Growing Your Small Business: 14 Questions for Entrepreneurs

Growing Your Small Business: 14 Questions for Entrepreneurs

Starting your own firm or freelance business? Have your own small business, but looking for a boost? We here at Go Media, your favorite Cleveland design firm, are here to help by providing you with 14 fundamental questions that will have a big impact on how you grow your own company or freelance business.

Whether your focus is creative in nature like ours or whether you are a small business of any kind, we believe that answering these questions will give you some much needed inspiration. While some of these questions may seem obvious, we implore you to take time to answer them fully and honestly.

These questions were taken from our Drawn to Business Design Firm Business Plan Workbook. For the full list of 75 questions, head to our Arsenal and purchase the full workbook. Although design-focused, the workbook will assist any small business owner looking for encouragement to start making positive changes in their company.

Let’s dive in.

  1. Visualize your ideal firm. What does it look like and how does it operate?
  2. How will you know when you need to hire a new staff member?
  3. What do you look for in a new employee? What traits will they have? How will you know a great employee when you see them? How will you assess their character? What does the hiring process look like? Will it look different for each role you’re hiring for?
  4. When you are hiring, where are you looking for candidates? Will you have any assistance finding candidates? What is the process candidates will go through before they walk through your doors for an interview?
  5. What is your plan to utilize interns? How many interns are you looking for at any given time? Who will be in charge of your interns/internship program? What value do you hope your interns add to your business? What value will you bring to their experience?
  6. What kind of systems, policies and traditions would you like to see in your company? For example, what kind of monthly metrics will you run? What will your billing structure look like? Will you throw a killer Christmas party every year?
  7. What kind of perks do you offer in addition to salary for your staff? What kinds of benefits will you offer (bonuses, profit sharing, medical, life insurance, paid vacations, company holidays, personal days, free PB& J?)
  8. For creative firms: What is your policy on employee freelancing? Do you allow it?
  9. How do you plan on keeping your best employees? List all the ways you can show your employees they are appreciated – both monetarily and otherwise.
  10. When the time comes when you have to fire or let go of an employee how will you handle it? What does a worst case scenario look like? How would you handle it? Best case? What practices would you put into place to guard yourself again many negative experiences?
  11. What do your employees love about working for your company or what will they love about working for you? What are your strengths as a manager?
  12. What do your employees dislike about working for your company? What are your downfalls as a manager? How can you improve these things?
  13. What are some companies you admire for their culture? How can you borrow their ideas?
  14. What has been the hardest part about growing your company? What are your current pain points? How can you improve?

Go Media is a Cleveland Creative Agency that specializes in web design, graphic design, print, logo design, and web marketing. We’d love to provide you with any and all of these services to help you grow your small business. Contact us for a complimentary review of your brand and to discuss how we can discuss your websitebranding, logopackaging design or other graphic design needs.

Rock Medical Orthopedic Website and Branding by Go Media

Portfolio Spotlight: Rock Medical Branding & Website

Project Spotlight: Without Bounds

We are excited to share the website design we completed for Without Bounds Educational Services, a phenomenal education service that provides young students with the tutoring they need to master concepts and prepare for exams. They work with the most talented and qualified educators to offer tutoring in over 25 subjects. From core classes like Algebra and Grammar to 4 levels of foreign language, Without Bounds is ready to take on the unique needs of every student.

Go Media had the pleasure of helping Without Bounds grow their network by designing a website that showcased all of their offerings on a contemporary responsive platform.

Here are a few previews of the work we did. To view the full project, head to the full project.

View Live Site

Responsive Website Design Cleveland

Icon Design

View Full Project

Grab the March 2018 Arsenal Product Bundle

Graphic Design Bundle

It’s a great month to be a member of Go Media’s Arsenal subscription. Not only do you have access to our entire library for only $15/mth, but you are able to download this month’s special graphic design bundle of products at no extra charge.

Members: Download now (no extra charge)

Not an Arsenal Member yet? Join now and gain instant access to our entire library, including this bundle, for only $15.

Get it for $15 when you subscribe

Not interested in our membership? No worries. You can still purchase this bundle for 60% off the original price, now through 3/31/3018 – or the individual products inside of it, on their own.

