Two weeks ago, Baton Rouge hosted its first ever graphic design conference: CROP 2016. Founded by husband and wife team Matt and Ariadne Dawson of Studio Gray, CROP is a conference meant to bring together like-minded creatives for two days of workshops, speakers, and community building.
I had the privilege of attending both days of CROP – where I got to see old friends, meet new ones, and hear talks from an amazing group of creative professionals. On day one, there were back-to-back workshops on everything from hand lettering to giving great presentations. Day two was a smorgasbord of keynote speakers from near and far, sharing insights a varied catalogue of experience. Below, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite takeaways from the conference:
Come As Friends, Leave As Family
Mike Jones, a designer and the founder of Creative South (the yearly conference that inspired this one) kicked off day two as the first ever keynote speaker at the first ever CROP. Mike emphasized to us the significance of these types of events in the design field. Yes, it’s a chance to learn, but even more than that: it’s a chance to gather a community of people who will be there to share opportunities, victories, and valuable lessons. There is nothing we have to lose by building real, face-to-face relationships with other designers, and going to conferences is one of the best ways to do it.
Own Your Own Distinct Graphic Design Style
Ashlee Jones, founder of the New Orleans-based hand-lettering company Smallchalk, enlightened us with some of what she’s learned through trial and error as a creative freelancer. Her chief insight is something that can be applied when setting off on any new venture: you should have all the confidence – because you’re great, you’re amazing, and you can do this. Sometimes that’s all we need to hear.
Attitude vs. Gratitude: Grateful People Do Great Things
Amy & Jen Hood, the twin sisters behind Hoodzpah Design, talked about the biggest lesson they’ve learned through the years of building their own design company: having a bad attitude will get you nowhere in this business. Some points they highlighted:
- No one owes you anything, you own your ability to seize opportunities.
- Instead of using your circumstances to make excuses, make do with what you have and use it to get where you want
- Don’t get bitter about what others get/achieve that you don’t. Get better so that you can have/achieve those things too.
- Trying to copy exactly what others have done is a recipe for failure and dissatisfaction. Instead, allow yourself to just create – you never know what will come of it.
Never Forget How Good You Have It
Industry giant Aaron Draplin closed out the conference with his keynote presentation, where he gave us a behind-the-scenes scoop on the some of the contents and the production of his forthcoming book, Pretty Much Everything. During his talk, he touched on something that stuck with me: many of us who are lucky enough to be able to study the arts and call ourselves designers often complain about feeling stuck, of having “creative block.” What we need to remember is how fortunate many of us actually are to get to make a living as creative professionals, and to stop romanticizing the creative struggle, because there are folks out there who don’t have the opportunity to do what we do every day.
I thoroughly enjoyed attending CROP, and feel better for having had the experience. Not only did I have the opportunity to meet and learn from some people that I’ve looked up to for years; I also had the chance to deepen my relationships within the design community here in Baton Rouge. I’m already counting down the days until we can do it again at CROP 2017.
Natasha Walker is a graphic designer on staff with Gatorworks in Baton Rouge, LA. She helps to design many of the beautiful websites Gatorworks creates and is constantly seeking to learn more about the industry and improve her craft.