By Michael Mahaffey
What is TopCon and how did it get started?
TopCon is a two-day creative conference in Chattanooga, TN, that took place this year in early November and held sessions at The Edney Innovation Center. Speakers come each year from around the country, drawing attendees locally and regionally who work as artists, photographers, designers, writers, developers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and students.
The conference was born in 2013, after a group of Chattanooga designers were inspired by attending a creative conference in Columbus, GA. Our mission is to educate, inform, and inspire others with the intent focus of fostering a creative community.
Can you give some examples of some of the programs at the event?
This year, Bob Ewing (Designer / Letterer from Indianapolis, IN) hosted a workshop that taught attendees how to transform their hand-drawn work into functional digital artwork.
In another workshop, Caleb Ludwick (Copywriter / Brand Strategist) of 26 Tools taught attendees the process of articulating their own brand. In this workshop, he walked through realizing your business’ vision, connecting with the right audiences and finding your brand’s personality.
How does the conference give opportunities to young and underrepresented designers?
For attendees: The cost to attend creative conferences is generally a barrier to entry for most students and young professionals. From day one, we have strived to keep our ticket prices at about a third of the cost of comparable conferences, and we’ve offered scholarships as well. We rely heavily on partnerships and sponsorships to make this happen.
For speakers: Our speakers range from all walks of life and experience levels, but they are passionate about their craft and want to share their experiences getting to where they are at the moment.
How is TopCon different from other design conferences?
At TopCon, we cap the attendee number so that everyone has the chance to connect and interact with speakers, vendors, and workshop leaders. In 2018, Orlando Arocena spoke at TopCon one week after speaking in front of thousands of attendees at a very notable and widely attended conference in Los Angeles, CA. He is very used to speaking in front of large audiences and told us after speaking at TopCon that he LOVED the intimacy of TopCon, calling it the “MTV Unplugged of Creative Conferences.”