Creativity Meets Business at HOW Design Live

Anyone thriving in the design field these days knows that career success isn’t just about making a website or logo. Designers are increasingly expected to understand business, and to create solutions to business challenges.

Short of getting an MBA, how can a creative pro gain these essential business skills?

Marketing consultant and Creative Freelancer Conference program director Ilise Benun says that HOW Design Live 2015 is more attuned than ever to delivering that business know-how.

For the first time, the Creative Business program at HOW Design Live has been expanded beyond issues of interest to freelancers. Benun says:

“We’re really trying to appeal to the needs of more people. This whole idea of ‘business’ needs to be re-imagined as something that’s not so separate from creativity. We’re trying to take that hard, black line that divides creativity and business out of the picture, and to show how people are applying creativity to business, whether they’re working for themselves, running a business or working for someone else.”

We recently spoke with Benun about changes coming to the 2015 HOW Design Live business-oriented programming, and how freelancers can benefit more fully from the event.

Ilise BenunYou’ve been orchestrating the Creative Freelancer Conference for eight years now. How is the 2015 program different?

The main difference is that the word ‘freelancer’ is not the focus anymore. We have more fully integrated into the event than it’s ever been before. Creative Business has turned into a track of its own throughout the event schedule. What that means is that we don’t want to only focus on freelancers — we want anyone who’s interested in and affected by the ideas of creativity in business and creativity in business to attend this track and learn. It’s not just for a particular market anymore — the focus is on the topic, and whoever’s interested in that topic will come.

We’ve organized the material so that if freelancers want to come, they can attend the first two days, which are particularly focused on individuals and people who are running their own creative businesses.

Can you share some examples of how the program will connect business and creativity in meaningful ways?

One of the speakers on the Creative Business program, Janine Vangool of Uppercase magazine, is going to talk about how she turned her freelance business into publishing a magazine. And if that’s not a creative application of business thinking, I don’t know what is. Katie Lane will be presenting on negotiation strategies — whether you’re negotiating a salary as a creative employee, or a project fee as an independent worker, how do you do that successfully? And I’m going to do a live question-and-answer session onstage with Jason Fried; as you know, Jason went from being a well-regarded interactive designer to creating Basecamp, the collaboration tool.

Folks who’ve attended CFC before will still find plenty of sessions for them. Can you talk about what repeat attendees can expect from HOW Design Live next May?

People last year were already telling me to stop using the word ‘freelancer’ because that’s not how the people in the room perceive themselves. They’re creative professionals. We aim to create an environment where people are open and friendly and willing to share information and to network — and I want to expand that, not keep the door closed.

The program offers a more well-rounded experience. The first two days will offer a lot of nuts and bolts information — not basic, but more tactical. And then the following days cover collaboration, strategic thinking and bigger-picture information.

You’re so tapped into the world of small-business owners in the creative field. What are you seeing out there right now?

There’s this idea of collaboration, and the need for people to bring additional talents to the work.  A lot of the practical, nuts and bolts application of design is being commoditized by crowdsourcing and the like. So to survive, you have to know more and to think strategically, and to bring that expertise to clients along with your network of collaborators. So I’m seeing people taking on a more proactive, expert role — and they’re supporting that with content marketing. They’re offering broader, more thoughtful services. We want to teach people those strategic skills — and to give them the confidence that, ‘Yes, I can do this. I have the expertise.’

HDL 2014_Happy attendee

Discover how to build your business expertise at HOW Design Live 2015: Browse the entire event program now and select the perfect mix of sessions you need to build a killer creative career. Register soon to save $300 off the Big Ticket, before rates go up after the new year. No matter how you look at it, HOW Design Live is a better investment — and far more fun — than business school!