This weekend I went to the Weapons of Mass Creation Fest up in Cleveland. If you are a designer in Ohio, you know how incredibly rare it is that cool things like this EVER happen in our humble state (except, of course, WMC Fest last year and the year before). So, I have been anxiously awaiting this weekend for a while now.
What is so impressive about this fest is that almost all of my (and many people’s) design heroes flew from all over the country to attend. And were totally humble and just hanging out with the rest of us all weekend, even if they weren’t speaking. There was a gallery showcasing many amazing pieces of work from some really amazing designers. Some booths were set up to buy great prints. Drool-worthy work was just everywhere.
Print by Dan Cassaro
Not to mention they gave out the coolest swag bags I’ve ever gotten at a conference.
Cool free stuff!
By far the most inspiring talk was by Johnny Cupcakes. He gave a 2 hour talk on how he got where he is today, and was a very funny and eloquent speaker. He is probably one of my biggest inspirations in life and has been since I was in early high school. I’m sort of a fangirl (I have a poster/pins/cards hanging up at my desk) and have met him several times, but never gotten the chance to see one of his amazingly inspiring lectures. The room was beyond packed and 100 degrees, but it made the entire trip worth it.
The room was definitely past capacity when he spoke.
Everything he does goes back into his brand. He has an amazing eye for details and spends the extra money to ensure that every customer walks away with a great story to tell. He couldn’t emphasize enough how important the experience is. He stuffs toys, trading cards and all sorts of goofy things in every order he mails out just to make people smile. He couldn’t emphasize enough how important great packaging is (it’s a free billboard in people’s houses) because most people will hoard great packaging (ironically, I definitely have a Johnny Cupcakes box/tissue paper/tags/all packaging stuffed in a box under my bed right now, so he has a point). One of my favorite points he made was “You have to spend an arm and a leg to make more arms and legs” – and I admire that he puts so much of his company’s profits right back into pushing to be a better brand.
I was stoked to finally snag a picture with him.
Another great talk was by Friends of Type. They are also some design heroes of mine and just to hear how they built this entire fun idea in about 8 hours and it took off, and how they push it while still maintaining their full time jobs, was really inspiring.
Friends of Type’s amazing intro video featuring beautiful typography.
Among other speakers I saw were Austin Kleon, Matt Stevens and Chuck Anderson. All doing amazing things, all great at what they do. And all of the speakers had roughly the same message: Take risks and work hard. All of them may have had a few key projects that led to where they are today, but they never gave up even when they ran out of money and energy. All in all, very positive messages and I left with more design momentum than when I got there.
I encourage anyone in the Midwest (or further) to attend next year!