Hand Lettering Is Totally In, Plus 7 Other Things Designers Must Know

Hand Lettering Is Totally In, Plus 7 Other Things Designers Must Know

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“TAKE ME AWAY, I DON’T MIND…”

If you don’t know the lyrics to the hook of the Huey Lewis and The News hit, “Back In Time”, from arguably the single greatest Sci-Fi adventure of all time (yes, all time) – please turn back now. You aren’t deserving of the following gems. Oh, you do know the lyrics? By all means, please, do proceed.

Recently, part of our creative team had the chance to visit the beautifully quaint downtown Grapevine, Texas for the 5th Anniversary Circles Conference. With a bevy of design/ad industry behemoths on the docket, a bodacious 80’s vibe, and one giant (functioning) boom box on display, the squad hopped in the Delorean, ready for a heavy journey, activated the flux capacitor, took it to 88, and went back in time at the Palace Arts Center. Here’s the low down.

THE EXPECTATIONS

Simon Fallavollita, Motion Designer

“I went in with little to no expectations, not knowing what to think, and wanted to come away with deeper insights into design and the design industry – as a motion designer – with usable things to improve upon my design sense. Also, I hoped to simply be inspired with everything I was about to see. This was right up my alley with the whole 80’s vibe.”

Carly Tobias, UX/UI Designer

“This was my 4th year to attend Circles, either online or in person, so I knew to some extent what Circles was about and what to expect. I knew there would be great speakers, with great work to share, and there would be a lot of knowledge to take back with me. The thing I love about Circles is that it challenges the way that I set goals for myself and think about my work on a daily basis. I don’t go to learn or copy the speaker’s design technique and style, but to learn about their lifestyle, where they came from and how they got to where they are today.

The thing that continues to make an impression on me is that behind every successful designer speaking on that stage, there are years and years of hard work, filled sketchbooks, weird ideas and lots and lots of brain dumps and chicken scratch. These people are open and honest and want you to learn from their mistakes and where they came from. Creativity is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s who these speakers are at their core. They remind me that it’s okay to mess up, it’s the only way you will grow. Just show up every day and work hard. Never stop sketching, even if it’s nothing to be proud of, continue to make work for yourself. There is no secret to success, just keep working and somewhere in the hundreds of failed attempts and chicken scratch filled notebooks, there is a stellar designer in the making.”

Nate Smith, Creative Director

“Needless to say, over the years, I’ve been to my fair share design conferences and show-and-tells. Thusly, I went into my first Circles experience expecting to witness some great designers present; people I really admire from an aesthetic perspective, to potentially learn some of the growth they experienced, coupled with the paths each took along the way in their journey to “the big show”. The philosophical side of me anticipated, greatly, the insights I’d receive, and at the very least (if nothing else) getting to spend some time with the team, while rubbing elbows with various industry heads.

While I appreciate seeing other people’s work and being inspired to do more myself, I’ve never been much of a fan of the pomp and stance that comes with these things. However, I went in with an open mind. To Simon’s point above, the 80’s vibe…nailed it. #80sBaby”

Below L to R: Ish Burciaga, Carly, Simon, and Nate in front of the rad Circles signage.

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SO WHAT DID WE GET FROM IT?

One. Most designers function in a purely creative space, they don’t give two pieces of monkey poop about data and numbers.

True blue creators (our pet peeve is the word “creatives”) function subjectively to make their clients look good, because they know good design. Granted, this idea sort of goes against why we’re all at BuzzShift to begin with, to be informed creatively, and uniformly, by data. This wasn’t a user experience-based display, this was more about tapping into one’s creative soul in order to dig up old “relics” the digital age would have you believe are long dead and buried.

Regardless of what numbers can tell you, they’ll never measure up to true human empathy, the part of the spirit that allows us to understand others, causing them to emote through visuals, written pieces, music – it’s about tugging ever-so gently at the heart strings; seeing into another’s life. When the tears of joy fall, when the excitement comes, when the words “that is freaking amazing” fly out – that’s the payoff. That’s what gets people to stand in line for days on end to buy $800 smartphones and tablets. While data ultimately helps us creatively determine what ad designs will resonate most with target audiences, it sure as hell ain’t sexy. Creativity is as sexy as it effin’ gets. Don’t ever forget it.

