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Seek Con 2014 Recap


I hope everyone in the US had an amazing Thanksgiving full of the people and food they love most! With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday, I didn’t have a chance to share my wonderful experiences at this year’s Seek Conference at Northern Illinois University.

After attending last year’s event, I knew I had no choice but to check it out again this year. When I went last year, it was the first design-related conference I had ever attended, and it absolutely blew my mind (talks from Draplin and Sagmeister certainly helped). This year I had a whole new perspective, and I was able to take away so much more. Plus, I ran into my buddy Adam Trybula who I met at Hike Con which was a pleasant surprise! Throughout the talks and incredible workshops, I quickly jotted down notes in one of my many ever-present moleskins. Here are some key take-aways from the event:

  1. Be open.
  2. Every designer always thinks the other person has been assigned the better projects because the grass is always greener on the other side. Be open to all projects and experiences that come your way (no matter how seemingly dull they may appear) and infuse them with passion. Passion is what turns an okay project into one worth proudly including in your portfolio. Alisa Wolfson
  3. Don’t design stuff. Design experiences.
  4. This was a great piece of advice from Tanner Woodford, co-founder and executive director of the Chicago Design Museum. It’s so easy to get caught up in designing stuff, but at the end of the day, you want to create a memorable experience for the view. Be mindful of you audience and how they will interact with your work (whether it be print or digital), and you’ll knock your projects out of the park.
  5. Experience is everything.
  6. People will pay for it, people will tak about it, and good ones draw us together in meaningful ways. This idea is something that up in Bob Faust’s talk, and it’s something that has stuck with me since the conference. Far too often, I think designers forget that user experience is something that transcends everything, regardless of what the work we do is online or out in the world.
  7. “Maybe it sucks. Maybe you don’t like it. I don’t care, I had fun doing it.”
  8. Matteo Bologna is one hell of a presenter. He’s entertaining, goofy, and full of passion—what’s not to love? As he talked about how he came to be where he is today and showcased some of his work, he quickly added the quote above, “Maybe it sucks. Maybe you don’t like it. I don’t care, I had fun doing it.” It was a feeling that I think many of us had while still working on projects in school or stayed up late to chase our next big idea. It was a reminder that fun and passion really trump all.

I also had an incredible time in Brad Vetter’s letterpress workshop where we got to get down and dirty with some ink, wood type, and paper. It was so much fun, and it definitely served as a great reminder that I need to get up to the Hamilton Type Museum sometime for a workshop! Overall, it was a great time, and I can’t wait to see what projects come to life as a result of this event (hopefully more on that later!).




Hike Con Chicago

Hike Con, Chicago, IL

above: the view from morningstar’s patio & chuck anderson

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending Chicago’s sold out Hike Conference. I met so many incredible designers, developers, and overall amazing people at this event, and I can’t recommend it enough.

The speakers included well-known Chicago designers who provided some inspiring and practical advice to young designers and design students. So many of the talks I attended had so much soul and passion that it felt like I had been punched in the gut. Of those, Alison Yard Medland from IDEO really spoke from the heart in such a raw and powerful way that it let many of us through a range of emotions from laughing hysterically to nearly tearing up. Her talk was just one of many that made me feel so lucky to be part of such a great community of designers.

Speaking of the great community, I met so many fun and talented designers and developers that it nearly makes my head spin!

Rather than continue to babble on about how wonderful it was, I’d like to provide some of the key take-aways from my experience (based on the lovely notes from beloved Moleskin and phone):

  1. “Give yourself permission to change your path.” This was a great snippet from Laura Winn that I think every designer needs to be reminded of from time to time. Things are constantly changing in the field of design, so if you find yourself wanting to make a big change, be brave and just go for it.
  2. Don’t assume other designers have had it easy—we all work hard. This type of thinking breeds unhealthy competition instead of collaboration. The design community is an incredible one to be a part of, so don’t let this mentality sour your perception. That being said, you will find some people just have better luck (which really translates to having better connections & timing). Make your own luck and find support in your peers.
  3. Let your work shine, not your ego. Designers (myself included) often find themselves shifting between feeling very confident in their designs skills to feeling like imposters who will be found out any minute. When you find yourself feeling confident, that’s good, but don’t forget to let your work be the focus of everyone’s attention. That being said…
  4. If your work makes you proud and excited, put it under a microscope and find out what about it makes it so refreshing. This piece of advice from Alison Yard Medland seems painfully obvious, but it’s something many of us don’t do often or well enough. Really take a critical eye to the work you’ve done to master the formula needed to consistently produce work you love.
  5. Worrying is not preparation. This last take-away actually came out of a conversation with Good Fucking Design Advice founder, Jason Bacher at the conference after party at Honky Tonk BBQ. This is definitely something I needed to hear (let’s be real, I needed to hear this back when I was in college). This is definitely something that I’ve found myself adopting as I’ve grown as  a designer and as a human being, but I didn’t have the words to articulate it so precisely. Thanks Jason for those words wisdom!

This was such an incredible conference, and I met so many inspiring designers (and hopefully future collaborators)! Many many thanks to the lovely Laura Winn and Jason Schwartz (who has a great last name—ha!). You two did a fantastic job putting this conference together and I can’t wait to see what other tricks you have up your collective sleeves!



