On Friday, October 21, as part of its Pep Rally series of free events, the Unique Space in Little Tokyo hosted Jon Setzen for a morning lecture. Setzen is a designer, creative director at Bluebeam, and an organizer in his own right – he launched the Los Angeles chapter of Creative Mornings, which he describes as “TED for the creative masses.”
Setzen’s theme was “Design and Building Creative Communities,” and he dropped some knowledge for anyone who might want to follow his example, start an event, and gather like minds.
- Provide Access and Inspiration
As a teenager, Setzen created zines and found a creative outlet within the self-reliant punk subculture. Years later, he attended a talk by Peter Saville, the British designer who created the iconic album art for Factory Records, and was amazed to be so close to someone whose work had so greatly influenced him. His presence, ideas, and generosity galvanized those with similar values. Maybe he wasn’t a star on the level of Morrissey, but being in the same room with Saville changed Setzen’s life.
- Delegate, Collaborate, and Trust
Setzen’s thoughts as an organizer mirror his advice on leading design teams. Never stop learning. Hire people who are better at their jobs that you are. You are there to help people succeed. Citing a Creative Mornings talk with magician David Kwong, who took time to personally encourage a younger magician in attendance, Setzen suggested that the best events are organized around experts who make their audience feel just as powerful as they are.
- “You Really Need One Friend”
Organizing events and communities is hard work. At first, no one will seem to care. Progress will be slow and full of obstacles. Setzen persevered with Creative Mornings by finding a few people he could work with who cared for his project and could spare the bandwidth to help him nurture it. That got him enough momentum to book bigger-name speakers and get more attention. “In Los Angeles, if something takes off, people want to be involved,” Setzen said. Start by finding one person who will love your project when it seems permanently stuck on the runway.
- “Inclusivity is Key – The Door Must Be Open”
One of his early supporters was Tina Roth Eisenberg, who launched the original Creative Mornings series in New York. For Setzen, one particular Eisenberg adage sticks out: “I have zero tolerance for self-inflicted drama.” Sometimes keeping the door open means ignoring professional jealousies and scene politics. Sometimes it means ushering in people who aren’t your favorites and making them feel welcome. Commit to drama-free inclusivity, and people who want to cause trouble will get bored and drop off.
- Get Involved In Things
“The work you put out there attracts the sort of work you’re going to do,” said Setzen, so do work that will resonate with the sort of people you want to meet and collaborate with. In Los Angeles, “there is so much going on. People really want to work together.” LA has plenty of space, plenty of light, and plenty of opportunities to experiment, fail, and try again.
– Emerson Dameron, A+D Intern
– Photo Credit: www.waitomo.govt.nz