My Creative South Experience #cs2015

17 Apr My Creative South Experience #cs2015

The friends made, the tears (of laughter!) and the lessons learned

Where do I even start?! Thank you to everyone who made Creative South 2015 such an AMAZING experience! I was so lucky to be brought into the folds of this creative conference by my friend and fellow AIGA Raleigh Board member Lenny Terrenzi. He convinced many of us AIGA Raleigh people to roadtrip it to Columbus, Georgia with proclamations of life changing experiences in the promised land ๐Ÿ˜‰ Maybe not those exact words, but you get the gist.

On the road with my AIGA Buddies!

On the road with my AIGA Buddies!

Highlight of the roadtrip? Seeing the Gaffney Peachoid from House of Cards! “Does it look like a butt?”

My first day in Columbus I took the Food Typography workshop with Danielle Evans. Food Typography? Before Creative South, I didn’t even realize that was a thing! Lenny told me to try that workshop since it’s something I might be able to incorporate in my work since I work with many brides and wedding planners. So far I haven’t figured out how to offer food typography as a service so if you have any ideas, let me know!

Danielle told us that good design should be like a cup of coffee- it’s an experience. When you drink a cup of coffee, you experience the aroma, the taste, the feeling of holding a hot mug in your hands. She also told us that you can’t be afraid of getting your hands dirty!

Honestly…I wasn’t afraid of getting my hands dirty- I just didn’t want to have to clean up the mess I made after! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Thursday night was the opening party on a bridge between Alabama and Georgia that was a BLAST! Check out this awesome video by INCOLR that captured the magic of the evening. Of course they captured me at the ice cream truck while everyone else was in line at the bar…but I guess that’s to be expected for me ๐Ÿ˜‰

The best part of the night was experiencing Ink Wars. During Ink Wars, eight artists battle for 60 min. on 8ft. canvases with nothing but markers and a blind theme. And the results were insane!

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Friday, the conference began. It was a rough start to the day for many members of our party but we survived! The speakers were all amazing and inspirational and touched on many topics, feelings and experiences that I’ve encountered since opening by business last year.

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ย Below are some of the key points that really struck home with me:

Brian Manley: Follow your Weird. He had some great points here! Find something you like to do…that’s a huge one! We spend so much of our lives at work, how miserable would it be to spend that much of your life doing something you hate? How lucky are we as designers to have something we love doing that we can get paid to do? The other point was to work with your weakness, or as he said “let your weakness determine your uniqueness”. Since opening my own business and working with just myself, I’ve found that I can’t just brush my weaknesses under the rug anymore. I need to face them head on and wear them as signs of my creativity rather than hiding them away. Although I’m still not sure I’ll be inviting anyone over any time soon to see the mess of my office…. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Shauna Lynn talked to us about her life as an illustrator and said several things that resonated with me.

1. Positive yields Positive

2. If you can’t do it, pay someone who can (and this is why I hired an accountant this year!)

3. The importance of side projects

4. Work your @$$ off!


Jason Craig spoke about the Origins of Expert and had several points- I think the most important one I identified with was to support your peers. I know I talk a lot about AIGA, but they have been one of the most important steps in launching my career because of the support, advice and mentorship I’ve found through my peers. Building a strong social network might just be the most important thing you can do, especially when you’re working in a room by yourself with just a big brown dog to keep you company! Sometimes some human interaction is good ๐Ÿ˜‰ So support your peers- like their facebook pages, encourage their work, buy their merchandise, show them you care! We’re all in this together!

Molly Jacques is another crazy talented illustrator and I recognized her from one of her skillshare classes I took! She talked some about the wedding industry which resonated with me and had some great freelance advice. My favorite quote from her was “create to be creative”. I’ve done work with many companies and individuals before and the ones that get the best work (by far) from me are the ones that let me do what I do best and let me create to be creative!


Aaron Sechrist was a funny dude and had some good points. He told us design is supposed to be fun! And my favorite thing it told us was “don’t worry, you won’t suck the worst at it.” Haha! I hope not! But I liked that because as designers sometime we spend so much time trying to make something the best and comparing ourselves to other famous insanely talented designers, you can lose sight of designing for fun. So, in the long run, we might not be as good as those designers, but on the bright side…at least we won’t suck the worst ๐Ÿ˜‰


Tad Carpenter is awesome and talented! Everyone in our group randomly bought something from his table throughout the conference because his work is so great. His work and talk kind of resonated with me, because as a new business, I’ve been struggling to find my voice and my personality especially throughout the variety of industries and mediums I work in. So, thanks Tad, for telling us to “be true- you are who you are.” He also had some other great points:

  • Embrace the power of play
  • It’s important to remember we get the do this!
  • Brand isn’t found in pixels and paper but how people interact with it and bring it into their life
  • Fight for what you believe
  • Don’t ever let this get unfun
  • Invent something you love
  • Take risks
  • Love what you do
  • Passion projects are good



Octavious Newman talked with us about our beliefs and told us to turn our beliefs into creative action that inspires. He encouraged us to communicate our beliefs through our creativity.


