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Derald Schultz is a team member of Creative Latitude, holding the esteemed position of Articles Editor.

In addition, Derald is founder and principal of Mediarail Design, Inc., a design firm based in Atlanta, Georgia specializing in graphic design, web design, prepress, and commercial printing services.

Mr. Schultz holds degrees in printing and publishing, and visual communications. He worked within the design community and printing industry for over 25 years before launching his own firm.

Mediarail Design serves a wide variety clients across the country.

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www.mediarail.com

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Sleepless in Seattle: Thoughts on the CL Get Together
by Derald Schultz


In late April the staff at Creative Latitude got together. That may not seem like a noteworthy event to many of you, but the dirty little secret at CL is that with the exception of Neil and myself; none of us have ever physically met. Thanks to the internet we've developed close friendships and carry on our duties together at CL via email and phone calls. So there you go, the secret is out, but it doesn't matter because we can't say we've never met now.

We also had several people from the HowDesign.com and About.com forums who made the pilgrimage to Seattle. The event was affectionately named, "Cat-Stravaganza", since none of us had met Catherine face-to-face, and she won the prize for traveling the furthest, which is where the "sleepless" part comes in. Cat was recovering from jet lag and we all did our part to keep her and ourselves up to early morning hours.


Needless to say, Seattle was the perfect place to meet with the bay and Pike Place Market four blocks from the hotel, and the great restaurants within walking distance. Not to mention being able to bow before the great "java mecca"...the first Starbucks coffee house.

In the weeks before our meet up, the emails filled our inboxes as we prepared the itinerary and evoked our excitement about finally meeting. Then small amounts of tension began to creep in, with confessions of what we are like "for real". While it is true that email is poor at communicating personality, we all discovered that each of us was as "real" in person as we are online...if not more. I even offered a "moment of silence" dedicated to the perceived awkwardness we might feel, but it was never needed. It was a replaced with a toast and non-stop conversation.

For me, "incredible" would be too small a word to describe the weekend. Meeting the friends I talk to and email weekly was a memory-burner; something I will remember for a life time.

On our last day together, I proposed an article dedicated to the weekend, so those who couldn't be with us could get a taste of what the event was like. I posed three questions to the attendees:
• What surprised you the most about meeting for the first time?
• What was the biggest benefit you took away from the weekend?
• If you could change one thing about the weekend what would it be?

I also collected the digital pictures and created a slide show for the images I couldn't include in this article.


Here are the responses:

Neil Tortorella:
What surprised you the most about meeting for the first time?
For me, the biggest surprise was actually pulling this off and meeting
everyone face-to-face. Other than that, I was a bit surprised by Alina quiet demeanor, but I’ve got a feeling she kicked loose with the girls. Although it wasn’t really a surprise, we all seemed to mesh well. The transition from online to off was seamless.

What was the biggest benefit you took away from the weekend?
The biggest benefit was learning that if Derald hums I stop snoring. Who knew? Seriously though, it was a huge kick simply to talk with everybody about design, the industry and such. I had a great time talking with Jeff, Von, Curt and Maria over dinner Saturday night. Many of us are independents and tend to be somewhat isolated. Getting together was a
refreshing change of pace.

If you could change one thing about the weekend what would it be?
I would have extended our time together. We did a lot of talking, laughing, eating and walking in a short amount of time. A few more days would have been nice to share.

Catherine Wentworth:
What surprised you the most about meeting for the first time?
For myself personally, I was taken back at how quickly we all slotted together. After the first initial meeting (with each person as they came in), it was only a couple of minutes before we were chatting back and forth as long time friends, which most of us were. There was none of the uncomfortable silences one would expect from total strangers, and I now have a "real" connection. I feel a large majority of us will meet up again at some point.

What was the biggest benefit you took away from the weekend?
The magic of the event. It was electric being with designers I’ve admired and trusted for many years. Being able to reach out and touch was an incredible experience for me.

If you could change one thing about the weekend what would it be?
I would have preferred a longer meeting as there was just not the time to visit properly with each person. I would also have loved to have not been so very, very tired.


An illustration Von Glitschka drew for Cat during dinner Saturday night.

Alina Hagen:
What surprised you the most about meeting for the first time?
What was the biggest benefit you took away from the weekend?

Gosh... I dreamt of meeting these people for years and years! It was a fantasy. Then, one day, we started to make real plans, and more and more people joined until it was a very big event! I was SO excited, but suddenly felt nervous. I know my online persona is a bit different from my real life persona, so I was concerned about fitting in, disappointing people, and being shy. When the moment came to meet, I was totally blown away at how comfortable I felt with everyone. I honestly felt like I'd known you for years (in person). It was AMAZING.

I've never felt such camaraderie with "stranger" ... yet they weren't strangers. It was extremely satisfying that everyone was even better in person (if that's even possible!). I felt a bond like I had never felt, and it was awesome. The only thing I regret was not having more time to devote to the event. Next time, I'll be more available

Jeff Fisher:
What surprised you the most about meeting for the first time?
The biggest surprise for me about the online gang meeting up in Seattle was how natural it felt to be spending time with all of the people who came as a result of Cat's visit to Washington. The time and effort everyone put in to making Ed's 40th birthday his special day was also a wonderful surprise.