Two. Freelance life apparently rocks. 

There are far more designers choosing not to work in agency environments these days, and those who have before sorta’, kinda’ hated it. Many have started their own companies after having worked in the ad world for years, braving 80-hour weeks and Creative Directors on high horses who simply want them to (sing it with me) “make the logo biggaaaaaaaaaaa”, only to exclaim in a faux-British accent, “thanks, but would you kindly f#%k off?” And while faced with the all too real challenges of being “indie”, these peeps have a lot of freedom in deciding exactly the kind of work they want to be doing, be it compensated or for gratis, and they ultimately seem pretty damn ecstatic about it.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row unlock_row_content=”yes” row_height_percent=”50″ override_padding=”yes” h_padding=”0″ top_padding=”0″ bottom_padding=”1″ back_color=”color-lxmt” overlay_alpha=”50″ equal_height=”yes” gutter_size=”0″ shift_y=”0″ row_height_pixel=”200″][vc_column column_width_percent=”100″ position_vertical=”middle” align_horizontal=”align_center” override_padding=”yes” column_padding=”4″ back_image=”49235″ back_attachment=”scroll” back_position=”center center” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/3″][/vc_column][vc_column column_width_percent=”100″ position_vertical=”middle” align_horizontal=”align_center” override_padding=”yes” column_padding=”4″ back_image=”49236″ back_repeat=”no-repeat” back_attachment=”scroll” back_position=”center center” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/3″][/vc_column][vc_column column_width_percent=”100″ position_vertical=”middle” align_horizontal=”align_center” override_padding=”yes” column_padding=”4″ back_image=”49237″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/3″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_height_percent=”0″ override_padding=”yes” h_padding=”2″ top_padding=”1″ bottom_padding=”1″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”2″ shift_y=”0″][vc_column column_width_percent=”85″ override_padding=”yes” column_padding=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Above: The most awesome notes we’ve ever seen. Carly’s Circles notebook.

Three. Discovery is paramount.

Jessica Walsh (Sagmeister & Walsh, NY) and The Eide’s (Flint Design, Seattle) made it known that despite the fact that some clients rail against them, discovery sessions are, honestly, the single most important part of the design process, and creativity thrives on the little constraints found within them. No shame in setting boundaries, and it allows you to get inside the sometimes arbitrarily difficult to enter Area-51, Fort Knox, Ocean’s Eleven-Terry Benedict-Bellagio security vault heads of your clients.

Four. There is an utter authenticity in showing imperfection throughout your process.

People love transparency, and presenting your flaws to peers you admire isn’t as scary as it may seem. Show your process, and allow others to learn from it. You’ll find most of them are curious to know how you did it, and why, not to criticize your work. Proof below.

“Get it out, make mistakes, and braindump.” -Mary Kate McDevitt

“Documenting is more important than creating.” -Sean McCabe

“Always be sketching.” -Mikey Burton

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row unlock_row_content=”yes” row_height_percent=”60″ back_color=”color-lxmt” back_image=”49234″ back_attachment=”fixed” back_position=”center bottom” parallax=”yes” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″][vc_column column_width_percent=”85″ override_padding=”yes” column_padding=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_height_percent=”0″ override_padding=”yes” h_padding=”2″ top_padding=”1″ bottom_padding=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″][vc_column column_width_percent=”85″ override_padding=”yes” column_padding=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Above: Former CD of Target, Allan Peters, shows off his badge game.

Five. Get off the computer and go play outside!

All too often, for inspiration, we end up seeking out something to kickstart our hearts via places like Dribbble, Behance, and the like, only to end up replicating someone else’s work and style – second-hand versions at that. Suffice to say, there’s something freeing in going outside and playing with sticks, digging holes, walking around looking at birds, or whatever it is that you do when you travel outside. There, our imagination has the ability to create worlds we haven’t seen – at least a version that hasn’t been done umpteen times. Run. Run from the monotone hipster logo with crossed arrows, corncob pipe, slab fonts, and hatchets…run like the wind, I say!!!

