The self declared “best creative conference in the world” isn’t making a great first impression.

The conference pamphlet does little to back up that notion. The graphic design is unimpressive at best – and not particularly on trend. Not to mention the simple layout errors. It would seem to have been designed by a second year design student.

The presenters themselves are quite intriguing at first glance. Though for the “best creative conference in the world,” the field of views is quite limited. Job titles repeat over and over:  graphic designer, illustrator, motion artist, art director. Not the variety expected from such a lofty statement. Where are the designers of physical objects? The architects? The studio artists? Why make such ambitious claims for a purely graphic design and film focused endeavor?

The first presenter was supposed to begin 15 minutes ago. He has been dutifully at the podium, awaiting the go ahead since 10 minutes before 9a. He’s been pacing for the last five minutes. So not a failing of Mr. Sprague, but a lack of organization from the curators.

Now the organizers are finally taking the stage. Several canned appeals to the local audience follow. Talking over one another. The only way to go is up.

Interesting to note that Cincinnati is the only US city the conference visits.

Mr. Carl Sprague takes the stage. He looks the part that his prolific CV proclaims. “The power of the picture” is his message. “If you make a picture, things will happen because of it, and if you don’t, things won’t.”

He gives some background information on his marionette affection, stating how it’s led him on his career path. He leads us listlessly through a series of photographs of sets he has worked on during his long career. Forgetting sometimes what the slides were even about.

His presentation includes as many or more vocal fills as it does meaningful information.

Some funny anecdotes about peculiar directors – Spielberg, Scorsese.

His sets are undeniably beautiful and well thought-out. Fantastic sketches as well.

His presentation is really just a walkthrough of his career. There are no takeaways for the listeners about how to improve as designers. Just a handful of tidbits about directors or set production difficulties/successes. But nothing of substance. Nothing to dissect. Nothing to contemplate. Severely disappointing takeaways from such a full career. The man is a talented set designer, no doubt. But he falls short as a presenter of meaningful insights.

“If you can make it pretty, people are happy,” states Mr. Sprague. Sure. That’s not a new thought. Tell us how to make it pretty. How to approach inspiration gathering. How to translate sketches into physical sets. What do you research when beginning a project? Give us some insight into your process. Don’t just tell us what you did, but why and how you did it. That’s the meat. That’s the ideal take-away. Don’t just give us an anecdotal recap of your career to date. Over and over he mentions, “they took my drawing and made it into a set.” Why? How?

He’s funny and amicable, sure. But his message is nonexistent. Other than the standard trope of, if you make something, things will happen. No shit, Mr. Sprague. No shit.

Outro Studio from Barcelona is up next. A comical, illustrated GIF of them dancing graces the screen.

Technical difficulties. Now we’re back.

The audio volume is overwhelming and unbalanced. More failings of the organizers to provide an optimum experience.

They play several spots of themselves being blasted with air. Comical and well shot.

They begin by showing photos of their studio and the evolution of its interior.

“We have this condition, if there is no money, we do whatever we want.”

Their work is beautiful, on trend, and wonderfully presented.

Some great insights into their process. Ideas, rejections, discoveries, triumphs.

Hosting events and growing their network.

They speak of delving deeply into the culture of their clients and pushing the boundaries of inherit relevancy.

They garner laughs easily from the English speaking audience, even with Catalan as their main tongue. Their visual and verbal storytelling are impressive.

Really fantastic work. These gentlemen are striving and delivering above and beyond.

They give us great insight into their process. Their initial discussions with the clients. Their deep dive into research. Their storyboarding sketches. Their initial line works. Their approach to animation. Their presentation of the final deliverables. Their client relationship evolution. Their approach to photography.


I’m quite impressed.

They talk about their approach to solving the unique problems that each of their clients present to them. How every solution is derived from a tailored approach. They are experts in wholly understanding the problem, setting the parameters, and delivering a wildly successful solution.

The breadth of engaging styles they are able to accomplish with their work is astounding.