What was the biggest benefit you took away from the weekend?
To have the years of cyber-relationships with my "imaginary friends" become immediate "real," and most likely life-long, friendships is a benefit of the weekend I will always cherish.

If you could change one thing about the weekend what would it be?
For everyone to have a day or two more together would have great. I felt as if we all just got together and it was time to start saying goodbye. I recently emailed Dawn and told her I felt as if I was still going through Seattle weekend withdrawal.

Dana Chrysler:
What surprised you the most about meeting for the first time?
Probably the biggest surprise was the visceral emotion experienced upon
arrival, reminding me of reuniting with old friends at a class reunion or
even a wedding or funeral--the feeling you get when you are reunited with
people you have bonded with (think: "attending years of school" or "serving in the military" kind of bonding). I felt a wave of excitement and
camaraderie--I wanted to hug each and every one! I had expected to be a
little nervous, shy, or slightly intimidated.

What was the biggest benefit you took away from the weekend?
In one word: validation. There is something about commiserating with your peers that inspires, motivates, and encourages you like nothing else.
Nothing I've gone through or am going through is unique; someone else has experienced it at one time or another. To benefit from the experiences of this unique group of people is valuable beyond measure. And hey, they're fun, too! (The eating and drinking part wasn't too bad, either).

If you could change one thing about the weekend what would it be?
That's easy. I would have booked a room and stayed to experience the entire weekend with this group of people (I had to take off after only two hours). The experience invigorated me for days (I'm still feeling it)!

Danita Reynolds:
What surprised you the most about meeting for the first time?
Dawn's height surprised me the most. I was also surprised how surreal it was to be around everyone and seeing them animated, live, face to face.

What was the biggest benefit you took away from the weekend?
The biggest personal benefit I got from the weekend was a deeper and more solid connection with existing relationships that I have developed over the years online. Personally meeting these people has enriched and widened my friendship's with them.

If you could change one thing about the weekend what would it be?
If I could change one thing about the weekend it would be personal "time" with individuals. I spent some time with Celia which was great and because of our rapport together it really made me realize how I wish there was more time to spend personally with each individual.

Celia Martin:
What surprised you the most about meeting for the first time?
How easy I felt in the company of relative strangers. The camaraderie was incredible, and everyone got along better than one would think in such a diverse group of individuals. There wasn't a single prima donna in the lot.

What was the biggest benefit you took away from the weekend?

Affirmation that I am indeed a designer, even though my type of design differs from the others'. I also felt energized by the undercurrent of creative give and take that bubbled along with whatever we did.

If you could change one thing about the weekend what would it be?
I would have loved to take more time to really get to know everyone better. Although I had some great conversations, there were several people I just didn't get a chance to talk with as much, and I regret not having the time to visit with them.

Dawn Burgess:
What surprised you the most about meeting for the first time?
What was the biggest benefit you took away from the weekend?

Every once in a while we have moments in life that truly impact our souls. The Seattle trip was like that for me. Meeting the group of designers, illustrators and authors was like slipping into a cozy pair of slippers and riding the world's wildest roller coaster, all at the same time. Strangely comfortable, yet exhilarating and very exciting. The biggest surprise of the event was how quickly we all gelled, conversed like we had been friends forever and were just getting together for a happy reunion. There was no awkwardness or strange silences. Just lots of smiling faces and intriguing conversations, mingled with bouts of jovial hysteria. (Oh, and lots of wine and delicious food!)

Being with so many talented people for those few days was also a rejuvenating experience for me. I arrived burned-out and stressed out, but left Seattle with a renewed passion for not only design, but other goals I have put on the back burner for too long. The endearing memories will certainly last a lifetime, and I hope that the friendships will, as well. I'm already looking forward to the next "invasion".

Maria G.:
What surprised you the most about meeting for the first time?
Everyone is a little different from the personas I've imagined, in good and
surprising ways.

What was the biggest benefit you took away from the weekend?

I really enjoyed talking shop and getting advice from Neil, Von, Sarah and
Curt. It was a great exchange of ideas. We had lots of fun conversations
too, but I really enjoyed discussing design and soaking up the creativity
and thoughts of these incredible designers.

If you could change one thing about the weekend what would it be?
I would have liked to have been able to spend more time with people. I only arrived in time for dinner. I also got absorbed in several fascinating
conversation with Von, Curt, Neil and then Sarah--but I had meant to get up and talk more with others. It would have been fun to make everyone get up and switch places!


About the Author
Derald Schultz is the founder and principal of Mediarail Design, Inc. His company provides creative services for print and web media to clients across the country. Mediarail Design also provides prepress and printing services. He can be contacted at 678-985-9981 or via email.

Derald is also the contributing news and articles editor at Creative Latitude.

© 2006 Derald Schultz, Mediarail Design, Inc.

2006, Von Glitschka
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