In its second year as a mega-conference, CreativePro Week has come fully into its own. Combining what were once separate events, this year’s conference in New Orleans built on last year’s inaugural momentum and did not disappoint. So, what’s the recipe for serving up a successful, informative, fun, and immersive 5-day event to please the creative masses?
First, take a firm base of staple ingredients like PePcon and The InDesign Conference, fold in a well-seasoned Photoshop + Illustrator Conference, and add a dash of Creative Developers Summit to create a solid foundation. Then sprinkle in the brand-new Click Conference and the result is a tasty, week-long five-course meal for designers, production folk, artists, and developers alike. The very best recipe to bring all facets of the creative community to the table.
Build on the Classics
With its inaugural event in 2010, The Print + ePublishing Conference (PePcon) set out to be the premiere event for publishing pros. That vision and focus remains the same eight years later. Straddling the worlds of both print and digital publishing, PePcon focuses on the issues and needs of those creatives who know that both platforms are viable, necessary, and vibrant.
Half-day tutorials before and after Thursday’s full day of sessions covered topics ranging from a designer’s look at HTML and CSS to using InDesign as the core of mobile app creation. And those sessions on Thursday? Laura Brady tackled the touchy subject of design in ebook creation—and how this is not an oxymoron—and Keith Gilbert discussed the choices available in the current digital publishing landscape. Trish Witkowski of Fold Factory fame also showed off the power of print and that, no, print is in fact not dead and doing very well, thank you!
PePcon is a classic in the sense that it is the foundation of what CreativePro Week has become. At its core, it brings together topics that interest those working in print, digital, or both, while highlighting different topics and approaches. The sessions also underline similarities among the processes and disciplines that are at the core of any workflow.
And speaking of classics, PePcon kicked off with a look back from graphics veteran Gene Gable. Creator of the (now retired) CreativePro column “Scanning Around with Gene,” he infused his session with nostalgia, lessons learned, and design and production wisdom that holds true now, just as it always has. All the best classics give you the sense of nostalgia while keeping relevant and even looking towards the future.
A well-loved social event from prior years made its triumphant return. The CreativePro Week Ignite session has always been one of my personal favorites, and its return was well worth the wait. Attendees are given precisely five minutes to discuss a design or production-related topic along with a slide presentation. The kicker is that the required 20 slides auto-advance every 15 seconds, whether the speaker is able to keep pace or not! The pressure might seem like a lot, but the advantage is that the audience is there to cheer the speakers on and encourage them. This event in particular embodies the spirit of community and reinforces the idea that everyone in our community has something of value to share.
The Main Entrée
Taking up a bulk of the multi-course meal that is CreativePro Week, is the 2-day InDesign Conference. Covering topics about the software that is at the core of much of the printing and epublishing ecosystem, the InDesign Conference dives deep into the program we all love.
I had the privilege of kicking off the conference with tips on how to become an InDesign Superhero, which is how I think we should all see ourselves. Superheroes—or at least super humans—such as Chad Chelius, David Blatner, Anne-Marie Concepción, Nigel French, Diane Burns, Mike Rankin and more provided so many insights on InDesign, I swear I had laser vision by the end of the conference!
Topics ran the gamut from the technical to the aesthetic and from automation to collaboration. Whether you wanted to know how to start with and hack a template, create infographics, or get better at typography, the sessions at the InDesign Conference delivered. In addition to the two full days of shorter sessions, attendees also had the option of adding on tutorials the day before and the day after. Topics for these half-day in-depth tutorials covered GREP, accessibility, and integrating other Adobe solutions like Illustrator, InCopy, Bridge, and Photoshop.
A Fusion Infusion
Being focused on InDesign at the core of the designer’s hub is all well and good, but there are other spokes in this creative wheel and CreativePro Week also tends to them. The Photoshop + Illustrator Conference for Designers (Ps/Ai) was introduced a couple of years ago to serve the community of creative pros who use these programs from a production standpoint. In other words, not from a photographer’s or artist’s view, but rather from those tasked with producing the creations of those people—even if they are all one and the same person.
