I recently attended Digital Design Days, a 3-day event in Milan, featuring exclusive talks by well-known designers. It was my first design conference and there was so much I didn’t expect. Here are a few things that took me by surprise:
1. Conference are tiring
I definitely didn’t expect to be exhausted by just sitting down all day listening to people, but it turns out I was.
Most conferences last the whole day and there is little-to-no time between each talk. You’re taking in a lot of information in a short time, so your brain will be smoking at the end of the day.
2. Networking, networking, networking
Meeting new people is a big part of events, but I didn’t think I would meet so many. At DDD, attendees were helped by a meeting app that encouraged chats, which is great for employers to get potential work or new talent to hire.
Over the three days I met many people I knew from social media and fellow designers from other companies, and I came back to the UK with a crazy amount of new contacts.
3. We’re all part of the design family
No matter where you live or where you were born, the design community is a big family. I met people from many countries and we are all in the same game!
Design processes are similar all around the globe and being at a big event like this makes you realise what a great community we are part of. Everyone helps each other and we’re all siblings. Sometimes we fight, but in the end, we all love each other.
4. Lots of inspiration, little content
I was surprised by the amount of inspiration I walked away with. Talks give you back any energy and passion you might have lost along the way, from working on too many projects every single day.
I feel like my design mind has gone through a refresh, full of new ideas and ready to push myself.
On the other hand, I was also surprised by the little amount of actual ‘content’ in most talks. Agencies tended to just present their portfolios, sometimes without even explaining their process.
Luckily, a few speakers actually shared their knowledge and some of them even gave out lists that could help fellow designers. Those talks are the ones I remember the most because they offered real advice that I can apply to my work.
5. Famous designers are just humans
In a world full of social media and influencers, it’s really easy to lose touch and forget that famous people are just human beings like you.
Meeting all my design heroes in real life, after following them online for years, was weird to say the least. Talking to them (they were all super nice) made me realise that even if they own multi-million companies or worked for the best agencies in the world, they are normal people.
They might have amazing skills and experience, but they are just like you. You can talk to them, ask them questions and they will behave just like any other person. Crazy, right?!
6. Be brave
I’ve always tackled scary situations without thinking about it, but at conferences being brave is a must. Ask that question, talk to that famous designer, show your work and shake lots of hands.
Half of the knowledge I got from the event came from conversations I had with people I didn’t know, as well as speakers. Everyone is ready to help, so don’t assume they won’t talk to you because they’re industry legends.
I was sceptical about approaching David Carson, graphic design legend, but after I asked for an autograph, we ended up having a one-hour personal chat that made my day.
Do it. Be brave. You’ll thank yourself later.
These facts may not be true for every single conference out there, but I think they are for most of them. I’ll see you at the next event!