Life After HOW Design Live Action Plan

Many of you, like me, are now home after HOW Design Live. After you relish in those comforts of home — a friendly lick from your dog or an enthusiastic hug from a loved one — the reality of work and deadlines once again sinks in. You feel the pressure to jump back in as soon as possible without allowing yourself a moment to truly reflect upon all that you just digested during the biggest graphic design conference of the year.

You owe it to yourself to give that new knowledge and reignited enthusiasm a purpose in your work. So break out that sketchbook. If you’ll be at the airport today, make use of that time. It’s time to compile what I like to call a HOW Design Live Action Plan. This plan may be in whatever form you desire. A list, a manifesto, a sketch. All that matters is that you do it while the conference is still fresh in your mind and the energy is still coursing through your veins.

So this morning, as my daughter naps, I’m going to assemble my Life After HOW Design Live Action Plan. Here it goes:

  • Carve Out Time to Apply Creativity to Personal Projects. My conference experience began a little earlier than normal this year. As I boarded my San Fran-bound flight and crawled into my seat, I started talking with the friendly man next to me. As the conversation progressed, I realized that it was Todd Henry, the closing keynote speaker for the InHOWse Managers Conference. Todd, author of  “The Accidental Creative,” specializes in unleashing productivity and better ideas for creative pros. He began asking me about my personal aspirations and than he provided several tips for how I could take action. Meeting Todd in such a happenstance manner brings me to my next point.
  • Network More, and More! True, we are all in a hyper networking state while attending an event, like HOW. But take that friendly and open approach home with you. Don’t miss a chance to form connections with the world at large, even in the most unlikely places. And once you do make a valuable connection, follow-up! That’s how these types of things work.
  • Make Creative Exploration a Habit. After arriving in San Francisco, I went straight to The Creative Freelancer Conference, one of the four events happening during HOW Design Live. Jim Krause and Dyana Valentine couldn’t be more opposite if they tried, which is why the 30 tips that they provide within 60 minutes covered so much. I loved how Jim told us about his art corner at home for spontaneous projects and encouraged attendees for embark on art dates for fun. These could be with friends, a significant other or even your child. He also encouraged the audience to always carry with them a camera and to never miss an opportunity to build their own library of stock art by capturing unique images.
  • Steal Like an Artist. You heard me. Austin Kleon, keynote speaker and author of The New York Times bestselling book “Steal Like an Artist,” talked about creative lineage, and how artists are just a sum of their influences. “Most new ideas are just a remix or a mash-up of what has been,” Kleon said. This encouraged me to carve out more time in my day to explore the work of others and to create an ongoing list of those whose style I like the most. Who are your creative influencers?
  • Don’t Let Failure or Intimidation Hold Me Back. I’ve always known that Debbie Millman is amazing. But after hearing her bare her soul in telling how the worst moments in life can turn out to be the best, I’ve decided that she’s beyond amazing and should definitely be on my personal list of creative influencers (see above). As a writer and creative professional who is trying to make my own mark, I’m constantly susceptible to insecurities. Debbie’s talk made me realize that these self-doubts are normal, but that it’s up to me to move past them (and failure) to achieve my dreams. Persistence is key, as well as taking chances (even if they sometimes result in failures).
  • Handle Conflict with Grace. Cami Travis-Groves’ session surprised me in that her method for resolving conflict can be both applicable to both personal and professional scenarios. Cami, known for her intentional spreading of good joojoo, says that anger roots from fear. “Your mood does not determine your reaction; your reaction determines your mood.” Remember that the next time a conflict arises. You control your reaction, which likewise controls your mood.
  • Learn from The Masters. Sagi Haviv, youngest partner at Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, wowed the crowd during his session Basic Principles of Identity Design. Using iconic examples, he walked the crowd through his firm’s problem solving approach to identity design, which included tips like “resist the expected” and “it’s not about you.”
  • Create for the User Experience of a Particular Medium. Dr. Mario Garcia, Garcia Media, presented on Storytelling in the Age of the Tablet. He emphasized that it’s imperative to fully understand how users are interacting with a piece of technology in determining how to create for it. So, instead of just re-purposing elements from one medium to the other, it’s important to create for the experience that users seek for each.
  • Change The World, Or at Least Your Corner of It. Noah Scalin, co-author of “The Design Activist’s Handbook,” spoke to all of the creatives who yearn to create meaning through the design work, encouraging them to be instigators of change. He spoke frankly to the group telling them to shape their client roster around the type of work that they wish to be known for and said that it’s important to educate nonprofits on the value of an investment in graphic design. As we learned in the session’s discussion portion, many attendees already are creating ripples of change and took advantage of the opportunity to spread their messages and connect with one another.

Due to the numerous learning opportunities at HOW Design Live, your action plan will surely be VERY different than mine. And it’s highly likely that two people sitting in the same session walked away with completely different action items due to the large amount of information that our expert speakers provide. Good luck with assembling your action plan and feel free to share it below in the comments section!