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Designer VACA: a weekend of collaboration and inspiration

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by Jenae Loofbourrow

 

We all gathered around in small circles to discuss our secrets — our tricks of the trade, our process, and what it means to be a successful, bad-ass creative in a highly competitive world. These women are powerful. These women choose to position themselves in a place where they might feel the fear, but do it anyway. They are all about reshaping authentic design — they’re not merely just alive, but living for a purpose. I was a part of this spirited group and was honored to be meeting these intelligent, passionate women from all over the world.

 
These conversations were initiated by a conference at the Ace Hotel in Palm springs called Designer Vaca. It gathered female graphic and web designers to share experiences, collaborate, and dream with one another. The weekend was filled with too much insight and encouragement from professionals who shared their life’s work for me to even take in, so what follows are a few of the nuggets of wisdom that really stood out to me.

 

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The first session opened with Carlos Whittaker, a thought leader and communicator from Georgia. He opened with inspiration from a quote by Henry David Thoreau as he spoke, “How vain it is to sit down and design when you have not stood up to live.” He expanded on that thought by challenging us to make relationships with people unlike ourselves and then from those conversations, consider creating for good and for change — not necessarily creating for an end result. In the face of our bitterly divided society, his message to us designers was incredibly timely and important. I really appreciated how he made the point that our work as designers not only encompasses the job at hand but also greatly impacts our communities around us. That there is power in design — we have the ability to create huge change.

 
Later that night we had the privilege to hear from world-renowned photographer, educator, and entrepreneur Jasmine Star. She opened by explaining how we shouldn’t be scared by change. In fact, change meant that you were moving forward and making progress. She discussed how to grow your business and explained the importance of creating value-based content — content that is less about your business and more about your customers needs. She continued by saying how the content that you put out positions you as a leader and people will be thankful for your efforts. Jasmine ended by assuring us that as designers, we will fail. As she put it (and as I’ve experienced in my design career), failure can bring knowledge, value, resilience, growth and success. And most importantly, it can be a powerful motivator that can keep you working hard.

 
Lastly, we heard from Emily Thompson & Kathleen Shannon who started the podcast Being Boss. Their playful banter paired with real, applicable steps on how to become a better designer was as engaging as it was helpful. One piece of advice they shared that I found extremely helpful was to “be a farmer, not a hunter.” As designers we should be planting seeds, learning the basics, getting our grounding, so that the seeds have plenty of room to grow and flourish later on. If we do the hard work of tending to our “land” that needs trimming, uprooting, and planting, we will end up with a beautiful, bountiful, and fruitful life.

 
In our break-out sessions, we discussed a wide variety of topics including how to develop a process, rethinking the experience from your client’s perspective, and how to do the work it takes to get what you want from your career. The young professionals I met included business owners, UX designers, illustrators, and graphic artists. Erin Wallace, skilled illustrator for Starbucks shared, “I feel filled up at the end of my day, rather than drained.” Hearing such a confident statement from Erin was encouraging and gave me confirmation that I made the right fulfilling career choice.

 
I was extremely grateful to be surrounded by such a talented, dedicated group of creatives. I not only got to learn and glean from their wisdom, but got to share my nuggets of truth and advice as well. It’s awesome to realize that the heart of my company at thinkPARALLAX was very similar to what these speakers and professionals were encouraging all of us to cultivate. Overall, I definitely felt refreshed and determined to keep learning, improving my processes, and continuing the discussion of reshaping authentic design.

 

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