The evolution of graphic design tools: circa 1991-1994. (photos from Wikipedia)
My first experience with an Apple Macintosh computer was as a design student at Columbia College Chicago in the early-90s.
Computers had just started to break into the design industry. Having a love of fine art, I was initially opposed to abandoning my craft for the beige plastic box (“Me, use a computer? Never!”) However, once I realized how much easier—and dare I say fun!—it was to complete my design assignments on the Mac rather than using rubdown type, letrafilm, rapidograph pens and the dreaded stat machine (youngsters, click the links if you don’t know what I’m talking about), I was sold.
In those days, most students didn’t have a computer at home (so expensive!) so I was lucky to attend a school that believed in staying up-to-date with technology. When I arrived at Columbia College in 1991, they had a handful of Mac Classics. By the time I graduated, there was a room full of fancy Mac Quadras, complete with scanners, Zip drives and color laser printers. How quickly times were changing! And how much faster we could get our homework done! Many nights were spent in the design lab, working away on a Mac and printing and assembling design projects.
So as I type away on my Mac keyboard, I thank you Steve Jobs for allowing me to be a part of the evolution of design technology.
HOW Design Conference in Chicago
Last month, I attended my very first HOW Design Conference in Chicago. It seems crazy that I waited so long, seeing as I started my design business over ten years ago. But since it was in my hometown, I made the time and effort. Now, being seven months pregnant at the time, it was a bit of a challenge and I did have to make some concessions (going home early, no cocktails) but it was well worth it.
In addition to catching up with friends and colleagues and making new connections, I walked away with a wealth of knowledge—and a new outlook on my business.
Lessons learned at the HOW Design Conference
- Go to more design conferences: it wasn’t long before I realized the benefits of being around like-minded creatives and how that could inspire my own work.
- Read more books: many of the speakers mentioned useful books—and the onsite HOW Bookstore was a great source of inspiration. I walked away with books on photography (Photo Idea Index) and web design (Above the Fold)—and recently picked up a copy of a book I had been eyeing at the conference (Made to Stick).
- Incorporate what I love into my business: Peleg Top‘s session, The Creative Side of Running a Business, made me realize how personal interests can be used to enrich your business. Actually, several of the speakers mentioned this concept which really resonated with me. (see #4 and #5 below)
- Focus on a creative obsession: Armit Vit‘s session Turning Your Creative Obsessions into Opportunities was one of the most inspiring. As someone who always has several “creative obsessions,” I realized how focusing on one (or at least just a few) can lead to business opportunities.
One of my current creative obsession: photographing automatic sprinklers in my neighborhood. See the flickr set in-progress here.
- Incorporate personal interests into my work: Stephen Doyle‘s session, Where Ideas Come from and Where They Go, was a great example of this. He has successfully integrated both his remarkable paper sculptures and other personal interests into client and professional projects.
- Ask for advice: after taking a fantastic workshop on making and selling products by Heather Lins of Heather Lins Home, I realized the importance of asking for advice. Having your questions answered by someone who has been through it successfully can boost your confidence and encourage new ways of thinking.
- Tell a story: whether it’s for a client or your own business, it’s important to tell a story and be authentic.
Did you attend the HOW Design Conference in Chicago? What were your top takeaways?
Going to an industry conference can be overwhelming. So many sessions to choose from, people to network with, resources to learn about—not to mention socializing with industry friends and colleagues. Whew.
After attending my very first HOW Design Conference in Chicago this weekend, I’ve decided to share a few ways I discovered to make attending a conference more manageable and rewarding.
How to design your conference experience
Create your schedule: decide in advance which sessions you want to attend (as well as vendor tables) and mark your calendar or onsite agenda—this way, you won’t miss out on anything. Unless you forget to look at your calendar, which I tend to do! (see question #3)
Scenes from the HOW Design Conference in Chicago
- Pack your supplies: bring lots of business cards, plus a notebook and pens. A small pouch to store collected business cards is handy (thanks to my friend Grace for that idea!) as well as a water bottle.
- Make a list of people to meet: amid the myriad attendees, you may forget who you wanted to catch up with. I like to make a list in Evernote so I can update on the fly.
- Refer to your agenda often: it’s easy to get off-track and miss sessions or other activities while you’re wandering or networking. Also a good idea is to set alarms on your mobile calendar.
- Get out of your comfort zone: introduce yourself to a person you’ve been wanting to meet: a speaker, someone you follow on twitter, etc.
- Collaborate with others: put yourself in situations where you can bounce ideas off others, i.e. speaker lunches, roundtable sessions. Often it’s easier for an outsider to give you a new perspective.
- Be open to new ideas: listen to other people’s opinions, take a session you may not ordinarily choose.
- Talk to as many people as possible: you never know where that next great idea (or resource) will come from.
