Having wanted to go to HOW and other conferences for years but always putting up mental roadblocks (I'm too busy, I don't have the money...) I came across the Creative South Conference website some months ago and was floored by the speaking talent that was going to be there. Some of my absolute favorites in the design industry. Tickets were not yet on sale but I kept an eye out trying to figure out how I was going to afford this one with the talent that was to be present. No figuring was needed. The entire weekend was only $75! What? That's right. $75. CRAZY.

It was a who's who of the best and brightest bringing serious heavyweight inspiration to the Columbus, GA area. Check this out...

  • Jeff Finley & Bill Beachy from Go Media
  • Aaron Draplin
  • James White from Signalnoise
  • Amy and Jen Hood from Hoodzpah
  • Jessica Heltzel and Tim Hoover from Kern and Burn
  • Mamas Sauce
  • Eric Mortensen
  • Mackey Saturday
  • Nick Slater
  • Rogie King
  • Ryan Hamrick
  • Alex Weir & Daniel Stewart from Weir/Stewart
  • Sean McCabe
  • Michael Butler
  • Josh Long from Treehouse and the Author of Execute
  • Mat Helme from Treehouse

Myself and Ashley Bennett From New Media Campaigns carpooled down together on Friday so we could have a day upfront to get checked in, scope the area and hopefully meet a few folks. The accommodations at the Marriott in Columbus were great. It was part of an old Cotton Mill from the 1800's I think and had some nice character. The creative inspiration was starting off right. After a little rest we walked the strip with tons of funky cool restaurants, clothing shops and coffee joints. A lot of character for sure. Great location!

Marriott ColumbusBradley TheaterBefore I Die... BoardBroadway

A quick bite to eat and a freshening up (mostly me, Ashley needed no freshening) and we hit the kickoff party downstairs at the hotel. Right away the hospitality of the organizers, speakers and attendees was made evident. So friendly,warm and truly excited to be there to welcome everyone who came. It was a great night with one too many vodkas for me. When did I become such a lightweight? Met some of the folks who helped the Creative South crew put on this fine event like Richard Longhi, Justin Selway and the man who heads it all up Mr. Mike Jones!

The next two days can be best summed up with one word. Inspiring. As happens with conferences not all speakers could be seen. Choices were to be made and there were no bad choices made on our end and it sounds as if all the talks were worth their weight in gold. Ryan Hamrick educated us on the "Value of Custom" and how it can only strengthen your work, your worth and your clients brand. Ryan is hands down, one of my favorite letterers out there and it was great to finally meet him in person. Mama's Sauce, the gourmet printer from Orlando Florida, had us laughing the entire way through their presentation while still making sure the content had zero fluff. Brooks Chambers is the man and he needs to insure his mustache.

Brooks Chambers with Mama's Sauce

Eric Mortensen showed us how you can follow the dreams you had as a kid even if it leads you to a different destination than you expected. His enthusiasm was infectious! Sean McCabe, master hand-letterer gave us great insight into doing the work that you love. No matter what. Follow your passion. We all have limited time here and there is no reason that work and play cannot be one and the same. Why spend 1/3 of your life doing something that doesn't make you happy?

We wrapped up Day 1 with the insanely upbeat  Mackie Saturday (who just unleashed his incredible Instagram logo redesign on the world!) Mackie gave us so much food for thought on being independent and the joy that can bring to your life. I don't think he stopped smiling once throughout his entire presentation.

Later that night we threw down at the after-party and the mood was upbeat, the drinks were flowing and the entertainment was fantastic! Got to catch up with some people I had met throughout the day and meet a few new people and some of the speakers I missed. Finally met Nick Slater one of my fav illustrators and while not a speaker it was great to meet and chat with Clark Orr who does amazing work both for Johnny Cupcakes and for his own venture. Seriously nice guy and so talented. Knowing we had a long drive home Sunday we called it a night on the early side (1am - heh) and got ready for Day 2!

Day 2 fired up hot with James White from Signalnoise showing us how embracing who you are, your inner child, where you can from and keeping it with you can produce the best and most fulfilling work you will do. You don't need client to do good work. always create, make things, put them out there, get mad - then create something. His passion for his work and his commitment to his lifestyle and bringing that to everything he does was very inspirational. Plus anyone that uses Shout at the Devil as presentation music is ok in my book. Had we grown up near each other, we totally would have been playing with our GI Joe and He-Man toys together. 

Because of the long drive ahead we made the painful decision to have to leave before the the overloaded with personality Mr. Aaron Draplin took the stage. But as soon I got home I watched every clip he had online speaking and felt like I still got so much out of him being there. Next year I am staying until the bitter end and then some. 

We are lucky to do this job for a living. We get to not wear pants while we work. We are putting better things into the world than there was before us. Don't get caught up in the bullshit. Do the revisions and move on. Help your friends, it's not all about the money. If your mom has a shitty pie shop logo, fix it! Don't let your mom have a shitty pie shop logo. Too busy to create, inspire, learn? Bullshit. 

Everyone one I met inspired me in a huge way. Even if we only spoke for 5 min. Thank you for taking the time to say hi and chat a bit. Shout-outs to Felix Oliha, Rocky Roark, Justin Selway, Richard Longhi, Amy Hood, Cat and Rich Smith, Stuart Smith from Sputnik, Shane Helm, and I know there were so many others I am forgetting but that doesn't mean my time spent chatting with you meant any less to me!

There are so many reasons this conference was exactly what I needed. I am at a crossroads creatively in my life and this was the kick in the pants I needed to start my reinvention into what I know I can be. I'm going to start swinging for the fences and doing the work I know I can do. And I feel like I have a lot of new friends and a whole new community there to help me along.

See you next year Columbus. In a big way...

Drawing at the Community CanvasLenny and Mike JonesLenny and Ashley

Hotel, Street, Lenny Drawing and Lenny & Mike photos were taken by Ashley Bennett!