Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 2012: Recap
by Joy Burke
This year’s WMC Fest was filled with some of the best things it could have been filled with: inspiring talks from and with design heroes, awesome live shows from great bands, perfect weather, and hot dogs and tots multiple times a day at the Happy Dog. Cleveland rocked.
Friday night started out with a bang as attendees filled the space to meet each other and enjoy an awesome kickoff to a great weekend. Of all design conferences I’ve been to, the people who came to the WMC Fest were the most down-to-earth, humble people just looking to have a great time, support each other and talk about how we can do things better.
The second couple of days were filled with great talks and groovy music, including a show by some of my Chicago buddies who rock so hard as the band called Cut Teeth (more about them below). Here are a few things I took away from the fest.
Fight to do the work you love.
Love It, or Leave It
Tad Carpenter is easily one of the coolest adults I’ve ever met, and lives in my home state to boot! This guy is the epitome of doing good work because you believe in it and you love it. One can’t help but flip through his work and smile at his incredibly endearing illustrations and design style.
Here are some of the awesome little clips of advice Tad shared with us:
- Don’t discriminate on what you make.
- We ain’t showy. We act kind.
- “Everyone has a masterpiece within them from birth.” – Gordon Mackenzie
- Risk and stretch and walk out on thin ice and ask yourself, “I wonder if I can stand here.”
- Remember the importance of PLAY! Like our dear friend and comrade Pamela Meyer says, we have to create space for ourselves to play.
- Don’t forget that we GET to do this. Our jobs are hard, but they’re awesome. Stop complaining so much, or go do something different that will make you happy.
- Try to apply a concept to every single little thing you do.
- We are storytellers! Clients hire us to tell their story in a way they don’t know how to. That’s where we come in, we get to tell these stories visually.
- Don’t ever let it get UNfun!
- Invent something you would love. Write something you would read. Make something you would buy.
- If you don’t love it, leave it!
How to Change the World with a Girl and a Computer
Jen Myers is a passionate interactive designer and developer who started the Columbus chapter of a program called Girl Develop It, which teaches beginner-level programming classes geared to female students. Her presentation opened with some pretty crazy stats, including one that states that only 18% of web designers and developers are women. How whack is that?! A few of us Chicagoans are now seeking to start a chapter here and spread the good work. Stay tuned…
All I want to do is make cute things!
For being such a respectable business woman, Julia Kuo is the cutest thing ever. With her Wacom tablet plugged in on stage, she showed us how to make anything in the world look happy (I’m not even kidding). This entrepreneur told us how to live doing what you love, even if that simply means drawing cute things. She’s done work for big-guns like the New York Times and Capitol Records, is part founder of the Nimbus Factory, and co-authored a book for people new to Cleveland based on her blog 100 Days in Cleveland.
Pursue your passions, even if it means creating it for yourself.
This man, Matt Stevens, is so great. He walked us through a couple projects that started out as one thing and became something totally different, something even greater than he had thought they could be. And that’s an important thing for us as designers to keep in mind. We need to remain flexible and let projects evolve into what they will. His passion for Nike shoes led him to illustrating tons of them in different themes, which eventually led to his MAX100 project and a lot more great work thereafter. It just goes to show you never know where doing what you love may take you. He read this perfectly relevant quote to us by Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Word, Teddy. A couple pointers from Matt:
- Fight to do the kind of work you want to do. Give something up.
- People are attracted to momentum. And once you start rolling, it gets easier and easier.
You can do anything. Just go do it.
Good, Bad & Ugly
I am one of the millions of people who love Friends of Type, but one of the luckiest that got to meet them in person and hang with them a bit during the fest. What an awesome group of guys, and so humble for doing such bodacious work. Heart-broken, I had to leave after the first part of their talk on Sunday to catch the bus back to Chicago, but they somehow managed to move me even in that short bit of time. They told us the story of how FoT came to be… and that it took 8 hours to create and start. Amazing. These guys radiate with an energy that must be fueled by having this passion project where they can simply do what they love.
Writing: The Secret Weapon of Any Career
Best-selling author and artist, Austin Kleon, spoke about the importance of reading and writing to enhance your design skills and gave us some pointers on how to do so. After all, being a better writer will help you be a better communicator, which is what design is all about.
- All writing is collage. You take words that were previously invented, sentences previously written, and you write something different, but it’s still a collage. So just make it.
- Read, read, read. (And write in your books). Start by reading what you love, and then read the books that came before that, and books by similar authors.
- Keep a swipe file (like an inspiration drawer to reference when you want/need to).
- Always carry paper and pen. Artists need pockets. You need to be able and ready to write things down as they come to you at any given moment.
- Step away from the screen. Austin, himself, has two desks in his office: one digital desk and one analog desk, and says the difference of switching modes can make all the difference when creating things.
- Don’t wait until you know what you think to get started.
- Keep a daily routine. You’re never going to find the time, you have to make it. For example, every morning from 7-7:30 you are unavailable to the rest of the world because you are writing.
- Write something you would want to read, and write to satisfy one person. That will help you to focus and make it worth it in the end.
- Tell (Oprah) stories.
- Practice in public.
Don’t Be An Asshole.
Tuesday Bassen is a wonderful, awesome chick. So much so that she landed a gig with Target right after graduating with her BFA. Her talk reminded us all the importance of not being an asshole. Seriously, though! Be awesome, be kind, talk to everyone, hustle, work really hard. If you can manage to keep up with these, everything will be okay and work out alright. What a simple yet easily-forgettable and important message. Tuesday works and lives that positivity in New York City as one of the creators of Studio Sweet Studio.
Let’s be more of who we are. Together. All at once.
Nate Utesch’s talk had me covered in goosebumps. This guy is an artist, musician, and independent publisher of Ferocious Quarterly, a gorgeously curated publication of varying works of art and writing. He talked about the importance of creating and making things because it’s who we are, and to prove those things to ourselves. “Pluck the unplucked! Be relentless!” Yeah!!
How to Say No Like a Boss
Margot Harrington taught us all how to gracefully say no without burning bridges or working ourselves too hard. Turning down work is so much harder than it may seem at first. We’re hungry and we just want to make great work for everyone, right? Well there’s only so much time in a day hunny, and not every project is the right fit for you. We have to be mindful of what we need to give up when taking on new work.
Here are a few pointers from Margot:
- Define your brand. Do a project about it, write it out, whatever you have to do. This is important because as time goes by, it’s easy to forget the basic identity of your brand. Physically defining and documenting it will give you some groundwork to come back to when things start to get crazy.
- Hustle. Sell it, follow it, follow through, and have an exit strategy. You’ve got to know your boundaries and how to handle the situations when boundaries are reached.
- Profits. Know what’s coming in and what’s going out. Practice mock salary negotiations with someone so that when the time comes, you’re able to handle them with grace and professionalism.
- Time management. Are you prepared to give up something else if you take on this new work? Check your calendar constantly and stay on top of your scheduling. Don’t ignore the signs that show you’ve been working too much. Force yourself to take time off. It will do more good for you and your business than working yourself sick will.
- The work. The things you make are influenced by every other part of your life, so make sure the other things in your life are what you want to be influencing your work.
Let’s not forget that this was part design conference, part rock show! Some of my Chicago friends are in a freaking awesome band called Cut Teeth who were part of the fest’s line-up. Check them out when you’re not in the mood to feel mellow, because they will make you want to jump or dance or run into things or something, whatever it may be you will have fun. Great show and great jams, guys!
Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 2012 was one of the best weekends I’ve had in quite a while. There’s nothing like being surrounded by like-minded creatives, down-to-earth people, and awesome music and food to re-energize your mind, body and soul.