A #HOWLive Newbie’s Perspective

While I’ve been a part of the HOW team for over a year, this is my first #HOWLive. And the rumors were true: The speakers are amazing and inspirational, the entire atmosphere is energetic and the people are friendly and ready to engage in great conversations about all things design (and beyond).

For those of you who weren’t able to make it, let me give you a few highlights from yet another invigorating day at the 2014 HOW Design Live.

Dana Tanamachi-Williams: “Perfectly Imperfect”

Her chalk hand lettering, which spurred on a number of imitators and an entire aesthetic, is nothing less than gorgeous. And, she’s utterly charming. During her session, Tanamachi-Williams displayed some key pieces of her work, making the gal sitting next me (and myself) audibly gasp at their exquisite beauty.

Her story was that of a journey from creating a fun activity for her friends – a hand-lettered background to celebrate a new year – to a successful career launched by this passion project (and her own hard work, of course). Warning against branching out on your own too early, Tanamachi-Williams also made it clear that having fun with your work and trying out new projects may be the very thing to get you to where you always wanted to be.

Jim Krause on Creativity

jimK_d30; #HOWLive

A theme emerged a bit for me: Don’t let your creativity go stale. Keep doing and trying new things to get out of a rut, find something else that works or just have fun. Jim Krause’s session took this to heart, as he explained several activities he regularly engages in to get his creative juices flowing and to have a good time.

One of his suggestions that stood out was to bust out the “kid supplies” and use cheap materials to make things. And his example, which I may make some lucky co-workers do with me, is to make paper mache projects. Yes, Krause stretches his own creativity getting his hands dirty with the paste and newspaper, and I think he’s onto something.

His overall point hit home, as I’m taking a step away from the office myself: Creating is fun, so get away from the computer, explore, make and enjoy. After all, as he pointed out, the play you do will all influence your thought process, spark an idea or give you a new solution for your next project.

Bob Gill: Design as Idea

This 83-year-old living legend, with a spirited approach and sharp wit, took the stage by storm. He showed examples from his own body of work in which he thought outside the box, dealt with failure and pushed for his own opinion to be heard by the client.

He pushed the idea of fostering creativity, suggesting that designers need to “have an opinion,” and take charge in client meetings by not asking “what do you think” or “which do you like” to the client, but rather by showing them the best design solution that you, the designer and expert, created.

Pushing the audience to ask him questions and giving robust answers, Gill provided two pieces of advice that stuck with me: To truly create something, go to the source. If you’re designing branding for a laundromat, he explains, go to the laundromat. (Again, the idea of getting away from the computer resurfaced.)

Providing practical advice, Gill also said “spend every waking moment working on your portfolio,” so you’re always prepared. He suggested redoing any designs if you weren’t happy with the direction or final outcome, and put those in your portfolio.

Making Connections: The People at #HOWLive

SeriousHOWies-sm; #HOWLive

Fair warning: I’m an outgoing person who will talk to anyone, but I have been blown away by approachability and openness of the people I’ve encountered thus far. From discussing in-house issues and challenges, to music or what we learned from a favorite speaker, a personal highlight for me is the people.

Being surrounded by thousands of creatives is a fantastic feeling. While I thought it sounded cheesy at times, HOWLive is all about the design community coming together to discuss how to be even better at what you do. And I feel doggone lucky to be a part of it.

I’ve reconnected with friends I haven’t seen in years, met new people and shook the hands of some of my design heroes. There’s so much that can be said about this year’s HOW Design Live, and I hope those of you who are still stomping around Boston with me agree: It’s a great place to recharge and be reminded of what gets your little creative heart pumping.