on it to make it yours.
  • Side projects are important! Avoiding work is a way to focus the mind
  • The secret for becoming known: do good work and share with the world
    • Give your secrets away, be an open book, and open your process.
    • Share everything!
  • Geography is no longer our master. We can collaborate with people from everywhere
  • Be nice. No one likes a meanie.
  • Be boring. Take care of yourself. Some routine is ok. If you have to get up early, its ok to be boring and go to bed early.
  • Do not look for validation from external sources.
    • This is something I very much need to work on!
  • Creativity is subtraction.

Really fun to listen to and he made me feel better about taking an idea, twisting it, adding to it, taking pieces away, and making it my own.



Jessica Walsh

  • I loved how open she was about her work! I actually saw the staff photo she was in before the conference and didn’t put the pieces together on who she was until I was sitting in her session. 
  • Play prepares us. Play shares the brain. Play is a state of mind. Play makes our brain grow. Power of play in the workplace makes creativity more productive.
  • The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression. 80% of people are unhappy with their work. Play more.
  • Have confidence to fail
  • Play can be serious
  • Persistence is key
  • Creativity is making connections between intrinsic motivation
  • Do what you love wholeheartedly and the money will follow
  • Get comfortable with the uncomfortable
    • Jessica shared her story of how she became to be and one of the things she showed us was the staff photo where they are all nude. That’s one way of being comfortable with the uncomfortable!
  • Idea generation is the most playful part of the creative process
  • Play by your own rules. Creativity thrives off of constraints. Make your own rules so you can break them.
    • Jessica showed us many projects she worked on where the group set their own rules before beginning the project. It definitely makes you think of things differently. This is something I would love to try for my next project!
  • Get off the computer!
    • How many times have you heard this statement and haven’t actually done it? I know when I would work on my typography after work, I felt more creative and more open. Drawing for even 2 minutes a day can help clear your mind. Plus, looking at a computer screen all day isn’t great on the eyes. Everyone has time for a 2 minute break.


Creatively Recalculating your Daily Design RoutineVonster on stage during his session

Von Glitschka

  • The only way to believe this happened is to see the photo. Yes, he did deliver his entire talk in a bunny costume. And yes, it was amazing. 
  • One of my favorite things from this session: On a tombstone, you are a dash. Your life is what happens between the dates. The dates don’t matter, the dash does.
  • Step out and try new things. Set your favorites aside.
  • BREAK ROUTINE. Take a different way to work. Try a different meal. 
  • Routine > Comfort Zone > Hard to stay inspired > Lack of creativity
  • “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – M. Twain
  • Imagination is more important
  • Creativity is how you think
  • If it intimidates you, that means you have potential to grow. Go for it!
  • Creative fear is like a lion’s roar – you can’t think, you stop in your tracks, and you don’t move
  • Change your perspective
  • Daily doses of creative curiosity will neutralize “routine”
  • Leave your work environment to ideate
    • Exploring creativity outside of work allows you to be curios without qualifying it
  • DRAW
  • “Confidence is the prize given to the mediocre” – Robert Hughes.
  • Observe the moment


Creative Bootcamp: Generate Ideas in Greater Quantity & Quality in 60 Minutes

Stefan Mumaw

  • Creativity is a SKILL, not a TALENT
  • Can the critic. Say something stupid and be ok with it…it may lead to something great.
    • No, really, do it. You hear it so many times in every aspect of life. Today it is time to actually silence the critic.
  • To be novel, forget what you know – get stupid to get smart
  • Walk in stupid every morning
  • We secretly need restriction – we need the box to work in. The more restrictive the problem, the more creative the solution
  • Time is the greatest restriction
    • Maybe this is why I love to procrastinate
  • Most of this session was working on creative exercises. I absolutely loved it! You can see some of the fun ideas in my notes


