Takeaways From Creative Control Fest 4

Creative Control Fest is an annual creative gathering in Columbus, Ohio aimed at bringing ethnically and culturally diverse community together. It was inspired by some of the efforts of our own design festival Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, and works to provide exposure, resources, and opportunities in the design and creative fields to its members.


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The event began on Friday, September 11th at 7pm with a party, connecting attendees with one another. A DJ kept the music running all night while attendees collaborated on a large, paint-by-numbers illustration.

Saturday, September 12th, was a day full of workshops, talks, and collaborative art. I decided to head in after the first workshop, which was a 4-part series that aimed to help those who were wanting to take their performance art product to the stage.

Got my path planned out. Should be a great day. #ccfiv

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My path lead me through three speakers and two workshops. Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend everything, so I missed out on Chris Cochran’s workshop on landing a job in advertising, Larry Smith’s “6 Word Slam” workshop, and Melissa Kimble’s workshop about using social media in your career.

After the talks, attendees were treated to a 4-person art battle and a concert inside of the theater.

A major, shared message that I took away from most that I attended was about empowering ourselves and the people around us with constructive feedback, a willingness to collaborate and help, and a willingness to be advocates for each other to help create supportive communities.

Marshall and Corey opening us up. #ccfiv

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Most of Saturday’s festivities took place at the Lincoln Theatre and Jazz Academy in downtown Columbus. The Lincoln Theatre is a beautiful venue. I hope that, as CCF continues to grow, they can fully take advantage of the entire theater. The onstage setup was well done, but we need to figure out how to fill out these seats.

Speaker: Piper Kerman

Piper told her story about what she’s done after she left the prison environment that many of us are familiar with from her book ‘Orange is the New Black’. Her main message was asking those creatives in the audience to decide what their creative intention was. Is it to make something cool? Or is it to advance a message?

“In your work, how are you changing the world and how is the world changing you?” Piper Kerman

My major takeways from her fireside chat:

  • Take ownership and control over your stories. Don’t let outside forces dictate your telling of the experience. Be a participant, not just an observer.
  • There are three pieces of a good story: the facts, how the writer wants their side of the story perceived, and the relationship between the two.
  • If you’re a creative, there’s no worse feedback than no feedback at all. “If you aren’t getting negative feedback, you aren’t pushing yourself enough.”
  • “To get better, you want challenges, not just head pats.”
  • Decide what your creative intention is. Do you want to do something cool or do you want to do something lasting? “If you want to change perceptions, you have to be willing to relinquish creative control.” If your intention is to push social justice and be an activist, to reach the most people you have to collaborate with mass media, who’s creative intention is to profit.

Workshop: Dr. Melissa Crum

Melissa pushed her students to look past historical assumptions about a person or situation, and create your own story before your perception. We were split into groups of four to look at a piece of art and tell the story of what was taking place.

We started off by sharing our own initial reactions. Then, we looked at the historical significance of some of the imagery and examined how that affected our story? We learned the artist’s intentions and motivations for the work. Did that affect our perception?

The two major takeaways from this workshop:

  • Make your own story. Whether it’s stopping yourself from getting road rage, or stopping yourself from prejudging a situation, put yourself in their shoes.
  • Different doesn’t always equal deficient. Someone who is loud or quiet in a class doesn’t mean they don’t care about the subject.

Workshop: Alison Chapman from Igloo Letterpress

Using old wooden fonts. #ccfiv

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Alison talked about her story on how she got involved in letterpress and why she made it her career. During the class we learned a more rustic technique at putting together a letterpress poster. It was a very relaxed and social class. The focus was getting involved and getting our hands dirty. And yes, there were gloves if we weren’t okay with getting a little paint on us.

Speaker: Sonia BasSheva Mañjon, PhD

Dr. Sonia talked to us about she’s been working with a team of four to push their “Full Participation” movement. A movement that allows underprivileged ethnically diverse students to go to college and get the most out of it. She’s also been working with non-profit artists to transition them to self-sustaining enterprises.

Another major focus of Dr. Sonia is the 100 Families project in Oakland, California. This project is aimed at connecting families to families, families to neighborhoods, and neighborhoods to neighborhoods through art. Each family collaborates with other families to create public works of art.

Speaker: Adrian Franks

Adrian Franks is the Design Director at IBM and talked about why being social is so important to expressing and pushing your ideas to their full potential. He talked about the work of the Wright Brothers, Martin Luther King, and Steve Jobs. If they had only relied on themselves, their ideas would not have reached as far as they had with a community around them.

“Ideas start with individuals, but require a community to come to life.” Adrian Franks

Ideas, by default, are social by nature. When you get an idea, you normally tend to want to share that idea. When you do, you get feedback. With that feedback, you can improve it and reach more people. And that cycle of sharing your ideas, then working on improving them based on the feedback you receive, is the only way for your ideas to reach it’s maximum level.

“Ideas can’t just replace other ideas.” Adrian Franks

He showed an example of how the iPhone replaced the camcorder, walkman, pager, original cell phone, polaroid, map, laptop, and even a notebook. But, if that’s all it did, the idea wouldn’t have survived. But, because it allowed for social connectivity, and because it created a community around it, it took over.


I also walked out with some great swag. I mean, come on. What’s the point of going to an event like this if you aren’t walking away with something cool.

Attendees received swag bags when they arrived. But, I also was able to get some cool items from the vendor area.

Some of my takeaway swag from #ccfiv.

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Shoutouts to Joshua Wallace for the cool shirt and of course the plus from Little Critters.

And of course, I bought an official CCFIV shirt:

Truth. #ccfiv

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Overall Thoughts

After becoming an organizer of Cleveland design conference Weapons of Mass Creation, I made a promise to myself to become more involved in what the community, as a whole, was doing. We say that WMC is “three days that change your life”. And while that’s become very true in most cases, we can’t just depend on 3 days of being together to grow. We need to continue to help each other.

Our focus, as members of the community, shouldn’t be just to make sure we bring our best selves with us to Cleveland once a year. We have to take that message home with us, help those around, and continue to push each other.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect going to Creative Control. It was different. The messaging was different. The focus was different. The assortment of content was different. But, in the end, the idea that we have to help each other continued to be shouted loudly.

Marshall, Corey, and the rest of the CCF team are doing great things in Columbus. I’m looking forward to connecting with them later this year to see what we can do together to keep CCF growing and improving.