Why you should go to a creative conference

After a challenging year as a creative freelancer this conference turned out to be one of my 2018 highlights. Read on to find out why.

Adobe MAX is the world’s largest creativity conference. For 3 days, over 14000 creative people gather in one place to hear inspirational talks, attend hands on workshops, network with their pears from all over the world and all in all have a great time. Last year I was invited to attend Adobe MAX in Las Vegas, this year Adobe invited me again and I got to attend the Los Angeles conference.

The video I made below shows you my travels, the people I’ve met and some of my key takeaways from this conference. In this post I want to expand on some of those key points and share a few extra insights.

Before the MAX conference starts, you have to select sessions or workshops you wish to attend. Sessions are presentations whereas the workshops give you a more hands on experience. You can select your sessions by going through the speaker list and selecting speakers you like or by browsing all the sessions.

This year I selected sessions from speakers that were not at all in my field. I thought it would be interesting to hear stories from creatives in fields that have nothing to do with photography or cinematography. I’m really happy I did that because I walked away feeling so incredibly inspired and energised. More on that later.

Below I’ve listed a few people and some of the things they said that really stuck with me. These quotes aren’t word for word what they said, it’s more about the general idea or the thought behind them that stuck with me.

Tad Carpenter, from Carpenter Collective.

Tad Carpenter is a designer, illustrator, author and teacher based in Kansas City, Missouri. Tad and his wife Jessica run Carpenter Collective, a graphic design and branding studio. Here are a few things Tad said during his ‘20 things I’m thankful for‘ session.

“Make time to play.” For at least one hour a week, you owe it to yourself to play around. Play removes limits, and it will remind you of how much you ‘love to make’. It’s not about the result, it’s about the exploration.

“We get to do this.” We as artists and creatives are so incredibly privileged that we get to do what we do. Keep that in mind when going through those admin-heavy days.

“Don’t let it get un-fun.” This goes back to the ‘make time to play’ bit. I remember going through a phase a few years ago where it seemed that all I was doing was editing timelapse footage for clients and other commercial projects. It was the exact thing I’ve always dreamed of doing but it got repetitive, boring and un-fun. This is why it’s so important to be mindful of this, the last thing you want is to fall out of love with your passion! This almost happened to me. Luckily I realised what was going on before it was too late. I took a break from taking on new work and came back feeling more energised than ever before.

“Passion projects are key.” This isn’t actually what he said but it’s what I wrote down. “Write something you’d read, invent something you’d buy, make something you’d watch” is also in my notebook. All of this is so important. If you feel a burnout coming because of too much work, jump on a passion project. Do something totally different and you’ll come back feeling more refreshed than ever (and potentially with a new skill).

“No one is going to ask you to make your dream, that is totally up to you to do.” This is so incredibly simple but I feel like a lot of people fail to realise this. You can’t sit around and wait until someone approaches you with your dream project, that’s just not going to happen. If you have a dream, you have to actively work towards it.

Lilly Singh, from IISuperwomanII.

Lilly Saini Singh is a Canadian YouTuber widely known as IISuperwomanII. Since beginning her channel in October 2010, her videos have received over 2 billion views, and her channel has accumulated over 14 million subscribers.

“Schedule inspiration.” Lilly talked about how important it is to put yourself in the right environment to allow your creativity to grow. Go to museums, attend gallery openings, walk into art stores, watch old films and new films etc etc. If all you ever do is scroll through your instagram feed and browse twitter chances are slim you’ll get a decent dose of inspiration. As much as Tad Carpenter said to make time to play, I believe Lilly’s advice to schedule inspiration is equally important. How about you buy some tickets to visit the museum closest to you right now? Or maybe do so right after you finish reading this blog post 🙂

“You have to create your own path” No one else is going to do it for you. Lilly mentioned her friend Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson who was told it was impossible to go from being a wrestler to being a Hollywood blockbuster superstar. In 2018 Dwayne became the highest paid actor in history. How bloody good. For every single thing that has ever happened, there was a point in time where someone did it for the very first time. You can be that first person of your own dream. Don’t follow rules and traditions and expect to be breaking out of them anytime soon.

Ken Lashley, comic book artist.

Ken Lashley is a comic book artist, colorist, penciller, inker, etc etc. He’s worked on some of the world’s biggest comic books across Marvel, DC and more publications. His talk was about Finding balance with black panther. Find his website here.

“Trust yourself as the creator.” Other people might know the same amount about the subject as you do and might be as good or better at the techniques that you’re employing, however, you are the one that is actually making the piece of art, so don’t look to others for validation too much.

“Set your own price.” Don’t let others decide what you’re worth. It’s up to you to figure out what your time and expertise is worth.

“Creating is creating.” Don’t limit yourself to one style or technique. Experiment, try new things and grow!

Annie Atkins, graphic designer.

From Annie’s website: “I specialise in graphics for filmmaking, which means that I make any graphic pieces outlined by a period film script—like postage stamps and banknotes to help create Wes Anderson’s fictional State of Zubrowka; or shopfront signs and fake passports for Steven Spielberg’s New York.”

“Draw from real life.” When creating something make sure to draw from real life. Design for the people who will be using whatever it is that you’re designing.

Annie’s talk was so incredibly captivating and one of many highlights of the conference. It was so captivating in fact that I failed to write down much more than ‘draw from real life’. I wish I could show you her one hour talk but I haven’t been able to find it online (yet?). To get a glimpse of her stories check out this video about Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel:

Even though I attended not a single session that had anything to do with my line of work I walked away from Adobe MAX 2018 with such an incredible boost in my drive and motivation for my own work. I only just got back to Sydney from a four week trip (I spent some time in New York and Hawaii after LA) but am still buzzing from what I experienced and learned.

This year’s Adobe MAX has shown me that you can draw so much inspiration and energy from fellow creatives, even if they do entirely different work. Not only is a creative conference a great place to work on your own creativity, it’s also an amazing place to network and meet new friends. I am very grateful for the opportunity that Adobe has given me to attend their conference and I can’t wait for the next one.

If I can leave you with one thing: have a look online and see if there are any creative conferences around where you live sometime soon and consider buying a ticket, I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Thank you for reading this post, I hope I got to give you an ounce of the energy I got out of MAX. See you on the next one, Matt

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