Should You Go to the ICON10 Illustration Conference?

Photo by Michelle Kondrich ©2016

Note: ICON10 may or may not be sold out when you read this. Often, as it gets closer, some people are no longer able to go and will offer their tickets for sale. The tickets are transferable, so if it is sold out keep your eye out on social media for people with tickets to sell.

First, let me say that this is not a sponsored post in any way. I am not part of the board at ICON10 and have not been asked to write anything about it.

In July of this year, illustrators and art directors will descend upon Detroit, MI for ICON10. For those that aren’t familiar, ICON is the Illustration Conference that is held in a different city every other year. Illustrators, art directors, designers, comic artists and more all meet to discuss pressing issues related to illustration, learn new skills and come out of their hermit caves and spend time with fellow artists.


ICON is very expensive. Like, $500+ per ticket expensive and then you have to pay for flights and a place to stay on top of it. So how on earth do you justify spending $1500 on a single conference – and should you?

Some will defend ICON’s price tag by saying that it’s only every other year and that it’s the only one of it’s kind dedicated to illustration (that I know of – please share in the comments if you know of others). And the parties they throw are big and fun (including free food and drinks). In my opinion, the ICON board should really consider finding ways to give working illustrators scholarships or other ways of lowering the ticket price, particularly if we don’t want it to look like a conference for only the top earners in illustration, but that’s another conversation entirely. The price is what it is, for now.

There are still some tickets left and there may be people who are considering going and having trouble making the decision. This opinion column is for you.

Early in my illustration career, I was desperate to go to ICON. I was starting a career in illustration from scratch and without the benefit of art school. The opportunity to mingle with other illustrators seemed like a dream come true (I was living in Denver and had no illustration friends). It took me years to be earning enough money to make going to the conference a reasonable financial decision. So, I bought a ticket, booked an AirBnB and was on my way to Austin, TX for ICON9.

I was so nervous and probably awkward because I didn’t know any of these people in person and I’m fairly shy as it is. Would I be able to carry on reasonable conversations with the other attendees? Would I get anything out of this long, pricey weekend?


I managed to take a couple of workshops while I was there, including an idea-generating workshop from Anita Kunz. I met several people I had interacted with online via social media and, naturally, everyone was friendly and probably, like me, happy to be in a room full of other people who do what they do. I heard a lot of inspirational talks on the stage and had a lot of fun conversations during all of the breaks and social gatherings they organize.

Maybe this was a fluke, but I also got work from people I met there. People I wouldn’t have known to be in touch with in the first place. During the following 6 months, I made enough from clients I met at ICON9 to retroactively pay for the conference.

That summer, I was also the haggard mother to an 18 month old so being able to get away and to reconnect (IRL) with the illustration community was hugely important for my emotional well-being.

So, my personal opinion is that ICON10 will be worth it for me. I’m pursuing some new avenues in my illustration that I am excited to share with people there and I can’t wait to hang out with fellow illustrators again. Now that I’ve been to ICON once, I’m much more comfortable knowing that I will have met many of the people there and my wallflower tendency has fallen away, mostly.

At the same time, if you are desperate like I was but just can’t make it happen, try not to let the FOMO get the best of you. Keep working hard and you’ll get there one day – or it might come to your city and save you some dough!



Tags: , ,

Categories: business


Michelle Kondrich is a commercial artist and animator specializing in editorial illustration. She is also skilled at creating animated GIFs, storyboards, and whiteboard animation/video scribes. Her work gives a narrative feel to even the most conceptual ideas and she is passionate about solving problems in often surprising ways. Michelle is the creator and host of Creative Playdate, a podcast for people pursuing creative careers while raising children. You can find her portfolio and the podcast at

Don't miss a thing!

Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

One Comment on “Should You Go to the ICON10 Illustration Conference?”

  1. May 17, 2018 at 11:57 am #

    Hi Michelle, I really appreciate you writing this column. I’ve been mulling over whether I should go or not. The expense is not the problem. The problem is that, as a much older illustrator who has been in this business a very long time, I’m wondering if I’d get anything out of it. Let me explain more. I was a freelancer in my early years and had a hard time landing on a style, so I ended up doing very realistic illustrations. Then as I got older I hated doing that style and wanted to expand and explore, which I think everyone has to keep doing. And so for the last 15 years I’ve found my voice and know where I’m going with my ideas. I have so much greater control over what comes out of my head and hands and have been extremely prolific in the last 15 years. I’m constantly finding new ways to do my art. I’ve done concept and final color art for a ton of games for EA, Microsoft Casual Games, Xbox, Sierra On Line, Amazon Game Studios, and now Pokemon. I work mostly in Photoshop and Illustrator using a Cintiq. The work I do outside my jobs these days art paintings I do on my iPad Pro, drawing out ideas that come to me in pencil on paper, doodles that are more a stream of mind, and going through the final edits of my graphic novel that is based on my relationship with my late girlfriend and her suicide. All that leads me back to my question,… would I be getting anything from attending the conference?


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.