Design Like Mad 2014 with Jon King


This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of taking part in Design Like Mad and working with wonderful Clark Street Community School. It was such an incredible experience. Clark Street Community School has a project-based curriculum, a number of high school students have decided to learn about design and layout and put together their yearbook as their semester project. Jon King and I were tasked with the designing templates and tutorials for their high school yearbook so that the students would have a foundation to work from.  Jon and I were quite meticulous in our planning, layouts, and tutorials to ensure that this would be a project that students at Clark Street Community School could quickly pick up and use.

For those who don’t know Jon or myself, we’re a pretty loud and fun bunch and that definitely is reflected in our work. Multiple people even asked us if we worked together outside of Design Like Mad, and most were surprised when we acknowledged that we had just met. We definitely had some awesome creative chemistry going, and we even had a little extra time to work on some fun lettering for the project as well.

Design Like Mad Lettering

If you are a designer looking for ways to give back or really push yourself to create awesome work under the wire, you need to find a Design Like Mad event in your area. They might not have many locations right now, but I know they’re expanding! Plus, the word on the street is there will be a Milwaukee event this Spring, so hopefully I’ll see some of you wonderful designers there!



Design Like Mad & Hovercraft

Hovercraft, Milwaukee

Wow - what a weekend! As I previously mentioned, this past Saturday was Design Like Mad. I spent 12 hours working with an amazing team to develop a logo, color palette, letterhead, print collateral, and a website for a local non-profit (photos of the actual work coming in the future! - **UPDATE** You can now check out the final designs here!). It was simultaneously insane and amazing in all the right ways! It was so intense and invigorating that we hardly had time to eat let alone take pictures of the awesome event as it unfolded.

Design Like Mad

I don’t know if it was the pressure to produce or the insane amount of coffee I consumed, but there were definitely a few moments where I felt like my heart my explode with excitement! I met so many fantastic and talented designers this weekend, and I couldn’t be happier with the experience.

I spent Sunday morning reflecting on the fun from the day before and working on some client projects. Despite my best judgement, I decided that I should take a break from designing and head out into the snowy world to check out Hovercraft Milwaukee. It was such an amazing event with so many talented artists, crafters, and more! As an extrovert, I frequently find myself knee-deep in conversation with strangers (which works out well in the friendly Midwest), and I was able to talk to lots of these fun, creative people! I’d love to post more photos about what I purchased, but I don’t want to ruin any Christmas surprises!

Until next time!




Seek Con 2013

Field Notes Field Day

Wow. Words cannot even describe how absolutely amazing my weekend was. It started on Friday with birthday shenanigans in honor of my awesome friend Brittney followed by an unexpected visit from my buddy Jason on Saturday morning. After eating some food and discovering King of Tokyo (I need to play this game more - it seemed so cool!), I jumped in my car and headed to DeKalb for Seek Con. I wasn’t able to get tickets for the entire conference, but I was more than happy settling with tickets to see the incredible Stefan Sagmeister and Aaron Draplin.


Aaron Draplin has got to be one of the most incredible people ever. His talk was filled with so much heart and passion that I found myself tearing up. He had this perfect presentation style that was light-hearted and hilarious (see above) while simultaneously punching you in the gut with heartfelt goodness. He’s a humble, hardworking, bad ass with a heart of gold. It’s hard to fathom that combo until you hear him talk, but trust me, he’s just plain awesome. I’ve been a fan of Field Notes for quite some time too, so it was great to hear from the man with the plan himself. He also made me feel better about my compulsive need to collect a million vintage magazines, advertisements, packaging, etc.. He also taught me that organization is what separates hoarding from curating. I really need to get some flat files stat…but that’s another story for another day. In all seriousness though, hearing Draplin talk made me so ridiculously happy. I can’t help but smile when I see designers who are using their powers for good.


Next up was Stefan Sagmeister who was also quite inspiring but in a very different way than Draplin. We got to see quite a bit of footage from The Happy Show and learn about the positive psychology which he based the project on. It was really insightful and left everyone feeling pretty cheery. Following the talks, a very sweet girl offered up her after party ticket to me after I expressed that I was bummed that I couldn’t attend. I was thrilled! I decided to hurry over to the merch table before heading out. If you know me personally (or have ever watched me spill the contents of my purse in public), you’d know that I have a bit of a notebook problem. I tend to have anywhere from 2-5 notebooks on me at a time. I know, I know, it’s crazy, but alas, it’s how I operate. Needless to say, I was on the hunt for some new notebooks.

Field Notes

Everyone seemed to be in such a rush so I decided to hang back and wait until just about everyone cleared out. When I finally got up to the table, I was overcome by the various styles of Field Notes. However, I quickly drawn to the 2014 Calendar. After mulling over my options, I decided on these awesome Illinois notebooks and asked Draplin for the total. He looked me in the eyes as he picked up a pack of Expedition notebooks, gently placed them in my hands, and with a genuine smile said “You seem like such a nice person - I like you. I want you to have these for free, okay?”

I resisted my urge to excitedly squee like a teenage girl and instead just settled for an ear-to-ear smile and thanked him kindly. Since I have so many notebooks on me at any given, it was easy for me to quickly retrieve one from my massive purse. I pulled out one that I bought this summer and had been using to take SeekCon notes and asked him to sign it. How fangirl of me, I know.

Sunday was spent at the Museum of Science and Industry with Aaron and Sonny which was also a blast! I hadn’t been there in a few years, so it was great to check out the exhibits, both new and old. Bonus! We went to the Omnimax and saw Space Junk. Excellent!

All in all, it was an amazing (and jam-packed) weekend!