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WMC Fest 2012 – day two

19 Jul

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m going to try to sum up my experience by transcribing my notes from the speakers I was able to watch, hear, and experience in hopes that it makes sense and inspires you as much as it did for me. Day two…go!

Brian Andrew Jasinski, Cleveland-based artist, illustrator, and designer at his one-man agency, Grey Cardigan
Talk Title: Designing Beyond the Desk

You are a designer even when you are outside of the work chair
The audience goes with you as you connect with them and earn their trust
Understanding and learning your client and becoming an ambassador for them with design
Designers can tell stories without words
Find what you love doing and find out how to use it
It’s easy to be passionate about your own work, but you have to have self-discipline to control/art-direct your own work
Keep pushing yourself to a new place

Brian’s belief is to be a design ambassador; step out from behind your computer often and get out there to talk with people about design. Make a connection with people, earn their trust, and push yourself.

Julia Kuo, Cleveland, OH-based illustrator and designer
Talk Title: All I want to do is make cute things

How to make cute things:
1. Eyes
2. Cute mouth
3. Any shape and it will be cute
Is part of The Nimbus Factory as a side project
Illustrated the book New to Cleveland: A Guide to (re)Discovering the City, which started from the 100 Days in Cleveland blog

Julia’s blog, 100 Days in Cleveland, opened up an opportunity for her. Do something you enjoy, share with others, and maybe something will come out of it. Also, drawing cute things doesn’t hurt either.

Matt Stevens, Charlotte, NC-based designer, illustrator, and art director
Talk Title: *subject to change without notice

No plan, just do it
Do it for your own reasons, see opportunities and jump
Might not work out
Immerse yourself into something
Fight to do the kind of work you want to do
Figure out what’s important to you
You make your own momentum

I’m a big fan of Matt and his work. He takes his work very seriously and it shows. Figure out what you love to do and do what you need to do to do it.
You create your own driving force. Matt’s a true example of how hard work, several side projects, and talent can give you the flexibility of doing what you love to do.

Tuesday Bassen, New York City-based illustrator and designer
Talk Title: Don’t Be An Asshole

Being awesome isn’t enough sometimes
Don’t pee in the design pool
Make your own community instead of waiting around
Draw for yourself
There are no specific avenues to do your work

Tuesday’s talk pretty much sums it up; be nice to others, make a community of like-minded people, and see where your work leads you.

Friends of Type, Brooklyn, NY & San Francisco-based designers, illustrator, typographers, Aaron Carambula, Erik Marinovich, Dennis Payongayong, and Jason Wong
Talk Title: Good, Bad & Ugly

If you have an idea, do it
Find inspiration anywhere
Keep it fun and light and fresh
Have adventures
Don’t be afraid to fuck up

The Friends of Type might have been the happiest people at WMC Fest. You can tell they feed off one another, love to create, and can turn a simple idea into something magical.

Jennifer Daniel, Brooklyn, NY-based designer and illustrator
Talk Title: Untitled

Surround yourself with creative friends and competitive settings

Jennifer works for the Man, and she’s ok with that. She’s figured out how to work really hard, be herself, and get a photo of Lady GaGa’s butt in a world-renowned, weekly business magazine. Well done, Jennifer.

James White, Nova Scotia, Canada-based illustrator, designer, and owner of Signalnoise
Talk Title: Design Renegade

Draw all of the time
Being different just isn’t enough anymore
Get off the path and get out in the woods
Infuse fun into your work, be kid-focused and passionate
Do what you’re passionate about and the passion will show in your work
Play: do it just to do it
Boy Scout and Lego icons – inspiration
Playing around can earn you work
You never know where your work will end up if you don’t pull it out there
No baloney [in your work], just the stuff that needs to be there
Do stuff and see where it goes
Pick online communities that work for you and use them well and often
You don’t need clients in order to do work
Do lots of research for your personal projects

James is a 30-something year old kid who is full of energy…or is it maple syrup, I’m not sure. He loves Legos, trading cards, and 8-bit video games. But don’t be fooled by his kid-like mentality. James loves to try new things and allows his passions to shine through in his work. Sometimes, if you do the work and get the work out there, the right people will see it and it will turn into something much more than an exercise.

Kate Bingaman Burt, Portland, OR-based
Talk Title: 8 Days a Week

Collecting is important to the research, but be sure to make connections
Curations: study, ask questions, and seek to find new meanings
Use collected images to guide the process
Share with others
Work hard
Elevate the mundane
Automated projects: create framework and structure
Zines: constraint to creations
Turn thoughtfully looking into thoughtfully making

Kate is an explosion of enthusiasm. She is constantly working, moving, sharing, and making. Each one of Kate’s projects might seem crazy and unplanned, but actually there is a pretty strict structure under all of the hand drawings. Structure and constraints can sometimes be a creativity-killer, but if used wisely, they can give you even more freedom.

