Phoenix Design Week 2018

2018 marks the 10th anniversary of Phoenix Design Week. It’s a big milestone for this homegrown event and it was one of the best I’ve attended. For those who may not know, PhxDW gives local and visiting creative professionals a chance to connect, learn, and inspire each other during a week of programming specifically tailored for their career growth.

I captured some thoughts on this year’s conference and the past 10 years overall. (Oh, and I was so caught up in everything I didn’t take as many photos as I should have. I’ll do better next year!)

 Had the privilege of presenting at this year’s   Phoenix Design Week – Beyond Design Conference  .

Had the privilege of presenting at this year’s Phoenix Design Week – Beyond Design Conference.

We’re more than designers

Sure, the event is called Phoenix Design Week, but over the years I’ve connected with creative professionals from all disciplines – photographers, illustrators, animators, etc. This week-long celebration of creativity kicks off with a two-day conference, which was named “Beyond Design” this year.

Design is about planning, purpose, and intent. No matter if it’s applied visually or technically or whatever. Anyone can learn principles of design. However, being a creative professional is about more than possessing knowledge. It’s about successfully applying one’s knowledge and creative process in a business setting – for yourself, clients, or employers. That’s a completely different level of one’s design journey.

Over the course of 10 years attending PhxDW, I’ve met a wide variety of people from different businesses settings. Printers, marketers, engineers, architects, developers, and others. I can truly say each of these connections has taught me something about how to stay relevant and marketable as a creative.

  Ramen Doodles  = Gave a drawing presentation this year. It was a great time, packed the room and ran out of stickers!

Ramen Doodles = Gave a drawing presentation this year. It was a great time, packed the room and ran out of stickers!

 Showed off some process tips and tricks using digital drawing. Opened up about time savings and using digital drawing on the job.

Showed off some process tips and tricks using digital drawing. Opened up about time savings and using digital drawing on the job.

 Hey, look at this banner! Ok, that’s it.

Hey, look at this banner! Ok, that’s it.

Reasons to attend

Just in case you’ve been on the fence about investing time and money in this event, or even if you’ve been skeptical about it’s value, I captured 50 reasons to go in 2019.

  1. All the good vibes at the opening reception!

  2. Saying hi to one person can lead to new career opportunities.

  3. Listening to how others get work done helps us keep going.

  4. It’s not a popularity contest, it’s an investment in yourself.

  5. Broadening our perspective on the world helps us be more relevant as creatives.

  6. Laughing with others is good for the soul!

  7. Seeing someone who’s ok being vulnerable during their presentation reminds us we’re all human.

  8. Having lunch with others who love creativity (and ramen!).

  9. If you’re nervous about meeting people let me know, I can help.

  10. It’s an affordable local event. Adobe Max = way more investment ($1600).

  11. Sharing your career story with people who will actually listen.

  12. Browse pop up shops. Learn from their owners.

  13. Exhibit your own pop up shop.

  14. Learn more about the job market in Phoenix and trends abroad.

  15. Gain practical advice on being a better independent contractor.

  16. A welcoming and helpful AIGA AZ team.

  17. Choose breakout sessions that are right for you.

  18. Meet designers from other states you may be looking to visit.

  19. Shoot the breeze with local acclaimed printmaker Jon Arvizu.

  20. Learn how to save potentially hundreds of hours of time processing images as an illustrator. (Covered this in my Ramen Doodles mini-workshop.)

  21. Talking about tabletop game design and it’s relationship to other design disciplines.

  22. Those aweome swag bags.

  23. Getting that feeling when you know what to do next in your career.

  24. Adding one more creative friend to your circle. (Or five or ten!)

  25. Saying hi to Melissa Balkon and learning about her creative journey.

  26. Wearing your favorite hat, or shoes, or pop-culture bling, and getting a nice compliment.

  27. Smiling because you identify with what that speaker is saying.

  28. Expressing yourself in a safe environment.

  29. Getting the chance to tell someone how they’ve helped you in your career.

  30. Talking with Will Mejia about being a mixologist on the side.

  31. Learning about how you can help others in your community as a creative.

  32. Getting involved as a mentor or being mentored by someone.

  33. Hearing hip historian Marshall Shore talk about how amazing the AZ desert is.

  34. Gaining a deeper understanding of UI/UX personas and empathy maps.

  35. Talking biomimicry with ASU professor Michelle Fehler and realizing how much nature inspires our creativity.

  36. Walking into the convention center with a sense of optimism.

  37. Hugging that design friend you’re reconnecting with.

  38. Talking to illustrator legend Bob Case and his daughter Kaitlin. (Her work is amazing!)

  39. Discovering a new opportunity within your skillset.

  40. Listening to someone open up about their challenges.

  41. Discovering you’re not alone.

  42. Understanding more about the business of illustration.

  43. Grabbing dinner with friends.

  44. Asking a burning question. Getting an answer that changes everything.

  45. Benefiting from hands-on education.

  46. Squashing your imposter syndrome.

  47. Demonstrating your value and potential to your employer.

  48. Taking notes/pics and using them in a presentation to your team back at the day job = hero level initiative.

  49. Growing a strong local network.

  50. Closing party with the National Poster Retrospectus.

I have more reasons, but you know… overkill! Hey, not every year has been the greatest ever in terms of practical takeaways. Yes, some years have been more theory and less hands-on. But when I look at the investment I’ve made versus what I’ve gained, the value is exceptional.

For those of you who want numbers, over the past 10 years I estimate I’ve paid $3000 for over 200 hours of experiential content. That’s hours of instruction, the opportunity to network with peers, and direct access to potential employers/clients. Yeah, $15 an hour. The ongoing experience and career growth is worth much more than that. (More numbers here.)

 Early risers. Pop-up shop friends cheesing it up before Sunday’s session! Left to right:  Melissa Balkon ,  Jon Arvizu , and  you know who . :D

Early risers. Pop-up shop friends cheesing it up before Sunday’s session! Left to right: Melissa Balkon, Jon Arvizu, and you know who. :D

 Portland’s  Aaron Draplin . All around good guy. (A heavy paw keeping me on the ground there.) Also, our design friend  Kevin Varela  = photobombin’ with style!

Portland’s Aaron Draplin. All around good guy. (A heavy paw keeping me on the ground there.) Also, our design friend Kevin Varela = photobombin’ with style!

Being ourselves

Sounds obvious. “You do you”. It’s easy right? Right? Nope. We’re living in some sort of dark wonderland these days people. Lies are truth, truth is lies, right is wrong, and everything seems inside out some days. It can be very disheartening.

That’s why we need events like PhxDW. It’s one way we remind ourselves that we’re more than just eyeballs staring at screens and mobile devices. We’re more than consumer drones. We’re more than stats on a graph. We’re people. And we need to come together to help each other keep growing and keep going despite challenges. Whether that’s in life, in business, or creativity. That’s how Phoenix Design Week helps me.

I’ve been involved with PhxDW for years, but it’s not cause I have some magical energy or special skill. Presenting as a speaker, on panels, or in workshops – it’s all been out of my comfort zone. But I’m not out to prove anything to others anymore. All that remains is what I want to prove to myself. And I do this with the support of a thriving local creative community here in Phoenix.

That’s not just liberating. It’s freedom to fly.

 Released a new art print series this year at PhxDW!

Released a new art print series this year at PhxDW!

 Hey! Now who do we have here? :J

Hey! Now who do we have here? :J

So, do you have a Phoenix Design Week story or takeaway from this year? Share it below. You never know how your thoughts might help someone else.

–E