Welcome to Designer Face Off, where we ask two designers to go head to head, asking one another burning questions about their shared passions for design, entrepreneurship, and all things creative. Facing off today are designer Mike Kluk of Stuffed Brain Studio and John Lee Clair, designer, videographer, photographer and owner of Big Shot Photo Booth.
Mike Klok is a freelance designer and the brains behind Stuffed Brain Studio, a creative studio specializing in branding, design, and illustration. They provide, “Quality Guts and Goods.” Mike is based out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. He met John Lee at last year’s design conference WMC Fest, where they became fast friends.
John Lee is a long-time friend of WMC. As mentioned, he is a talented videographer (check out one of these hype videos he shot for us!) He is constantly working on multiple projects down in Charleston, South Carolina, where he is based. He specializes in design for both print and digital, along with photography and video production.
Let’s listen in on two amazing designers talking about their work and gaining insight from one another!
Watch last month’s Designer Face Off.
For the full Designer Face Off series, head to our YouTube Channel.
Want to get to know Mike and John Lee a little better?
Head Camp Counselor/Host and Workshop Leader Lenny Terenzi and Event Director Heather Sakai give you a sneak peek into this year’s festivities in today’s video.
Watch the Video >>
The Contest >>
Purchase your ticket to this year’s WMC: Off-The-Grid, happening this summer, by Friday, August 24, and you’ll be entered into a contest to win an hour-long illustration workshop with Lenny plus an hour long consultation with William Beachy on the topic of your choice. This prize is valued at $500. What are you waiting for?
About Lenny and Bill:
Lenny is a Durham, North Carolina based designer and illustrator under the name Hey! Monkey. He has run his own studio for almost 18 years, the last four of which have been in full blown studio space to raise the bar on what he can offer forward-thinking brands and to offer creative experiences to help the masses break out of their daily rut. Lenny is also an accomplished speaker having presented all over the country for conferences such as WMC Fest, Creative South, Circles, Reimagine, High Five and more. He is also the incoming President for AIGA Raleigh whose mission is to create a place where design thrives for everyone.
Bill is an illustrator, designer, and lifelong entrepreneur from Cleveland, Ohio. He is the co-founder and president of Go Media. Working as a one-man firm from a bedroom in his father’s house, he built Go Media into a internationally recognized 15 person firm with clients including Adobe, Progressive Insurance, Pepsi, and Nike. He is author of the book Drawn to Business.
More about WMC: Off-The-Grid: Our Epic Retreat / Best Graphic Design Conference of 2018:
Happening this October 5 – 7th, WMC: Off-The-Grid is an all-inclusive, three-day weekend retreat aimed at YOU, the designers, illustrators, small business owners and other design-minded creatives looking to step away from the screens and social chatter that pull you in a million different directions daily. You will come away with tangible tools and action steps you can use to grow your skill set, your mindset and businesses to become more confident design leaders in your communities.
This intimate event is limited to only 60 attendees, speakers, workshop leaders and staff. Located at Mohican State Park in Loudonville, Ohio, the WMC: OTG community will come together in cozy cabins to bond over a campfire, delicious food, a sense of adventure and their love of creativity.
All lodging, food, talks and workshops are included in this adventure-filled weekend retreat. Book your travel and the rest is taken care of!
Design Conference 2018 – WMC: Off-The-Grid by Go Media
We here at Go Media (your favorite design shop in CLE) are thrilled to introduce a new event to our community this year, an offshoot of our annual design conference Weapons of Mass Creation Festival, called WMC: Off-The-Grid. WMC: Off-The-Grid is an all-inclusive three-day weekend retreat aimed at YOU, the designers, illustrators, small business owners and other design-minded creatives looking to step away from the screens and social chatter that pull you in a million different directions daily. You will come away with tangible tools and action steps you can use to grow your skill set, your mindset, and your business to become more confident design leaders in your communities.
The event is to take place October 5 – 7th, 2018 at Mohican Adventures in Loudonville, Ohio.
So why do we believe you can’t miss it?
