Portland Creative Conference, 2008 – The Conference Returns!

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Portland Creative Conference: 2008 — We’re Back!
by Sharon Rockey

On September 6, 2008, after a seven-year hiatus, the Portland Creative Conference blazed back onto the Newmark Theater stage with an eclectic line-up of presenters. Some of Oregon’s most original and creative thinkers let loose with a blast of bold new ideas and let us in on the secrets that inspire and motivate their work. The nearly 400 attendees got exactly what they came for—a recharging of the imagination.

The show wasted no time kicking things into high gear with the improvisation troupe, On Your Feet, who invited the audience to play along in an interactive impromptu story-telling exercise. The creative juices were already flowing by the time the first presenter walked on stage.

Michael Curry, world-renowned production designer is always a favorite with Portland audiences. With a stellar list of credits like The Lion King and Cirque du Soleil, Michael spoke from experience when he reminded everyone to follow their own inspired hunches and approach creative work without reference. “Taking risks,” he chided, “does not include a Google search to learn from somebody else’s ideas.” He reminded those who are tempted to play it too safe that “the most successful artists create far more bad work than mediocre ones do.”

Adding an edgy flair and a touch of glamour, damali ayo breezed onto the stage to explain her adventures in melding design, social and environmental activism, and fashion. She’s the creative mind behind CROW Clothing, the online destination for a unique line of clothing made from eco-friendly fabrics. The business has broken all the e-commerce rules by offering products, including the popular and compostable hoodie, on a sliding scale.

Jelly Helm, of Weiden + Kennedy revealed his humorous true confessions in advertising—his personal journey from Kentucky to Amsterdam to Portland, and the shifts in perception that motivated him to align with deeper principles. As the founder of W+K 12, an in-house advertising school, he teaches that the top brands are built by story and experience, and showed logos that proved his point: Obama, Facebook, Apple, Prius, and Google.

Academy Award winner, Brian Van’t Hul, the Visual Effects Supervisor at LAIKA, treated Lord of the Rings fans to a behind the scenes production video filmed at the New Zealand site. In addition to emphasizing the importance of full-blown reckless passion, he threw in some of the more practical aspects of working on enormous productions: the importance of collaboration and balancing high-tech with traditional filmmaking techniques. The big kicker was a sneak preview of his upcoming project, the macabre animation feature, Coraline.

White Horse’s owner, Jen Modarelli, focused on the vision, inspiration, players, and spirit behind creating interactive design for clients like Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Celestial Seasonings, and Wells Fargo. As founder of the largest woman-owned interactive marketing agency in the Pacific Northwest, she used the Wizard of Oz as a metaphor for describing the team and the process of creating excellent interactive design: Dorothy as account exec, Lion as project manager, and, as one might have guessed, the witch as the client.

Jay Meschter from Nike introduced us to a cutting edge athletic shoe built with Flywire technology, a design based on the same concept that makes suspension bridges possible. As was typical for the Portland Creative Conferences, audience members got to see something brand new before the rest of the world. This shoe would be making its “second” debut at the Olympics in China.

Adam Gallardo, writer for Dark Horse Comics, took us through his own creative process—a two-pronged approach he calls “hard work and getting hit by the idea gun.” Patience is also a good virtue. He’d been working on the Dark Horse website when the idea hit him to pitch a comic book series on the Star Wars stories. He pitched and waited for months until it was finally approved. Now his latest success, the 100 Girls comic book series, according to comic aficionados has been “Certified Cool.”

The wrap up by On Your Feet was an hilarious 10-minute replay of the entire day’s conference acted out in a no-holds barred, good-natured satirical roast in which no presenter was spared.

The high-energy event captured the imagination and spirit of Oregon and lit the fuse for a continuing run of the Portland Creative Conference. Knowing that the presenters were hand-picked from our own home-grown talent pool made the day extra special. But for many of us, it was the fond memories from our illustrious past that made the event’s return even sweeter.

Catch some of the photos taken at the 2008 event on Flicker.

Watch as our plans unfold for the 2011 Portland Creative Conference.

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Sharon Rockey is a freelance writer and editor for print and on-line media. She writes on business, finanance, technology, lifestyle and the arts. Visit her on-line portfolio for samples of her work and see if she is right for your next project.