As designers in 2016, we spend a lot of time living in the internet. Each day we scroll through social feeds to see what others are working on and thinking about. There's nothing wrong with having "internet friends". However, it's rare for most to actually get to know these people in real life, but that's where the real magic happens.
Thankfully I don't have that problem. This past weekend I reconnected with a ton of familiar faces at Creative South in Columbus, GA, (the faces were bigger than 200 pixels).
Since it was my second time attending, I wanted to share 3 main takeaways. Why not use one of my favorite games: Two Truths and a Lie.
1. "Internet friends" actually become family.
If you've ever been to a conference before, you know they can feel a bit sterile and network-ey. The speakers up on stage are often put up on a pedestal while attendees fling business cards in each others' faces and run the other way.
However, Creative South was the exact opposite. Just a bunch of people wanting to meet each other and connect over shared interests & struggles. Not to mention, the amount of people who are practicing hand lettering daily is astonishing. If this is what you want to do, you have to get around people like this.
I wouldn't even call it a conference; it's not like the others I've been to. Creative South is an ever-growing family reunion. A festival of beautiful nerds who are all fighting the same fight.
There's not much that beats the feeling of belonging to something bigger than yourself. Up until now, I hadn't felt that quite in this way.
2. It's way more than just inspirational talks.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed many of the talks both years but the best parts of the weekend were had away from the stage. The workshops & activities, cafes, restaurants, bars, and hotels around the conference are set up perfectly for these serendipitous connections.
There's also just a baseline of passion and kindness in every person that makes for a very unique group. At first I thought it was a southern thing, but I realized that it all trickles down from Mike, Rob, Peter, Jason and the rest of the team who put on the event. We all know together that we are so blessed to be able to do what we do, and how important it is to lift others up.
"To get to where you want to be, you have to first help others get to where they want to be." – Scotty Russell
3. It's probably not going to get any better.
Who am I kidding? You know this is the lie.
2015 was already life-changing, and this year completely blew the expectations out of the water. I came back feeling nostalgic and high on life. Really, the feeling was hard to describe. It's gonna be hard to top, but I have a feeling next year they will pull it off.
In the meantime, I'm excited to keep in touch with the family all year long. A few of these people are in an accountability group with me. They help me take action on my goals through weekly video calls – definitely a big aid to my trajectory. I certainly wouldn't be where I am without Creative South.
This type of experience is so undervalued and rare. You don't really know what you are missing until you go.