Circles Conference 2016

September 10, 2016

On Wednesday this week I trekked down to Grapevine, Texas to attend Circles Conference for the fourth year in a row. This conference has a special place in my heart with it’s small size, inspired attendees, and the diverse skill sets represented. And the speakers are always interesting people filled with passion. Some of the talks this year especially stood out to me and I want to note the points that were particularly pungent.

Mikey Burton
Design, Illustration, And Breakfast Foods
Say yes when you probably should say no. Along these same lines, do work that scares you.
I don’t do this. And especially in this phase of my life where I have little to lose, I need this.

Brooke and Tyler Eide
You’re Not A Designer
Become a student of your client’s industry.
I love this phrasing. It makes me think of Jarad Spool taking accounting classes so that he could better understand the projects he was working on.

Sean McCabe
Supercharge Your Writing
You can’t improve what you haven’t written.
Dang. As someone who is passionate about design yet struggles with crippling perfectionism, this is gold.
Eliminate distractions by writing them down and refusing to engage with them.
I’m also distractible. Sean suggested physically writing down the distractions of the moment and referencing the list when temptation knocks.

Joshua Blankenship
How I Built Up, Blew Up, And Rediscovered Who I Want To Be
Learn to draw.
And not for just graphic / visual designers. It can make everyone a better communicator. I’m looking to use this book of daily exercises myself.
Develop in the dark. Shun the spotlight and don’t pursue fame.
Avoiding this aspiration is a struggle for me. But in this talk Josh reminded us that the pursuit of fame is a losing battle that kills in the end.
Learn to tolerate the discomfort of process.
This is a lesson that I have recently come to realize is one of the key pillars of creative success. It’s this discomfort that makes the distractions so appealing.
Start your own secret society.
This is our own group of people who we go to for feedback and advice. Many of us have mental lists of these people, but formalizing them in writing is a fantastic idea.
Don’t be afraid to stick around, and don’t be afraid to leave.
Good things can come from staying at one job for 10+ years, but good things can also come from starting fresh. We can’t be fearful of either.

Ashleigh Axios
Diversity breeds innovation.
This is a very important concept for our industry. After Ashleigh’s talk I spoke with her more about this and she emphasized the importance of a safe, intentional environment in order to have productive conversations about diversity.
You do you. Personality is a great thing. Being phony is a tragedy.
I see someone I respect and admire so much and I want to be just. Like. Them. But I can’t, and it only makes me miserable. I have to be secure in who I was made to be.
Mistakes will happen. Don’t let them stop you. Turn them into opportunities.
I make mistakes. And in the past I have let them shut me down. But I can’t, because making mistakes is the only way to learn and become better.

Jessica Walsh
Play By Your Own Rules
If no one hates it no one really loves it.
Hi, my name is Wesley and I am a people pleaser. The thought of making something that someone hates HURTS me, but I have to get over it in order to innovate.
Don’t create work for other people.
I can’t be doing work to impress other designers. It’s mine and I do it because I want to help other people, end of story.

Circles was a fantastic time as always, with great memories made and much creative inspiration. I’m already totally looking forward to next year.