Chicago-based creative director Jennifer Lemerand has hit seven HOW conferences since 2003; she’s so devoted to the event that she joined the ranks of HOW Champions—the brand’s strongest advocates—in 2016.
For Lemerand, HOW Design Live wasn’t a “bucket list” thing—attend once and check it off the list. She so values the learning and connections she gains that she (and her employers) have invested in attending multiple times. We recently asked her about why she keeps coming back for more HOW Design Live goodness.
What is it about HOW Design Live that keeps you coming back?
I love meeting new people — and while it’s fascinating to hear from speakers and professionals in the industry, I think the real bread and butter is in between the sessions, getting to meet people with different backgrounds, from different parts of the country, with different experiences — and seeing what makes them tick.
How has your experience changed over time?
This year (2016) was my seventh HOW conference; my first one was in 2003 in Chicago, and then I waited a few years to attend my second in 2008 in Boston. The first couple of times, I was blown away by the content, and I walked away feeling great about everything I could apply in my job and in my talents.
But it took a couple of times to get to the point where meeting others was a real benefit. At my first conference, I was still fairly new to the profession, and I’d never been to anything like this. I didn’t realize there’s a creative community that I could become a part of, in order to better myself as a creative and to have a better understanding of what’s going on in the industry.
At the second conference, I realized I hadn’t met anyone else — I knew that it was on me, that if I want to make the most of this, I have to put myself out there, and that can be a little hard to do. It’s what you make of it for yourself.
In 2016, I brought a colleague. I loved seeing it through the eyes of a newbie, looking back at how I approached it and the mistakes I made, and I told her this is your opportunity, so make the most of it. She thought it would be cool, but she told me it was more amazing than she envisioned.
After attending seven HOW events, what kind of inspiration have you taken away from the sessions and speakers?
I’m always blown away by how interesting the content is. It’s not something you can just go watch a YouTube video and get the same level of engagement out of it; some of the best sessions have a little workshop element where you talk with others and get yourself thinking in ways you don’t typically get to do in your 9-to-5 job.
I try to go to sessions outside my comfort zone: an industry topic that’s not directly related to my work so I can understand what’s going on outside the business I’m involved in. There’s always something that can apply to what I do. Then you can turn around and go to a session on lettering, and then you go to another session and hear from a data scientist.
In Atlanta, [in her role as a HOW Champion], I did some onsite interviewing for HOW. I asked attendees what their ‘aha’ moments were, and their responses were so interesting. Some people cited a particular session, or the general vibe, or the community.
People who’ve been going for many years still have those ‘aha’ moments. Every time you go, you can have that kind of transcendent experience.
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