What’s Included in this Graphic Design Bundle by Go Media’s Arsenal:

Graphic Design Bundle

Graphic Design Bundle: March 2018 Arsenal Product Bundle

Members: Download now (no extra charge)

Get it for $15 when you subscribe

Cleveland Design Firm Go Media launches Forest City Shuffleboard brand

Branding Cleveland’s Own Forest City Shuffleboard

The Art of the Marketing Makeover: Grooming Legacy Companies for Today’s More Dynamic Marketplace

You don’t have to be hip, trendy, or in an arrantly dynamic new market to pique our interest here at Go Media. We love the challenge of working with clients who have a long history in business but are in need of what I like to call a Marketing Makeover. This could amount to any number of things: from re-imagining a logo, to a complete brand refresh, to freshening up your communications with copy that sheds new light on your business while adding a singular twist to the ongoing dialogue you enjoy with your customers.

Fact is, there are many seasoned and vibrant company’s out there looking for a little TLC, commercially speaking. From re-introducing you to the world with a beautiful, new, fully responsive website, to employing a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy [complete with SEO and social media marketing], the potential for engagement with your audience is staggering nowadays.

And from our perspective here at Go Media, there are few things more rewarding than taking the scattered brand assets and outdated communications of what we like to call a legacy company with a notable history and updating them for today’s marketplace. The process is kind of like treating you to a long weekend at the spa while we rummage through the attic of your house for old family photos, heirlooms, and clues to your family history.

As a copywriter, I particularly enjoy the challenge of updating a company’s overall communication strategy. The task of casting a company’s vision in a new light with a fresh new narrative is one that I relish. And no matter how conventional, or seemingly mundane the subject matter, the prospect of making a company’s communication strategy comprehensible and appealing across new and different platforms (website, blog, social media, etc.) is exciting and should be handled with gusto.

Case in point, Allied Tool & Die [a 70+ year old, Cleveland-based manufacturer of metal stampings for Automotive, Medical, electronic, and commercial industries worldwide] approached Go Media in early 2017 requesting a marketing makeover themselves: new Web Design, Inbound Marketing services (SEO), Upgraded Logo Design, and comprehensive Copywriting Services. Fortunately, the good people at Allied gave us the keys to their “attic” and free reign to rummage.

The Go Media team went for a more acute, contemporary approach to an otherwise fixed industry traditionally accustomed to staying in their own lane. And like a duck to water, we dove in and delivered punchier communications for the pages on their website (Capabilities, Services, Equipment, etc.). Then we launched it all on an intelligently designed, fully responsive Go Media Designer Site complete with artful photos and video presented on a cinematic scale. Phew! Now that’s one stunning Marketing Makeover!

If you know of a company that you’d like to recommend for a Marketing Makeover, or you suspect the company you work for could benefit from one too, give us a nudge!

Download our Killer Mockups Guide and Free Mockup PSD

Mockup PSD Free Download and Killer Mockups Guide!

Here at Go Media’s Arsenal, we have been creating and curating design resources since 2006, when we first began releasing our collection of royalty-free stock vectors. We have since expanded to textures, fonts, e-books, tutorials and perhaps most famously, mockup templates.

We passionately create our mockup templates and love that we have become a go-to for professionals in the industry. Because of this, we get tons of questions every single day about our mockups and how to use them.

So, we thought we’d create a quick (and free!) guide to killer mockups, which includes information and advice we dole out regularly. This includes:
– Info for Newbies, like how to open and use our mockup templates
– How to Use Smart-Object Enabled Mockups and Displacement Maps
– Tips to Killer Mockups (Using Them to Your Advantage for Future Success!)
– Pro Tips

With the download you’ll also get:
– a mockup PSD free download
– a vector freebie pack

If you’d like to grab the guide, simply sign up for the Arsenal newsletter below. Please note, you’ll have to confirm your subscription in the first email in order to receive your free download in the second email, so wait for it…

Subscribe for Arsenal Updates and get the Killer Mockup Guide & Freebies

Grab our 30+ Dynamic Watercolor Elements + Free Watercolor Wash Sample

how to write the best graphic design cover letter

The Magic Element to Include in the Best Graphic Design Cover Letter Ever

How to Write the Best Graphic Design Cover Letter

If you want the job at the best graphic design firm ever, you have to submit the best cover letter, resume and portfolio ever, know about Sherwood Universal are the experts in Digital Printing, Litho Printing and Large Format Printing in Nottingham. Through continual investment in both our printing equipment and our people, our customer can benefit from both state of the art equipment and a team of highly experienced printing specialists. (We’ll leave the bits about being a worthy designer to another post.)