Skyrocket your business & grow your skillset in order to become a more confident design leader in your community.
WMC: OTG is not just your everyday conference. The talks and workshops will dig deep, characterized by a sense of intimacy, authenticity and transparency you won’t find at just any conference. Secrets aren’t kept here, so expect to hear how our faculty made mistakes and overcame them, how they have built their own businesses from the ground up, the tools they have used, and tricks of the trade. You’ll leave with tangible skills and action steps you can use to increase profits, become more valuable to your employer and build and maintain more successul design firms.
Step Away from the Social Chatter and Focus on Your Craft
Imagine what would happen if you turned off your notifications, put down your phone and truly had time to make connections, learn from the best and focus on your craft. For two days and three nights, you will have the opportunity to truly unplug and have some serious face time with nationally recognized designers and creatives you’ve admired from afar. You will also have time to network, building relationships that have the potential to help grow your business and client list for years into the future. Friendships will be made, undoubtedly. Quiet moments will refuel us and propel us forward as we move into late 2018/2019.
Learn from the best of the best.
Speaking of our faculty, each of these incredible creatives should be a reason on their own, but we’ll group them together for the purposes of this list.
Here is our phenomenal list and a little bit about them. You can learn more about each of our faculty members here.
- Shiu Pei Luu, Art Director for Facebook and Creative Director and Co-Founder for The Beehive Society, a non-profit that fosters creativity through pop up art shows and workshops facilitated around the Bay Area. Shiu Pei Luu will be teaching a workshop on Character Design. She’ll also be speaking – her talk title is “Diversity is Design and the Roles We Play.”
- The Banner Years, a customer experience studio who has worked with the likes of NPR, Coca-Cola, Disney, Lionsgate, Sony, and more. Their workshop is on “Contracts and Collections” and talk entitled “Swimming to the Shore.”
- Tony Diaz, founder of Austin’s Industry Print Shop and someone who has undoubtedly cemented himself as an authority on all things screenprinting. Tony’s talk will be called, “It’s Not Where You’re From, It’s Where You’re At.”
- Ken Schneck, producer and host of This Show is So Gay, the long-running, award-winning radio show and podcast. Ken’s workshops will be entitled, “The Art of Shameless Self Promotion” and “Creating a Community of Individuals (AKA: Herding Cats to Do Good)”
- Marshall Shorts, award-winning entrepreneur, owner of Soulo Theory Creative and co-founder of Creative Control Fest. Marshall’s talk is called, “This Moment On.”
- Dylan Menges, owner of Menges Design, who has a client list including Subaru of America, Mozilla, Sherwin Williams, and more… Dylan will be teaching a workshop entitled, “Finding Your Wild.”
Lenny Terenzi, designer and illustrator of Hey! Monkey Design will be our host. Lenny will be teaching a workshop entitled, “Self Compassion for Creatives.”
You’re going to love Mohican Adventures.
Mohican Adventures, located at Mohican State Park in Loudonville, Ohio, is partway between Cleveland and Columbus. If you’re driving or flying in from either of these cities, it will take you about 1.5 hours to arrive to the destination. You won’t be able to to miss Mohican Adventures, a vacation destination that offers cozy cabins and vacation homes (each with their unique charm), as well as adventure activities we will have access to (think: kayaking, tubing, ropes courses, hiking, rafting, fishing, and more.)
We will be staying in beautiful homes/cabins, which you can preview here:
Ink Wars is returning to WMC! Ink Wars is one of the most popular events in the history of Weapons of Mass Creation Fest. This eight-person illustration just gets everyone’s blood-pumping and hearts racing. After all, when do you get to witness so many illustrators going toe-to-toe before your very eyes under some very strict time, material and thematic restraints? Interested in competing in Ink Wars 2018? Please fill out this form by August 31, 2018 and you’ll be considered for this year’s event! Special note: We will not be using the usual 8 foot canvases this year. A surprise medium will be announced at a later date. This will indeed change how this year’s Ink Wars will go down.
The little touches.
