PePcon – Woohoo!

sunDesign

So, I put about zero thought into taking photos in Chicago. I just snapped this masterpiece during a moment of being happy.

Last week was PePcon (the Print and ePublishing Conference)—something I’ve been wanting to attend for some time! I’ve had a printout of their website on my bulletin board for years as a reminder. This year, I decided I could go for one day, the final day. I hear there were approximately 600 people from over 20 countries in attendance!!

I took an Amtrak train for the first time and I loved it. Rails up! Ha. So much less formal than a plane. More room, more freedom to walk around, more grounded. No strict rules about tray tables and chairs in their upright positions. Less expensive. Better for the environment (I can only imagine, having done zero research on the matter but seeming to recall flying is pretty bad). It gave me this “backpacking across Europe” free-spirited feeling. Though, with my lack of sleep the night prior, the train traveling for an hour longer than planned (slower), and the people near me talking about zombies, vampires, and cannibals for what seemed like 75% of our five hours together, the last hour at least I spent going stir crazy and wanting off that train now. Then I had to figure out the multiple bus routes, which was getting so confusing I almost walked. I’m glad I did not, because it was quite hot outside. I thought the hotel said to take Metra, but the very-much-in-a-hurry lady at the counter wrote a phone number on a piece of paper faster than I’ve ever seen anyone write and told me nope, call this number, that route number isn’t Metra. Overall not my favorite stretch of my trip, but it all worked out.

Naturally, I had to stay at the LEED-certified hotel, Hotel Felix (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). It was really beautiful and I had a wonderful stay.

My first night I had a thoroughly enjoyable dinner with my boss men Corey and Mike, who happen to live not too far away. Such fun personalities. Thanks guys!!!

The next morning it was off on a 10-15 minute walk to the conference, with the temperature already rising. Do I wear my running shoes and change into my dressier ones, and have to carry them around, or just walk in the dressy ones? Decisions. I arrived to find materials waiting for me including a nice notebook and an awesome clear glass mug with the conference logo on it. I LOVE IT!!

First up: ePubs. I’ve been converting books to digital for years and was hoping to learn some things, which naturally I did. There’s always something to learn :). While I don’t philosophically agree with everything mentioned, it was a very enjoyable session and I picked up some great tips! There are clearly some features of CSS I’m not as familiar with as I could be. (You know, the beyond-basic cascading part of cascading style sheets.) I also loved what our speaker Ron said about the CSS InDesign exports. His comment was that yes, it can export CSS and it’s improving all the time, and it may be usable for a final product depending on the complexity of your document and your taste/standards (it’s never been usable for me straight out of the box!). “But that’s not where we’re at.” WE (those of us in the room ;) are there to do better. To create our own that exceeds the export quality. There’s only so much the program can accomplish; human intervention is preferable. I couldn’t agree more!

Next up: Creative Suite and how they work together, and lots of tips, with hilarious speaker Russell. Um, can you say Recolor Artwork feature for Illustrator? Wow! I don’t use Illustrator super often; not in comparison with InDesign. Also, I gained some appreciation for Adobe Bridge, which I never really use.

During one break, I stuck around for a minute before heading out to eat. We were told there would be snacks. I was coming to the conclusion that either they were all gone or coffee was the snack. Let me mention that the food was amazing at the conference! They really took care of us (I had salmon for lunch). I just didn’t happen to find it this time. So as I’m walking around looking, stomach growling, I notice a lady who is seemingly doing the same thing. She says something to me and we discover we are indeed both snack hunting without success. She’s a lifesaver and goes up to her room at the same hotel and brings down food! It turns out she was a speaker on a previous day, so her welcome packet included some extras that were edible. We both had our blonde hair pulled back in a low ponytail and both had cute metal glasses. (Well, I guess mine were probably hanging off my shirt; used for class only. Maybe if I had them on, I would have seen the snacks.) We both were wearing button-up shirts under a sweater. She says she wrote a blog post about PDF commenting, and so did I. Then, she tells me that my handwriting looks like a font. Needless to say, I immediately adore her (hi, Kelly!). I just saw that she holds Adobe Expert certifications and I think that’s pretty awesome. Hmmm, I wonder what’s involved with obtaining those . . .