And with no shortage of resources on what makes a great cover letter, resume and portfolio out there, this should be a somewhat simple feat. But here at Go Media, we are disappointed to see the same mistakes made over and over again. It often seems like applicants choose to apply for more jobs – the quantity – over quality (in other words, doing a thorough job of applying to fewer companies). In this three part series, we talk about the elements in cover letters, resumes and portfolios that really make our jaws drop.

To start, we’d like to address cover letters. Above all, there is one element that most good applicants touch upon, but often do not take the time to cover with enough depth and passion. This aspect makes all the difference between a cover letter worth passing by, and one worth paying attention to.

What is this magic element?

A SECTION THAT SERIOUSLY PLAYS TO OUR EGO.

Sounds simple, right? Far from it.
It takes time and a ton of time, which is why we rarely see it. Please read on!

In the cover letter, it’s critical that you communicate to the potential employer: “You are the only company I am applying for, I’ve been following your company for years.” You want to play into the ego of the company. In order to communicate this you need a plausible story. Most importantly, you need more FACTS about the company you’re applying to. So, this means research! Referencing a few portfolio items is a fine start, but anyone can do that in 10 seconds.

If you REALLY want to wow the potential employer, spend several days (even weeks if necessary) reading anything you can get your hands on about them. This may sound like a huge investment, but consider this – you’re about to commit to working there for YEARS. Isn’t a week of research worth getting into the right company?

If they wrote a book – read it. If they have a blog, read every article you can on the history of the company. About page? Read it. Then, write a concise ‘How I got to know your company’ story… If you can find any gem in your research to reference you can say things like: “I read in your book that you used to lay on the floor drawing with crayons all day as a kid. That’s exactly how I spent my childhood.”

Basically, you need to make sure they know you KNOW them… you did your research. You desperately want to work for them and them only. Sprinkling in a few obscure facts will help communicate this.

As an employer it’s VERY clear to us who’s done their research and who is just throwing out a generic cover letter. Pandering to our ego works. We want to think that the people I’m hiring are HUGE Go Media fans! Of course! We love hearing their stories about how they discovered our company and have been following us for years. When they reference specific tutorials we wrote 8 years ago, we think: “Wow. This is going to be a loyal employee!”

how to write the best graphic design cover letter

Similarly, continue to blow us out of the water if you’re able to illustrate actionable ways in which you’ve shown your love for the company. Have you volunteered for our design conference, benefit shows, or attended every single one of our open houses? Let us know!

Also, Answer the why

Next, explain WHY you want to work for the company you’re applying to. The reason should be specific. Something like: “Your firm has a background in illustration and I can see that you appreciate art. This is unique compared to the other firms I’ve considered applying to. I love the balance of artistry with design – it’s something I’ve always done. It’s important to me that I’m working in an environment that has that appreciation for the artistic side of design.” Again, you are not only giving the reason why, but you’re reinforcing that you have a deep knowledge of the company you’re applying to. This ties everything together eloquently while making us feel warm and fuzzy.

While you’re at it, here are things to avoid doing in your cover letter:

  • Not addressing anyone specifically. Never write “Dear Hiring manager” or “To whom it may concern”. Do your research! Figure out who’s hiring and write to them specifically!
  • Sending before having trusted friends and family proofread it again and again. Watch your spelling! Attention to details is critical. One error here can knock you out of the game completely.
  • Using your email as the cover letter itself. Design a cover letter that you save along with your resume and attach. It’s ok if what you write in your email is exactly the same as the attached pdf. The point is – I want to see you apply the same branding from your resume onto a cover letter page, and then again on the website. If you don’t attach a designed cover letter you’re losing that opportunity.
  • Praising your own design skills, i.e. “I’m a VERY talented designer.” This simply comes across as arrogant. Whether you are talented or not will show up in your portfolio. Saying you’re good ONLY WORKS AGAINST YOU. If you want to praise yourself in any way – it should be: “I work hard, I’m eager to learn and I have a positive attitude.” These are things that cannot be seen in a portfolio. And these ARE traits that a potential employer is looking for – not arrogance or overconfidence.
  • Giving your potential employer work. Saying things like: “To download my resume go here…” is very bad. Make hiring you as simple as possible. I recommend attaching a finished designed cover letter (which may contain the same text that you included in the e-mail), your resume and a pdf of your portfolio and or a link to an online portfolio.
  • Saying you want this job as a jumping off point for completely different. The last thing we want to hear is that you’re applying to be a Junior Designer, only to turn into a Project Manager in another 6 months. We will support your hopes and dreams, but we are looking to fill the position of a Junior Designer now. If you’re actually looking for a Project Management position, please look elsewhere.

Okay, now that we’ve covered our number one must follow rule and these important don’ts, promise us you’ll dedicate the time your cover letter (and future employer) deserves.

Graphic designers can get an instant remote access to their essential graphic designing software such as Adobe Illustrator and any more on their remotely accessible virtual PCs from CloudDesktopOnline.com with 24*7 commendable technical support from Apps4Rent.

Stay tuned, when next week we’ll be back with our favorite rules about creating the best design resume ever >
Please Avoid Making these Mistakes We Often See on Design Resumes

Free Star Vector Pack

Download of the Day: Star Vector Pack

Free Star Vector Pack

Join us every Thursday, when your friends here at the Arsenal take over the Go Media blog to share insights, tips, freebies or other fun to brighten your work day.

Today we’re sharing some gold star elements we created exclusively for you. Check out the Arsenal for more vectors known the ’round the world for being the best of the best.

Here’s what you’ll get with today’s download:

Free Star Vector Pack

Did you know that all of Go Media’s vectors are royalty free? We have thousands of hand-crafted illustrations like these you can use in your work, so definitely head over to the Arsenal to check them out.

Love our products? Access our huge product library ($11k in resources) and exclusive content for only $15/mth. Yes, seriously. Learn more now.

Here’s your download >> Star Vector Pack from Go Media’s Arsenal

Have a great day, everyone!

Download of the Day: Texture Sample Pack

A Free Texture Pack to Make Your Thursday

Join us every Thursday, when your friends here at the Arsenal take over the Go Media blog to share insights, tips, freebies or other fun to brighten your work day.

Today we’re sharing ten textures we created exclusively for you. Check out the Arsenal for more textures known the ’round the world for being the best of the best.

Here’s what you’ll get with today’s download:

Free Texture Pack

These texture samples are from the following categories: dust, motion blur, paper, smoke, paint and fur.

We truly believe that you can never have too many textures. If you’re like us, then head over to our Arsenal, home of the world’s best design resources, where you can soak up thousands of textures (and counting) you can’t find anywhere else.

Love our products? Access our huge product library ($11k in resources) and exclusive content for only $15/mth. Yes, seriously. Learn more now.

Download it now: 

Go Media Texture Samples 1 – 3
Go Media Texture Samples 4 – 5
Go Media Texture Samples 6 – 10

Monday Morning Motivation: Talks that inspire us the most

Every so often, we all need to pull up TED.com or YouTube and find a motivational talk to give us the strength we need to get through a challenging day or simply for a breath of fresh air. Today, we’re sharing some of our favorites with you. Please leave a comment below and let us know which speeches light that spark for you. We’d love to check them out.