Jen Mussari is another talented lettering artist and she stressed the importance of making friends, not contacts. Instead of just shoving your business card at someone and collecting numbers, get to know them as a person and not as a business acquaintance. These friendships will benefit you greatly!

I think the one thing she said that really struck me was “just because you fail doesn’t mean you’re a failure.” This is an important lesson because each and everyone of us has failed, and it’s so easy to just say “I suck at life” and take it so devastatingly hard and look at yourself as a complete failure. One thing I need to constantly remind myself of is if I have failures, that it doesn’t mean I’m not talented, it doesn’t mean I suck at life, it doesn’t mean I’m a failure- it just means I failed. Simple as that. We must learn and move on and remember we’re here for a reason.

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Meg Robichaud was another great speaker who spoke almost as though she was reading poetry.ย  She said was that we are “humans first, designers second” and I think this is a really important fact to remember.


Matthew Muรฑoz who we know and love as an AIGA member and past president, shared his presentation on boundary conditions. He told us to form with intent, because as designers, we have the opportunity to influence behavior through design. Matt has used design to make life better for many people and encourages us as designers to do the same.


Dave and Laura Coleman are a husband and wife design team and had great charisma up on the stage! They talked about what really makes great designers

  1. Hard Work- because talent without hard work is useless
  2. Tenacity- passive does not equal progressive
  3. Passion- because what is our work without passion?



Sean McCabe probably gave some of the best business building advice out of the entire conference. He shared some great points that I intend to make use of in my business! He talked about the Four Keys to growing an audience as:

  1. Curation
  2. Consistancy
  3. Quality
  4. Time


Out of his talk though, there were two points that resonated with me.

  1. Share what you learn, teach everything you know
  2. Show up every day


Show up every day was the biggest revelation because it can get frustrating when you’re working day after day and not seeing you audience grow. But he’s right, you just need to show up, day after day, EVERY day, and soon your audience will taken notice and grow and respect you as an expert on the craft you spend every day learning and progressing.




I saved the best for last!! Ladies and Gentleman, please give a round of applause for Lenny Terrenzi! His talk was AMAZING and I am just so honored to be able to call him a friend and part of my AIGA Family! Lenny shared his story, which was full of passion, of failure, of heartache and fears. It was absolutely moving to see a fellow designer up on a stage in front of 500 people just bearing his soul and I can’t express how much I admire him for having the courage to do this. My story follows similar lines and both of us thank AIGA Raleigh for saving us and offering us a home and safe place to be ourselves, to grow as designers and to give us the courage to say, you know what? I CAN DO THIS!

….and we can!

I think Lenny’s story resonated with every single person in the audience and I could just feel the connection and something clicking between all the people that shared this moment. During his talk, he said “it’s not about creating and design, it’s about life” and that hit a chord with me. His entire story, where he is today, revolved around life, around his experiences, around what shaped him, what built him up, what brought him down and ultimately what led him to be the designer and person he is today. Each and every one of us can learn from Lenny’s story and come away as not only better designers, but better people.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Lenny, thanks for being a friend and a mentor, and thank you for bringing us into the Creative South family! You ROCK!

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And I did do a little bit of shopping at the Vendor’s tables ๐Ÿ˜‰ I got my Baby Groot poster from Rogie because it makes me inecplicably happy when I look at it, my super awesome dog journal from Tad Carpenter because I love dogs and am slightly obsessed with my Chocolate Lab, Chip and my 5ive minute logo from Von Glitschka, again, because I love dogs and am slightly obsessed with my Chocolate Lab ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Creative South’s motto is “come as friends, leave as family”, and we did. What an amazing experience! And just when we thought the amazing, crazy, funny, exhausting and inspiring weekend was over, it all culminated into this one magical moment:

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I swear, I haven’t laughed that hard in a LONG time! You want entertainment, just get a group of designers together and invite them for a dance off!

THANK YOU to all my friends and FAMILY who made Creative South 2015 such an amazing experience for me! I can’t wait to use everything I learned and apply it to not only my design practices, but my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Ya’ll rock!