If you’re a creative and you weren’t at Create Upstate this past weekend, you should definitely be suffering from fomo. And if you aren’t, you can safely diagnose yourself with it now. Create Upstate is not only a celebration of upstate New York’s best agencies, freelancers, and projects, but it’s also a conference that brings all of those things together in one “gorgeous” town; Ithaca, NY.
This year’s conference graced our presence with internationally-recognized design speakers who filled our creative little hearts and brains with loads of inspiration. The conference also welcomed twizzler-made typography, vector-based laser-beam wars, one rad coloring wall, and ultimately dozens of new friendships and connections that bid farewell (or was it really just one long hello?) with hugs and business card swaps.
Now in it’s fourth year, the event is a chance to kick back and have fun with our own kind. Some of my favorite moments included Cropped, a free-style creative tournament, the Street Fair, the not-so-Small Discussions, and live DIY screen printing. I personally, had the opportunity to be both this year’s Street Fair Coordinator and one of four Cropped judges, which brought me a new level of involvement and perspective on my upstate creative community, which needless to say, is jam packed with amazing talent, personality, and ideas.
The speaker round-up included founder of Carpenter Collective and artist of Sunday Suns, Tad Carpenter. Tad shared finding inspiration running through the halls of Hallmark Headquarters as a child while his father’s creative role shaped the principles Hallmark Cards follow today. He was also open and proud of being a creative in the Midwest despite our industries focus on big city work these days (can I get an Amen, Upstate?).
Australian illustrator Gemma O’Brien walked us through her professional career to date, pointing out her start coming from a college project that was received as a controversial experiment that led to an opportunity to do her first conference presentation. The work she shared is beautifully intricate, peppered with whimsical details, and shows us that high-level work can happen anywhere, even on an airplane barf bag.
Cap Watkins, current VP of Design at Buzzfeed, spoke about the three indicators of a good communicator: 1) transparency (both internally and with clients), 2) strategizing before implementing decisions, and lastly, 3) being empathetic with peers and clients alike. A huge part of Buzzfeed’s success is how direct and honest their culture is. Teams use several platforms to share work at every phase of the process.
Catt Small, experience designer at Etsy, walked us through her past job experiences and how they’ve shaped her to become the designer she is today. She revealed some of her own organizational tips, but also challenged our thoughts on how our process can be a distraction from our workflow. Most importantly, Catt reminded us to not take ourselves too seriously, and celebrate our work any chance we get. She explained that in any field, we are constantly comparing ourselves to competitors, and often forget to take a step back and celebrate the work we do day-to-day.
Thanks, Create Upstate!
Events like Create Upstate are what remind me that we, as creatives, are gifted with making a living doing something we love; something that is a part of who we are. Not many professionals have that privilege. Thanks to Ken, Sarah, and Dan for dreaming up this passion project, and bringing us all together in one place to validate our work, celebrate our talent, and inspire each other!