Shitty Typography on a Cat & Other Ways to Design with Humor

Heather Bradley

  • Why should you be funny?
    • Its memorable
    • Its convincing
    • Its crowd pleasing
  • Creativity = playfulness > playfulness = fun/funny – you are funny!
  • Stop being so serious
  • Avoid excessive repetition, staleness, and being out-dated
  • Humor is a spectrum
  • Don’t forget who you are
  • Be punchy
  • Personify your subject
  • Crop your work unexpectedly
  • Be frank
  • Make surprising juxtapositions
  • Quit being perfect
  • Seriously f*** it up!
  • Trick the eye
  • Bring on the “squee!!” (cuteness)
  • Mess with cliches
  • Be sneaky


Selling Creativity

Mary Zalla

  • Create a diverse group if you want great ideas/opinions
  • Peer pressure will change ideas
    • She told us a story about a group of people that all answered B to a question when the answer was clearly A. Since the entire group answered B, the last person in the room answered the same simply because they didn’t want to challenge the group.
    • Sometimes having people in a one/one situation is better
  • Value your imagination over your personal image. Have courage with your work
  • Constantly focus on the outcome
  • Creativity takes guts – it is not for the faint hearted
  • Creativity and Courage are brothers
  • Courage is action upon reflection
  • Fear is like alcohol – it impairs judgement
  • You cannot lead with fear
    • Another situation was where a boss walked in a meeting, told the group what he thought about the situation at hand and then asked the group what they thought. The group always agreed with the boss because they did not want to challenge them.
    • A great leader asks the group first, listens, and then offers their opinion.
  • Determination – you can’t freak out forever. You have to get over your fear and move forward
  • Creativity requires tenacity
  • New ideas can be threatening – you cannot be threatening
  • Familiarity is calming – create work that takes advantage of this


Obsessive Creative Disorder Development: Keeping Negative Thoughts & Anxiety Out of your WorkflowObsessive Creative Disorder - slide

Stephanie Voss

  • This session was one of my favs! I LOVED everything she had to say. I could relate so well.
  • She created a 4 step process to deal with worrying: E.F.I.T. (eff-it)
    • Empower Yourself
    • Focus
    • Is not if
    • Trust
  • Everything we do is meant to be shared
  • The person we are waiting to give us validation is ourself
  • Focus on what you can control
  • Cool kids worry
  • Obsess constructively 
  • You can’t prevent worry, but you can learn how to use it to your benefit
  • Stop defending your work as if it is something fragile
  • Trust yourself to make it better
  • “What if we made it like this?”
  • We always worry that our work has to be amazing but if its good enough and the clients are happy, does it really matter?
    • A story she told was about an amazing mom that went and played with her kids and took care of everything but felt awful that she didn’t have time to make homemade cupcakes for treat day. She was so worried what everyone would think – would they think she was a horrible mom? But really, the store bought cupcakes were just as good and the kids enjoyed them just as much. So, did it really matter they weren’t homemade?
  • We all need revisions – we are all works in progress
  • Empathy can be a positive thing
  • Focus on the details that matter
  • Its ok to be excited about something scary
  • You don’t have to be in a constant state of frenzy and always trying to look busy to be great at what you do & productive
    • No one says, “I really like how you freaked out the other day.” Keep it cool
  • Anxiety is your Drive!
  • Give yourself permission to succeed – its ok to be amazing!
  • Trust is the freedom to believe in our ideas
  • Designers have super powers – we can spot a mistake a mile away, we worry about things like em dashes, and can feel absolutely amazing about an idea
    • Trust your super powers, thats your design genius!


Battle Ground to Higher Ground

Cami Travis-Groves

  • Have you ever been in the middle of an argument and you both realize you have hit a stalemate? How do you come to an agreement without one person giving up their side?
  • Recognize the emotion and problem – ask, “What is the solution we can both live with?”
  • Identify the emotion > Restate the issue > Ask for a solution
  • If need be, ask for a breather and come back to the problem
  • Listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to respond
  • By recognizing the other person’s feelings, you start hearing the problem & can figure out a solution faster
  • Higher ground is where you can resolve conflict gracefully

Good stuff in this one! I loved how she had demonstrations during the session, too. Two people would stand up and argue a point and use these steps to reach a conclusion that both parties can live with. It has always bothered me that more often than not, one side has to concede. That side is never fun to be on…it makes me feel like my idea doesn’t matter and my side is less important. With this route, both parties reach an agreement without making the other feel less.


