Fact: inspiration can come from anywhere. For our agency, one source is definitely Creative Mornings. A morning lecture series that brings together creatives from a variety of industries to discuss a common theme, it happens once a month in 177 cities around the globe. We’ll be posting a recap each month, so check back here or come join us!

I first experienced Creative Mornings about four years ago in Washington, D.C. Since then, I’ve been to 15+ talks in two cities led by artists of all types: from entrepreneurs and humanitarians to photographers and designers—even a taxidermist. What I love most about these lectures is that I always leave feeling inspired and more knowledgeable about the world. After all, knowledge is power, and there’s nothing better than gaining a new and broader perspective.

A Quick Recap

My notes sketched during the lecture. Photo by Melanie Taube.

In September, the global theme was Compassion, and in Philadelphia, we listened to Chris Bolden-Newsome, co-founder and co-director of the farm at Bartram’s Garden, speak about the importance of compassion in everyday life.

He spoke about his experiences in the gardens, giving an example of an estranged mother and daughter who were able to mend their relationship in the neutral, shared space on the farm. He also talked about an underprivileged family that struggled with weight issues and how they dealt with those struggles and forged deeper bonds through the act of farming.

Intention, Not Perfection

Now, you may be wondering: how is any of that related to design, marketing or advertising? Well, in some senses, it’s not. However, there are nuggets in all of these talks that spark something within me that I then take away and infuse into my work.

For example, at one point someone in the audience asked if Chris had any tips on practicing self-compassion. His initial response was “practice.” But he then elaborated:

“Compassion does not have to be perfect, but it does have to be intentional.”

I loved this because it reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Don Draper of “Mad Men”: “Make it simple, but significant.” It also reminded me that nothing is going to be perfect (that’s probably a designer’s greatest strife right there), but if it’s intentional then it should be valuable.

And I think my job is not to just create great design—that’s simply a by-product. Really, it is to give value to my client’s audience. There’s a lot out there about empathy and design. But now I’m thinking I’ll add a little more compassion to my design. Jonas Elison said it well in one of his daily vignettes about the difference between empathy and compassion. Empathy says “I feel for you.” Compassion says “How can I serve you?”

I walked away from last month’s Creative Mornings lecture as I always do: with a little bit of pep in my step and inspired to do better work.

Cool right? Here are a few of my all-time favorite talks: