The Best Moments at HOW Design Live

As an experienced writer and editor, I tend to run in the same circles as other creatives—writers, designers and “free-thinkers.” For several years now, I’ve been hearing about the HOW Design Live conference, and I’ve always been pretty envious of my designer friends’ annual escape to soak up the genius of the design industry’s best and brightest.

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That’s why when I joined the HOW team earlier this year, I couldn’t be more eager to join HOWies for the biggest design event of 2013. Making the trip to sunny California for my very first HOW Design Live conference felt surreal, to say the least. Introduce speakers? Absolutely. Meet up with some of the world’s leading designers? Yes. Hang with HOWies and the HOW staff? My distinct pleasure.

I know it was my first time at epically-known HOW Design Live, but I feel very confident that the steady influx of brain food and stimulation is enough creative nourishment for months to come.

My favorite conference moments? Some faves have already been relished and blogged about this week, but here’s my breakdown of the final conference moments I’ll be regularly recalling:

Closing Party: I have to give a big shout-out to Neenah Paper for hosting a very festive closing par-tay. The aptly-themed “What Moves You?” celebration took on a life of it’s own with props, glow necklaces and a live band performing Madonna montages to precisely choreographed dance moves. I couldn’t decide if I was back at a college house party or a really rockin’ wedding with a twist.

After trying the starry magician’s hat, I decided to don the bright pink feather boa and oversized sunglasses. Eagerly waiting my turn in line meant rubbing elbows with other HOWies getting photo booth-ready in their own costume concoctions.

Fun? You bet. Squishing three grown adults into a photo booth with blinking apparel and bunny ears may be the key to happiness. Thank you, Neenah!

James Victore: Coming off of the Closing Party, I was impressed to see so many HOWies bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Wednesday morning. Let me shoot you straight: James Victore is worth getting out of bed for. Advice about loving work and killing our inner creative critics left all of us with a new lease on our work.

Closing Keynote: Behance’s Scott Belsky wrapped up the week with sage advice about organization, how to see our creative ideas to fruition and why “extraordinary ideas rarely come out of ordinary situations.”

Belsky comes from a place of genuine desire to help connect creative professionals and support them with the tools they need. Whether you’re a “dreamer,” a “doer” or “incrementalist who waivers between the two,” we learned that having a system for work and collaboration is essential to your success. Belsky, quoting Picasso, reminds us that “inspiration exists, but it must find you working.”

Our own Bridgid McCarren, content director of HOW + Print, announced HOW’s “Best in Show” winners and honored them with etched trophies and showcased slides of their award-winning work. How inspiring for the “Best in Show” winners’ work to be recognized amidst thousands of other talented designers.

It was absolutely invigorating, and as clichéd as it sounds, I understand why so many HOWies call this conference transformative.

So here I am, back to the reality of my workspace: a screen, keyboard, notebook and ideas swirling around my head. Where am I headed? Somewhere new. Thanks to Belsky, I know that the world’s top creatives take time away from the screen. I think I’ll start giving myself at least a couple of hours unplugged each day.

The next time I’m deep into my creative process, I’ll remember Austin Kleon’s words: “Steal like an artist.” And James Victore’s: “Take this job and love it.”

Why is this conference so epic? I like to think it stirred up something youthful and fresh inside of me. An element of surprise. Whimsy. The unexpected.

Like the 14-year-old designer from Chicago, Richard Medina, who arrived at HOW Design Live armed with his own business cards and a professional portfolio for the widely attended Portfolio Review.

Echoing the message of rabbit suit-wearing Von Glitschka in his session about “Redesigning Your Daily Creative Routine,” teenaged-designer Richard Medina also challenged all of us to step out of our creative comfort zones and take risks.

I know I’m ready… with or without the pink boa and sunglasses.

GET MORE HOW: If you didn’t make it to HOW Design Live (or you want some more), check out the HOW Design Live ONLINE Event, July 17-19th!

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