Weapons Declassified: Jeff Finley

Weapons Declassified: Jeff Finley

Written & Designed by: Raji Purcell

Photography by: Pablo Contreras

This is the first of many articles to come in a series of write-ups on the talks given at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest: Weapons Declassified. With this series, I hope to distill the essence of each speaker’s talk and give an insight into what it was like to attend an amazing event such as this.

Here’s what happened:

Still early in the day, just around noon, the Reinberger Auditorium was beginning to fill with eager WMC Fest-goers; all waiting to witness Go Media’s very own Jeff Finley officially kick off the fest. Jeff walked on stage right at his scheduled time, stated his name, welcomed everyone, and asked “How many people really couldn’t sleep well last night”, not forgetting to include himself.

Admittedly, I also could hardly sleep the night before. As if it wasn’t enough to meet such awesome designers during my internship at Go Media; I also had the pleasure of meeting a handful of the other designers who would be speaking and displaying their work at Wall Eye Gallery this year, and was about to meet other heavy-hitters from all over the country that I respect very deeply.

“I’m an artist and designer. I would call myself a Weapon of Mass Creation, because that is what I live for. Every single day I am creating something.”

Parachute Journalists Jeff FinleyFest 7 Poster Jeff FinleyFunk Rush Poster Jeff Finley

Continuing his speech, Jeff expressed his excitement (which rivaled, if not surpassed my own) and showed off some slides of his amazingly meticulous and textural illustration and design. He told of how he got his start in the rock poster scene and how that, in turn, inspired the fest’s co-mingling of design, art, and music. Jeff has attended, sponsored, and volunteered at many different festivals from South by Southwest in Texas, to the Fest in my home-state of Florida. He explained to everyone that he didn’t want to just do the same thing, he wanted to make it his own by bringing in his favorite bands, artists, and designers to Cleveland.

“Inspired by DIY Punk Rock culture, I said I’m just going to do it and do it my way.”

Elaborating more on the criteria he used in picking the speakers and designers at WMC, Jeff outlined the roles of a Weapon of Mass Creation: Artist or Designer, Developer, and Entrepreneur.

Jeff Finley Pull QuoteHe pushed this concept further, by urging everyone to get out and meet other designers in order to collaborate. He cited the efforts of such designers as Jessica Hische who create their own side projects not for money, but for notoriety (a suggestion that would be echoed by nearly every speaker to come). Jeff stressed that, though “we’re all in the same industry, and we’re all competing for the same clients, we should still collaborate and share secrets”. He spoke about how more established designers should share with up-and-coming designers; whether this be in the form of a tutorial, or just being a mentor. He expressed that WMC Fest is a great opportunity to do just that: to meet designers and become their mentor, or collaborator.

I feel that he couldn’t have been more dead-on about this.

Over the course of two days (not even including the mixer the night before) I met designers that I had previously only known because of their amazing work online – people that many outside the design community have never heard of, but that I treat as if I were meeting Picasso.

According to Jeff, designers like myself and the others around WMC Fest meeting will help grow our design community and economy.

“I feel like the economy within the art and design community is so prosperous…we all support each other’s businesses and each other’s projects. We’re all supporting each other’s economies just within the design community.”

Jeff praised the WMC community for being full of self starters that take matters into their own hands, regardless of their job situation, and encouraged others to do the same. He said his personal catch phrase is “Defy the hand you’re dealt,” pushing for others to not wait for opportunities- but to make them! This was such inspiring advice right off the bat. Especially for me, being one of those up and coming designers- nearly graduated from school and looking to establish myself in this arena of design. I felt very motivated to do more with my skill set.

Jeff continued to speak about his aspirations for growing WMC Fest and the possibility of it being twice as big next year. He sent us off with the declaration that we should use the fest as an opportunity to party and celebrate each other and each other’s work. With that; it was official.

I had the opportunity to speak with some other people in the crowd about Jeff’s speech and WMC in general. I met Andrea Knapp, a high school student and aspiring artist/designer. She told me being a follower of Go Media, the tutorials in the GoMediaZine and the Arsenal, she was really inspired to see Jeff talk.

I also met a college grad and fashion/craft blog owner named Amanda Johnson who felt it was “inspiring to be with other self starters.” She also felt motivated “to work on all the things in the back of her mind.”

I felt a common bond with Andrea and Amanda in that I was just like Andrea in high school eagerly making art and following Go Media. Amanda made me remember that I too should be thinking about all those ideas I have in the back of my head too.

I started feeling that creative hunger that I love. I could tell this was the start of a great series of talks.

Listen to the Talk

As I watched every talk, I kept Garage Band open on my MacBook and recorded everything I could. So the quality of the mp3 below may not be the best, but you can get an idea of what it was like from my perspective in the front row. Bootleg version!