Six. Best practices ≠ creative innovation.

Following trends makes not a true creative. Buck the system. Take more chances and innovate in the space. Your mind is all you need to get an idea going, not someone else’s stale leftovers.

 

Above: Simon, doing what he does best, and with passion.

Seven. Be humble.

In all honesty, not a single one of us deserves a seat at the table. Regardless of how great we think we are, the truth is all creatives are an emotionally complex blend of utter arrogance and complete self-doubt – and somewhere in between is where sheer magic occurs. Go into everything knowing how fortunate you are to be at the table, to have people marvel at the toiling of your hands; your gifts. There is always another designer (hundreds of thousands, millions, really) chomping at the bit to be in your position. And without humility, they could very well be. Look to serve others, to teach, to share resources and all that greatness behind your massive forehead. Don’t do work to feed your gargantuan ego – do work (though, it’s probably a crime to call it “work” at this juncture) to feed your true creative spirit and you’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish.


So, all in all, Circles 2016 was an absolutely tubular time, and while we weren’t able to make the after parties, we saw the videos (trust us, they’re hilarious). We’d like to thank Ish Burciaga and the Circles Conference team, as well as all the amazing sponsors, for putting on such a rad 5th anniversary event for us little people (that giant boom box was freakin’ gnarly, dude). Here’s to many more years of uncut, unfiltered creativity!

This post was penned by Nate Smith, Carly Tobias, and Simon Fallavollita. Snaps and hand-lettered notes by Carly Tobias.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

An Insider’s Guide to SXSW

An Insider’s Guide to SXSW

[vc_row type=”in_container” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”left-right” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/1″ offset=”vc_col-lg-11″][vc_column_text]Besides being our good friend, Eric Swayne is VP of Product & Marketing at MutualMind, Co-Founder of DrawAttention, and Founder of DataNarrate, a marketing data consultancy.

This year I will attend my fifth SXSW Interactive. I’ve experienced SXSW as both a general conference attendee and as a presenter; I’ve attended dozens of parties (as a VIP or otherwise), and one year I even threw my own little party. It is easily the most mind-blowing week of the digital world, and still one of the most relevant events I have ever attended.

My favorite way to describe SXSW is with the phrase “Of course they are.” Let’s be honest, after you’ve been to as many of these as I have, you learn to expect the unexpected. For example:

  • FX is promoting a show by converting a vacant lot into an interactive napping capsule spa? Of course they are.
  • Microsoft is hosting a midnight party to launch Titanfall, complete with a life-size mechanical statue? Of course they are.
  • Nest painted a fire truck blue and is giving away free hand sanitizer (among other things) at a “relaxation tent”? Welp. Of course they are!
  • Instagram is hosting a secret concert with Snoop Dogg (ahem, Snoop Lion) where you have to post a wild image to some crazy hashtag just to win the chance to get into the lottery to get in? Of. Course. They. Are.
And that’s just what happened last year.

If I may, let me suggest a few tips, tricks, and gadgets to help you navigate this year’s craziness.

 


 

SXSW is about population density. Take advantage.

Yes, SXSW means Austin gets completely overrun with techno-hipsters, and anything resembling normal infrastructure crumbles under its enormous presence. But the reason I keep coming back isn’t the parties or the presenters or the installations: it’s the people.

This is the only time you can have eight meetings with companies from all ends of the digital industry in just one week. This is also one of the few times you can meet someone in a bar who turns out to be that awesome person who built that thing you love.

So, since you’re in such a rich environment, use it. Introduce yourself to everyone. Listen to their stories before you share your own. Make a connection over some wacky story or common love or unique idea, because you’re going to probably want to keep that connection for the rest of your life.

 


 

Avoid the insane badge pickup lines by going satellite.

On Thursday and Friday this year, SXSW will let you pick up your badge at the Palmer Center, and there are always far fewer people there than at the main Convention Center pickup. The first time I attended SXSW, I went to the Convention Center and waited in line two hours to get my badge. Last year, I went to the Palmer Center and it took 15 minutes. Take a cab or walk, just trust me.

