Five Lessons Learned at Design Bloggers Conference 2016

Last week, I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the Design Bloggers Conference 2016 in Atlanta. It was a whirlwind two and a half days with an overload of fantastic information with a healthy dose of inspiration.

I took eight pages of typed notes, and as I reread them yesterday some themes started to emerge.

Design Bloggers Conference 2016

It’s more important to be authentic than to be perfect.

That sentence above is a good reminder that applies not just to blogging but to life and business in general. For the last several years, I’ve struggled with maintaining this blog because I felt like I wasn’t perfect enough or my content wasn’t original enough. Similar feelings ultimately drove me to abandon painting and art back in college. If I couldn’t be perfect, what was the point? Imagine if I’d been painting and blogging regularly for the last ten years instead of stalking other artists online.

Justina Blakeney gave a fabulous presentation in which she discussed building her brand and the power of social media. Her advice: “Don’t Google your ideas to see who else has done it. Create your content and then google it. Make yours different and original enough.”

I am totally guilty of this. Yet, I tell my students all the time that there is nothing original under the sun. What makes their work original is the unique perspective that they bring to it. No one will ever approach a problem exactly the same way you do. Being yourself is enough to make your creations original.

Consistency is key to building a brand.

Consistency is the key to so many things in life. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen, one of my favorite books, talks about the compounding effect of consistently putting forth effort towards a goal every single day. Whether it’s writing or sketching or blogging or working out, being consistent and developing a rhythm is critical to achieving our goals.

I knew this before I went to the conference, but with every speaker mentioning its importance in some capacity, the importance of it with respect to blogging finally hit home.

Everything you do should be intentional.

Connor Dwyer is a design student at SCAD and has almost 78,000 followers on Instagram. His presentation was incredible, especially for being his very first conference presentation ever. My key takeaway from Connor was that everything you do online to build your brand should be intentional. In the context of Instagram, that includes hashtags, titles, captions, etc. in addition to the content you create.Be an active member of the community (spread the love).

In the context of Instagram, being intentional includes hashtags, titles, captions, etc. in addition to the content you create. Justina Blakeney referenced this concept when she showed us how she’s color coordinated her Pinterest profile to look like the rainbow. Photographer Colleen Duffley referred to it as well when she discussed creating your iPhone compositions on the screen before you take the photo and not trying to “fix” your photos later in Photoshop or an app.

Be an active member of the community (spread the love).

I think many of us, myself included, spend a lot of time online and on our phones consuming content without actively engaging. I know that I’ll often like posts on Facebook or Instagram but rarely will I comment or share content.

In the last several years, bloggers have noted a decrease in the number of comments on their blog posts as many readers prefer to engage on social media. Justina encouraged us to comment on blog posts because bloggers really appreciate it (I know I do!). She mentioned that she gets far fewer comments on her blog so she will take the time to click through to their profiles and get to know who they are.

Julianne Taylor, the founder of Taylor Burke Home, suggested that bloggers should “politely stalk” brands with which they want to form partnerships by following them on social media, commenting on their posts, and writing about their products before they are ever contacted by the brand.

You can take great photos with your phone, and no one needs to know.

Three sessions, maybe more, referenced the power of Instagram as a social media platform for promoting your blog and establishing your brand. In a pre-conference workshop, Colleen Duffley gave a wonderful presentation on how to take better photos with your iPhone.

I like to think I’m pretty tech savvy, but I learned some great tips and tricks from Colleen that have really helped me improve my iPhone photos. For instance, I knew that you could focus by tapping on your screen, but I didn’t know you could lock the focus by holding down your finger and then adjust the exposure by dragging the little sun up and down.

Colleen, Justina and Connor all shared some of their favorite photo apps with us, some of which I’ve already downloaded. I’ll be writing a post about my new favorite app very soon.


This isn’t a lesson exactly, but I also discovered that Atlanta is an amazing city, especially if you are passionate about architecture and interior design. The Atlanta Homes and Lifestyle Magazine is chock full of stunning homes, which you can view and pin on their website. We also stopped by Ponce City Market twice, once for lunch and once for dinner and a little shopping. It’s one of the coolest “malls” I’ve ever visited. I would love to go back to Atlanta when I have more time so I can really explore the city, eat at all of the great restaurants, and visit the Atlanta Design Center.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you are a design blogger or interested in becoming one, I highly recommend attending this conference in 2017.

 

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