What We Really Are And Want To Be: PSFK Conference, Good Ideas On Creative Refocus

What We Really Are And Want To Be: PSFK Conference, Good Ideas On Creative Refocus

In the second segment of talks at PSFK Conference NYC, Tina Roth Eisenberg, Erik Proulx, Adam Wells and Shantell Martin discussed approaches to refocus creative aspirations and careers.

Christine Huang
  • 14 april 2010

The second segment of talks at PSFK Conference NYC featured four approaches to refocus creative aspirations and careers.

Erik Proulx shared the moving stories of some of the individuals he profiled in his documentary about job loss and new beginnings, Lemonade. As a former ad man who was one of the tens of thousands to be laid off in the recession, Erik found new purpose in embarking upon this project – to meet others like him and share their stories of re-evaluation, renewal and revelation.

Highlights from Erik’s talk:

“It’s not a pink slip. It’s a blank page.”

The tagline of Erik’s movie reflects the moral that comes through in each of the vastly different life stories shared in Lemonade. The loss of a job can feel like the loss of one’s identity, but more importantly it’s an opportunity to create a new one – based on love, not expectation.

“When it doesnt feel like work anymore, you know youve got it right.” Erik offered a nice reminder that work shouldn’t feel like a burden – when it’s in line with our passions and interests, it should feel like a liberty.

“Trend for the next decade: We aren’t what we do. But we should do what we are.”

The impetus to change is often strongest when we feel like we have nothing to lose. We’re wired to find ways to transform our setbacks into positive action – embracing this instinct for survival is the first step in moving forward and on.

A call to action to make what we do with 1/3 of our lives something we love – to ‘do’ what we really are and want to be.


Tina Roth Eisenberg, founder of influential design blog SwissMiss, shared her experiences as a Swiss graphic designer in New York, and how and where she finds inspiration day-to-day.

Highlights from Eisenberg’s talk:

“I post things that inspire me, make me smile, think. I try to inspire, entertain, educate.”

Tina began blogging as SwissMiss out of her genuine passion for design and creativity. Her community developed organically around it, brought together by her inspiring, inspired noticings, links and posts.

She sees creative inspiration all around her (even in the typography on Swiss trash bags, along the side of the road), but now pulls mostly from four sources: reader submissions, referring sites, bookmarks and Twitter. Her blog readers aren’t just an audience – they’re a community of like-minded supporters and creators who help keep SwissMiss fresh and inspiring.

Tina’s Creative Mornings provide a free monthly lecture series featuring informal talks by innovative thinkers and creators (i.e. Core77’s Allan Chochinov, Michael Beirut, etc) – bringing together her online community offline as well.

Her most recent project is TeuxDeux, a ‘designy’ web-based, to-do app that makes getting things done look (and feel) simple.


Adam Wells, Design Director for Virgin Group USA, shared his insights on the future of industrial design and how innovation in the field is changing the way we experience products and services in a fundamental way.
Highlights and insights from Wells’s talk:

Wells pointed out that improvements in service and experience design, not just product design, are solving many of today’s problems. He mentioned how much of the most exciting innovation in industrial design is emerging in the service rather than product space. Eg: Bike and car-sharing services (B-Cycle and Zipcar).

“The designer’s output doesnt have to be physical. It can be intangible – it can deliver an experience.”

Virgin America’s interior cabin design and in-flight WiFi/ entertainment system serve as prime examples of designing for optimal experience, not just physical response.

Wells noted that brands must think of products as tangible extensions of their identity.

“At any given moment, a user’s experience can make or break the relationship he/she has with a brand. Every point of contact is a potentially defining moment; brands must design with that in mind.”


Creator, Illustrator & VJ Shantell Martin encouraged us to “rediscover our creative seed” in a rousing talk about creativity, passion, and connectivity.

“Finding your creative seed: it’s your love, it’s your hobby.”

Shantell emphasized the importance of reconnecting with our essential joys and creative impetuses – her’s is drawing, so she draws whenever she can, wherever: clothes, faces, with projectors, on building walls.

“It’s about looking inside – not just outside – for inspiration. Feel the truth in your body, not your head. ”

Shantell acknowledged that external stimuli – city life, art, music – are all great places to find inspiration. But we must also remember to check-in with our own internal thoughts, bodies, impulses and visceral sensations to rediscover the inspirations native to ourselves.

“Take yourself out of your own body.. [but] look through your own eyes… Where do you connect?”

An important question for any creator. Shantell reminded us that ‘we’re all artists inside’ – despite our day-to-day jobs, responsibilities and stresses. We must “take the time out” and make the effort to look for that creative seed that is within each of us, and to remember how to “feel what a yes is and what a no is.”

photos by Dave Pinter

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+Erik Proulx
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