 


 

Plan your schedule in advance to ward off FOMO.

I’ve used the official SXSW mobile app a few times, but I just can’t say it’s ever been quite what I need. I highly suggest checking out the unofficial app from the kids at SCHED, they’ve just released their 2015 SXSW Schedule.

When picking my sessions, I just skim through SCHED and highlight anything that looks even remotely interesting. I always prefer a session on a topic that I know nothing about, because I’m guaranteed to learn something. A panel on social analytics (my field) is probably gonna just bore or frustrate me; but “neurolinguistics”? IN.

SCHED has a neat feature where they publish all your highlighted sessions into an iCal feed. That way, you can check your calendar at any time and see what’s going on — and see what you’re missing. If what’s right in front of you is more interesting than what’s on your schedule, feel no fear my friend. You are where you need to be.

 


 

Party for the experience, not the name.

Everyone loves a good party, and lest you doubt, I do too! But instead of trying to get into the parties for this hot startup or that music artist, focus on the ones that will give you an awesome experience.

Case in point: the IEEE (That’s the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, homes) party. Sounds boring, right? WRONG. Last year’s party included a robot bartender, a human-sized trackball, a laser maze, hacked retro games and more. Experience? Check.

That said, here are some of my favorites:

 


 

My SXSW Essentials

Now that you know what to do at SXSW, let’s go over what you should bring. If you’ve been to a conference like SXSW before (lots of walking!), you know that the key is to bring exactly what you need, and nothing more. I’m going to assume that everyone knows to bring their smartphone (it is SXSW, after all), so here’s the other essentials I keep on hand:

MophiePocketBatteryTravelOutletMoleskinePeniPadStand2MessengerBag

  • Mophie Juice Pack Air – I still carry an iPhone 5, but this is always on it. It provides another full charge once your phone’s internal battery is done. Plus, you can charge it separately from your phone, so when you get back to the room you can have both going at the same time.
  • Pocket-Sized External Battery – There are always 2 or 3 of these on me at one time; the one linked here is a great $15 one on Amazon, but if you’ve been at a tech conference, you probably have a couple of these laying around too. They’re perfect for giving your phone a quick boost while it’s in your pocket at a party.
  • Travel Power Strip – When the outlets are full (and they usually are), you can easily make some new friends by offering to use your power strip to share the electricity wealth! This one is often used as a giveaway, but I love it because you can either unroll its short cord or lock it all together as a wall unit.
  • Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook – Kids, it just doesn’t get any better than the classic Moleskine. I have tons of these (brand name and knockoff), and I use them liberally. I prefer blank pages because it gives me space to sketch as well as write: sometimes you just gotta draw something!  And if you’re incredibly artistic, you can be awesome like Mike Rhode and do Sketchnotes.
  • Retro 1951 Deluxe Stealth Tornado rollerball pen – You guys, I’m in love with this pen. The weight is solid and balanced, and the look is just classic. If someone needs a pen and you lend them THIS, they will know you know your pens. Also, if you have any business meetings, you need this pen — you don’t want to pull out a cheap plastic freebie in front of an important client!
  • iPad Mini with Logitech Hinge Case – iPads are perfect for SXSW. They’re big enough to show off a site or app, small enough to carry around all day, and they have a fantastic battery life. I have an iPad Mini and this case is a perfect all-in-one cover and stand.
  • Lightweight Messenger Bag – Once you leave your room for the day, you’re probably not coming back until late, so you’re gonna want a bag to carry all the stuff. And, if mine just happens to highlight the awesomeness of Studio Ghibli that’s just even better, isn’t it?

 

I hope these tips will serve you well during the marathon that is SXSW!
If you’re there, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter.

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What Happens At Pubcon Doesn’t Stay At Pubcon

What Happens At Pubcon Doesn’t Stay At Pubcon

Several BuzzShifters went to Las Vegas for Pubcon 2013. They haven’t all disclosed exactly what they did while in Vegas, but they did bring back some useful insights from the conference itself.

