Circles Conference: Lessons from Day 1

  • September 9, 2016
  • Ryan Riggins

This week, I’m attending Circles Conference in Grapevine, TX. It is my third year attending the design conference and it continues to be an incredible learning and networking experience. Here is a quick recap of some of the major lessons learned from day one of the event.

Mikey Burton – “Sketch All The Time”
There are a number of common themes among the speakers here, but the one that seems easiest to apply is to start each project with paper and pencil. Whether you’re doing something a simple as recording a half-baked idea or starting a large-scale project, starting with pencil and paper allows you to get your ideas down. Once they are out of your head and onto the paper, you have a better chance of sorting through the ideas that should be put on the back-burner and those that deserve further exploration.

The Eide’s of Flint Made Co. – “Sincere Expression”
The Taylor and Brooke Eide are two of the three founders of Flint Made Co. – a design studio out of Seattle, Washington that specializes in branding small businesses. They shared a fundamental lesson from their experience working with clients, and that’s earning trust by expressing their goal of creating a “sincere expression” for a client’s brand. What exactly do they mean by “sincere expression?” Let’s break it down. Sincere represents the honesty of brand; it is a clear understanding of who you are and what you are all about. The expression is how that sincerity is portrayed. The ultimate point of success is “when the expression is right, design becomes invisible.”

Sean McCabe – “Make Writing a Habit”
Writing does a lot for both personal and business development. On the personal side, writing, like sketching, allows you to document ideas and explore them in greater depth. From a business perspective, writing can validate your expertise and ultimately bring in new clients. Now, it’s easy to say “I’m not a writer,” but regardless of what you do, you can become a writer simply by practicing the discipline of recording your thoughts. Once you have built a habit, Sean provided this outline for improving your writing so you don’t just cement bad habits.

  • Write like you talk
  • Read what you wrote
  • Record your speech
  • Listen to your voice
  • Transcribe your words
  • Re-write your message
  • Then repeat the process

What this does is allow you to refine ideas and communicate them more clearly.

Josh Blankenship – “Get help, get low, and get to work”
During his talk, Joshua gave what I would consider to be a master class in both character and talent development. He shared a lot of wisdom that he has learned over his time as a designer so that we don’t have to learn the same lessons the hard way. Now, what does it mean to “get help, get low, and get to work?” Let’s break it down

  • Get help – You can’t do this creative journey on your own. You need others around to act as a sounding board and to both critique and affirm your work. You also need people around you who are willing to teach you what you don’t know.
  • Get low – Joshua said, “If you think you deserve ‘a seat at the table’ you probably don’t.” However, if you want to do a job that someone else has or you have aspirations to one day be at the table, humble yourself and ask how you can help someone in the position you want. That allows you to both build a valuable relationship and learn from the person in the position you want.
  • Get to work – You won’t make any progress without making work, so get to it! Make sure that you’re creating work that allows you to develop your talents and also is something you’d like to do again. Be sure to get feedback on the work you create. Without feedback, your ability to grow is limited.

While these are my key takeaways, there was so much more knowledge shared than I could capture in one post. Be sure to explore the event hashtag on Instagram and Twitter at #Circles2016. Plus, we’ve got another packed day today! Head over to our INK Instagram Story for live updates from day two.