July 19, 2011

Design Conference Reworked and Reloaded: CreativeMornings

Swissmiss, Tina Roth Eisenberg, at the first CreativeMornings in Chicago

Breakfast lecture series CreativeMornings is Tina Roth Eisenberg’s creation. A designer who focuses on her own products/apps, Eisenberg also runs the personal and popular design journal Swissmiss. Being an avid scout of all things Swissmiss—particularly her simple browser-based to-do app, Teux Deux, and new designy temporary tattoo shop, Tattly—I looked forward to CreativeMornings’ presence in Chicago.(1) It kicked off with a talk by Jim Coudal of Coudal Partners. His presentation was brief but packed with motivating bits, such as:


The event delivered lean and local sharing of information. The qualities of brevity and a sense of place aren’t new for conferences, yet CreativeMornings demonstrates them. And when experienced at the start of a workday, they are accentuated—even more so in a place where people come to “get inspired.” While that phrase may seem trite, it’s also a human tendency, a basic one. Why judge it as a cliché? People, like Coudal, are inspired to make things and make them succeed. Nothing cheesy here. More than a lecture series, CreativeMornings is a sermon series. Author and Founder of The School of Life, Alain de Botton, said that “A sermon wants to change your life and a lecture wants to give you a bit of information. I think we need to go back to that tradition of sermon in education.”

Workspace of Gravitytank

An inspirational sermon-of-sorts proved to be my first taste of CreativeMornings. I also left with a dry throat, after meeting numerous participants. The insights in Coudal’s presentation were complemented with the ease of making introductions: with Paul Octavious(2), whose photography I’ve been admiring; Margot Harrington of Pitch Design Union, and whom I later discovered also writes for The Fox Is Black (formerly Kitsune Noir); Chad Kouri and Alex Fuller of The Post Family, whose diverse work in graphic design, printing, and more, is tremendous.

Jim Coudal speaking at the first CreativeMornings in Chicago.
Photograph by Chris Gallevo

It’s been awhile—years, actually—since I attended a design-related meet-up. I’d been discouraged by presentations without substance (more pontificating than signal) and presenters without style (more disconnection than engagement). Large, expensive conferences are getting reexamined and scrutinized, whereby a conference is not beholden to large audiences and scenes, and the venue’s production values are not more noteworthy than the presenters and their points of view. CreativeMornings is a refreshing counterpoint to the conference bloat. In a way, it’s responsive social design: high in signal and engagement, lean and local. CreativeMornings is my kind of design conference.

(1) When an individual pursues ideas in a consistently get-it-real way, like a film director whose work (no matter the frequency of release) is both publicly and critically acclaimed, her/his history of craft and making nurtures the promotion of the next creative effort made real.

(2) Update, 4-27-2013: Photographer Paul Octavious spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #17.

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Big thanks to: organizer Mig Reyes, videographer Craig Shimala, photographer Chris Gallevo, and Admin of Awesome Victoria Pater, for their great work on making CreativeMornings happen in Chicago.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008. The fifth chapter was launched in Chicago, June 2011—my write-up and photos.

Read more about the people who make the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings possible.

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Typeface of Coudal’s quotes is called Massive designed by Shawn Hazen, who also makes awesome typographic illustrations for series Creative Roles.

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2011 was Chicago CreativeMornings’ debut year. Download the entire collection of selected insights.

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