Work and Play – Talking ICON8 with the Board

Work and Play - Talking ICON with the Board

ICON8, the world’s premier illustration conference, is coming soon! This year’s event takes place in Portland, Oregon July 9-12, and it’s shaping up to be a great one. In fact, for the first time ever ICON has officially sold out!

To find out more about what makes this conference tick, we spoke to not 1, not 2, but 7 members of the ICON board of directors about their role in this year’s event, what they’re most excited about, and more. Thanks so much to all the wonderful folks who took the time to share their enthusiasm and insight on ICON8. You can read ALL of the brief interviews below.

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Robert Brinkerhoff – Vice President

Illustration Age: What is your position on the board, and what does that mean in terms of your responsibilities and challenges for this year’s ICON?

Robert Brinkerhoff: I’m vice-president this time around. And, like all vice-presidents everywhere, I’m poised to step in should Ellen Weinstein drop dead from exhaustion, but I don’t think we’re anywhere close to that.

I was involved in scouting locations for the conference, and this meant traveling with Ellen and Mark Heflin to Minneapolis and Portland to determine the best fit for this incarnation of the conference. While both were great places, we’re sure we picked the right town. Portland’s vibe, the time of year, the great pool of west coast talent and the confluence of a bunch of other factors (including a fantastic board) have made for really successful planning. These days I’m helping to put out little fires, imploring the indefatigable Ellen and Mark Heflin to hand off some of their huge workloads, helping a little with the Educator’s Symposium and dealing with some of the details like the week’s schedule for board members, hiring for shuttles and vans, and other peripheral things. Totally unglamorous work.

IA:  In addition to your Chair position, what other presentations, workshops, or other events are you involved with and what can you tell the attendees about them?

RB: I’m producing a talk by Nelson Lowry, Laika’s Production Designer for Fantastic Mr. Fox, ParaNorman, The Corpse Bride and other projects. I also set up the tour of Laika for conference attendees—tickets for that sold out immediately. Nelson’s going to discuss some new projects and talk about the creative atmosphere at Laika, which is really one of the industry’s most unique creative organizations. We’re excited to include film production design to the range of topics discussed at the conference.

IA: What are you most excited about for this year’s event?

RB: Just watching the whole, magnificent thing unfold, I think. My greatest hope right now is that we’ll all be able to reflect on the success of the conference when two years of planning come to a close, hopefully having pulled it off without a hitch. Last time around I was the Education Chair and also managed RISD’s involvement as a conference host, while trying to finish up the academic year at school. I was pretty wiped out by the end and still distracted by school obligations, so I didn’t get to sit in on much of the conference itself. I’ve promised myself that I’ll catch as much as possible this time around. Fingers crossed on that one.

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James Yang – Treasurer

IA: What is your position on the board, and what does that mean in terms of your responsibilities and challenges for this year’s ICON?

James Yang: I am the treasurer for ICON8 so my responsibility is to make sure the conference is properly funded, work with Mark Heflin to discuss budget and pricing, and have answers for the board if questions arise about possibles costs. Mark does the yeoman work and he and I mainly discuss the direction we want to take. I love this role because you are trying to figure out a giant puzzle. The big challenge is finding the proper balance of pricing so people can come and deciding how to spend so we’re not wasting money but also making sure we’re not being cheap for cheap’s sake.I will also be a liaison w/ sponsors at the conference. As an executive member, the execs make decisions about various issues then bring them to the full board. I feel my ultimate role advisor who gives execs various scenarios and let them decided the path. This board has been great.

IA:  In addition to your Chair position, what other presentations, workshops, or other events are you involved with and what can you tell the attendees about them?

JY: First I will be producing a hosting a discussion with two of my favorite illustrators, Leo Espinosa and Victo Ngai. We will have a casual conversation about how growing up from a different culture and moving to the US has informed their work. Not a fan of panel discussions so hoping this will be more free flowing and you will feel like you know Leo and Victo when it is done. I am also producing “What the fuck are Infographics?” by Jennifer Daniel and Alicia Desantis. As a geek who loves info graphics, I’m looking forward to their presentation.

IA: What are you most excited about for this year’s event?

JY: I’m most excited about experiencing the energy of Portland mixed with everyone who’s coming and talking. I think conference has potential to be very memorable and fresh.

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Susie Ghahremani – Bookstore and Roadshow Chair

IA: What is your position on the board, and what does that mean in terms of your responsibilities and challenges for this year’s ICON?

