Circles Conference

unnamed-1unnamed627-circles-2014-after-party-126762I’ve never really been a huge fan of conferences. As in – I never go to any. Living out in Hawaii made it way too expensive to ever go to Alt Summit or How Design… or anything like that. When we moved back to the “mainland” I just wasn’t really that interested. Sure, I go to Designer Vaca every year but that is sort of an anti conference. No one is giving speeches, or talks, you won’t see a single slide being used and most of the people there are already friends so it doesn’t feel like a conference at all. But this last week I attended Circles Conference. A conference for designers and creatives.

I decided to go to Circles Conference this year because… well, mostly because a lot of my friends were either speaking or attending and because it was right here in Dallas (actually Grapevine, but whatever) so I didn’t have to buy a plane ticket or get a hotel room, or any of that complicated stuff. It just seemed easy and I knew with friends by my side I would feel safe and wouldn’t feel that crazy pressure everywhere I went to shake everyone’s hand and introduce myself and act like the happiest person on the planet. (*Note – I am a happy person, but you know what I’m talking about? When you feel like you really have to make yourself look soooo happy? So people will maybe like you? haha! It’s stressful! It’s the reason I don’t usually go to stuff like this.)

I really liked that this conference wasn’t overwhelming with tons of people and things to do. There were lots and lots of interesting people there from all over the country – but it wasn’t a crazy fashion show that made you feel inadequate or boring by comparison. AND there weren’t so many people there that you started to question the infinity of the cosmos and wonder, “with all of these creative designer people in the world how am I still getting enough work to fill my schedule?!” It was comfortable and the speakers were down to earth and relatable. The schedule was easy going and there were a lot of snacks provided all day! Which you know I love! Anyway, I wanted to share just a few things that I took from the conference. Maybe they might help you out? Maybe they might inspire you to come next year?

What I learned at #Circles2014-

1. My friend Kathleen (who is super cool and hilarious in real life) gave a talk about fear. She said a bunch of really inspiring things about putting your fear on the shelf, owning who you are and being confident about everything you do. I loved it! She always puts on a good show. But the thing I really loved was at the end when someone asked a question about her design process – she said, “Ok, yeah, all that shit I just said about fear, forget all of that, just print your client’s logo out. Take a picture of it and send it to them. They will love it. It works every time.” Not only did this get a huge laugh from the crowd but it made me think – everything isn’t as hard as we make it sometimes. Yes, there are some technical skills you need. And yes, you need to be creative and organized. And YES there is fear in quitting your day job and relying completely on your ability to be creative to pay the bills … but at the end of the day we’re all just people, we’re all scared of something and sometimes the solution is as easy as pushing PRINT and letting everything else go.

2. Sometimes at big conferences what you learn doesn’t always come from something specific that someone up on stage says. Rather, sometimes we learn a lot about ourselves as we interact with others and share our own stories of success and failure. While at the conference I was able to talk to a lot of people about what I have accomplished in the last year, what I want to do more of, and where I want to be in a few years. Opening up and speaking to people in real life about your accomplishments and dreams can be scary and vulnerable. There is no hiding behind a computer screen and taking time to think about each and every word you type. Like I am doing right now. One thing I learned from my interactions is that I need to learn to speak with more confidence. I know I come across as a super confident person, but I am totally self conscious about my confidence!! If that makes any sense in the world at all?! As soon as I say something confident I start to second guess myself with thoughts like, “Did that make everyone think I’m self centered?” and “That sounded braggy, everyone probably thinks your a b**** now.” or, “You sound like a solo act… because you totally are. What does that say about the kind of person you are?… You must not work well with others.” I think I might have to write a longer post about this exact topic (owning that you are your own boss) later – but for now my point is that at conferences we can totally learn from our own personal interactions with people. What are we telling other people? What are the voices in our head are telling us? I definitely need to get a grip on the voice in my head that wants me to feel sorry for any success I have (or might) achieve. It took showing up in person at a conference to learn that.

3. I loved Jessica Hische‘s talk about her analog process. I rarely have a sketch book  with me and I never have a pencil handy… I usually jump straight into Illustrator when designing something. I loved hearing about her process and being reminded that some of our best work comes from doodling and that inspiration comes from real life. It was also refreshing to hear someone talk about practical things. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good inspirational speech! But sometimes you need practical advice or tips to make all of that “think outside the box” and “just do what you love all day long” stuff work.

That’s it for now. Will you be attending Circles next year? What is your favorite design/creative conference? What are some things that you really wish people would talk more about at a conference? I would love to hear some thoughts on this topic!


  • Catherine Grace

    I live in Australia and it’s pretty damn near impossible to get to any design conference but I’m certainly hoping I can go to Circles next year !

  • Cathy Olson

    I’ve been to conferences, spoken at some, and will be putting some on in the future, and it’s so cool to hear someone else’s fresh perspective. What you said about connecting with others is the absolute truth. I’ve also walked away with friendships and amazing connections. I’m looking forward to my kids growing a little bigger, so that I can travel more in the future. We live such isolated lives, that it is one of the only times we can get that human element going and really talk shop! Xo

  • Alicia

    I was live streaming the conference last week and although I didn’t get to see all of it I really loved the variety of the speakers too. As interesting as everything is in design I think sometimes things can easily get repetitive. I really loved how the speakers were all really different and talked about very different things.
    Also, I totally hear you on that whole interacting with others thing. I hate meeting people and telling them what I do cause, although my job is kickass and super cool, I tend to make it sound really lame?! I am not sure what is up with that. Maybe I am trying too hard to be humble and just sounds like a loser instead. Definitely something to think about/work on.
    Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing you at DV next week :)

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