Monday, February 4, 2013

Special Guest Post: What I Learned at Alt Summit by Brianne of The Ravenna Girls

We are very excited to have Brianne of the Ravenna Girls here to do a special guest blog post about Alt Summit. We were so sad that we couldn't make it this year, but definitely next, and Brianne's wrap-up is as good as a seat in the front row. Enjoy, and thanks Brianne!


[photo via Alt Summit Flickr. Text added by the ravenna girls]

Hey Assemble blog readers! My name is Brianne, one of the co-editors of a local Seattle design blog The Ravenna Girls. Andie and Emily invited me over today to share my experience attending Altitude Design Summit (Alt for short) in Salt Lake City last week.

This was my second year at Alt and the experience felt totally different from the first. You can read my 2012 recaps here to get an idea of what the true newbie experience was like. This year was less about learning blogging knowledge and much more about making real connections and doing some deep thinking about creativity and our brand. So without further ado, here were my most important takeaways from the conference:


[Photo by the ravenna girls. amazing gold fascinator on Kelly of Studio DIY]

At Alt summit, everything is over the top. Fashion (polka dots everywhere!), makeup (Rockin the red lips), and business cards are all bright bold and beautiful. But the thing is, you don't have to look bold to be bold. This year I actually spent very little time planning outfits and accessories, and chose to be bold in the confidence of knowing that in this big sea of talent, each fish has their own important niche. As long as you find the confidence that you belong and that you do fit in, your own individual boldness will shine through in all that you do.


[Photo by the ravenna girls]

One of the most inspirational and helpful sessions I attended during the week was called "Finding your Voice" by Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks. She spoke fiercely about fine tuning what your "brand" represents by finding your true personality and point of view. I feel like the word BRAND gets thrown around with reckless abandon lately but as bloggers we need to remember that even if you don't feel like you have a brand in the traditional marketing sense, you do have a unique voice that is responsible for creating your community. For Danielle and I at the Ravenna Girls, establishing a community is the most important part of blogging for us, so I loved hearing Karen talk about turning occasional readers into FIERCE SUPPORTERS by creating a unique and safe environment for people to open a dialogue about life and design.


[photo via Alt Summit Flickr. Text added by the ravenna girls]

On Friday morning of the conference, you have the choice to attend small round tables instead of large learning sessions. This year there were several amazing roundtables, including those led by friends of Assemble, Melanie and Sandra. Going into Alt, I had been having a couple month struggle with motiviation and the end result of blogging, so once I spotted that Tiffany's roundtable was called "Growing and Maintaining a Small Blog with Pride", I knew that conversation was timed perfectly for me. There were about 12 women at the table, and we had a really lovely conversation about taking a long hard look at the realities of each individual blog, establishing what would make you happy, and working toward that place in a really authentic fashion. The realities of blogging these days are that not everyone is going to have an uber-blog. And actually, thats great. For Danielle and I, we have passion in our careers (that are not blogging), and we don't have the desire to give those up. The goal is not to grow to a place where our blog is going to be full time. This roundtable gave me the opportunity to talk through some of my ideas of where we actually feel comfortable being, and then finding pride in the creative project we're a part of, no matter how big or small. This year, this round table on the pride of your own creation was really the transformational moment for me. Gave me a chance to look beyond traditional blog growth strategies and focus more on creating an authentic solid content.


[Photo by the ravenna girls]

Last fall our etsy shop was connected with the lovely folks at Bing for a small blogger partnership at an event here in Seattle. A couple weeks before the conference, they contacted us again about providing a large batch of our colorful woven bracelets to be a part of gifts that were given out at one of the keynotes during Alt. This was by far the largest order ever for our humble little shop, and it was so moving to see people appreciate our products on such a large scale. This opened my eyes to the importance of nurturing successful connections. I think it is in all our natures to always look for the new and exciting connections, but for me Alt this year was about seeking out a lot of friends I made in 2012 and really spending quality time with those people. Strengthening those existing connections into truly meaningful relationships was really the keystone of Alt 2013, and I think this is a reflection of where the larger blog community is heading.

[Photo by the ravenna girls]

Authenticity was a theme that kept coming up over and over through the conference. Establishing trust with your blog readers, and being true to your own design were hit home by almost every speaker. Stefan Sagmeister talked about going with your gut, Karen talked about what you like and WHY you do it, and Katie showed us all how her brand of happy has helped her be successful. Not everyone is going to love what makes you real, but you'll find true creative power in staying true to what makes you YOU.


[Photo by the ravenna girls. Styling by Nicole Gerulat]

This year, I didn't attend every single informational session. I sat out of several because I was in the midst of a deeper conversation or I had just made a new friend. The one thing I did make sure to get to , though, were the Saturday Design Camps. These are smaller group sessions focused on a new creative skill, and are the most hands-on part of the conference (super important for makers like me). I took a tabletop photography and styling workshop led by Nicole Gerulat of Nicole's classes and I feel like I learned an amazing amount in such a short period of time. It also gave me a chance to play with the new camera lens I got for Christmas, instead of procrastinating any longer. I cannot wait to apply this to our DIYs and to our product photography. I think coming out of Alt with a new tangible skill is a really cool thing since a lot of the other concepts can be pretty high level.


[photo via Alt Summit Flickr. Text added by the ravenna girls. This installation was part of the #bingittolife project
where Bing took blogger projects submitted over last summer/fall and made them a reality.]

The most important thing I learn every year at Alt is that you can't do everything. The days at Alt are long and jam packed full of inspiration, but you really need to set aside time to reflect on what you've learned and how you've grown. If you find yourself worn out from learning and socializing, take advantage of the amazing setting at Grand America by taking a bubble bath, visiting the spa, or squeezing in a workout to get those relaxation juices flowing.

Alt is an amazing experience for those interest in the online design community. I met a ton of interesting folks who aren't bloggers, per se, but have online shops or other creative presence. So, you don't have to feel like you need to be an experienced blogger to attend. Its just a great source of creative inspiration and a chance to push yourself out of your comfort zone in the best possible way!

Be sure to check out our blog this week for more recaps of the week including my favorite business cards, Details on Stefan Sagmeister's speech, and more on my tabletop photography class.

[Also - you can find tons of other blogger's recaps of the conference on the Alt Summit blog]

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