I'm writing this post for our blog on my return flight from Atlanta as I wing my way home from Creative South 2015. In part because I have the time to kill, but mostly because I want to get my thoughts down before London's grey skies inevitably temper the lovely warm afterglow I currently feel.
Don't worry, I'll be back to my usual self by Wednesday or Thursday as the people of my native land welcome me home with open umbrellas. And as such, I will then be unable to best explain why you need to book your #CS16 tickets in what I hope is nothing short of an unalloyed, gushing tone. So in the mean time, I hope you'll indulge my uncharacteristically saccharine post (along with my characteristically poor spelling and pepper shaker punctuation) as I explain a little about Creative South, Georgia, the wonderful friends I made and the Super Massive Object around which that particular Galaxy of design stars annually orbit, Mike Jones. The King of Columbus.
Having met Mike a few years ago by speaking over Skype to his burgeoning Columbus Creative design community, I was hugely honoured to be asked to talk at 2014's event on the 'Heavy Hitters' panel. A collection of the great and the good in athletic design from across the United States, who's portfolios contain many of the most iconic brands in sport. I had been working with these fine gentlemen on a two year NCAA rebranding project and although not fit to carry the team kit bags for the likes of Bosack, Radom, Harley and Dillon, I was delighted to take part in an hour of Q and A on all things sport. The time shot by as we were gleefully goaded into an hour of talking smack about the industry. Heaven.
The first thing to strike you on arrival is that there is a bona fide, full size, actual fucking rasslin' ring in the vendors room. And while childhood-dream-fulfilling flying elbow drops are tolerated, the primary purpose of the squared circle is for the annual 'Type Fight' competition. Indeed, mano a mano design competition is somewhat of a theme at Creative South as the evening kick off mixer plays host to the Ink Wars competitive mural painting throw down, in which designers face off in a five way, hour long battle royal to win (what else?) a wrestling championship belt. And if for some reason that's not good enough for you, they have beer. And music. And it's on a bridge. And there's fireworks.
Now, on paper I'm a rather poor attendee of conferences. My goldfish-esque attention span and inability to sit inside (if there is a 80 degree, alcohol accompanied alternative) means that a sizeable amount of my time was spent on the periphery of the programmed action, alongside my friends, from last years panel. But, this is exactly where I get the most out of CS, and where it has given me the opportunity to gain vast number of new friends in the creative industries and turn once colleagues into besties. Creative South has since become the official home of the unofficial Union of Athletic Branders AGM.
The vast size of the Springer Theatre in Downtown Columbus means that a decent proportion of the goings on have an 'off piste' nature to them. You can sit down for beers as three people and find that a gradual accretion of friendly, talented and interesting designers from all disciplines soon necessitates increased table space.
Despite the temptation to spend the entire time hanging out, I managed to catch a number of the wonderful programmed talks provided by the immensely talented speakers. Among the broad generalisations the British are apt to make about our American cousins is that they all seem to possess an innate skill for public speaking. It appears to hold true every year and among 2015's offering I was especially impressed by Creative South mainstay and all round lovely guy, Lenny Terenzi. In a sense, Lenny's talk discussed the inspirational power of design communities far better than I have here. He spoke candidly about his personal life and the process through which it has been changed for the better, in large part due to events like Creative South. Alas, one of the truisms Americans may note about my fellow countrymen, is that many of us do not possess the emotional equipment to deal with talks as heartfelt and sweet as Lenny's. Just know that I didn't cry. I totally didn't cry.
As visible from the amazing stage design and the massive scale of the current location, in just a few short years Creative South has become a truly pro conference. This is entirely down to Mike Jones and the amazing event staff. If you need to procure a bridge at short notice, promote live wrestling or change your shuttle bus to the airport, these are your people.. It's all impressively slick and I'm immensely grateful to Mike for the chance to speak last year and the opportunity to attend the event this year.
While there is a great deal more to say (Jesus, I didn't even get to the food!), I'm crazy jet-lagged and this is becoming slightly rambling and incoherent. We will be back next year. And you should come too.