Topics deftly covered by pros such as Julieanne Kost, Russell Brown, Mark Heaps, Khara Plicanic, Von Glitschka, Colin Smith, and Jesús Ramirez ranged from Photoshop tips and tricks to creating organic vector art to a designer’s guide to working with camera raw. Other conferences and learning environments focus on capturing or creating the art, while Ps/Ai dove into what to do with that art and how it functions as part of a larger workflow.
Running the entirety of the final day of CreativePro Week was The Creative Developers Summit. This conference is for the geekiest among us that live in two worlds: those who develop solutions for us creative pros. The summit revolves around issues and concerns faced by scripters, coders, and IT professionals that provide the solutions that keep our world running. Open to all levels of experience, it’s a unique event that addresses issues that are specific to the techy end of creative workflows.
In a restaurant scenario, ambiance is an added bonus to the main attraction, which is the food. With CreativePro Week, the ambiance and atmosphere created around the event are just as vital as the content of the sessions themselves. When referring to the CPW atmosphere, the word I hear most every year is “community.” That feeling of togetherness at the conference and long afterward is what truly sets CreativePro Week apart from so many other events geared towards creative professionals. In fact, CPW is purpose-built to foster the connectivity amongst all the creative pros, whether they are attendees, sponsors, or presenters.
From the welcome reception on the first night, where attendees start the multi-day game of networking bingo to breakfast and lunch eaten together as a group, the feeling of togetherness is emphasized. Lunch tables are labeled with interests or professions, encouraging “birds of a feather” to lunch together.
Another big draw of this event is easy access to the speakers and other experts. The Meet the Experts table gives attendees the chance to ask follow-up questions of the presenters or engage with them on specific issues. As a speaker, I find this time so valuable, since I’m able to hear how people are using InDesign and discuss real-world issues. And speaking of face-to-face time with experts, Adobe sends an impressive group of InDesign engineers to interact with CreativePro Week attendees. They take the time to discuss new ideas about the product, as well as hear what our issues are which can lead to an improved product down the line.
CreativePro Week—and its earlier incarnations—may have been around for quite some time, but it is by no means growing stale. New elements are being added and tweaked to keep serving up a fresh product.
Several speakers made their CreativePro Week debuts on the stages in the Sheraton New Orleans, including veteran experts like Russell Brown and Julianne Kost of Adobe and John McWade of Before and After Magazine. Also, remember the names of first-timers Jessica Bellamy, Kristina Heaps, and Steve Caplin, as they will surely pop up on your radar again.
And if new talent wasn’t enough to spark your interest, how about an entirely new day-long conference? Click: The Presentation Design Conference elevated the art—yes, I said art—of designing presentations to its rightful place. Somehow presentations have been thought of as unlovable by many designers, a lost cause. The speakers at Click showed us how to better present information, deliver data and messages to a roomful of people, and that a presentation can be so much more than boring bullets on static slides. As a designer, it energized me to see a whole new avenue (and possible revenue stream). I’m already excited to attend next year’s Click Conference!
Of Dessert and To-Go Boxes
After the weeklong extravaganza that was CreativePro Week 2018, I feel incredibly full. Full of amazing ideas. Full of new connections and time spent with fellow designers. Full of an energy and passion for this craft of design. Luckily, I returned home with an embarrassing amount of takeaways that I can munch on throughout the year. From a massive PDF of session handouts and access to session videos to contacts made across the design spectrum, I don’t have to stop learning just because CreativePro Week 2018 is over.
And if you’re wanting dessert, here it is: CreativePro Week 2019 will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first PePcon—as well as the 20th anniversary of InDesign. To bring the CreativePro Week legacy full-circle, it’ll be held where it all started, in Seattle. Mark your calendars for June 10th through 14th and prepare yourself for another creative feast to remember!
Photos by Koko Hunt PhotographyTags