Learning HOW in Chicago. Ideas on great design and a creative event.

After a busy week catching up at work, the long holiday weekend gave me the chance to slow down and reflect on the amazing experience I had at the HOW Design Conference in Chicago. Since this was my first design conference, as well as my first trip to Chicago, I had no idea what to expect. It was really an incredible thing to see such a diverse group of people from our industry gathered at this cool event in a city like Chicago. There were creatives of all ages and experience levels who shared a common goal — to learn something new and get inspired.

HOW Design Live Chicago 2011 Inspiration for Young DesignerThe sessions took place in several different banquet halls throughout the Hyatt Regency that were set up almost like college classrooms. Each one lasted about an hour and a half with 15-30 minute breaks in between. There were multiple sessions to choose from, all with guest speakers who specialized in various fields of design. I was fortunate enough to hear from a wide range of talented and influential people including some of the rising names in the design world, like Jessica Hische and Mig Reyes, as well as some seasoned vets like Stephen Doyle. Each speaker provided a unique perspective on the industry as they discussed their work, their clients and everything in between.

Although the topic of each session was different, there were some continuous themes that came up throughout the conference from which I was able to learn:

Everyone has a different creative process.
Ideas are not like math equations — there is no one formula to get the answer. Each person has their own process and, to become a consistent and effective designer, it is important to find out what that process is.

Create things.
This was particularly interesting to me. As a young designer I find myself getting caught up on one project and obsessing over how it turns out. Sometimes it’s best to just make lots of things. Try different ideas or a different application of an idea. Often times the best solution comes after lots of bad solutions.

Do work for yourself.
As a designer at a B2B marketing agency, I enjoy the challenge of creating an effective design that meets the client’s needs and deadline; however, it is important to create personal work. It might not be what pays the bills, but personal work helps you find your voice as a designer. It gives you a chance to think for yourself, push boundaries and try new techniques that will keep your work fresh.

This one was pretty self-explanatory, but the best creatives become the best by practicing. Whether it’s print, web, illustration, lettering or photography — the more you do it, the better you’ll be.

I know some of these things sound like common sense, but when you get caught up in the daily grind of meeting deadlines and making clients happy, they’re easy to forget. The HOW Design Conference was a refreshing and inspirational experience. I look forward to applying the things I learned while continuing my efforts to be a better designer.

Have you been inspired and refreshed by a conference or speaker this year? Please share your experience with a comment.