The Top 20 Things I Learned at ICON7, The Illustration Conference

In the afterglow of attending ICON7, The Illustration Conference in Providence, RI last week, I thought I’d post a few observations on what I learned, and hopefully add to the conversation floating around the internets as illustrators, designers, art directors and educators disperse across the world, back to their drawing boards and computers.

1. Make your own content.

2. People really hated the ‘Make it Move’ doctrine from ICON6

3. People really liked the ‘Make Your Own Content’ doctrine at ICON7

4. People will be ambivalent about the ‘Make Your Own Content Move’ doctrine at ICON8

5. To MFA or not to MFA. That is the question. Caveat Emptor.

6. Most illustrators don’t want to have to sit and listen to Latin.

7. As far as I am concerned, the work of Paul Sahre and Brian Rea on Malcolm Gladwell Collected is a game changer in illustration, design and collaboration. A true modern classic.

8. It’s great to have a beer and a chat about just anything with Steve Simpson.

9. Meeting people you only know thru social media will result in one of two scenarios; friends for life, or awkward silences. Lots and lots of awkward silences.

10. Julia Rothman is my new imaginary friend.

11. Lynda Barry’s workshop proved that I can write more than 140 characters at a time.

12. Lynda Barry and Matt Groening  are real people. Really awesome real people.

13. Jessica Hische is the real deal.

14. The sign language interpreter was rushed to the hospital with broken hands after John Cuneo’s rapid fire dirty picture show.

15. This American Train Wreck. Starlee Kine is living proof that radio personalities need editors. Really good, ruthless, STFU type editors.

16. My unofficial running tally on name checks for SooJin Buzelli & Chris Buzelli at ICON7? 4,573

17. My unscientific survey: 86% of all ICON7 attendees are from Brooklyn. 18% are from Richard Scarry’s Busytown. 0.11% are from math.

18. Illustrators are smart, creative, passionate, and hard working people. Art directors, designers, editors and publishers should remember that. Collaboration is a two-way street, engage them, pick their brains, talk to them as professionals not just a pair of hands.

19. Two quotes from Robert Levine stood out for me during his copyright lecture; “Contracts written by high priced lawyers are probably not in your best interest” and “If you’re depending on people to be nice, you’re probably going to be poor.”

20. My favorite moment was the two guys at the Rhode Show, who were playing it so cool, so “we don’t even know who you are, nice man with a normal sized wallet” as Matt Groening checked out their table…and then were all like “holy shit do you believe what just happened OMGOMGOMG!” as Matt Groening walked away from their table having bought a few items. Moments like that make me glad I am an illustrator.

Until next time.

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Categories: News

Author:Mark Kaufman

Mark Kaufman is a partner at Vivitiv, an issue oriented design firm providing creative services for organizations involved in housing, technology issues, education, the environment, and the arts. His illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, The Progressive, National Lampoon, The Stranger, and The Oxford American. Mr. Kaufman writes and draws the comic strips American Affairs Desk and I Drew This Thing. Mark is Vice President Communications, ICON9 The Illustration Conference and is an editor at Illustration Age. Mark Kaufman's Illustration Site ///// Vivitiv Issue Oriented Design

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17 Comments on “The Top 20 Things I Learned at ICON7, The Illustration Conference”

  1. June 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

    I envy you being able to attend the conference. Maybe next year?!

    Like your #9 although all virtual friends I’ve met so far have turned into real friends.
    As for your location poll – brilliant.

    • June 22, 2012 at 9:14 am #

      Sue – You’re right of course the social media as an introduction helps to meet people, but even before that existed awkwardness was the norm for me. I have in fact met a bunch of people that I now consider friends, like Thomas and Michael down below in the comment chain. And I hope to meet you someday, as awkward as that sounds. Thanks.

  2. June 22, 2012 at 6:15 am #

    This is great. I agree with everything except #15. Loved Starlee and Arthur. Wished they could have kept talking.

    • June 22, 2012 at 8:54 am #

      Terri – They tried to keep talking, but they had to be reminded that it wasn’t StarleeCon.

    • June 22, 2012 at 9:15 am #

      Terri – I have to agree with Thomas, I get what she was trying to do, “look at me I’m a quirky, funny, amazing person and you are too”, but to me it just came across as unprepared and downright rude. I’m glad somebody enjoyed it though. Cheers.

  3. June 22, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    Amazing and funny. Thanks for sharing Mark and now friend for life.

    • June 22, 2012 at 9:16 am #

      Thanks so much Michael. After having met you I have decided to grow a beard again.

    • June 22, 2012 at 9:18 am #

      Aaron A short and sweet list. I left a comment over at your site. AMAZING work BTW. One thing that didn’t make my list was how jealous/envious I am of all the talent at ICON. All the best.

  4. June 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    After traveling from Melbourne, Australia for the last two Icon’s and meeting some wonderful people I was very disappointed at not being able to go this time. So can I say I would like to ‘meet’ you online and thank you for the wrap up, it makes me feel ‘virtually’ there.

    • June 26, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      Andrea, consider yourself met. And followed @drawmark. And cheers.

    • June 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

      Hi Andrea. I was definitely hoping to see you again this year. Maybe next ICON?

  5. June 26, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    Man, I totally need to put pennies away for this. So many great names.
    Thanks for the list Mark.

    • June 27, 2012 at 9:24 am #

      It ain’t cheap, but it’s well worth it. Designers, accountants, car salesmen, dentists… they all have conventions and conferences why not illustrators. It’s fun, it’s enlightening, it’s a chance to tear yourself away from your Cintiq (which I also can’t afford) for Heaven’s sake. See you next time!

  6. April 28, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    Hey! This post couldn’t be writte any better! Reading tis post rerminds me of my good olld room
    mate! He allways kept taalking about this.
    I will forward this post to him. Fairly certain hhe will have a good read.
    Thanks for sharing!

  7. July 11, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    Thhank you a bunch for shring this with all people yyou really recognise what you’re speking approximately!
    Bookmarked. Kindly additonally discuss with myy weeb sit =).

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  1. Lindsey Balbierz illustration | ICON7 - January 21, 2013

    […] some great recaps out there from my fellow illustrators. I’ll link to them here: Mark Kaufman The Top 20 Things I Learned at ICON7 Sam Washburn Icon7 Recap Claire Manning ICON7: Part 1 Alice Young ICON: Part […]


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