From April 7-9, I flew to my hometown to attend the ADC Festival of Art + Craft in Advertising and Design in Miami Beach, Florida. I really didn’t know what to expect when my New York and Miami lives would collide, so I just packed my black semi-casual business attire along with my bathing suit, sandals, and neon yellow tank top and happily prepared for an overdose of sunlight.
The festival was broken up into all-day workshops, pool-time breaks for relaxing and socializing, and evening award ceremonies. The workshops included pairing off to create clay busts of Lionel Richie with the team from Hungry Castle; learning tips on making Vine videos with Ian Padgham; performance art with Natasha Tsakos; drawing with apps with Javier Mariscal; designing the agency of your dreams with Clive Wilkinson; writing code with Joshua Davis; painting with Kaz Williams; and drawing unique characters with Gary Baseman (and, of course, his beloved character Toby).
One of the most inspiring workshops was Ivan Cash‘s “The Social Good.” Cash is an ADC Young Gun and interactive artist who experiments with ways of reimagining our digital lives to find new forms of connecting. Some of his social experiments include “Selfless Portraits,” “Snail Mail My Email,” and “Last Photo.” He also had us play Camera Roll Roulette, which involves breaking up into groups and blindly scrolling through each others’ digital camera rolls to choose a photo and then make up a story about it.
Cash started off by having everyone turn off their phones, close their eyes, and meditate for a few moments. We were then asked to turn our phones back on, but to refrain from using them. I anxiously stared at the black screen and Apple icon that seemed to last forever. The phone of the person sitting next to me turned on first, and I got even more impatient, even though it may have only been a difference of a few seconds.
Once the phone fully turned on, a notification that a friend had liked one of my photos on Instagram popped up. I was so curious that I wanted to break the rules and check my feed, but then I caught myself and realized just how ridiculous my reaction was. Who cares what photo my friend liked on Instagram? I didn’t really need to check that now. I was born in the 80s, so I remember a time before cell phones, before I was linked to social media 24/7. What about the generation that has never known a life without Internet? Do they react the same? Did they grow up playing outside or behind a screen? If we are all hidden behind screens, how can we create new ways to interact?
I left the workshop really thinking about how isolated I had become. I have thousands of friends on Facebook, but I have never met most of them in person. And it went far beyond living behind a screen; I couldn’t remember the last time I had painted on a canvas or bought a can of spray paint. The recent extent of my physical drawing prowess had been quick, rough sketches, before creating everything else onscreen.
“Selfless Portraits” is a collaborative project that aims to create more of a connection between technology and humanity. You upload your Facebook profile photo to selflessportraits.com, and then you’re randomly given the photo of a stranger to draw. I signed up, bought some cheap color pencils at the nearest pharmacy and got to work. At first, I was a bit nervous. However, forcing myself to pick up a pencil and draw again felt liberating. It didn’t have to be the best drawing ever — it just had to get done. I just had to get it out there and break free from my digital life and interact with someone I had never met on a visceral and human level.
I didn’t end up getting much use out of my business attire in Miami. I only wore my black blazer once, to the closing awards ceremony, and I paired it with that neon yellow tank top. In fact, the ADC festival changed my perception of what a design workshop should be. Attending the event in Miami Beach forced me to slow down and enjoy the authentic and relaxed environment, which made it easier for me to learn, work, reconnect, and network. I was left so inspired by all the activities and great people I met, that I was able to recharge and fall head-over-heels in love with my profession all over again.