Did you know that all of your meals will be covered during your time at WMC: Off-The-Grid? We can’t wait to fill your bellies with some amazing meals, including our special Saturday BBQ entitled, “Mike Jones and Friends “Big Southern Lovin’ BBQ,” which is sponsored by the one and only Mike Jones and the team from Creative South out of Columbus, Georgia!
You’ll also get some swag from our incredible sponsors. Plus, more surprises await you!
We need YOU!
We need you add to the conversation, to help paddle our canoe. And don’t worry. If you don’t have a buddy coming to WMC: OTG, you mustn’t worry. Most of the attendees enrolled thus far are coming solo, so you won’t be the odd woman or man out. After an hour or so, we’ll all be as thick as thieves.
There is still time to enroll, so head to our official site to learn more about the event and to our ticketing page to grab one of the last flying blind tickets, or to put down a deposit if you can’t pay for a full price ticket now.
Have any questions? Email me at [email protected] and I’d be happy to answer anything!
Hope to see you there!
Interested in sponsoring or giving us an in-kind donation, such as items for our awesome SWAG bags? Contact Heather.
Meet Scotty Russell of Perspective Collective
It’s time for another video! This video is another in a line of shorts introducing you to the speakers who will be presenting at our design, art and music conference, Weapons of Mass Creation Festival. Today’s video introduces you to Cedar Falls, Iowa native, Scotty Russell.
We are thrilled to announce that we are throwing our annual art, design and music conference, Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, at Mahall’s in Lakewood, Ohio, this year. The party goes from Friday, August 18 through Sunday, August 20th, with speakers on the main stage on Saturday and Sunday. A few cool things about our new venue:
- Doors to this historic bowling alley/concert venue opened in 1924.
- It’s got that hip, DIY Cleveland vibe you won’t to miss and is in a city ranked top 10 most exciting suburbs in the United States.
- Menu highlights include fried chicken, housemade cornbread and curry popcorn to name a few.
Even cooler are the folks that will fill our venue, including the speakers we’d like to introduce you to today. Before we start, we’d like to remind you that our new venue is pretty cozy and will fill up fast, so we encourage you to purchase your tickets now!
Jamal Collins, a Boys and Girls Club Art Instructor will be speaking about his experiences influencing the lives of the children he teaches at the club. His talk, “Design for Social Change,” will be focused on using design for social change through mentorship, promoting entrepreneurship skills, and guiding youth into becoming smart creatives.
Dustin Lee, graphic designer and founder of Retro Supply Co., was one of the first designers on Creative Market to make a full-time living of selling design goods. Dustin will take on an intimate journey of how he went from $35,000 in debt, creatively frustrated, with his first child on the way to making $125,130 in one year on Creative Market (and making a full-time living selling digital products reviewed by Productexpert every year since.)
Painter Frank Oriti‘s work has been featured in The New York Times and in London’s National Portrait Gallery. In his talk, “Work,” this outstanding artist will be discussing his career since his return to Cleveland in 2011 by highlighting the evolution of his work and also sharing some of his experiences in the art world.
Stephanie Irigoyen is a designer and media specialist hailing from Tallahassee, Florida. Founder of Design Week Tallahasse, Stephanie believes strongly in community and in building a better city for yourselves. She’ll take the stage and proclaim: “Nobody Knows What They’re Doing (And That’s Okay.)”
Laura Wimbels, a photographer known for her book, ‘Faces of Cleveland,’ is also a frequent contributor on the popular NPR storytelling show ‘The Moth.’ Having just gone through the arduous process of publishing her first book, she will have so much to share when she takes the stage for her talk, “How to Quit Your Job and Make a Book, It’s That Easy! (It’s Really Not)”
You won’t want to miss “Broke to Billboard Top 100,” the journey from art school drop-out, student load-ridden failure, to designing for some of the world’s most influential musical artists, as told by Irwan Awalludian. This inspiring speaker-to-be is a Singaporean immigrant, a former resident of Cleveland, Ohio currently based out of Atlanta, Georgia, where he provides art direction and design for major label recording artists and producers. Most notable clients include MikeWillMade-It, Rae Sremmurd, Gucci Mane, Ludacris, Wiz Khalifa and Metro Boomin.