Here Michael, Mark, and Will share some of their thoughts about the value of Pubcon, and what they gained from the experience.

From Michael Stancil, Director of Search:

Pubcon, it’s definitely one of those conferences you HAVE to go to at least once in your life if you’re in the search/content industry, there’s just so much to learn. This is my second year that I’ve gone to Pubcon Vegas, and I can say with 100% assurance that I’ll definitely be back next year!

My first year was more about taking in the entire Pubcon experience, and trying to go to as many relevant sessions as possible within the confines of a day. Additionally, Pubcon is a great time to actually hear all of the well-known industry bloggers….speak.

While I learned a lot last year, this year was all about being more targeted, and going to the sessions that really mattered to what I do, or had curiosities about. Luckily, I was able to go to a session for every available slot on each day, so I’d consider that a win. As for my focus this year? Paid Search, Display Advertising, and SEO Audits; pretty focused, I’d say.

Did it work? Did I learn something? Indeed I did. The biggest thing is with SEO, while there are “over-arching” principles, everyone has a little bit different way of doing things. Learning from those and adding them to your own skill set, especially when it comes to SEO audits, translates to better results for your clients—which means happy clients, and subsequently a happy agency. With regards to paid search and display, Brad Geddes is a walking AdWords information mine, and I’ve never left one of his sessions without learning something new.

My verdict? Another successful year, especially given the fact that I’m still digesting what I learned, and it’s been a week since I’ve been back. The best part is that you get the presentation decks, and as long as you paid attention in the session, it’s a great resource after the fact! So if you’re on the fence about a search conference to go to, Pubcon should definitely be that conference, in addition to the State of Search conference in Dallas, because two conferences a year is good for you!

From Mark Barrera, Chief Search Officer:

As always, I enjoyed my time at Pubcon. This year definitely had a different feel with the vast changes coming from Google over the last 12 months. The good news is that these changes have allowed us SEOs to focus on the real things that matter in marketing. Content, brand building, and staying away from ‘search engine trickery’ are all things that were emphasized, and rightfully so. For so long SEOs have been able to game the system, but now it all comes down to the assets you produce and how you promote them.

From Will Edmonson, Search Analyst:

Pubcon was my first search marketing conference (I’ve been to SXSWi but that covers a broader spectrum), and I found it both refreshing and inspiring to meet with people who do the same kind of work as I do on a daily basis, and more importantly, run into the same struggles and problems that search marketing can bring. For example, take WordPress itself. If there isn’t one already, there could be a whole conference about WordPress and how to do SEO on that platform. But at Pubcon I was able to attend two talks centered solely around using WordPress, and not on a basic level, but from experts who had a lot to offer concerning ways to improve how I use the platform. Anyway, I digress.

Here are a few insights from the  conference:

  • With Penguin rolling through, search marketing is starting to scoot closer to content marketing. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise for anyone.
  • Link building will have to become more personal, more diplomatic with other websites (read: harder work but hey, it’ll be less monotonous), and less focused on directories. Again, no surprise.
  • Google will rank higher personal profiles and content from people it knows as real people. This means author profiles, rel=author tags, etc. The days of internet anonymity are over. Create a personal brand and a content matrix of topics around your name. You’re a brand interacting with other brands now.
  • In-house SEOs live a much different life than agency SEOs. The challenges are different and those two kinds of SEOs need to be aware of what it’s like doing search marketing in those environments to better communicate and work together.
  • If you’re an SEO who hasn’t gone to a conference, you need to convince your boss that you need to go. It’ll keep you sharp and inspire you to grow in areas where you might have blind spots, and it’ll help you get on board future trends.
  • Vegas is a special place. Don’t plan on getting a lot of sleep or doing a lot of outdoorsy stuff while you’re there. Also, if you’re an introvert, this may not be the best town for you.

 

Five insights should be plenty. Best of luck, SEOs.

Up next: State of Search, on Monday, November 18 right here in Dallas. If you’re there, check out both Mark and Michael’s presentations.