Note: Check out the Circles Conference Day 1 Recap here
Day 2 of Circles Conference and I’m feeling super inspired. Another five speakers, another day of great knowledge and advice. So let me get right into it.
The first speaker of the last day of Circles was Mary Kate McDevitt, a hand letterer & illustrator. She begins by talking about her “positive” attributes (which I believe apply to a lot of us): short attention span, impatient, and disorganized. She explained that there’s not a definite path on getting started in freelance. Everyone has different answers and different experiences. You just have to roll with it and gain momentum as you go. She went through some of her great work, which you can check out on her website. She was another speaker who stressed the importance of finding the passion in your work and doing what you love.
I was really interested in hearing Ashleigh Axios speak. She was the former Creative Director at the White House under Obama (#ThanksObama). I wanted to learn what it was like to work creatively with the President of the United States. Ashleigh mentioned a ton of facts that I had no idea about. For example, Obama was the first President to bring a dedicated digital team to the White House. Before Obama, there was never a design team or Creative Director for the White House. With a team of just three designers, Ashleigh talked about all the great things they have done. One, for example, was the idea of lighting up the White House in rainbow lights after the Supreme Court decision of legalizing gay marriage across the country. One of her great points was that personality is a great thing, and you shouldn’t tone it down, even if you work at the White House. Obama is definitely a great example of that.
Luke Stockade spoke briefly before lunch. He is a graphic designer + fabricator = sign maker. He is the founder of Sideshow Sign co. He went through some of his company’s recent work, not only sign making but packaging as well. He mentioned that he designed his own house, which contributed to his love for materials and is what spurred his love for sign making. Signs aren’t what they used to be. In the past, signs were beautifully designed and the attention to detail was exquisite. Now, a lot of signs are boring and not technically “designed.” It was great to see that Luke wants to bring back the beauty and detailing of sign making.
After a great lunch, Aaron Draplin took the stage. He’s every designer’s favorite designer and has gained a fanbase due to his incredible work and his down-to-earth personality. I was lucky enough to get one of his hats at his merch table and get to shake hands with the man himself. He spoke about his experience in making his first book. He would work pretty late and spent all last summer in his underwear working on his book. His book is full of sketches and ideas and all the things he loves. Towards the end of his presentation, he talked about working for Obama and making some art for Bernie Sanders. Overall, I learned a lot about the things Aaron is passionate about: his book, his girlfriend, his dad, Obama, hating Donald Trump, and of course, design. I highly recommend looking him up!
The last speaker of Circles was Jessica Walsh. At only 29 years old, she has already made a name for herself in the design community. She’s one-half of Sagmeister & Walsh, working with the influential designer Stefan Sagmeister on some crazy and cool stuff. She had so many great pieces of knowledge that I could probably write a whole blog post on her alone. But let me just talk about 3 of my favorite points from her speech. One: being a player. Which means having fun and play with your work. She mentioned that the more play and fun you have, the better people respond. To do that well, you need to have plenty of confidence to fail and a great sense of humor. Another point she made was that creativity thrives off constraints. Constraints aren’t always a bad thing. If you can create something awesome with all these limitations set, you’ve done your job as a designer. And lastly, see what everyone else is doing, and do the exact opposite. You’ll stand out in a sea of designers all doing the same thing.
Overall, Circles was everything I expected and so much more. I was incredibly lucky to be able to attend and hope to attend again in the future!