Keynotes from The Music City

Sydney Bishop

September 28, 2016

Last week, a couple of JIBE’s designers (Sam and I) were fortunate enough to sneak out of the office for a bit and visit the enchanting city of Nashville, land of neon lights and letterpress posters. Besides being on the lookout for some killer food and country music, we were there to attend the annual Brand New Conference.



But back to the country music and killer food. Because wow. As Nashville newcomers, we could only describe it like a Honky-Tonk Vegas—bachelorette parties, bars and restaurants every two feet, and country music tunes wafting out of every historic brick-clad bar. And the neon! Oh, the neon. Apart from neon, there was no shortage of things to look at. While the giant, not-to-be-ignored Music City Center definitely made an impression and the domineering AT&T building seemed to watch our every move, we also poked around some of the more historical destinations: the Country Music Hall of Fame, Hatch Show Print, and even the famous Goo Goo Cluster’s recent brick and mortar shop. Also, the venue where the conference was held, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, was nothing short of stunning.


We were also on the hunt for some delicious southern food. Acme Feed and Seed, The Stillery, and Bakersville Tacos were a few of our favorite places to chow down. Nashville’s food scene is no joke.

Nashville Food

As we flew out of the Nashville airport after the conference was over, we definitely kicked ourselves for not planning a few more days there!


About the Event

But as much as we loved exploring Nashville, the bulk of our time was definitely well-spent at the conference. As Brand New daily readers, it was satisfying to attend a conference in an atmosphere that already felt like a community. Armin and Bryony curated a host of speakers with wonderful work, many of whom had already been featured on their blog previously this year. I had always read Armin’s point of view in his critique posts, but it was fun to hear him speak in person and crack inside jokes with the blog community. The husband and wife duo also gave us a glimpse into what it was like to plan the event—and by plan, I mean, letting it slowly take over their lives. The event’s branding, aptly fashioned after country music’s iconic bedazzled suits, had been meticulously crafted over many months. From hand-placed rhinestones on 900+ programs to large custom-designed ornate letters serving as the stage backdrop, it was gratifying to see their hard work manifest. It was also hilarious to hear them recount how the three-foot high letters had taken over their kitchen counter and bedroom.


The Speakers

The schedule of speakers was equally impressive. It was a jam-packed two days, and while it was a lot of sitting (I mean, as designers, we are used to being so active, not sitting in one place all day…), it was inspirational to hear from so many speakers from diverse backgrounds and facets of design. From CSA Design’s Charles S. Anderson to fashion designer Manuel, there was something for everyone.

My Favorite Take-Aways:

Clara Mulligan (Claradise, Sid Lee) spoke about the importance of variety in design. She encouraged designers to seek out variety: variety feeds your brain! It’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone often, that’s where the original ideas happen.

Sam’s Favorite Take-Aways:

Charles S. Andersen (CSA Design) spoke about the importance of creating brands that last. He encouraged designers to “build identities from truth.”


The Value of a Conference

Sometimes it seems expensive and unnecessary to pay to go to a conference. But if you find one that fits your vibe (be it the Brand New Conference or another), it is absolutely worth it to attend. The atmosphere of designers coming together is motivational and can’t be replicated easily. The speakers also have valuable insights—even if those insights differ from one another. That’s part of the value. Because no two designers or processes are the same, it’s helpful to hear from many designers from many facets of the profession. Overall, it was a worthwhile trip, and not a bad way to get out of the office for a few days!