Susie Ghahremani:I am co-chair of the Bookstore and ROADSHOW (a pop-up marketplace and portfolio show) at ICON8 – a position I share with my dear friend Esther Pearl Watson. These two events are huge undertakings: they’re the social and entrepreneurial ventures within ICON, an opportunity for attendees to both take home a piece of ICON as well as to bring their work to the table to showcase with the community, and they both involve moving a lot of heavy boxes between many floors and buildings! (Possibly our biggest challenge)

Our mission is to create conversation and memories at ICON, to curate a live event that spotlights some of the most driven artists out there, to stock the bookstore with inspiring and topical books and zines, to run author and illustrator signings throughout ICON, and to give everyone the opportunity to bring home something really interesting they’ve never seen before.

IA:  In addition to your Chair position, what other presentations, workshops, or other events are you involved with and what can you tell the attendees about them?

SG: In addition to organizing the ROADSHOW and Bookstore, I proposed the following speakers and workshops to ICON8’s board, and am so thrilled to have these esteemed friends and artists all take part: Carson Ellis; Souther Salazar; Kristen Hewitt, Christina Amini, and Bridget Watson Payne from Chronicle Books; Jason Sturgill; Allison Cole; Lisa Congdon; Cole Gerst; Josh Boston; Scrappers Morrisson, and Alexandra Zsigmond. They will all amaze, inform and inspire!

*And* in addition to producing many stage events and workshops (as all board members do!) I’m also assisting the development of two new events: a Work/Play art show at Land Gallery open to attendees only (apply here), and KALEIDOSCOPE: an open call rapid presentation event in the style of Pecha Kucha on the main stage (apply here) Inspiration and wit delivered to you in the span of 20 slides x 20 seconds each!

Basically, I’ve got my hands full.

IA: What are you most excited about for this year’s event?

SG: Reconnecting with all my friends afar! I live in San Diego and I don’t really know any other illustrators or art directors out here, so I love being surrounded by my friends and community in person at ICON. I absolutely adore everyone on the board of ICON, too – Attendees, you have no idea how much heart has gone into this thing. How lucky are we to have a community of such overwhelmingly good people?!

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Rod Hunt – International PR Chair

IA: What is your position on the board, and what does that mean in terms of your responsibilities and challenges for this year’s ICON?

Rod Hunt: I’m Chair of International PR & Development – I was invited to join the Board to help increase the International reach of ICON with European & Worldwide illustrators, sponsors, organisations & media. As the former Chairman on the UK’s Association of Illustrators & an illustrator working globally I have very good industry contacts outside of North America. I think I may even be the first non North American based member of the ICON Board. Another part of my responsibilities has been been working with Mark Kaufman (PR Chair) on improving the strategy for PR, publicity & social media for all parts of ICON to get our message across & get people excited for ICON8.

IA:  In addition to your Chair position, what other presentations, workshops, or other events are you involved with and what can you tell the attendees about them?

RH: I’m producing the main stage session with Sam Arthur from Nobrow, the UK independent publisher making some of the most inspiring & beautiful graphic art books today. Everyone is really excited they’re flying over from London to speak for us. Apart from that I think I’ll have my hands full over the conference with Social Media & gathering materials useful for the promotion of ICON9 in 2016.

IA: What are you most excited about for this year’s event?

RH: There’s definitely a lot to get excited about. We have a sell out ICON8 so it’s one of the best attended since ICON started, the speaker line up is pretty amazing, especially with our keynotes Paula Scher of Pentagram & Damian Kulash of OK Go. Then there’s the Workshops, Education Symposium & Roadshow. To cap it all we have a massive closing night party at the Crystal Ballrooms with Portugal, The Man playing. One of the best things about ICON is catching up with past ICON friends (this will be my 4th ICON) & making new ones, it’s very much a social occasion.

Putting together ICON is a team effort taking over 18 months of planning. Everyone on the Board is very dedicated & voluntarily giving their own time to create an amazing experience for the attendees. It’s a jam packed 4 days & we have hell of a show for you. See you in Portland this July!

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Mark Kaufman – PR Chair

IA: What is your position on the board, and what does that mean in terms of your responsibilities and challenges for this year’s ICON?

Mark Kaufman: I am the PR Director on the ICON8 board. Quite simply this means I’ve been working for the last 18 months to inform the creative community about the conference. Talking about the program, the board, our speaker roster, the workshops and Roadshow, our new Education Symposium, we have a lot of moving parts, so me and our International PR Chair Rod Hunt have been trying to convince people to get up to Portland to be a part of this. Most importantly raising the profile of ICON as an event that creatives beyond illustrators will find value in. We are closing in on record attendance figures, so all of the hard work by the entire board is paying off in what I think will be the best conference yet.