At the end of the day I bump into her again and we share some time talking, and I join her and some other attendees for dinner. As we are walking to the restaurant, it cools off and gets windy and rainy, and we back up against the building and just watch it for a minute. Exhilarating!! Sandee was clever enough to go get us hotel umbrellas. She is an author of many InDesign books, and she asked us an InDesign puzzle. (I won’t give it away because I think it might be a future post of hers. Not sure.) Admittedly I didn’t know the answer instantly. Kelly hadn’t heard the puzzle yet and got us to the first step, and there was some discussion about how it gets you part of the way. Then I felt pretty confidant about what the next step would be, though it’s a feature I never use. Sandee about jumped out of her seat she was so excited. (Mind you, she’s a pretty vocal and outgoing lady already. And we’re in a quiet Thai restaurant.) I thought it was pretty neat to get it right, but she says no, you don’t understand. You’re the first person I’ve asked who has gotten it right all conference! I’m thinking that’s cool, but perhaps she just asked a few primarily Photoshop users. No, I’ve asked maybe 20 people. HEAVY-HITTER names in the InDesign industry! BIG names! And then she named some. And then I got excited. Yep, I recognize those, including . . . ahem, dare I say it? It’s so good! Nah, I won’t name names. Kelly might have gotten it too, I just beat her to it ;). Okay, so there are ton of features I don’t know anything about, I’m quite certain. But I’m still excited and Sandee’s still loud (which was kind of fun). She declares it’s because we both like logic puzzles.

On our way back to our hotels (still raining), I was accompanied by dinner mate Jean Claude, a Canadian who has been in the pre-press industry for years and now does technical editing for Adobe (so he gets to read about the new programs before they come out!). His hotel being a block farther than mine in the same direction, we shared his umbrella as we walked and talked about printing and typography. Am I painting this clearly enough? Not remotely. Downtown Chicago evening. Overcast sky. Exciting wind. Rain. French accent. Huddled under an umbrella and still getting fairly soaked. Rain dripping down my face. Discussing typography. There’s a feeling of quiet, shared appreciation for craftsmanship and fantasies of spending years apprenticing with a typography master hanging in the air. Brick buildings and bright awnings with an overlay of rain color. Streetlights and tail lights reflecting in the puddles. Time slowing down. He references true typographers as technicians. And I almost gasped. What a beautiful way to reference the precision I love. And then, a kiss on my cheek and he was gone. (It’s just a French thing.) I am by no means a master typographer, but I do notice it and I do care. I suspect this was nothing to him; a normal walk and talk. But to me, it was a dream.

After basking in that afterglow for a bit, I decided to take myself out to a bar or club for some music, alone at night on the streets of Chicago I’m not familiar with. I had to walk so far to find such a place . . . the entire width of an intersection. It was quite an adventure (hahaha). A musician with an amazing voice was playing, and they had organic food. I wasn’t thrilled that my little glass of orange juice cost $4, but oh well :).

The next morning it’s check out and figure out the bus thing again, to get back to the train station. Of course now I’m an old pro and it’s no big thang. I walk out of my way a bit to grab take-out lunch at a raw foods restaurant; not something I have easy access to back home! I’m sitting in Union Station on these big wooden benches, working, when a young guy walks up to the girl next to me and asks her if she’s an artist; he says she looks like one. At first I find it ironic, since she’s looking at things on her phone and I’m working and doing artsy things that very moment but apparently I don’t look the part ;). A familiar desire to color my hair passes through my mind (I used to!). And then I realize it was partially just a line to try to get money out of her for a fundraising campaign. I think it’s entirely possible his good cause is legit, but his tactics irk me nonetheless and I’m glad this 19-year-old put some thought into it. Good cause or not, there’s no way I’m going to log into PayPal or type my credit card information into the laptop of someone who just walked up to me. He was using massive over-flattery (I’m internally rolling my eyes) and trying to make conversation, but probing too deep. Do you live here or are you visiting? is one thing, considering we’re at a train station. How old are you? and Do you pay rent? are not quite acceptable questions in my mind!

My train ride home was much more enjoyable. I was more rested and was able to work the entire trip. On the way in, I thought I had the train thing all figured out. Workers came through a few minutes after we started moving and checked our tickets, and put paper tags above each row with one or two lines written on. “Oh, you have a little one? I’ll give you two seats in case he needs to sleep.” Two slash lines go on the tag. It makes perfect sense! We’re able to get up and walk around to the cafe cars and such, so when new passengers board at the next stop, they will know where available seats are whether they are occupied or not. Got it. Not? On the trip home, they wrote “5” on every tag. Nope, I don’t get it.

And now it’s on me to make the time to go through all of the handouts and determine how and where to implement what I’ve learned!