Tag: DC


On September 15th I went down to iStrategyLabs to check out ContraryCon with some of my favorite freelancers in Freelance DC.  ContraryCon advertises itself as the “anti-conference” for people who “upset, astound and evolve” the creative industry in DC. I am happy to share my favorite quotes and insights from a few of the speakers.


José Andrés

José Andrés is Chef/Owner of ThinkFoodGroup.  He talked about what it means to be disruptive.

“To be disruptive you have to get to people.” – you can’t be disruptive if no one knows about you.  You have to stop talking and start moving forward.  While it may seem fantastic, “Reach for the impossible and anywhere you fall in between will still be good for people.”

One of the inspiring things that he said was that, “Sometimes the people that seem like followers are actually leaders.” You may not feel or look like a leader in the conventional sense, but you may still be implementing big change. “At times it’s going to be unclear who is a leader and who is a follower and that’s ok – we need everybody.”


Christian Dutilh & Jacob Weinzettel

Christian and Jacob are co-owners of Composite Co, a multidisciplinary creative studio for branding. They spoke to use about being different.

“We are all born different. Later in life it takes an active effort to take pride in the fact that we are different.”

They talked about establishing their company, and repositioning.  Essentially, “repositioning yourself is about tapping into something unique and authentic and bringing that out. Be the thing. Don’t be afraid to call yourself what you are.”

In a design process, “Good taste isn’t enough – you have to have concept and rationale behind it.  Research, research, research – but then do your own thing.” They spoke about how we get bogged down in research, and often try to recreate what we see – but in reality, we should use the research to inform, and still use our intuition to guide us on the design journey.

They reminded us that “Creativity is something you can learn and hone and it doesn’t happen for no reason.” You have to practice creativity, the same way you practice every skill.  The more you use it, the more you will have…

Kalsoom Lakhani

Kalssom Lakhani is Founder/CEO of Invest2Innovate. She talked to us about being vulnerable and honest as entrepreneurs.

“By not saying [doubt/fears] out loud I am stoking people’s feelings of inadequacy.” She questioned why we all put on a facade, and reminded us that by hiding our struggles, we make people believe that the struggle doesn’t exist for us, and shouldn’t exist for them.  “It’s ok to be afraid of failing.” We all are.

She also reminded us that we need to take care of ourselves first. “You can’t be in service to others if you’re not first in service to yourself.” If you sacrifice your own health and wear yourself down, you can’t be helpful to other people.

In the end, “Success is a process and not an end goal.” Our businesses are forever changing and evolving. We have to celebrate all the victories, as they are today’s success.

All in all, ContraryCon introduced me to people doing really amazing work in DC. Definitely well worth the $20 price point.  I’d recommend it, and I’ll see you there next year!

I had the good fortune of seeing Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Co. for the second time last night.  The first time I saw him was at the HOW Conference in Boston, and it was quite an experience. I went into it because I knew he was a sole owner of a graphic design design business – little did I know he was also a dynamic speaker that would touch everyone in the room that day.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with Aaron Draplin, let me start by saying he is not your stereotypical designer – no black glasses, blue jeans and blazer – no fancy studio with a million Addys.  More like trucker hat, full beard, mustache and straight shooting from the hip. He is humble but also tells it like it is.

The first slide in his presentation sets the tone for the whole talk.  It states “1. I should not be up here.” But Aaron Draplin should very much be up there – no doubt about that.

Draplin took an unconventional route to design. I won’t spoil it for those that see him in other cities, but my big take away from Draplin’s talk is that there are good, humble people out there who remember the joy of doing design just because they love design. He tells you to value the small jobs as much as the larger jobs – he has made a name for himself, but no job is too small. He also pays as much attention to the detail of those small jobs (“Look how I Saul Bassed those corners!”) He tells you to “Say yes a little more than you say no.” And his best advice is work hard and love what you do – because it is not something that you HAVE to do – it is something that you GET to do.

If you get the opportunity to see him in your city, I highly recommend it. Everyone needs inspiration like Aaron Draplin once in a while. I’ve seen a lot of speakers and few have touched me the way his talk did, not once, but twice.