What a beautiful Saturday it was for this years Cre8Con 2009 to take place in our fair city of Portland, Oregon!
My morning started with a lovely little note on the inside of the bedroom door, letting me know that we had some sleeping guests downstairs and not to go down there in the buff. After silently getting out of the house, I rode my bike down town before the conference to get some breakfast. I stopped by my favorite Peet’s Coffee and Tea for coffee and then rode around brainstorming where to eat. I didn’t want my usual Bijou mushroom and Grafton cheddar omelet, so I thought I’d stop by Elephants Deli and grab a burrito…closed! Well, I rode around until finally surrendering to The Heathman’s restaurant next to the venue. I ordered the eggs/potatoes/toast plate. The food was mildly bland with a hint of ‘meh’. I met up with creative director Jeff Brummer, his wife, and graphic designer David Gurley.
After breakfast we headed into the venue, and took our seats front row right in front of the podium. After about 15 minutes after seating, the show started.
First up was “On Your Feet’, an awesome corporate improv group that really engages the audience and makes them interact in unique ways. This year was an informal card exchange between members of the audience. You were given two 5×7 cards at the beginning of the show. On the back of the cards, you were to write down something you did to get creatively unstuck. This reminded me of the last cre8camp I was at where we had a large round table discussion on getting unstuck. Cards were exchanged between audience members and also passed down to make a wall of ideas in the venue lobby. Mass idea generation is awesome.
Next up was Dan Wieden of Wieden & Kennedy. Humbling to say the least, but he had an intense assortment of insights as far as creative process and work ethics were concerned. To top the list-“Come to work stupid” every day and “Fail Harder” were the ones that resonated the most. This was all folded within emotional advertisement examples such as “The Girl Effect” as well as the most impactful Levi’s ad ever made(watch it with good, bass heavy, headphones. The audio is a wax recording from 1888 Walt Whitman. It really brought back the American appeal/culture to the denim. I might go get a pair of 501s today. Dan wrapped things up with some poetry and prose and spoke about his youth camp Caldera.
Jennifer Jako showed true humility as anyone would following Dan Wieden. She is the owner of Fix Studio. As an interior designer she helps local businiesses realize the value of space by bringing in her expertise. After her speech, which felt formulaic and hibited, during the Q&A, a lady in the audience commented how she remembered meeting Mrs. Jako 18 years ago when she was still a receptionist and was so proud of her for making it this far. This is pretty profound as she has AIDS and has not deterred her from becoming successful and from what I could make out, happy. At this point the formulaic and hibited aura melted away and alas, a genuine person stood on stage before us. It was really beautiful to see that metamorphosis happen right before my eyes.
Flash Choir happened here…meh. (Thanks Joe for the input)
Lunch break-I was able to get back down to Elephant’s Deli and have a wonderful sandwich in the grass in the park blocks. So relaxing. I washed the sandwich down with a small San Pelligrino. I had a bit of a sweet tooth, so I trotted over to Cacao and had an awesome shot of cinnamon infused drinking chocolate before heading back for the second half of the show.
During the time I spend waiting for the next speaker, I met Shannon Henry (@spiralshannon) who designs and fabricates math based art artifacts such as jewelry and accessories. Buy them! She was super nice and came to sit with our group.
Finally to warm the crowd back up, On Your Feet came back on stage to sing the synopsis of The Artist’s Way. Well done.
Jerry Ketel was up next, opening his speech with a poem (The Quest by Richard Rogers) about the search for hip hop. Quite beautiful and an obvious metaphor for the search for creativity. He spoke about intersections of ideas and that there were the jewels of creativity. Metaphor. Layering. He called it cross , dressing thinking. Actually it was a damn brilliant way to pose his techniques for explaining how he gets into his creative space and how he looks at problems as well as solves them.
Now before I go on, I’d like to note that at this point Jerry had really stirred the pot when he left the stage after undressing and putting on a dress to nail down his point of ‘cross dresser thinking’. It really lit a fire and the energy in the room was great. A wave perfect for the next speaker to ride.
The next speaker really knocked the socks off of everyone. Emek. Holy crap. This man is phenomenal. Even though, to be honest, his speech struck me more as self promotion rather than a monologue on creativity and capturing how to get into the zone. I realize that this conference isn’t a how-to, but I think Ketel did a better job capturing theory. With that said, seeing the amazing amount of work, materials, and processes that this guy puts into his work was really inspiring. Clients ranged from The Flaming Lips to Erykah Badu to The Decemberists. You can check out his work here.
Teresa Drilling came up next with a profound portfolio of stop motion animation from Coraline to Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Most of her inspiring words were about coming up in the industry and patience…lots of patience. I think the thing I took away most from her speech is the idea that you have to be obsessed with what you love for anything to happen at all with it. I really wish I had paid more attention to what she was saying but I was so distracted by her awesome limited edition Coraline Nikes that I couldn’t focus and could only think about asking her to raise them up so I could get a better view…and I did during the Q&A.
10 minute break.
Local product designer Scott Peterson took the stage next with a presentation on creative process. His attitude of wearing many hats depending on the situation waxed true. Especially since I relate on a day to day basis per my profession.