You may recognize Marshall Shorts, award-winning entrepreneur, artist, and designer as Founder and Creative-N-Chief of Soulo Theory Creative, co-founder of Creative Control Fest and from his work throughout the creative community. This agent of change’s talk is entitled, “Manifest,” and we encourage you to be in the audience to hear his wise words.
Perspective-Collective is the studio of Scotty Russell, a freelance lettering artist, and illustrator based out of Cedar Falls, Iowa. Scotty will be closing out Saturday’s festivities with his talk, “You are Not Invisible.” This inspiring speaker and artist will be speaking to the times when we as creatives feel as if no one is paying attention to the hard work we put into the work we pour our souls into.
Naomi Schulze is a professional t-shirt slinger/designer who, due to a whirlwind of events, fell in love with the world of embroidery. Currently, Naomi owns and operates Maeke Apparel, a screen printing/embroidery shop in Campbell, California, and travels frequently with her own sports apparel sub-brand. Naomi will speak about her experiences falling in love with the apparel industry, and pass on her insights on the world of embroidery when she takes the stage.
Corey Favor is a senior graphic designer at The Ohio State University, as well as an entrepreneur and co-founder of Creative Control Fest alongside Marshall Shorts. Corey will be sharing his perspectives on the agility needed navigating life and work, and appreciating the process of building a unique and creative career when he takes the stage for his talk, “Some Assembly Required.”
Cleveland Artist Erin Guido is best known for her brilliant and colorful work around the city, as well as her contributions to the LAND Studio, where she works as a designer. Her talk is entitled, “Surprises and Nice Things in Public Spaces,” and will certainly be as bright and colorful as she is.
Lisa Lorek is a lettering artist, muralist, and designer born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio named Cleveland.com’s Top 29 Cleveland Visual Artists to Follow on Instagram. Her talk, “Forever a Work in Progress,” will cover the winding road she took to find her passion, including following multiple curiosities and saying “yes” to everything thrown at her.
The dynamic screen-printing duo Snakes and Aceys, otherwise known as Hannah Manocchio and Anthony Zart, met during an odd collision of life’s events when they combined a quarter-life crisis and the beginning of a nervous breakdown, respectively. These two will hilarious review their harrowing first year in business, the bloody details of lessons learned, provide lists on what not to do, and offer advice on starting a fantasy company in a real world with a partner who drives you batshit in their talk, “Oh No! We’re in Business…”
Sarah Yeager is a graphic designer with a focus of User Interface and User Experience Design. As an avid lover of hack-a-thons and design competitions, Sarah has won awards such as “Most Aesthetically Pleasing Design” and “Most Market Ready Product” for her work on the security wearable, EmpoweRing. We look forward to Sarah educating us on how we can all get involved in her world during her talk, “How Hackathons Built My Design Career.”
Shannon Okey is both the founder of Cleveland Bazaar, Northeast Ohio’s longest-running indie handmade show, and publisher at Cooperative Press, an independent publishing company which has published over 50 books since 2010. She’s currently serving on the board of the Independent Book Publishers Association and has given talks on niche publishing at South by Southwest as well as O’Reilly’s TOC digital publishing conference. Her talk, entitled, “Find Your Niche,” is one not to be missed.
Reina Takahashi is a paper artist and illustrator living in San Francisco. Currently, she creates cut-paper artwork at Facebook with a team of illustrators and fellow paper artists. She also uses paper to create window installations, film props, and art piece commissions outside of her full-time work. Follow along Reina’s weird path of creative side projects for the last (almost) ten years that has led her to a full-time gig as a paper artist at a giant tech company and beyond. Hear some of her lessons learned, tips acquired, and adventures in making pirate ships out of paper in her talk, “Full Time/Free Time.”
