VSA helps the Chicago creative community find its Moxie

The second annual Moxie Conference was held on Saturday, April 27, at 1871, the non-profit startup incubation and coworking space in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. It was presented with sponsorship from VSA Partners. The conference was a production of Quite Strong, the all-female creative collaborative based in Chicago that includes VSA Senior Designer Katherine Walker. After the success of the 2012 conference, with a sold-out audience of 150, this year’s conference grew to a sold-out audience of 275 and expanded its speaker lineup.

The conference’s subtitle—“A one-day workshop to inspire confident creatives”—summarized the lineup well, with a balance of professional topics like presentation skills, self-promotion and legal resources for designers, and aspirational topics like the pursuit of creative freedom. “The conference went incredibly well this year,” Walker said. “The speakers were knowledgeable while being heartfelt, and they resonated deeply with the audience. We were able to get some dream speakers flown into Chicago, and we’re proud that these presentations—which were surprisingly touching—got to happen at Moxie.”

Among this year’s group of speakers was VSA Director of Experience Strategy Max Shapiro, who presented a talk called “Strategy in the Service of Design.” “Strategy is a tough thing to describe succinctly,” Shapiro said, in discussing his approach to the presentation. “Ultimately, strategy isn’t a separate ‘thing’ from design; there are always forces that move you one way or another creatively, and strategy ensures you’re moved by the right ones. None of that can come at the expense of your creative impulses as a designer, and the challenge of thinking strategically and ‘being strategic’ is finding how to connect both. This is what strategists at VSA aspire to do: identify that rich, fertile soil not just for designers, but with them too. That’s the process I was glad to convey to the audience.”

Attendee reviews praised Moxie’s content and speakers—and even closing speaker Ann Friedman raved about her experience. These and many more comments echoed Walker’s explanation of Moxie’s mission during her opening remarks: “We truly believe that talent alone doesn’t put great work out there into the world. Having Moxie is about having the skills and knowledge to believe in your work enough to convince other people to believe in it. It’s about being assertive, but not rude; being fearless, but not arrogant; it’s about being smart while still staying humble.”

Photos by Brent Knepper.