Creative South

This year I travelled to Columbus, Georgia to attend Creative South, a small design conference focused on creative thinking, collaboration, and exploration. It draws an especially large number of hand lettering artists, which was its main attraction for me. I got to meet some of my Instagram heroes, as I call them, and was so surprised at how kind and genuine everyone was. From the very beginning event — a bridge party with music, live drawing challenges, and a fireworks show — I felt surrounded by a passionate and closely connected community. Here are my top three learnings and experiences from CS17.

Friends to Family

The Creative South motto is “Come as friends, leave as family.” Yes, it sounds very cheesy, and I was definitely rolling my eyes at the slogan when going through registration. But the funny thing is, the sense of community ended up being the best part of attending CS. I went to Georgia alone and roomed with three girls I didn’t know, but after two days I felt like we’d been friends for years. I met artists I’d admired online like celebrities, but when I reached out to shake their hands they’d pull me in for a hug. Everyone was down-to-earth and welcoming, and even the most famous designers were humble and gracious. 48 hours after arriving, I felt the support of a whole community of friends that felt like family.

Failure Isn't Fatal

A common thematic thread connecting many of the talks was failure. Many speakers have endured catastrophic, devastating failures, and had emerged unscathed on the other side of them. Dominique Falla reassured us that a career path is never a straight line, and Adé Hogue said that his self doubt drives him and keeps him humble. Alicja Colon told us to reframe success, and Mark Brickey talked about how he constantly has to give himself permission to try, permission to fail, and permission to succeed. After all, as Erik Reagan said, if you’re not failing, you’re not trying.

Letters Cast a Secret Spell

Many speakers had experience with type, from a hand lettering artist to a cultural type curator to the founder of an Australian typography conference. Although their styles and expertise spanned a wide spectrum, they all conveyed a passion for the power of letters. Charles S. Anderson showed examples from his collection of historic type, and Dominique Falla displayed the submissions for the three volumes of the Typism book she publishes. Laura Medina finds it wasteful to duplicate the meaning of the words with the style of the type, and instead likes to inject additional meaning by designing the letters. Nikki Villagomez, founder of Culture + Typography, showed photo compilations from cities across the globe of physical and environmental type that contributes to a city’s unique identity. As she put it, “Helvetica sanitizes. Lettering conveys emotion.”

Saturday Speakers:

Erik Reagan
Co-Founder, Focus Lab

Antoinette Carroll
Founder, Creative Reaction Lab

Bob Ewing
Lettering Artist

Laura Medina
Designer, Matchstic

Marc Hemeon
Founder & CEO, Design Inc.

Joel Buekelman
Head of Design, Design Inc.

Ced Funches
Director of Design, Vox Media

Mark Brickey
Adventures in Design Podcast

Friday Speakers:

Adé Hogue
Art Director & Letterer

Alicja Colon
Content Creator, Focus Lab

Jason Blumer
Creative Business Coach
Blumer CPAs

Nikki Villagomez
Culture + Typography

Mackey Saturday
Brand Designer, CGH

Dominique Falla
Tactile Typographer

Charles S. Anderson
Creative Director, CSA Design
CSA website

More swag (not to mention better designed swag) than any other conference