Austin, Texas – June 24 – 28, 2009 – The HOW design conference was action packed! I am still recovering from all the activity and information that was jammed into a 4 day conference. I have sorted through my notes and have compiled a quick set of resources and tips from the conference.
This is Business, Don’t Make it Personal
In the graphic design game, it is important to remember that you are different from an artist. An artist creates and hopes to make a sale. Designers, on the other hand, have a client from the get go. You have to share your clients goal. If you don’t share your clients vision, the project will suffer, and in turn, so will your business.
With that in mind, it is also important to cover your assets when starting a business. Get in touch with a lawyer and an accountant to find out about the law in your state and how to get small business tax breaks. Make sure that you are setting yourself up for success by preparing yourself for failure. Just because your business gets into legal trouble doesn’t mean you have to lose everything.
The key to obtaining clients and growing a graphic design business is to accentuate what makes you different. If you can become a resource, or even be viewed as an expert in the field, this is icing on the cake. If you have an expertise, or offer multiple services, make sure your clients and prospects know. Leave behinds are also a great way to shine and show off your creativity. Anything extra you do for your clients that takes time and effort will stand out.
To learn more about the business of running a graphic design studio, check out graphicdefine.org
Where Are Your Priorities?
It is hard to loss focus of the big picture when you are busy at the task at hand. It is also hard to see the right path to the end of a project when you are drowning in “top priority” items. The solution? Effective prioritization. Determine what has to be done same day, and what could wait. Make a list of your “action items” and determine what can be put on the “back burner”. Make a visual representation of your priority levels and place your jobs within the visual. Chances are, you have more items as “highest priority” then you really need. If you are always rushing to finish these rush items, then your work and your mental state will eventually suffer.
Also, make time for your bigger goals. Set time aside everyday to think about what your long term goals are and what steps you need to be taking to acheive those goals. Even if you only have 30 minutes a day, any time you set aside will make better off then if you keep working on the task at hand with no regard for the bigger picture.
Learn more about the about the Action Method at Behance.com
Consider Your Audience
One very important point made in the conference sessions was the lack of consideration for those with disabilities when executing a design. 1 of every 20 people have trouble visualizing colors. There is a site called vischeck.com that can help you determine whether your designs will be seen by those with color blindness. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also offers design guidelines and best practices.
Know Who You’re Dealing With
Our world is getting smaller, and international business is more and more common place. However, it is important to remember that not all country’s employ the same environmental and humanitarian regulations as are in place here in the states. It is important to know what kind of facilities and practices your vendors have in place, even if they are on the other side of the world. Would you really want to save a buck at the cost of another person’s well being?
Functional and Fashionable
It is important to understand a problem to effectively create a solution. In design, if the concept is not functional, then it will probably not reach the goal it was meant to acheive. A good designer can make something aesthically appealing. A great design can make something appealing and make it easy for the viewer of your design to get the message.
The best thing I took from this conference was the friendship’s I made (totally cheesy, but very true). I met Kristen Ley, owner of Cultigraphic Creative in Charleston, SC during the networking lunch. We instantly bonded, and had a great time at the conference together. She is immensely talented and has succeed in launching her own business. Her attitude and her work both inspire me to push myself to be better and brighter!
Kristen and I met Larry Pelty, my other conference buddy, while having a quick bite to eat at Moonshine (yummy restaurant across from the Convention Center). Larry is the Creative Director for Smith and Associates in Houston, TX. He and I have had a very similar path in our creative journey and I think we both learned a lot from each other during the intense four days of sessions. Larry is extremely intelligent and I can definitely see him be a key resource for web design work for years to come.
I would love to hear additional comments from others who attended the conference. What did you take from your sessions?
This past Saturday was the Dallas Society of Visual Communications 2009 Dallas Show; an award show for the design community. It was a wonderful event, full of amazing talent, good food, and lots of intriguing people.
The show was held at the Dallas Women’s Museum in Fair Park in Dallas. As we entered the museum, which was adorned with colorful lanterns to go with the Asian theme, you could feel the positive vibes. Very fung shui. Sushi, fried rice and green tea ice cream floats were served and enjoyed! Upon our arrival, we immediately grabbed a drink and made a b-line for the stairs to go and see all the work submitted for the show.
Overall, the work was very impressive. Dallas has a lot to be proud of. One of my favorites from the show were a series of posters submitted by Sullivan Perkins for the Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas, TX. The poster (shown at the right), is for the play Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes which is running May 29th – June 27th. If you have never been to the Kitchen Dog theater, it is an amazing space. When you enter, there is an art studio space where local artist will have work on display for you to enjoy before the show. A place where the visual arts and performing arts come together in harmony. In my opinion. these posters really capture the energy of their organization very well, in addition to being inventive and eye catching. The poster series was awarded two awards for Poster Design.
As we continued to move through the show, I was especially intrigued by the range of photographers. One that immediately caught my eye was from James Russell and Ann Rutherford (shown above). When I initially looked at their display, I thought the images were from different photographers. Each told a different story, and drew you in to want to know more about the subjects. Russell+Rutherford won an Editorial Award for their photography series titled “Boxers” (not shown).
After viewing all the work upstairs, we came back downstairs to mingle. We met a immensely talented couple from Tulsa, OK – Jerilyn Arthur, with Walsh Branding, and Scott Raffe, with Raffe Photography. Together, they created a wonderful series of poster featuring photography from the Zoppe Italian Style circus. Raffe’s work, entitled “Circus-New Work,” is currently on display at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center from June 2-26, 2009. He sent me the image to the left as his “image of the month” for June. Jerilyn and Scott were awarded the Bronze Bulb for the “Circus Flora Poster Campaign” at the show.
Another stand out from the award show was Jeff Barfoot with Barfoot Worldwide. Jeff is a former president of the DSVC, and one of the most talented designers I have seen to date. He won judge’s choice for his piece entitled “Keep Things We Like From Going Away” (picture provided by Jeff). This piece was another one of my favorites. I really dig Jeff’s playful yet modern illustration style. In all honesty, I feel lucky that Jeff is from the Dallas area and I have had the opportunity to meet him. He is truly an amazing talent and a noteworthy trendsetter in the design community.
At the end of the evening, when the crowd broke, and the work came down, we met the lady who brought the show together – Rhonda Camp Warren of Color Box Design. Rhonda’s husband engineered the hangings for the paper lanterns, and Rhonda created the theme and design for the show. Business is booming for Rhonda and Color Box Design. She is planning to purchase the house across the street from her home to expand her freelance business in the White Rock area.
To close, I would like to thank everyone who keeps the DSVC going. It is an amazing organization that I am proud to be a member of. I cannot wait for September when we start all over again!