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8 Things We Learned From Circles Conference

Design team at Circles Conference

Last month, our design team snuck away from the office to attend Circles Conference, a three-day design-and-development event that connects designers from around the globe. We took in tons of great wisdom — everything from why your mom should be your first test audience to a case for champagne in the workplace.

It was good stuff, and not just for designers. So we thought we’d share a few of our favorite things we learned from Circles Conference. Cheers!

1. Don’t forget that your skills have power.

Author and illustrator Nikkolas Smith showed us some ways he’s using his art to inspire human connection. It reminded us how critical design is, for everything from driving business to helping you pick something off the menu to big-picture social, political, and cultural issues.

By Nikkolas Smith

2. Know your community.

Networking and putting faces with names goes beyond building freelance resources. Having relationships with other people who are excelling in your field — even if that’s as simple as a follow on Instagram — is a fantastic way to stay current and inspired.

We even got some one-on-one time with the founders at DKNG Studios, who created our client’s summer magazine cover for the feature “Retro Texas.”

3. Speaking of which: Social media is an amazing tool.

A “like” can take you further than you might think. We love the example of Pandr Design Co., whose founders met via Instagram. Both passionate for hand-lettering, the two began collaborating and have since created murals for leading brands like Target, Kenneth Cole, and Bumble.

4. It’s our job to make responsible content.

Sometimes users have a backward way of navigating a website or piece of content. As designers, we need to cater to our every audience, even if they aren’t as savvy as we’d like them to be. At Circles Conference, UX designer Brittney Urich offered this helpful way to assess user-friendliness:

  • Findable: Is it easy to find and interact with?
  • Useful: Does it address a user pain point?
  • Meaningful: Does it say the right things at the right time?
  • Credible: Does it reassure users that you have their best interests in mind?
  • Clear: Does it speak the user’s language, using familiar words and phrases?

5. When in doubt, have your mom test it out.

Sarah Mick of Desmond Creative shared the story that “swiping” on Tinder was inspired when the developer observed a user who instinctively wanted to “swipe” around on the photos rather than pressing “yes” or “no.” As she put it, you never really know if your app or website has a good user interface until someone less savvy (hi, Mom!) tests it out. If they can maneuver it, then the UI is likely a success.

6. Toast to your wins.

One Circles Conference speaker said that after a big launch, their team always celebrates with a champagne party. Whether it’s drinks, a pizza party, a walk in the park … whatever, making time to celebrate group victories before jumping into the next project is huge for morale.

7. Keep your passion.

Design can be the best thing ever. It can also be the worst. It’s important to take a step back and remember the bigger picture. Look at the small and frustrating tasks as steps to a larger, more exciting goal. Jay Argaèt, the global art and communications director of Hillsong Church, spoke about this, reminding us to embrace these little struggles rather than dread them.

8. If you have an idea, try it, even if you’re not sure.

Jeremy Mitchell of Mitchell Bat Co. had the idea to create custom-painted baseball bats and use the proceeds to help revive baseball in inner cities. With little hope for success, he uploaded a design to his website on a whim. It rapidly turned into a success story, garnering praise from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, InStyle, and even Martha Stewart. He left us with one question to stay inspired by: “What do you love?”

Want to talk to us about design things, or maybe just things you love in general? Contact us and work with D Custom to let our team of newly inspired creatives work with you to create something great.