Yesterday I had the pleasure of live streaming the first day of Circles 2014 and wanted to share some of my highlights from the day.

Session I: The Heads Of State
Back To The Future – Heritage As Innovation

Jason and Dustin of The Heads of State had the privilege of kicking off the conference. Their presentation was all about how we as designers can use history to influence our work. Whether it’s personal, client, or industry history, it all comes into play and has value.

I especially liked when they talked about being approached by Nike to do work on a mural. Instead of boxing themselves in with a traditional mural they thought about how THEY would do a mural. Sometimes as designers we have to allow ourselves to look past the obvious and how we have done things before in order to move forward. You can check out The Heads of State Penn Relays Mural here.

Session II: Jay Argaet
Creating Album Covers With Meaning

Jay is a know for all things creative when it comes to album covers at Hillsong Church in Australia. The first thing he taught us was that if you have an Australian accent you immediately move up the attractiveness scale in the States. According to Jay a five becomes an eight. Seriously, why couldn’t I have been born in Australia? Anyway, he went on to have a great talk with what I found were four main points.

Point 1: Create with depth and authenticity
He stressed the point of going to Photoshop second in the design process. A lot of designers, myself included, can get caught up in the digital world and forget about the tangible world around us. This idea funneled right into his next point.

Point 2: Inspiration is everywhere, not just the internet.
Jay encouraged us to look at the world around us for inspiration, not just blogs and the internet. The reason behind this is something physical can never be recreated. The way the sunset looks one day will never look exactly the same again and we need to appreciate those moments and use them for inspiration.

Point 3: Who said there was a box?
Don’t start your design process with limitations. I loved the idea of not letting your mind be boxed in until it has to be. He spoke about a project where he was trying to replicate a foil background for an album cover and was having a difficult time getting the effect digitally. What he ended up doing was actually printing the foil out on paper and shooting the cover with a camera.

Point 4: Aim for the impossible
This last point plays off of the idea of not setting limitations, but thinking of all possibilities. He said he never brings a negative mind to a brainstorm because he doesn’t want to limit the process before it’s begun. I think it is easy for designers to set limits for a client or for a project before it has even started, but I was encouraged to think beyond what I may view as possible because that’s where most of the great ideas lie.

Session III: Kathleen Shannon
Fear Goes On The Shelf

I was only able to watch about half of this talk because the live stream was having some issues but I’ll share what I was able to get from the session.

Kathleen delivered one of the more inspiring talks of the day. She spoke on the topic of fear and how it can cripple creatives. It doesn’t matter if you’re an agency designer, art director, or a freelancer we all have fears about our work and how it will be perceived. Whether it’s the fear of a client’s rejection or revision or the fear that nobody cares about the work we create, fear plays a large part in the creative process. The key is putting those fears on a shelf. Realizing they exist and are real, but not letting them control how we design and how we live.

Session IV: Lee Steffen
The Spark

This session focused on five keys to help you awaken your creativity and discover your purpose. The five points are as follows:

S – Story
P – Perseverance
A – Adventure
R – Renew
K – Kindness

It’s all about your personal story. One of the great points Lee made was “Your work is not your worth.” It’s easy to get wrapped up in the thought that your work is what defines who you are, but that shouldn’t be the case.

This section was all about just starting where you are and continuing to persevere. Creating momentum by focusing on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Lee also touched the idea of being deliberate and showing up everyday.

The idea behind adventure is to never stop exploring. We tend to put things off until later but sometimes later never comes.

This was one of my favorite points from this session. Lee stressed the idea of where we place our time. Stating that “The greatest reflection of our priorities is our time.” Do you spend five hours a night watching Netflix instead of working on your craft or building relationships with others? Time is the greatest currency we have, and we need to spend it wisely.

Lastly, Lee talked about the importance of kindness. True joy comes when we have gratitude. He focused on the idea of serving others with our time and with our art.

Session V: Doug Bowman
A Voice For Everyone

This was another session I only got to view about half of but was really interesting and funny. Doug is the creative director at Twitter and shared numerous examples how Twitter allows people to connect in ways they never could have before. He shared an example of when Twitter updated their app, how the singer Seal chimed in with his (not so nice) opinion about the update. Doug then went on to explain how in he got into a lengthy exchange with Seal and how that would never have been possible without Twitter.

The main point I gathered from this session was that Twitter connects us to not only the people we know, but the people we WANT to know. It has opened up doors to people that otherwise seemed untouchable, and thats pretty awesome.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to view the live stream of today’s sessions, but hope to do another post once the Day 2 sessions are made available.

Did you attend or live stream Circles 2014? What did you think? Let me know if the comments below or on Twitter!

DesignMatt Simon