That’s it! Now grab your seats to see all of these incredible artists, designers, screenprinters, makers and more this August 18 – 20th at Mahall’s in Lakewood at this year’s Weapons of Mass Creation Fest >>
In today’s WMC Fest 8 challenge video, Event Director Heather introduces you to Hannah Manocchio and Anthony Zart, otherwise known Snakes and Aceys. Things get awkward in the best way possible when twin powers activate and the dynamic duo transforms into one for a screenprinting challenge you won’t want to miss.
Hello current and future friends of Weapons of Mass Creation Fest,
If you have yet to hear of us, we are the premier art, design, and music conference in the Midwest. We welcome you to join us for this year’s festivities, August 18 – 20th in Lakewood, Ohio. Mahall’s, a west-side Cleveland landmark for bowling, good music, good times, and good fried chicken will be our host. If you love design, music and bowling – get ready to party with us!
If you need a little more convincing, here are some reasons we believe a design conference like ours should be in your future:
Conferences are the perfect place to meet like-minded people. While it’s often difficult to put yourself out there and attend an event, especially solo, it’s so well worth it. After all, there aren’t many opportunities to totally geek out with so many folks that love the same things you love, in one space, all at the very same time. It’s the ultimate time to bond, build friendships and find your tribe. When you come back the next year, it’s your opportunity to renew those friendships and it feels oh so nice. (*Hearts*) I’m biased, but there is something special about our own conference, Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, that brings our attendees close, quickly. Since we provide time for lunches, dinners, meet-ups and parties, there are many opportunities for folks to get to know one another on a personal level. And because the feel of the fest isn’t corporate, people let down their guards instantly. This results in friendships that have lasted since year one.
If you’re looking for feedback on your work or advice about building your business, get yourself to a design conference now! Next, attend as many of the talks, panels and workshops as you can and take notes! Attend meet-ups, hook up with fellow creatives for lunch and dinner. Head to the parties and not only talk, but truly listen. Soak up all the information you can. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand during the Q and A’s and be brave enough to ask that speaker you admire the question you’re dying to have answered.
Up Your Game
Did you just create a new poster series, start a sticker subscription service or launch a new apparel line? Attending a design conference like Weapons of Mass Creation Fest is a great way to get the visibility you’re looking for. You can do this by setting up a vendor booth, hooking each attendee up with promo items (by way of their swag bags), or simply working the room like a champ, all weekend long.
If you’re looking to be more visible as a public figure, put in the effort by showing up to as many design conferences as possible. Put yourself out there and show the design community that you’re a creative that “takes up space.” Make an effort to get to know the conference coordinator(s) and have conversations with them about possibly speaking at a future event. (In person if possible.) Show them you genuinely care about their event.
Most of us have faced some amount of burnout at some point in our careers. When you put your heart and soul into what you love to do, it seems inevitable. If you’ve experienced exhaustion as it relates to your creative career, attending a conference can help. The authentic conversations are really what have helped many of us pull through. At this year’s Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, we’ll even be holding a panel on this very topic, “How to Battle Creative Burnout.” So, there you go.
Paving Your Way
Design conferences are filled with talented, connected creatives that are more than willing to befriend you and help you become a better creative or entrepreneur. If you attend, take the time to form meaningful connections (face-to-face) and then, in turn, give back, opportunities will abound. You do, however, have to put in the work, so make sure you go in ready and willing to chat up speakers, vendors, attendees, and absolutely anyone who is willing to exchange in a conversation. In this creative environment, you never know what magic will come of it.
Kick in the Pants
Inspiration is an overused word, so we’ve decided to use “kick in the pants,” as a way to describe what Weapons of Mass Creation Fest does to us. The three days are so jam-packed with activity, friend-making, and just plain fun, that we come out on the other side a tad bit exhausted, but mostly motivated unlike ever before. We feel like we’ve gotten a big old kick in the pants to go achieve, pursue our path and ya know, dance like no one is watching.
So yeah, we’re pretty into design conferences for many reasons, which is why we started our own. We’d love to see you at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest this summer, so please make it a point to come, squeeze every ounce of content out of it and enjoy. Have any questions before you come? Please ask. Hope to see you there!
[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.
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.
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!
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 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.
Letterpressing prints with Cranky Pressman • Tons 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.
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.
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.