——

Graphic Designers Favorite TED Talks

The surprising truth about what motivates us
adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA

——

Graphic Designers Favorite TED Talks

Stefan Sagmeister’s
The power of time off

——

bryan

Joe Smith’s
How to use a paper towel

——

wilson

Andrew Solomon’s
How the worst moments in our lives
make us who we are

Malcolm Gladwell’s
The unheard story of David and Goliath

Simon Sinek’s
How great leaders inspire action

Robert Waldinger’s
What makes a good life?
Lessons from the longest study on happiness

——

heather

Amy Cuddy’s
Your body language shapes who you are

Monica Lewinsky’s
The price of shame

Margaret Heffernan’s
The dangers of willful blindness

These Are Things’s
How we learned to stop worrying and enjoy the ride

Ira Glass
…On Storytelling

——

aaron

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Michael Pollan’s
Edible Education 101

Dan Gilbert’s
The psychology of your future self

Dan Gilbert’s
The surprising science of happiness

——

michael

From TED’s Radio Hour:
Brand Over Brain

graphic designers favorite ted talks

From TED’s Radio Hour:
The Power of Design

graphic designers favorite ted talks

Weapons of Mass Creation

My love letter to Weapons of Mass Creation

[Notes from the road: As I begin my journey back to Scranton – heading east on route 80 with a long road ahead – I have plenty of time to process all the amazing memories dancing around my brain from a very inspiring three-day weekend. And even though my head’s still spinning, I wanted to get down as many thoughts as possible while they were still fresh.]

The Quick Pitch

Not only am I beyond thrilled with my experience at Weapons of Mass Creation, I’m making it a personal goal to tell as many people as possible about this gem. Whether you’re just out of design school, working full-time but doing a side hustle, or a few years in to running your own shop, you need to attend this conference. A 3-day all access pass to the fest only costs 120 bucks (It’s a very budget-friendly conference) and on top of that, they’re always running deals (if you’re into that sort of thing). I got 50% off for being an Arsenal member! The workshops are extra but are also very affordable (ranging from $30-$60) and all talks are included in the price of admission. Bottom line, in a world full of email communications, Skype meetings and Slack hangouts, this is a chance to spend some quality time with a ton of amazing like-minded creatives.

My Personal Journey

This was my first trip out to Weapons of Mass Creation, and for those who don’t know, WMC is a Cleveland based 3-day conference that celebrates design, entrepreneurship, and creativity. The festival is presented by Go Media and is the result of a lot of blood, sweat and tears by an amazing group of folks including Heather Sakai (@sakaipower), Bryan Garvin (@bryangarvin) and countless other hard-working volunteers. For the past few years, I’ve heard wonderful things about WMC Fest, mostly through my dealings with Go Media and their design resource site Arsenal, but for one reason or another, I never made the trek out. This year was different.

Weapons of Mass Creation
The Ohio & State Theatre. Home to Weapons of Mass Creation 7.

When my family and I relocated to Scranton in 2015, I left a ton of great creative friends back in Philly, and while I’m still in the process of carving out a network in my new home, I knew that this was one thing WMC was known for. On top of that, after a topsy-turvy first year of running Variant, I was feeling over-worked, creatively exhausted and burnt out. So not only was I hoping to connect with members of the community, I was also jonesing for some inspiration, advice, and positive energy to recharge with. So after a nudge from my lovely wife, I decided this was the year to make it happen.

While I wasn’t able to go to attend every workshop and talk, I tried my damnedest to cover a ton of ground and what follows is a spin through my experience. Let’s dive in.

Weapons of Mass Creation
A look inside the lobby of the spectacular Ohio theatre

Workshops

Between Friday and Saturday, the fest offered a diverse collection of workshops including – to name a few – Meetings with an Impact, Creating a Killer Portfolio, and Going Big with Lettering. (See the full list)

“DON’T FOLLOW YOUR PASSION,
FOLLOW YOUR EFFORT”

 – Mark Cuban

I decided to spend the bulk of my Friday attending the workshop “How to Start and Build a Profitable Design Business” run by Partner, and Chief Experience Officer of Nine Labs, Brad Weaver.

Brad is the man. Extremely passionate and knowledgable, he offers a direct and sometimes sobering playbook on what it takes to become a successful and sane creative owner. That sane part is crucial! He breaks it down into some key steps, and while he peppers in basics of getting up and running – like registering for a corporation, tax IDs, etc. – the real meat of his talk focuses on becoming profitable. This includes tips for building out your network, calculating shop costs, price bracketing, contracts, all things I found truly helpful. And while I walked out feeling encouraged that I’m doing a fair amount the right way, I did feel there are some things I could be doing to sharpen up my operations. My key takeaways were not only reassessing my value, but making sure I’m locked in on my shop costs, so I can work towards increasing profits. I got a ton out of this workshop and encourage anyone thinking of starting a creative shop to check it out. If you can’t get out to see one of his talks live, don’t worry, the dude wrote a book on it!

