I'm still digesting everything from last weekend's Weapons of Mass Creation fest, which I'm so, SO glad I was able to attend. The event was well organized, well-run, and thought out. Now, I've seen a lot of designers speak. Big guys, like James Victore, Robynne Raye, Karlsson + Wilker...we all have. But there was something about the speakers at WMC, something that made me feel like we were more alike. That someday, we could be on the same page. All these designers have found so much success in their various specialties, all were very different. But they were younger, humble and honest, easy to feel connected to. Mig Reyes of Threadless even showed some of his college work and gave us all a chuckle by admitting that like most of us, we had no idea what we were doing freshman year. Manipulating type in Photoshop? Yeah, exactly.
I didn't take a lot of pictures so I won't give a play-by-play, but I did take notes. So here are my main takeaways from what the designers had to say:
QUITE STRONG: My favorite all-girl design collective. Discussed how their individual strengths give them a group advantage, which allows them to work with a wider range of clients/project. Also explained the importance of knowing how to just hang out and have down time with other designers. Eating Cheez-Its is also an important part of this process.
KEN HEJDUK of LITTLE JACKET: Talked about the revival of the creative high standard here in Ohio and the Midwest. The trend is that smart=cool. If you give a damn, raise the standards. If you raise the standards, the bar is raised. Attention to detail is key.
MIG REYES of THREADLESS: Talked about how to not make crap and still make money. Passion projects are important—do work on your own, no matter how small or how free. Keep it loose and enjoy the process. Passion projects can actually lead to more work than a school or day-job portfolio because your strengths really shine when you're steering the ship. "Fuck the police, make whatchu wanna."
DAN CASSARO of YOUNG JERKS: Anything > waiting tables. There are two types of designers: you're either a John Lennon or a Paul McCartney. John Lennons are heavy on social responsibility and substance. Paul McCartneys are heavy on style and not so much on substance. Johns=Tibor Kalman. Paul=Joe Duffy.
ALEX CORNELL of ISO50: Always be picking up kernals of advice along the way. Also, emulation is futile. As designers we all compare ourselves to others, but emulating them won't get you anywhere. Do what you do best, because no one else can be you.
JESSI ARRINGTON of WORKSHOP: "Doing good" as a designer can be ambiguous and overwhelming, which leads to frustration and inaction. Make it less about good, and more about better! Think of your life as a design project: how would you arrange the elements of your life, as if elements on a page? Also, she got everyone to dress up and lead a color-coordinated rainbow parade for WMC founder Jeff Finley's birthday. It was a sight.
JOSEPH HUGHES of NORTHCOAST ZEITGEIST: Talked about the struggle we all have with comparing ourselves to others, but layered on how tough that can be if you don't have a formal design education. Gain respect by pouring yourself into those personal projects. And, you just have to find someone to take a chance on you. Prove they were right to hire you, every day. Kick ass and own it.
MIKEY BURTON: Further reiteration that self-initiated passion projects can lead to clients and work you'd never imagine. Adapt "will work for work" as your motto, allow even your smallest projects to hold importance in your heart. Also, dicking around screenprinting with your buddies can lead to big things. Case and point: Mikey himself.
AARON DRAPLIN: I mean really, where do I start. If anyone can light a fire under your ass, it's Aaron. Aaron's near-hour-long presentation was funny, heartwarming, and insanely inspiring. As with many of the other speakers, Aaron emphasized how important it is to do what you love, and don't say no to free projects. Do that stupid poster for your buddy's band. Do a free logo. Don't sweat it for days, but give it the effort. He's also got a thing for estate sales and digging around for old stuff with awesome packaging—not only for work inspiration but also to "rescue" all of these amazing American relics from the garbage heap. A message I can totally get behind.
Though there was a strong common thread between everyone's messages, it was so nice to hear all of their amazing and personal stories of success. The festival felt so intimate that I walked away feeling like I now know all of these designers very personally. They're no longer just these design giants that I google or tweet at or drool over from behind my laptop. Plus it was great to pop over to the Happy Dog and see the festival bands, and visit the Wall Eye poster gallery where I got to have a conversation with Aaron Draplin (starstruck!) and see Dan Christofferson paint a totally badass mural. I couldn't be happier with my experience there and I ALREADY cannot wait till next year.