What Movies Can Teach You About How to be a Better Designer

Justin Ahrens

  • If I could spend a day job shadowing Justin, my life would be complete. I remember his session from last year’s HOW and he did not disappoint this year! 
  • Live in a way that fuels your work and work in a way that fuels your life
  • What inspires you?
  • What story are you in? You have to figure out what story you are not in to figure out the one you are (He related this to a scene from Stranger Than Fiction – Dustin Hoffman asks Will Farrell a series of odd questions to eliminate story lines)
  • The most simple things can become beautiful
  • Create enough space to be inspired
  • Slow down. Create space to stop and pause
  • Movies are creative soulfood
  • Do you explore stories?
  • Feed yourself inspiration
  • Designers are storytellers and we welcome a response
  • Your goal must be a good story well told
  • “If your company was an amusement park, what would be your main attraction?” Tell the story
  • Its not what you’re looking at, its what you see. See differently
  • The universe is made of stories, not atoms
  • If we don’t know the story, how are we supposed to design for it?
  • “Stories are the currency of human contact” – Robert McKee
  • Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today

Throughout his presentation he showed us movie clips. Something that inspires Justin is movie titles and I have to agree. Some of them are so amazing! I think my favorite opening is still Casino Royale. Incredibly well done. This session was so much fun to sit through. I was in awe of everything and felt like a little kid watching all the movies. I’m inspired to see the world differently and discover story.


How to Avoid Work

James Victore

  • When your work is a gift, you no longer have to worry about satisfying others – your job is not to make your boss happy
  • Stop trying to be a “designer”
  • “Pleasant arrangement of shapes on a page” that’s graphic design
  • There are no shortcuts. Make it nice or make it twice
  • Your work is a gift and the world is waiting for it
  • “I would have done good work but I had to pay rent.” <– F THAT! If you have a client simply because you need the money, you are a slave. Simple as that.
  • Eviction notices were the cost of his freedom
    • I find this exhilarating to think about. Serious respect for people that can let go and do this. I plan on making this my goal. I want to stop caring about money and start caring about making work I am proud of.
  • The past is quick sand of the future. Let go kitty!
  • Who cares if its ugly! Practice making something
  • Trust is INSPIRATION
  • Ask for what you want
  • Say NO. The worst thing you can do is give a client exactly what they want. YOU ARE THE DESIGNER. Stop being a people pleaser! 
  • Complaining is not conversation. Quit your bitching and quit your job.
  • Praise in public and criticize in private
  • Your studio is where you create. Step outside to develop ideas and let your imagination run wild.
  • You have no friends. You have no enemies. You only have teachers.
  • The universe will protect you, but you have to trust in it. You have to take the leap.

Good stuff here, too! He was so authentic and open, it was refreshing! There have been so many times where I see something I create and think, “Thats not to the level it needs to be, it needs more.” I need to accept the fact that everything does not need to be perfect. Everything does not need to be “designer-y.” When I am trusted, I am inspired…but this also means I need to trust myself.


