HOW Conference Wrap

Sam Harrison preps for his session.

Well, my intention of posting a few blog entries from this year’s HOW Conference wasn’t fully realized. There was so much going on that I didn’t really have the time. But I had a great time at the conference and wanted to touch on a few of the highlights from the show.

I really enjoyed the opening keynote with Sam Harrison, author of IdeaSelling. Harrison stepped onstage and immediately struck me as a down to earth yet super smart guy who was sincere in his message. And his message was to take charge of your creative choices. By this he meant that the things you decide to do shape your future and it’s important to take risks, choose to strive to forward your own creativity, and never find yourself settling for good enough. Harrison advised be the best “you” that you can be. “We need you,” he said, “You’re the only one of you we have.” And that’s something that you can take to heart whether your a designer, an illustrator, an artist, a writer, or any sort of creative. (You can download a webcast with Harrison on selling ideas here).

I also really enjoyed a presentation called “Under the Covers” by rock star book cover designer Chip Kidd. Kidd’s session was laugh out loud funny as he went through the process and struggles that he went through as he created some of his most recent book covers for such heavy hitting authors as Haruki Murakami, Augusten Burroughs, and Oliver Sacks. As a book industry professional I really related to his funny accounts of the sort of back and forth that happens with every book cover between designers, authors, editors, and marketing execs. The whole thing can be quite frustrating, even for super star designers like Kidd.

Kidd’s session later lapsed into a fun discussion of his latest pet project: a Bat Man graphic novel he penned titled Death by Design. The whole thing is kind of an art deco, 1930s Fountainhead-esque Bat Man romp all centered around architecture and big buildings going “BOOM.” Really cool stuff. I’m a comic book fanboy and as Kidd showcased some of the panels from the book, going so far as to read bits of dialogue in the Joker’s voice, I was at the height of a conference nerd out.  Great stuff.

Another session I enjoyed was Stefan Mumaw’s “Chasing the Monster Idea” (Mumaw is a very inspiring speaker whose creativity exercise books include Caffeine for the Creative Mind and Caffeine for the Creative Team). Mumaw said a lot of great things during his talk, but perhaps one of the things that really resonated with me was this: monster ideas tell a story. Mumaw believes that storytelling is something that speaks to everyone and that if you really want to capture someone’s imagination, then you should tell a story. It doesn’t matter if it’s an animated spot or simply a photograph. The best work tells some sort of story (or hints at one). As a writer, reader, and storyteller at heart, I couldn’t agree more. (A great collection from Stefan Mumaw is available here).

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