Design as a profession encompasses two almost humorously disparate worlds: on the one hand, nebulously “inspired” individual expression, and on the other, the requirement to reliably execute solutions and deliver on time. The more years as a designer I get under my belt, the more I notice as a recurring struggle the delicate balance between these two ways of thinking. Create Upstate 2016 served both ends of the spectrum: it reignited my personal creative elan, but did so in a way that was grounded in professional sensibility.
A quick summary of my current thinking on the art vs. science paradigm in design referenced above:
Neglect the artsy fartsy side of things and you’ll start to resent the act of making – even parts of creative process that used to bring you joy and fulfillment will be sapped of their color. If you’re me, there’s a lot of feeding your feelings in advanced stages of this.
Neglect the job side of things and...well, you’ll be less marketable. Additionally, you’ll be less in charge of your career trajectory. Familiarity with licensing rights and workflow techniques and other such unsexy skills pulls inward the locus of control and empowers pursuing your vision on your terms.
This year’s Create Upstate was consistent with my experience of most conferences / workshops in that it reignited my excitement to sit down with a sketchbook or Photoshop, but it was also something deeper. Partially I think this is attributable to my being a bit further along in my career and enjoying the work I’m doing more; I felt the Friday the 13th that was Create Upstate “plugged in” to a broader spectrum of creative aspects of my life.
Another big contributor to this richness was community. Furthering existing friendships...forming new ones – in this day and age of location-independent work and Slack, I still feel the need to shake someone’s hand and have a beer with them to forge meaningful connection. From this year’s event I’ve already got a few ideas cookin’ with fellow Upstaters that will be exciting to explore in the coming months.
Early on in my career I saved a quote of Dan's as capturing what makes me want to do this stuff, and I was delighted to hear him reference it in his closing keynote:
There’s a magic to design. An indescribable, human, wonderful impulse that drives me to create and solve visual problems. At the same time, it’s what I’ve chosen to pursue as a way to feed and clothe myself, and navigating that tension can be challenging at times. Create Upstate both bolstered my appreciation for this field that Dan captures in the above quote – the bigness of design – and grounded me in the support and friendships of the coolest creatives around.