Idea Execution: How Ideas Are Brought to Life

Scott Belsky

  • There were so many things I wanted to write down during this closing keynote! Great talk and made me want to explore Behance even more. 
  • We live in a world of a reactionary workflow. We can react to the world all day and not be productive on what matters
  • Measure the value of meetings in action steps. If there are no actions cancel the meeting & send an email instead.
  • Spend energy on getting organized
  • Organize with a bias to action
  • Creativity > Organization and Execution > Communal Force > Leadership Capabilities = Make Ideas Happen
  • Creativity x Organization = Impact
  • Prioritize projects visually – put your projects on an energy line (Projects on high, extreme, slow, etc)
  • UNPLUG. We need 2-3 hour windows of non-stimulation
  • Make ONE change – keep pushing yourself forward. Optimize to surpass your horizon of success
  • People leave organizations because they don’t feel fully utilized. Silence is visionary. Ask and listen to your coworkers
  • We expect to be fully utilized & constantly optimized. People leave a job after a year because they stop learning, not because they cant keep it
    • Something that is very common now. Most will see that someone spent a year at a job and view it as they are unreliable – this is old thinking! In this fast pace world we live in, work must keep up. If we cannot be stimulated at our job, it should not be looked down upon to seek other options. If anything, it should be celebrated that you want to expand your skills and keep learning.
  • Seek competition. Pace yourself with others
  • When working with multiple constituents, find what you hold most dear and lead with that. Don’t become burdened by the consensus.
  • We often have to be told how good something is to take a second look. Overcome the stigma of self marketing
  • Be the bureaucracy breaker – ask annoying questions
  • We have little tolerance for the friction of bureaucracy, old boy networks, & antiquated business practices
  • Make your boss make a decision – “we need to make a decision by ____”
  • If you tap the credible mass rather than the critical mass, you foster creativity and give it a spotlight
  • We seek work that is, first and foremost, intrinsically rewarding
  • If everyone thinks you’re crazy, you’re either crazy or really on to something
  • The new networking is sharing. Share ideas liberally!
  • Nothing extraordinary is ever achieved through ordinary means

This was a great way to end HOW! This session made me want to question everything. I want to be more organized. I want a place to easily share everything. I want to make decisions and get things done. I do not want to keep pushing ideas around. This is my year that I will grow in the design field and accomplish things I never thought I could.


Session Notes

Special thanks to Crystal for creating such an amazing iNote this year! It was so fun being apart of the process and seeing the final piece. Well done and cannot wait to see what you have in store for 2014! View the entire iNote >>


Portfolio Review

For the past 3 years I have shared my portfolio at HOW and received great feedback. It is tough, there’s no doubt about that. You have to have tough skin to go through something like this. You’re not showing your portfolio to your great aunt at Thanksgiving, you’re showing it to some of the top designers in the country. Hello intimidation!

A few people came by and looked at my work and gave me simple feedback. Most really liked my case and my logo design. My websites also got great reviews.

Then someone stopped by that really tested my personality. They mentioned they would be rough on me but better to be hard on me now then me not get a job. That comment right there sent a twinge through my spine but, we continued. Many of the things they talked about could have been great points if the delivery was better. I remember hearing, “You are not your work,” at a previous HOW conference and I really tried to keep that in the back of my mind during the review, but there comes a time where criticism isn’t always constructive. There were moments were I felt my intelligence were criticized rather than my work. I was actually asked, “Do you think I’m stupid and can’t read?” Ouch.

That review hurt. I’m not going to deny it. I was crushed. I really thought I improved from last year. I was kicking the dirt for awhile but then I had another reviewer come my way.

This person was excellent and our conversation was wonderful! This is the review I need to focus on. They loved my websites and were head over heels at the fact that I knew how to theme in both WordPress and Drupal. They lifted my spirits back up in the design world and I greatly appreciate it. We exchanged business cards and I hope to keep in touch with this person in the future.

All in all, the Portfolio Review is definitely a growing experience. As stated before, if it intimidates you, you have potential to grow. I plan on signing up for it again next year in Boston and keep improving.


Until Next Year

Well, folks, thats it! If you have read through this far, THANK YOU! I sincerely enjoy the experience I have at the HOW Conference. Between the sessions, parties, the host city and the people I get to hang out with, I couldn’t ask for a better 4 days. I cannot wait to see what Boston has to bring next year.

HOWLive - Neenah Closing Party (Image from Julie G.)
Image from Julie G. – @julieofthewolfs & the Julie of Hugged by Julie stickers. Me & Julie at the HOWLive Neenah Closing Party
Image from Crystal (the amazing creator of the iNote) – Me & Crystal at the HOWLive Neenah Closing Party