Creative Waffle Live 2019 - My First Design Event
So on Friday night, I attended my first design event in London, and not only did I get to hear talks from some of my favourite creatives, I got to meet and have a chat with them too! I've actually been looking for design talks and conferences to go to for a while, but they always seemed to be too far away or too expensive, or about something not particularly relevant to me (or not relevant enough for me to make a crazy trip to get there). On Thursday evening, however, I was listening to The Honest Designers Show podcast on my way home from uni, as I often do, and was captivated by this weeks guest - Mark Hirons, a 21 year old creative from Surrey, who not only does design successfully for a living, but also runs his own podcast interviewing other creatives, called The Creative Waffle.
I immediately resonated with Mark over a lot of the things he was saying about life as a young creative, and was astounded by his success at such a young age as ours - he's smashing it! He then went on to plug an event he was hosting in London this month, at which two of the podcast hosts were speaking, so I gave it a quick search to see when it was on... the next day?!
It seemed like it was the exact event I had been looking for, and the coincidental luck of me listening to THAT podcast episode THAT night seemed like the universe was just screaming at me that I had to go - and boy, was it right.
I quickly bought my ticket and sent Mark a message on Instagram to say hi - make good impressions and all that - and they next afternoon I caught the train from Rochester to London. It was pretty nerve racking, wandering into what I knew would be a room full of very talented people all by myself, but I was so excited for all I was going to learn that the nerves quickly dissipated.
There were 3 main speakers at the event: Simon Dixon and Aporva Baxi, co-founders of DixonBaxi, an incredible design studio based in London; Ian Barnard, a letterer who has been an idol of mine since as long as I can remember; and Tom Ross, founder of Design Cuts and The Honest Designers Show podcast and creative marketing extraordinaire. The event also featured 5 live doodlers, who were captivating to watch as they created astounding artwork all while the talks were going on. Plus of course, the event was hosted by Mark himself, who did a fantastic job.
The evening started with a presentation from DixonBaxi - who I am ashamed to say I hadn't heard of before the event, but jheeze am I in awe of them now! Their work absolutely blew me away - with branding projects for AC Milan, All Four and Fox under their belts (inspo or what), these guys really knew what they were talking about.
Next came a talk from Ian Barnard on 'Funding your Passions'. If I had had a choice what Ian would talk about, it would have been that. As a new creative trying to find your feet in the industry, it can be incredibly daunting wondering how you're going to afford to live your dream - especially when you're working for yourself, and money is never stable. Ian gave some great tips on creating digital products to make money on the side with relatively little effort, and considering all of the products I currently offer are either fully customised and/or printed to order (and therefore a ridiculous amount of effort), it was highly beneficial for me to hear about. Now just to come up with an idea for a digital product...
Finally came Tom Ross' talk on making it as a designer, and how 'Design is your Superpower'. Tom went through all the great things about being a designer, and picked out a bunch of myths, issues and struggles that we all face on a day-to-day basis and combatted each one, teaching the right habits for success, while encouraging us all to have more faith in ourselves as designers. I definitely felt much more sure of myself as a creative following the talk, and that hopefully I won't end up having to 'get a real job'. ;)
Of course, one of the main reasons I wanted to go to an event like this one (and I cannot recommend it enough for this reason) was to get a chance to meet other likeminded creatives like myself, as well as say hi to some of my creative idols. And with this event, I got to do so over a g&t! After the talk, Mark instructed us all to head to to pub round the corner, where I got the chance to sit down with some of the most talented people in the industry, and meet a whole load of other wonderful and inspiring designers, illustrators and letterers. At first I was actually a little nervous saying hi to people who I have followed from afar on Instagram for as long as I can remember, but of course everyone was lovely, and I was able to soak up as much creative knowledge and advice as physically possible, and have a real laugh as well. I also got to meet and connect with so many other people who I could share experiences with - gushing over how wonderful Procreate, moaning about the struggles of creating illustrated products that sell, and of course all discussing what a wonderful evening we had had and how pleased we were for Mark that it had been so successful.
I can honestly say that having spent the evening meeting and talking with such wonderful people, I now feel so much less lonely as a self-employed designer. There's not a single person I met on Friday night who I wouldn't feel I could drop a message for help or advice, or even just as a friend.
Pretty thankful to fate/the universe for making sure I found out about this event just in time, because honestly, it was invaluable. I cannot recommend enough for other creatives the importance of attending events like this, not only for the knowledge you will get but for the connections you will make. Officially a conference convert - this one set the bar pretty high, so bring on Creative Waffle Live 2020!