I had the pleasure of attending the first ever Crop Conference here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The conference, founded by Matt Dawson, caters to designers, illustrators, and creatives to get together and get inspired. The conference was full of interactive workshops, insightful talks from inspiring designers/creators, screen print filled parties, and lots of swag from the vendor room. Honestly, what else do you really need?
Being that this was my first time attending I thought I would share my experience in hopes of motivating others to attend next year. If you're on the fence about going to a design conference, I promise you will NOT regret attending this conference. Here's why.
VIP attendees got access to an awesome lineup of workshops. The two workshops that I was most excited for was the Handlettering workshop with Winston Scully and the Icon Design workshop with Kyle Adams. Both workshops got us all working in our sketchbooks and challenged us to do something that was out of our element. I like that there were some great takeaways from each workshop that could apply to any area of design. For instance, Winston expressed the importance of finding inspiration in the world, rather than Pinterest while Kyle reminded us that if something works, we don't need to try to reinvent the wheel. Post Parlor explained the importance of building valuable relationships through social media and living a beautiful, meaningful life. I also enjoyed their icebreaker, getting us to interview and photograph a stranger and expose their awesomeness on Instagram. Big Fish Presentations actually gave me hope that I can become a better public speaker and convince anybody why they should eat a donut (You had to be there). All in all, There were valuable things to learn from every single workshop.
So the kick-off party was pretty sick. There was music, beer, an awesome view, and a screen printing workshop. Yeah. Everybody got to take away a Baton Rouge print designed by the one and only Aaron Draplin and printed by Industry Print Shop. I thought it was a pretty cool idea to let all the attendees have a go at printing the top layer of the design. The kick-off party was a great way to talk to other designers and make new friends.
The lineup for this year's lectures was pretty incredible. All the designers that spoke are people that I look up to and find truly inspiring, so to get the opportunity to hear them share their experiences and insight was a dream come true. I learned a lot from every single person who spoke. Here are some things that stood out to me:
Having just been back from attending Creative South (Yep, was totally on a Design Conference high) it was nice to see Mike Jones as the first speaker of the day. In case you don't know, Mike started the design conference Creative South which happens every year in Columbus, GA. It was awesome to get to hear his own story which led to his desire to create a design conference that trades networking for neck hugging (yeah that's a thing...).
ASHLEE JONES / SMALL CHALK
Ashlee Jones, of Small Chalk, brought a little bit of sassiness, quirkiness, and a whole lot of real. She shared her story from working as the "chalk girl" at the restaurants and bars she worked at to becoming a freelance illustrator and lettering artist. It was pretty impressive to see how successful she has become while still struggling with things like Imposter Syndrome and wearing all the hats of owning your own creative business. Oh, and she is a new mom on top of everything she does. So, basically, she's awesome.
Jason Craig did a great job of bringing us back to earth and reminding us that opportunities don't just happen, you have to earn them and work hard. I love that he talked a lot about being good to others and if you're in a leadership role, take that opportunity to teach and guide younger designers. I really enjoyed his perspective on the design industry and just not to take ourselves so seriously.
AMY & JENNIFER HOOD / HOODZPAH
Okay. When I discovered the work of Hoodzpah Design I was instantly inspired and blown away. The messages that stood out to me the most during this lecture were that "Opportunity is often disguised in dad shoes" meaning, an opportunity may not be the most glamorous or desired job, but there are still things to learn from it. Never act above anything. They gave a lot of valuable advice for keeping the right mindset and attitude when it comes to your work. Definitely made me think about projects where I could have done a better job because I didn't think the client or project was "cool enough".
A FEW THINGS I LEARNED
FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
In order to get the type of work you dream of doing, you need to create (aka make shit up) that type of work.
Take every opportunity to make good work. Whether it's a logo project, or a sign directing people to get their VIP passes, it is all important and deserves just as much attention. Stay humble, and never think you are better than any project.
COLLABORATION OVER COMPETITION
There's no reason to hide your skills away in fear of "competition". There's plenty of work to go around so there's no reason to throw some work at your friends.
HAVE A HEALTHY WORK / LIFE BALANCE
Work hard, but don't overwork yourself. Sometimes inspiration and creativity sparks when we carve out time for friends, family, hobbies, and getting out in the world. We all need a break from our caves and computer screens.
STOP WAITING AND JUST CREATE
You'll never execute your ideas unless you start making art. The more you create, the closer you'll get to discovering your passion, distinct style, and gaining recognition. Remember that life is short, there may not be a tomorrow to execute that "great idea" you have. Do it now.
This was an incredible event, especially for its first year. I learned so much and feel that I left with even more passion for what I do. If you feel stuck, uninspired, isolated, or need that extra push to make your dreams a reality, these types of events are so beneficial for personal growth. Being an introvert with a low self-esteem, I know that I need events like this to keep me going. How amazing to have this conference happen so close to home. I want to say a huge THANK YOU to the Crop team for putting this event together. I can't even imagine the time and effort it took to pull off an event like this. Also, a huge thank you to everyone who lead a workshop, lecture, vendor booth and volunteered. I'm already excited for next year, and to see the design community in Baton Rouge grow and connect.