IA:  In addition to your Chair position, what other presentations, workshops, or other events are you involved with and what can you tell the attendees about them?

MK: It’s been great working with this board. Much like ICON itself, it’s been a fun and inclusive experience. All board members have input on the program, discussing at length who we want to get up on our stage, developing workshops and events. I am working on several workshop sessions, but I am most excited about a main stage panel discussion I’ve been working on called The Long Run: An Illustrated Life. I am thrilled to be able to invite three illustrators who I have a great deal of respect for, talk about the lives we have chosen to lead. What it means to spend your life creating things. Again, while the talk is focused on the craft of illustration, I think it will resonate with people in a wide range of creative endeavors.

IA: What are you most excited about for this year’s event?

MK: This is the first time I’ve been so involved in the inner workings at ICON. I’ve attended several of these before and I always gained something, had a great time meeting people, so I just want this to be a positive experience for everyone. I’m excited to have had the opportunity to be a part of something that furthers the industry and helps to inspire illustrators to do great work and build a life and career on their own terms. Thanks Thomas!

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Rick Lovell – Education Chair

IA: What is your position on the board, and what does that mean in terms of your responsibilities and challenges for this year’s ICON?

Rick Lovell: I am very honored to be the Education Chair for ICON8. It is my first time on the board, but I have been to the past three ICONs in New York, Pasadena and Providence. I am very excited that ICON8 will be the first conference that we have invited prominent educators from around the world to submit scholarly papers and do presentations at ICON. We received over 50 fascinating papers from many different countries, and Robert Brinkerhoff and I selected 16 to be presented at the PNCA campus over two days; Wednesday, July 9 and Thursday, July 10. I am coordinating the presentations and also helping to facilitate getting the papers published in several different publications, both online and in print. The details of the publishing piece are still being worked out at this time, so I can’t be terribly specific about that.

IA:  In addition to your Chair position, what other presentations, workshops, or other events are you involved with and what can you tell the attendees about them?

RL: I will also be moderating an Educator’s Round Table discussion following the Presentations, in which all presenters will be discussing the state of Illustration and Communication Design education in the US and around the world. As we all know, the standard models of teaching and learning in the arts are changing rapidly, so it will be fascinating to hear from all of these amazing artists and educators about this subject.

IA: What are you most excited about for this year’s event?

RL: As Education Chair, and being that this is the inaugural year for the Educator Presentations and Papers event, that is what I am most excited (and nervous) about. It is always a bit nerve wracking whenever anything is done for the first time, and this is no different. But besides the Education part, the entire ICON8 program of workshops, speakers, and events is the best ever. And Portland is just a very cool town, so I think everyone will have a blast and be totally inspired and exhausted when it’s over.

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Mark Heflin – Executive Director

IA: What is your position on the board, and what does that mean in terms of your responsibilities and challenges for this year’s ICON?

Mark Heflin: As Director I work with the board of directors in all committee matters from doing site checks to PR to the Roadshow et al. My main duties include office management, handling all administrative, registration and attendee service needs, sorting through hotel, venue and catering contracts, working with the vendors, preparing speaker contracts, event and sponsor planning, trafficking and preparing materials for print and web production along with a whole bunch of other stuff as it comes up.

IA:  In addition to your Chair position, what other presentations, workshops, or other events are you involved with and what can you tell the attendees about them?

MH: In addition to your Chair position, what other presentations, workshops, or other events are you involved with and what can you tell the attendees about them?
I’m involved in everything and nothing in particular, simultaneously.

IA: What are you most excited about for this year’s event?

The ICON8 program is huge, our biggest yet, so I’m excited about it all. In particular, our new Education Paper Presentations and expanded 2-day Workshop program at PNCA, our stellar keynotes and main stage presenters. I’m eager to see the conference held in the Portland Art Museum. It’s gonna be grand. I’m excited about our closing party at the Crystal Ballroom, it’s an amazing place. And I always love meeting the attendees, those who return again and again and the new ones who are coming to ICON for the first time.

Thanks again so much for all of these fine folks for taking time out of their busy schedules to share their thoughts on this year’s exciting conference. You can of course get even more information at the ICON8 Website and also on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. See you there!

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Categories: Events

Author:Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at thomasjamesillustration.com.

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One Comment on “Work and Play – Talking ICON8 with the Board”

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