This past weekend, fellow Treehouser Mat Helme and I had the privilege of speaking at Creative South in Columbus, GA. It was a great conference built around design and illustration that boasted the likes of Aaron Draplin, James White, Rogie King, Ryan Hamrick, the Hood sisters and more.

Every time I speak or attend one of these great events I like to focus in on a few takeaways to bring home with me. I’d like to share some of those with you now.

Being Around Others in the Community is Important

One of the most interesting phrases I heard repeatedly at the conference was how much getting together with the art and web community meant to the people that attended the conference. Many times we creatives can find ourselves among family and friends that don’t really understand what it is we do.

Attending conferences like these allow us to share ideas with like-minded artists and meet face-to-face with our family away from family. It’s inspiring to see amazing work and hear the processes and passion straight from the artist’s mouth.

Remember the Magic of Who You Are

Rogie King, amazing illustrator and co-founder of Neon Mob, gave an inspiring talk about re-finding the magic of illustration through the passion he had for Disney as a kid. Many times the things that we once loved were forced into seclusion in the name of parents that didn’t understand, or a society hell-bent on telling us that our dreams won’t get us anywhere in “the real world”.

Rogie reminded me that who we were as kids was exactly who we were before life put a filter on us. I find myself now rediscovering the things I once loved and how they can make me better at what I do.

Be Grateful and Work Hard

Designers have a tendency to complain these days about how bad clients are and that design is somehow superior to what our clients do. The great Aaron Draplin challenged us to remember to be grateful that we get to do this awesome work for a living and that what we do, no matter how much we make from it, can help people in ways many professionals can’t.

We’re very lucky to have found something we love to do and make a living from it. We should never take that for granted and try to work even harder to use our skills to make a lasting and emotional difference.

There’s Always Someone Better

The individuals in our community (and the readers of this blog) tend to be some of the best web professionals out there. We go through our everyday work knowing that most of what we produce is better than a lot of the design firms and freelancers that we have in our hometowns. Something you’ll quickly realize by going to a conference like Creative South, is that your skills are nothing compared to the likes of Aaron Draplin, James White or Sean McCabe.

It’s important to go to events that can challenge everything we hold true about our processes and skills. Watching these great speakers present their work makes you question everything about your style, implementation and taste. We always tend to think we work just as hard as someone else, but then you see James White’s posters and you soon realize that you haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible.

There’s No Community Like Our Community

I’ve got one word for you, “friends”. New friends at these events turn into more and more friends every time. It’s very hard to explain how good it feels to meet people that are in your very same shoes and going through the very same challenges you do on a daily basis.

I’ve met so many new people through these events and I’m happy to call many of them great friends.

I would encourage you, my dear reader, to attend as many of these meetups, conferences and events that you can, grab a few takeaways, and be inspired to get back to good work.

You’ll be better for it.

The Creative South mark above created by the great Ryan Hamrick.