To learn more about Brad, you can check out ninelabs.com, follow him on Instragram (@bradweaver) or other social sites (@sbradweaver)

Weapons of Mass Creation
A few of my favorite speakers from this year’s Weapons of Mass Creation. (Left to Right) Jay Wallace, Isabel Urbina Peña, Stefan Sagmeister, Jillian Adel

Speakers

One thing that sets WMC apart from some of the bigger conferences is the speaker schedule. Instead of trying to jam as many talks as possible into the weekend they left a bit of breathing room, which meant I could pretty much see everything I wanted throughout Saturday and Sunday. Nice!

“SO MUCH OF THE CRAFT IS MUSCLE MEMORY”

– Sean Starr

Bright and early Saturday morning I decided to check out “Coffee With a Sign Painter,a Q&A with legendary sign painter Sean Starr (@starrstudiostx). I went honestly just because I was curious and turns out he’s not only crazy talented but a really awesome down-to-earth guy who’s been doing this forever. He’s a craftsman who’s spent years perfecting his trade, and takes it really seriously. I loved hearing his story, his process. It was just refreshing to hear a creative craftsman talk so passionately about his trade. Bonus: I added a new documentary to my queue, “Sign Painters: The Film” which Sean is a part of.

“LIFE IS GOOD, WORK IS HARD”

– Jillian Adel

Next up was art director and letterer, Jillian Adel (@jillianbadel). I’ve been a fan of Jillian’s work since we connected back in 2015, right around the time she relocated from NY to LA. Her story, entitled The Upside of Frustration, centered around getting sick and tired with her daily grind and “boys club” surroundings in New York and deciding to reboot, invest in herself, and move to California. It’s a very brave, very inspiring story. She talked a lot about getting started, putting a ton of energy into marketing herself, and figuring out who she was and what kind of creative work she wanted to do. Great talk! She’s awesome person and a wildly talented creative. You can find more about Jillian Adel over at her site.

“IF YOU DON’T HAVE TIME TO DO IT RIGHT,
WHEN ARE YOU GONNA HAVE TIME TO FIX IT?”

– Jeral Tidwell

Jeral Tidwell (@artboytidwell) was the next speaker of the day and is a well-known illustrator who gained a ton of notoriety in the 80s and 90s from his work in the skateboard scene (Or as he likes to say, making money drawing a skull, eating a skull, eating another skull). I walked in a few minutes late, but got the sense he was just going to wing it. The title of his talk was Copyright, Analog Art, and Thinking Like a Bad Ass but you could tell almost immediately he wasn’t going to stick to that. To hear him tell it, he decided to speak more candidly after walking around Ink Wars the night before, and hearing folks saying things like, “I would never be able to do that,” “I’m too scared,” and “Wow! They’re so talented, I can’t do that.” All those moments of insecurity bouncing around the crowd made him stop and think, so he decided to shift things a bit and use his platform to address it. He admits his “I’m too stupid to know any better” approach to work/life has done right by him, and spent the majority of his talk using that philosophy to encourage everyone to not let fear get in the way. “Stop saying can’t, forget about what everybody else thinks, and just go off and be a bad-ass!”

The back half of his talk focused on his current journey after another wild idea. After years of being a successful illustrator, he and his wife are now building a free art school in an under-served area in Louisville, KY. They sold their house, moved into this vacant 15,000 Sq. ft. warehouse, and are working their asses off to create this public space. Here’s a guy that just decided he wanted to do something good in the world and instead of overthinking it to death and talking himself out of it, he just said “Fuck it” and is now working to make it happen. How inspiring is that?!

Amazing talk. Raw and extremely empowering. Despite the fact that he was spinning through this stuff as it came to him – or at least that’s the way he framed it – it was really well put together.  You can follow Jeral on Instagram and check out his work site Humantree.com. Hopefully he’ll add some progress updates in the near future as the school project develops.