- Take lots of notes: I like to create a margin in my notebook where I keep a running “to do list” or list of action items (which makes #13 much easier!)
- Don’t burn out: take frequent breaks, drink lots of water—and if necessary, duck out of a session (inconspicuously, of course) that is draining your energy.
- Keep a “follow-up” list: make a list of people to follow-up with post-conference—include notes to jog your memory (after several days, it’s easy to forget!) Again, I use Evernote for this task.
- Keep in touch: follow up with the valuable connections you make: email about something you spoke about, add them to your newsletter, or just say hi.
- Give yourself time to decompress: wait a bit before you dive into all the information you collected. It gives your body and mind time to relax—plus it firms up ideas swimming in your head.
- Make a post-conference “To Do list”: go through your notes and create a “To Do List”: a list of action items that you can focus on based on what you learned.
How do you make the most of a conference? Leave a comment!
Yesterday, I received my copies of The Big Book of Packaging, featuring one of my packaging design projects.
Featured in the book is product packaging and a POP display we designed for Justin Blair & Company‘s line of foot comfort products. (Read more about the project)
Produced by Crescent Hill Books and published by HarperCollins Publishers, the book features hundreds of fine examples of packaging design—not to mention a rockin’ binding with exposed book boards (fellow bookbinding geeks will appreciate this). A great reference for designers and marketers alike.
Thanks to Crescent Hill and HarperCollins for the opportunity to be a part of this exciting new book!
some of my favorite biz cards
Recently, there was a segment on CBS News about the importance of business cards. It got me thinking: what makes a business card effective?
I host networking events, so I see a lot of business cards (not to mention designing quite a few for my own clients). I’ve noticed that some of them just naturally stand out from the others. So, what makes a business card rise to the top of the stack?
Qualities of an effective business card
- It’s unique and memorable. Whether expressed through format (size, shape, folds), paper stock (heavy, textured, plastic, wood) or design, a memorable business card will stay in your recipient’s mind—and on their desk.
- The contact info is clear and complete. Ever received a card without an address or URL? It’s frustrating—and makes you less likely to keep that company in mind. Make sure your business card includes the basics: name, address, phone/fax number, email, URL. Then consider adding “extras”: twitter username, blog URL, hours of operation, product offerings
- It expresses your business. Incorporate an aspect of your business or personality into the card: if you’re a home builder, print your card on wood. If you sell a product, include a photo of it. Remember: this little piece of paper is selling for you long after you’ve walked away—so make the space count.
- It doesn’t overwhelm the recipient. Nowadays, many of us wear multiple hats—but don’t cram everything onto a 2″ x 3-1/2″ card. Consider creating a second business card for your ancillary business offerings.
- It’s well-designed and thought-out. A good business card—just like a good business—is not thrown together quickly, but thoughtfully considered, planned and executed. Need help? Talk to a graphic designer experienced with branding and identity (and I just happen to know one!)
View the CBS news segment “The Business of Designing Business Cards” here.
Seen examples of effective business cards? Thoughts about business cards in general? Share them in the comments!
our new and improved website
After many months of sketching, designing and planning, we are delighted to announce the launch of the new-and-improved Lidia Varesco Design website!
We worked closely with Chicago-based Tasty CMS, who took our design and creative vision and translated it into an updated, user-friendly format.
Now you can view our design portfolio, read our latest blog post and small business tipsheet, or see what we’re up to in the design studio—all in one place.
We invite you to return to our website often to see featured design projects, case studies (coming soon!), and new goodies in our greeting card & stationery shop.
Once again, a big shoutout to Tasty CMS for their hard work, useful input and creative collaboration!
For some reason, the topic of sustainable graphic design keeps coming up lately in my reading (I think I read too much). We’ve been implementing green practices in our design studio for awhile now. Thanks to these green resources for designers and marketers, I have lots of new ideas…
Do you know of other green resources especially for design and marketing folks? Share them here!
Essie: a set on flickr
I’m proud to announce that my office assistant Essie made it onto the HOW Design Blog!
Her passion for design is quite evident in the fact that she regularly naps in front of my stack of HOW Magazine back issues, not to mention her honest critiques of my design work (woof!! = yes, it’s very good. arrooo = nope, not quite there yet).
Though she was more than happy to model the sticker on the HOW Design blog, we hear dogs aren’t allowed at the HOW Design Conference in Denver (sorry, Essie). But maybe next year…
Part of a series of post-Creative Freelancer Conference postings:
5. Look for trends in your industry and target markets: what is the next direction? What is going away? (inspired by Petrula Vrontikis’ keynote session)
These days, I’m finding it’s not enough simply to stay current with software — staying on top of industry and marketing trends is crucial. Lately, I find myself reading and learning about social media marketing and SEO, in addition to keeping up with my design reading.