That’s it for the speakers. I just wanted to say again how pleased I was with this conference. I haven’t felt this re-energized in a really long time and I owe it to the WMC Fest team, all of the speakers, the featured designers, the bands, and all of the wonderful people I met over the weekend.

WMC Fest 2012 – day one

18 Jul

I’m going to try to sum up my experience by transcribing my notes from the speakers I was able to watch, hear, and experience in hopes that it makes sense and inspires you as much as it did for me. I am bummed I wasn’t able to hear all of the speakers present this year, but I hope to look them up via their respective websites/social sites. Here we go.

Austin Kleon, Austin, TX-based writer, artist, author, and speaker
Talk Title: Writing: The Secret Weapon of Any Career

Nothing is original
All writing is collage, recombining words
Read, read, read: Good reading leads to good writing, read what you love
Write in your books: create arguments in the margins
Keep a swipe file: what to take and use for later (small notebook, phone,
camera, etc.)

Always carry paper and writing utensil
Artists need pockets, they also need curiosity, kindness, and stamina
Step away from the computer screen: It’s too easy to hit the delete key
“In the digital age, don’t forget to use your digits!”—Lynda Barry
Keep a daily routine: Schedule it, make a calendar, and keep a log book
Write something you want to read
Write to satisfy 1 person (not yourself)
After you write something, put it away and read it again later
Practice in public: blog, twitter, whatever…just share

Austin’s presentation made me want to read, sketch, and write more, oh and buy shirts with 2 front pockets. I really want to write more and better now.

Mike Kubinski, Cleveland, OH-based founder and designer at C.L.E. Clothing
Talk Title: Home Grown

Big on civic pride
Build a brand and build an audience
Get your friends to be your marketing team
Print yourself, print on-demand, and keep inventory low
Get involved with your local scene
People embraced the brand because “the location inspires them”
Make crazy designs that are alternatives to the “big guy shops”
All money goes back into the company
Hire a manager
Pitch in to other local artists/designers, create a community
Wanted to become the “city’s giftshop”

Mike is big on civic pride and has built a successful business on that model.
Be true to your roots and be proud of where you live and work.

Nate UteschFort Wayne, IN-based designer, artist, art director, musician, and founder/curator/designer of Ferocious Quarterly
Talk Title: Let’s be more of who we are. Together. All at once.

Collaboration is compromising
Give up and work together
If you don’t think something is possible, it won’t happen
Create, because it’s who you are and want to be
Motivate others

Through Ferocious Quarterly, Nate has worked with some of the best illustrators, designers, and writers in the biz. A project is so much more rewarding when done with others. Nate has so much energy and I could tell he would be awesome to work with. No wonder Ferocious Quarterly is so well-respected in the industry.

Rachael Novak, Cleveland, OH-based illustrator and designer
Talk Title: Side Hustle

Hone your craft and capitalize on it
Trial and error, find out what sells
Broaden work and keep it relevant
Be kind to yourself
Be a first-rate “you”
Post and share, show off your personality
Take on small projects, an exercise might turn into something big
Don’t share absolutely everything you do
Show off “play” in your work
Work by hand
Work without a goal in mind

Rachael’s big things are to concentrate on your craft, enjoy the work you do, share, but not too much, and have fun doing what you do. Do your 9 to 5, but dig into something you enjoy on the side.

Johnny CupcakesBoston, MA-based entrepreneur and founder of
Johnny Cupcakes
Talk Title: Coming soon!

You need to make sacrifices to be happy doing what you are doing
Approach the right people and use the people you do know as a resource
Internships and volunteering: learn from others’ mistakes
Focus on your work now, play later
Put 110% into your business
Try to find a balance and find time to do something you love
Sage is the O’Doul’s of marijuana
Strange concepts are good
Create an experience for your customer, may need to spend more money to do so
Packaging is VERY important: if it doesn’t get thrown away, it’s good, acts as a mini billboard
Make product memorable and customers will act as your marketing team
Build a community
Build a positive team and learn how to delegate tasks
You don’t have to use traditional advertising
Don’t rush: first impressions are everything
Hand-written notes are powerful
Frequent sales = frequent fails, makes you appear less-attractive as a business

A businessman and entrepreneur at heart, Johnny truly is a people-person. He’s concentrated on the quality of his products, had fun with his business, and turned it into a really successful brand. He is deeply connected to his customers, which helps create such a great experience for everyone involved.

I will be highlighting the speakers I saw on day two on tomorrow’s post.
Stay tuned.