“FIND A PROFIT IN YOUR PASSION”

– Mark Brickey

Mark Brickey (@Markbrickey) hosts a podcast called Adventures in Design and his “Staying Free as a Freelancer” talk focused on finding a profit in your passion. After years of working as a successful freelancer, he took a step back and realized how frustrated and overworked he had become, basically feeling like he traded in one boss for twenty. So he set a new goal of becoming client-free and walked us through the three C’s that helped him – calculator, calendar and checklist. Now Mark makes a living hosting the AID podcast as he travels the world talking to successful independent creatives who have carved out their own paths.

“THE DAY I GOT FIRED,
I WAS ON MY WAY TO A JOB INTERVIEW”

– Jay Wallace

The Stake Is High” was my first talk of the day on Sunday and featured Jay Wallace (@JayGWallace), an Ohio-based designer, illustrator currently working for the MLS Soccer team, Columbus Crew SC. Jay shared his short, sweet, and sharp personal success story about transitioning from side work to doing what he loves full-time. What really resonated with me about Jay’s story was his mantra about never settling and staying hungry. Even if you’re at a job you like and have settled into, reminding yourself that “This is not my end-game, this is not the end of the line for me.” There is nothing wrong with constantly challenging yourself to do the next thing and Jay definitely walks that walk. Do yourself a favor and check out his work, I have a feeling he’s destined to do great things.

“LET’S BRING BEAUTY BACK”

– Stefan Sagmeister

I’m going to out myself and confess that up until this year I had no idea who Stefan Sagmeister (@stefansagmeister) was. Having a background in film, I sometimes find myself in a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to the design world. Turns out this guy is a design rock-star. He’s been doing it a really long time (including a long run in design for the music industry) and has become extremely influential. I first heard of Stefan and his firm Sagmeister & Walsh through his documentary “The Happy Film” which premiered at 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. I loved the mission of the film and was very much hoping his talk would cover some similar ground. He did not disappoint, and was by far my favorite speaker of the conference. His talk was on Why Beauty Matters and focused on the importance of not only looking for beauty but how is makes us feel. Not just in terms of our quality of life (Eg. searching for things that are beautiful, finding meaning in beauty) but also in how we translate that into our own creative work. Honestly, there’s too much to try and cover here, so I’m planning on a separate post. He also has an ongoing photo series where he celebrates the beauty of album art and posts daily shots of four covers from his personal collection to his Instagram account. Definitely worth the follow.

“FOCUS ON BEING BETTER,
BIGGER WILL HAPPEN ON ITS OWN”

– LL Bean

Wilson Revehl’s (@wilsonrevehl) talk about Go Media’s Best/Worst Year used the story of Moby Dick to illustrate the trials and tribulations his design shop went through pursuing a high-profile international client. Stocked with both professional and personal life-lessons, Wilson did an excellent job despite the heavy subject matter. I’m sure all small business owners can relate to his story as we’ve all that “What if we land this huge client? moment. “Should we take it on? Can we quickly scale or should we stick with our slow and steady approach?” And while it was definitely sobering at times, he offered up some wonderful advice, shared some empowering moments and left me with a ton of great takeaways. You can find more out about Wilson and Go Media over at their site. 

“WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DECIDE TO IGNORE THE CONCEPT
OF WHAT SOMETHING “IS” OR “SHOULD BE”…

– Isabel Urbina Peña

Artist and type designer Isabel Urbina Peña (@Bellera) closed out WMC 7 with a beautiful talk entitled “Everyone Else was Already Taken,” which included highlights from her journey from Venezuela to New York, finding her design style and eventually discovering a unique way to present her work to the world. It was very refreshing to hear that while most of us spend our time creating for ourselves and clients, it’s almost as important to focus on presenting that work in a way that enhances the personality of the project. You can find out more about Isabel over at her beautiful site.

The Dropbox Vendor Village, located in the lobby of the State Theatre.
The Dropbox Vendor Village, located in the lobby of the State Theatre.

Vendor Village

The Dropbox Vendor Village was an overwhelming gathering of inspiring creatives, all of which were super cool. Great conversations with a ton of killer creative folks doing amazing work. Highlights for me included:

Snakes + Aceys –  On top of being awesome people, Hannah and Anthony of Snakes + Aceys also create incredible apparel and posters.  I grabbed their “Land of the Free” tee as well as their Weapon of Choice poster series created for WMC.