They routinely give us insights into the making of their work. Significant depth in the behind the scenes videos. The good ideas and the bad. They manage to avoid the ugly.

Every new client. Every new animation. Every new story. They continue to impress. Cheers from the audience. Goosebumps on my skin. These guys are the real fucking deal. Pay attention to them. They’re only 26. They are going to be prolific. They are going to change the game.

They already are.

So amicable. So approachable. So much process. So much insight. Incredible presentation from an incredible studio. I’m excited to witness their career.

They have no problem transcending cultural barriers to connect with audiences in meaningful ways around the world.

They even do us the pleasure of showing personal projects, clips from studio life, and snapshots into their lives that drive their creative output as professionals.

Now, Adi Goodrich. She complains about the difficulty of spelling Cincinnati. Nothing is difficult to spell in the information age with the internet at your fingertips. Try harder, Ms. Goodrich.

She shows us her sets. All of the backdrops are handmade and hand painted. She says they don’t print. She doesn’t say why. At first glance it would seem to reduce costs greatly if the scenes were digitally manufactured and then printed. More insight into this would have been appreciated.

She goes further into how little they get paid for how much time they spend painting the scenes. It’s still not clear why that is the preferred modus operandi. Maybe because the budgets are too low to afford printed scenes? Labor can be sweat equity. Extra time can be added for no cost by self, friends, family.

She just said the word “like” seven times in a row.

She’s hammering home the idea that set design is a lot of work. Preaching to the choir with the attendant audience.

She takes us through the guys who work for her. Talking about how she gave all of them a chance when they first moved to LA.

She claims that everything she does is “100% original.”

Horse shit.

This is after a slide of painted plants. Hardly original. She then goes on to talk about how she utilizes marbled paper – something with which many artists experiment – because it can’t be duplicated.

She claims she’s obsessed with materials, but the reality is she is obsessed with herself. Everything is disgusting and unoriginal unless she is the catalyst.

She creates some beautiful work undoubtedly, but “100% original” is a lofty claim that is impossible.

“One must always recognize the influence of those that have gone before.”

-Charles Eames


“Nothing is original.”

-Jim Jarmusch

She talks about her influences and where she arrived at the direction for her latest set, but does not think that she has lifted any ideas from them.

This woman is a complete narcissist. Everything that looks at all similar to her efforts is obviously a complete copy of her idea (in her mind). It’s frustrating to hear her discuss inspirations nonchalantly – artists that are globally popular – and then claim plagiarism when a contemporary produces work likely taking inspiration from the same source as she did.

“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing. ”

-Salvador Dali

She’s quite high on herself.

Nothing she’s shown is unique.

She’s constantly contradicting herself.

“We saw this image of Jane Fonda on a bed” “So we made this bed that looked just like it”

Keep telling us about how unique and original you are…

Don’t be fooled. The Earth does not revolve around the Sun. It revolves around Adi Goodrich.

“There’s an easier way to do things, but for some reason we thought hand-dotting was best.”

It would seem most of her process is not thought out, but just copying past masters.

Don’t get me wrong, her work is well rendered and high quality, but she has an inflated ego about the originality of her ideas.

“There are easier ways to do all of these things, but we really do believe doing it in camera is best”

But, WHY?

Give us a reason why it’s worth it to spend all of this money, time, and resources to create a set that is going to end up in the garbage dump at the end of the shoot? Why not utilize digital when appropriate? It would certainly be beneficial to the environment. It would be less waste. Less needless consumption for the vanguard of advertisement, already a huge burden on our ecology and psychology.

She complains about not receiving any credit for her work. How no one is pumping her ego as much as she does her own.

She then proceeds to put down photography. Saying how easy it is. How anyone could do it. How boring it is. I know a good number of professional photographers who would disagree.

Ms. Goodrich, you’re not creating art. You’re creating advertisements. Your work is not original. Realize your place in the grand scheme. You’re not pushing the viewer to question. You’re pushing the viewer to buy a product that he or she probably doesn’t even need.

–Tim Karoleff

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