Life as a Creative: Reaching Your Potential

AIGA Raleigh brought the second annual conference, Thrive, to the Triangle March 15th. This year it was at The Fruit, a creative space in a historic warehouse in Durham. The conference consisted of six inspirational talks throughout the first day, with many local vendors to support, and interactive workshops throughout the second day.


All of the speakers were successful designers who started small and wanted to share their growth model. Speaking to a room of creatives, including many students and young artists looking for direction, there was a common theme and question answered: How can we take our skills and passions and create a career out of them?


From what we learned, we think we may be able to help. Follow these 3 steps to help you get there:


  1. Find your Purpose and Path.


“First, ask yourself: What do I want to be good at?-Ade Hogue


If you don’t know the answer yet, that’s okay! Just pay attention to what excites you. If you are given a task at work or are doing a favor for a friend, and you really enjoy it, listen to that. Follow that feeling.


“You lose out on what could be when you focus on what ‘SHOULD’ be.” -Amy and Jen Hood


Keep your eyes open for opportunities around you, and don’t pigeonhole yourself with a closed-minded approach. Just say yes to any opportunity! Don’t get us wrong, there comes a time when saying yes to everything can become harmful, but at the beginning when trying to find what fits for you, say yes so that you can filter through your options. (Learn more about stress addiction and how to manage it here!) 


“Go to the furthest edge.” -Dustin Lee

Find something that excites you. If that is animation, calligraphy, or interactive design, great! Explore that, and then explore it more. How can you combine your passions to make your practice unique and set yourself apart?



  1. Nail your Craft.


“Create. Create. Practice. Create.” -Ade Hogue


Now that you know what you love to do, it’s time to nail it. And the best way to get good at something is to dedicate time to it.


“Have brave aspirations.” -Jessica Bellamy


Set high goals for yourself to hold yourself accountable for continuing to create. One speaker from the conference, Ade Hogue, created an Instagram account when he was learning letter art and promised himself to illustrate and post a word a day for a set amount of days. Even when he would be out with friends, he’d go home to quickly design something, post it, and move on with the day; it’s too easy to not do something–which is why goals and something or someone (like his Instagram followers) are so important to hold yourself accountable.


“By investing in others you invest in yourself.” -Ade Hogue


One of the best ways to nail your craft is by teaching it to others. Teaching, answering questions, and seeing new approaches to your craft from people with a different perspective will help tremendously with growth–and not to mention spreading your name and validating your credibility in the future.


Our 2 cents:


This growth stage can be difficult on aspiring artists working to grow themselves and then taking it a step further by beginning to share it with the world. Take advantage of social media and the connected world we live in during this stage. Posting things online for feedback can be helpful, but also scary. But forcing yourself to be vulnerable and confident in your work will in turn teach you lessons and help beat any imposter syndrome you may be facing as you grow.



  1. Find your Community & Start Conversation.


“Make people a priority in your life.” -Mike Jones


Take advantage of any opportunities you have to develop a community. Attend conferences to learn, but also utilize the room of creatives around you to create relationships and a community around you. These people will help you grow!


“Grow it out of the success of the people who support it.” -Mike Jones


The first speaker at Thrive 2019 was Mike Jones, head of design at Aflac. Mike started Creative South, a design conference in Georgia. Creative South started small with 45 people the first year in 2011 and has grown to thousands within just a few short years. It has had success based on the community it started from and has grown out to be. People come to Creative South every year because they know it’s a welcoming community that treats every creative there like family. And how did all of it start? With one simple friendship Mike sought out. Don’t be afraid to meet people!


“Brasco makes attending conferences a priority because we know how important it is to not only to keep learning from others and to finding new inspiration but also to continue to build our community and be involved locally with our neighbors.” -Devan Brush, designer at Brasco ///



“That’s my uncle, he thinks he’s famous.” -Aaron Draplin


Aaron Draplin talked a lot about his projects within his family, whether it was for his dad or for his nephew. Your community doesn’t have to be strictly designers; it can be your nephew’s baseball team, for example. Why not design fun uniforms with pizza on them? Embrace your talent within your community and bring it to the table.