The National Poster Retrospecticus – Based out of Austin and featuring more than 400 hand-printed posters by over 125 of the most prominent poster designers in the USA, the NPR tour was alone worth the price of admission. Not to mention, JP and Andy are hilarious. I picked up two prints from Daniel Danger, a Primus 2015 tour poster and the Retrospecticus Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tour poster from 2014.

Charlie Wagers  – Another super talented artist who creates gig posters and enamel pins through his co-venture, Lost Lust Supply Co.  I picked up his gorgeous Ray Lamontagne tour poster, and a couple of his enamel pins.

Eleven by Seventeen – Keith is a poster designer who’s recently branched out into the world of alternate move posters, very much like myself. So obviously we became best friends. Super great guy.

Also this…

Letterpressing prints with Cranky PressmanTons of awesome swag from Jakprints including some delicious creative juice • Hands on screenprinting of a WMC shirt courtesy of Real Thread • Jeff Finley and his Starseed Supply Co. • Flying destroyer disk by OK Pants • The super ladies representing Cleveland’s economic development program.

When planning your trip to WMC 8, definitely be sure to bring a little extra spending money, because I guarantee you’re going to find something at the Vendor Village that’s a must have.

Weapons of Mass Creation
Ink Wars 2016 Champ Katia Oloy (@ekoloy) in the midst of creating her masterpiece.

Parties, Podcasts and other highlights

  • Crashed the VIP party on Friday night in order to be a guest on Bryan’s live recording of We Are Weapons. Listen to it! 
  • Watched in awe as a group of talented illustrators competed in Ink Wars. The theme? A mashup between Superman and the awkward teenage years. In the end, Katia Oloy (@ekoloy) was awarded the prize belt.
  • Attended the live recording of Adventures in Design with Mark Brickey.  The evening’s guests were Jeral Tidwell, Jamal Collins, and the Fest’s Emcee Aaron, better know as Ok Pants. (Side note: Aaron did a terrific job. He’s a Cleveland-based designer and you can check out his stuff here.) The highlight of the night was learning about Jamal Collin’s work with the Boys and Girls club in Cleveland teaching them to things like Photoshop and exposing them to the possibilities of being creative professional. Amazing work. Follow @Jayworking if you want to keep up with the wonderful work Jay’s up to.
  • Teaming up with some other South Jersey natives to take on our dreaded foes up in North at the Jak Prints official after party.

    Weapons of Mass Creation
    Fourth St, Cleveland. Home to a ton of great restaurants including Mabel’s BBQ and Greenhouse Tavern.

    Cleveland Rocks!

    Cleveland is a great town and reminds me of Philly in a lot of ways. Great sports town, awesome food, cool people. Plus Cleveland’s riding high thanks to the Cav’s big win this year, and getting some national love courtesy of hosting the RNC. A few random tidbits:

    Eating a hotdog topped in Mac n Cheese, bacon and fruit loops thanks to Happy Dog • Catching an Indians game at Progressive Field (They played Wild Thing!!) • Walking around the spectacular venues at Playhouse Square • Heading over to 4th street and grabbing some wings @ Greenhouse Tavern (No, I didn’t try the pig’s head)

    Wrap it up Gary

    Bottom line, I would encourage anyone that’s a creative looking to learn, be inspired and hang out with tons of like-minded folks to check out Weapons of Mass Creation next year. Somehow – surprisingly –  they’re struggling a bit to stay alive and I think it’s because of their grassroots approach. They’ve done a great job of keeping the conference small and intimate without help from huge corporate sponsors, and while that makes the festival extremely special, it also puts some financial strain. So please do whatever you can to support them. It’s a very worthwhile design conference put on by an amazing group of people and I could not recommend it more.

    To learn more, donate, sign up for email updates or see if there’s a way to get involved, head over to wmcfest.com.

———————-

Thanks to Gary from Variant for this incredible write-up! Please visit Gary over at his official site, or get social with him over at his Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. – the WMC Fest team

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