I should mention between every speaker Rick Emerson of KUFO came out as the MC and did a little monkey dance to keep the crowd smiling. Great charisma.
Now, when Larry Brooks came on stage I can honestly say I had some insecurities of some jock dude telling me how to be creative. I really need to apologize for those misguided thoughts. He was hilarious! Great guy, kind hearted, booming personality. I think he is the reason I woke up early to seize the day today. My favorite part was when he held up a Terry Brooks novel and admitted that he used to go to the bookstore and cover the “T” and “E” with his thumb just to see what his name might look like on the cover of a book. It showed real humility and honest humanity. I’d love to have a coffee with that guy. Also thumb wrestle.
The second to last speaker of the evening was one of the the executive producers of The Simpsons-Bill Oakley. Looking like he just rolled out of his flight from LA to Portland (Yes I am aware he lives here now) he talked about the 3 phases of writing through a project that he uses: 1. The Big Idea 2. The Broad Strokes and 3.The details. I actually thought what he said about faking yourself into believing that the brunt of your hard work is done just to keep momentum on a project was brilliant. Even though, I’m not sure how healthy it is to consistently lie to yourself. I should know, I’ve been doing it for years….oh snap!
Wrapping up the conference through improv comedy was, again, On Your Feet. With 3 performers acted out the conference in full a la Cliff Notes meets The Far Side. Great performance.
The final speaker was Mayor Sam Adams. He had a busy day of events. He spoke briefly on CAN a group that lobbies for money for arts education in k-12. He dismissed the conference to the after party in the street just north of the theater. Lots of elbow rubbing and that sort of jazz. Not really my speed, so I headed to the office for a minute before retreating back home.
To sum it all up, this is a great conference and I hope you attend it next year. The Portland creative community is HUGE and awesome. Get involved.
A special thanks to IDL Worldwide for making it possible for me to attend this as well as many other amazing events.
If you’d like to read more, head over to Phillip Kerman’s site for another great run down of the haps.
You can also see some awesome photography of the event at Scott Hubers Flickr page. I sat next to him through this and he kept making all of these weird clicking noises. Hey buddy you wanna click? You click over there with your awesome fancy camera that I wanted to lick.
NOTE-I want to just mention sometime before lunch there was a Flash Choir that took place in the conference. But I don’t remember chronologically if it happened before Jennifer Jako or who? Let me know and I will update this. Thanks. Kudos to Joe for filling this blank above.
Enjoy your Sunday people!
Thanks for the re-cap!, Gabriel…
The speakers were all amazing! And presenting together, I doubt many conferences would come close to matching the heaps of world-class output and accolades we all benefitted from hearing speak here…lucky us and lucky PDX!
Oddly, it is for this very reason that I found fault with the conference – that the vast majority of this group of tenured speakers had already reached the apex of their careers over 10 years ago… As a thought-leadership conference on the creative eco-system of Portland, can it be believed that we have no more recent examples of credible success-stories out of our creative community here? I take nothing away from this set of excellent leaders, and hold each and every one of them in highest esteem and respect for their past, current and future contributions to our community and world. I simply feel that this conference should, and certainly could, feature more of our younger creatives with inspiring stories of overcoming the obstacles to success, which we face in this current era, with their fresh perspectives offering more relevance today and to today’s audience…
And it was simply shameful that the A/V utilities and technology could not even work to support support the simple sound, video clips and slideshows of the presenters! I’m proud and impressed by all of these professionals for working-through the problems presented by this amateurish A/V offering, and hope next years’ conference will prove to better serve both the presenters and the audience…
The ‘flash choir’ performed at the end of Jennifer Jako’s talk. That they considered interrupting Ms. Jako’s heartfelt and touching moment, where we all recognized she finally found some comfort on stage in the Q&A session, as the most opportune time to ‘flash’ up was both unfortunate and disrespectful to both Ms. Jako and the audience. This frustration was exacerbated by the fact of their at-best mediocre performance of two uninspiring and vapid songs…
Thanks much for your comment. I agree that the flash choir was pretty ill timed, but I think that was just part of the program order. Again, though, it would’ve been nice to get a better sense of the ‘true’ Jako a little more.
I tried to leave the tech issues off of the table as they were indeed spotty at best. An educated guess leaves me to assume they were wirelessly transmitting the a/v to the EQ and projector, but then again, what do I know.
I think when you have a conference which is only in its second year of reincarnation, you’re going to get quite a few speakers that are …”seasoned”…However, in my opinion, this is exactly what it is all about- getting experienced professionals to spill their brains out to the crowd and take those 10 years extra that they have and fill our empty cups.
I think another issue that is good that you bring up is that “…can it be believed that we have no more recent examples of credible success-stories out of our creative community here?” -I think the answer is simply “yes”. Reason being is that the ‘new’ creative class here in PDX is too fresh and fractured. There seem to be a LOT of egos on the table with some of the new blood and that will need to be washed away before any of the new collaboration can be tapped. We have a hard time dealing with the fact we are all awesome people under one magnificent roof in the apartment of Portland. Or at least, there is my take on it…8)