Want to know what happens when you get a bunch of creatives in the same room? Sparks, rockets, and pigs all start flying, just from the amount of sheer innovation and ideation they bring to the party. And it was a party, because the hummus platter and glass of wine told me so.
I was fortunate enough to find myself with a ticket (which found its way onto our bank statement) to the See Change conference this year, and with $100 off the discounted price, I was hard-pressed to pass it up. It would only be this year and the next that the covetable $25 student pricing would be applicable, so I got on it like white on rice.
I wouldn't have even known about the event* if it weren't for a seemingly-random connection my step-dad Tom had with a ham radio buddy of his who was coming up for the event. This friend, who goes by the name of Smitty, just happened to know the director of the event, Mary K. Baumann (from Hopkins Baumann). Smitty was a driving force in the area of photo-journalism as a professor at the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism, and apart from having Baumann as one of his students, he was a sponsor and created the brain-child that is the See Change conference which started back in 2009.
(Google "R. Smith Schuneman" for a ridiculous list of commemorations and accomplishments, including an annual photojournalism symposium in his namesake, no big deal. Not to mention he's an all-around nice guy with a wonderful wife, Pat.)
*I probably got a newsletter email about it from my school, but when you get 3-4 of those emails a week, most of the info which rarely applies to you, you tend to not read them. Like, ever.
It was a pretty bold move in and of itself for me to attend a conference without reaching out to classmates for a meet-up, but that's what you have to do to get yourself out there sometimes. I learned that despite my outspoken nature in the classroom, I'm still a terrible networker if you throw me into a big crowd of people by myself (cue deer-in-headlights face). Come to find out, this is actually pretty common.
The conference included the likes of Aby Wolf (musician who literally blew my mind with her solo-made, 10+ voice "acapella"), Douglas Kirkland (photographer who's been in the biz since the 40s and has an impressive resume), Bonnie Siegler (voted amongst 50 most influential designers today), and our very own Barry Kudrowitz (product design professor who I believe to be somewhat of a doppelgänger of Parks and Rec's Ben Wyatt), amongst others. It really was an all-star cast, and it was amazing to be breathing the same air as these people.
Here are some terrible photos discreetly taken during the conference: (sorry, no amount of Photoshopping could have redeemed these images)
It was 1.25 days full of inspiration, storytelling, and learning from others' experiences. It was almost like having our own little TED Talk right in Coffman Memorial, and with (probably) less than 200 people in the crowd, there wasn't a bad seat in the house. But still sold out! I also took the opportunity to pick up one of Kirkland's books "Freeze Frame," which highlights the last five (FIVE) decades of his career, and he graciously signed for me once we came to a consensus on what my name was.
I learned that a small act can cause the ripple effect and make waves in the lives of others and their communities. I learned it's often those who have nothing that give everything, and are happy to do so. Always think that the wolf is at the door. Include just the right amount of wrong. The future is not something that you enter, it's something you create. And creativity/innovation happens a lot more effectively and often if there is some humor involved.
All in all this was a fantastic experience, and while I didn't make as many connections as I wanted to, I'm sure I'll be able to make more in the future. It certainly inspired me to get this blog started and go nuts with social media. I think within the last 2 days I've started following 20 new design-related Twitter-ers. Tweeters? Twits? Whatever. And I've discovered there are few things more exciting than getting random (real) people to follow you! I also had the great pleasure of meeting Ricky, a small business owner who came all the way from Athens, Ohio. As it turns out, he and his partner may need some design services in the future.
Until next year, let's see how much change we can make!
Interesting links you might find interesting: (Interested yet?)
See Change Conference Website (Check it out, especially if you're in the Twin Cities. I'd love to meet up with you next year!)