WMC Fest 2013 Recap
I am riding a wave of creative euphoria from a weekend that was overflowing with inspiration from around the creative world. Three members of our creative team took a road trip to Cleveland last weekend to Weapons of Mass Creation, a unique design and music fest.
I knew it was going to be a good event when the very first talk involved food and design, and by the time I was first moved to tears, I was a lost cause. I was going to absorb every last drop of inspiration that the weekend had to give.
Here’s the best of what I learned this weekend:
Do some fieldwork.
You can’t design in a bubble, but you also can’t design great stuff if you only look to other designers. According to Alonzo Felix, we should borrow inspiration from analogous professions such as architecture, filmmaking, food, anthropology, and music. We can learn how to tell a story with effective visuals from directors. We can learn about marrying form and function from architects. Food shows us how community can elevate something, so gosh darn it, let’s do that in design. And lastly, learn about humans – across cultures and history. When we know where we come from, we can design more effectively.
There will be ups & downs.
Often at these conferences, you hear designers speak about how they got a cool client or process to create some nifty design project. But they almost always leave out the tough parts. Things like the overnight success of their first print quickly followed by the flop of their last series. Or their growth and move to New York and also their lack of sales at a national trade show. What we can learn from journeys like these is simply that: this is a journey. There will be twists and turns. Ups and downs. You need to learn from the lows so that you can have higher highs.
Be a little bit punk rock.
Caroline Moore talked about being a little bit punk rock when it comes to design and creativity. There can be more to design than just a job; you can give back and be creatively fulfilled. Taking on projects like Chicago Cause (last year’s web design winner was Build Chicago) or making time for personal projects can make all the difference. I can create and work for more than just my paycheck. I can give back, too.
Let your 8-year old self give you advice.
Eight-year-olds can be pretty wise, and Stephanie Landes Burris talked about how her eight-year-old self knew some of the secrets to life. Most importantly, we need to share and work together. I heard this more than once throughout the weekend. But it is something we all know to be true – working together and collaborating produces better work. I know that when I get input and help from my fellow designers, my work always improves. Even if I don’t change anything, I understand something new about what I have created.
Stop wasting time, and get out there.
I think the tie for most moving talk goes to Troy DeShano. A two-time cancer survivor, Troy talked about the importance of time and the need to conquer your fears. You can’t let fear of failure distract you, and you most certainly can’t let your internal voice talk you into falling for fear. It is important to make time for the little things because those little things are where life happens. And a full life makes you a better designer.
Do it your way.
Sure, you are getting paid to give a client what they want, but they hired you for your knowledge and skills, your point of view. Timothy Goodman stressed making sure that you are always part of your work. Of course, sometimes it is going to fall flat. You might get some bruises. But if you don’t try, your work will be missing the best part: you.
Learn from your friends.
The closing talk was from two friends, one a writer and editor, the other a graphic designer. Over a year of working together at Good, Ann Friedman and Dylan Lathrop developed both a friendship and a professional partnership. Through working together, they each developed beyond having a mutual respect to having a mutual understanding. They learned how their skills played off each other and how they made the other’s work even better.
As they learned the transformative effect that their work had on each other, they learned what made great writing and what made great design. Now they can use their understanding to strengthen their own careers. It is time to become friends with someone who you work with and collaborate with to make you both better at your jobs. (Dear Orbit Developers, I am in search of a work BFF, any takers?)
After last year’s WMC Fest, I started a poster project. I went with it for about six weeks, but I had to cut it out because my health took a turn for the worse. I recently revived it, and this year’s event left me feeling like I can’t wait to keep going. But it also left me with a renewed sense of purpose. The knowledge that I am, in fact, an expert and should remember to keep including myself and my experience in my client work.