WMC Fest 2012 overview

17 Jul

As I mentioned in a previous post, I attended this year’s Weapons of Mass Creation Fest in Cleveland, OH. Throw out all of your preconceptions of your traditional, stuffy conference folks. This conference boasted of 20 speakers, 20 featured designers, and over 30 bands and it was like something I’ve never experienced…in a really good way. WMC Fest was founded by designer and illustrator Jeff Finley, partner of Go Media, a Cleveland-based, full-service agency. Jeff and his team have planned, organized, and executed an amazing experience for designers, writers, and creators in a centralized, mid-west environment that is Cleveland, Ohio.

This year’s activities were broken up into three venues; the Reinberger Auditorium, Saigon Plaza, and iLTHY Workshop. Fortunately for the organizers and the attendees, these three separate buildings are in close proximity to one other.

The Reinberger Auditorium boasts of a intimate setting for the speakers to give their talk, which at times may have been more intimate than the speakers would want. For several of the presentations, people spilled onto the stage while they did their talk. It kind of gave that punk rock show feel, which I thought was cool.

Saigon Plaza housed the 30+ bands for the weekend on two stages (inside and outside), as well as the pre-fest mixer, and a breakdance competition. Because of the heat that weekend, it made for a rather warm setting. Only after the sun went down, could you slip outside, enjoy several drinks, and escape the heat.

The iLTHY Workshop allowed 20 designers to showcase some of their work in the Art & Design Show gallery. Also inside the iLTHY space were many other designers selling their prints, T-shirts, books, pennants, and stickers.

Overall, Weapons of Mass Creation 3 was extremely fun and rewarding. I met some really great people and got to hear designers who I’ve admired for quite some time speak and had the opportunity to talk with them after their presentation on a one-on-one level. It’s events like this that transform (in my head, at least) well-known design superstars into normal, everyday people, just like you and I. We all do the same thing; create for a living. If we can connect at that personal level and leave the pretentiousness at the door, our community will continue to get  better and stronger. I’d like to thank everyone who had a hand in this year’s fest. It was a huge success and I hope to make it next year.

I will be making 2 more WMC Fest-related posts in the next few days, highlighting the speakers of this year’s event. Stay tuned.


1 Mar

I went to a viewing of PressPausePlay Tuesday night, hosted by the Virigina Tech AIGA chapter. It is a fantastically filmed/edited/designed documentary, talking with some of the world’s most influential authors, musicians, directors, creatives, and entrepreneurs. Over the past 10 years, our culture has turned into a technological grab bag of sorts, where you can create just about anything in the comfort of your bedroom. The points and counterpoints from those who were interviewed for the film were asking if this flood of content, ranging from ‘trash’ to ‘excellent’ content (whether that be music, design, video editing, etc.) is a good or bad thing? Is the crap work choking out all of the great work, not allowing it to be seen? Does great content only available through the big production companies, or can equal-quality work come from a guy sitting in his basement?

The take-away from this film (that I got from it, at least) was that yes, there are a ton of creative people out there. Some professionally trained, some not. Some have natural talent and others don’t. Most of the time, the ones that seem to be able to wade above the sea of crappy work are the ones that have a good design sense, have some sort of basic knowledge about design/music/rhythm. Basically, a strong foundation. That might be attributed to formal schooling, hands-on training from a mentor, industry experience, a combination of all or some of these or whatever. My thought is if you have that solid foundation, you have a better chance of being found and excelling in your respective industry. No matter if you are up-to-date on the latest software out there, with all of those fancy tools, you still need a firm grasp on the basics. It certainly will help if you are well-versed with the latest and greatest software and other gadgetry, but it’s not a must.

After the film was over, Tim Austin, a student in the Visual Communications Design program at Virginia Tech, asked the other students if they thought they were at disadvantage because they were brought up in a digital age and surrounded by technology in their formative years? There was a general consensus that as long as you knew your stuff, you’d do fine. Being in the design industry for 10 years now, and having done some hands on non-digital “stuff” (screen printing, film development, offset printing, old-fashioned paste up), I can say I respect the history of the craft. I’m not sure if that’s an advantage or not, but I don’t think it hurts to know how certain processes used to be done.

So, if you haven’t already seen this movie, download it and watch it. Do you think the glut of mediocre work out there is overwhelming the great work? I’m interested to see what others think on this topic, so add a comment below.

creative exercise – creature derby

19 Jan

As I have mentioned in a previous post, at my current job, with the help of our team, I run a weekly “idea meeting” on Fridays.  Since our dear colleague, Katie Gehrt, was leaving us for an awesome job opportunity in Kentucky, we decided that we needed to do something special for her last idea meeting/last day in the office.  I put a call out to think of something good for her last idea meeting with us. We decided that since Katie was headed to Kentucky, that a Kentucky Derby theme was in order. I had an idea, shared it with the team, and we ran with it. I broke out some painters tape and a giant straight edge, measuring ever four inches for the “track” game board spaces.

Now, for the creative part: create a horse, paper monster, or whatever your heart desires and name your creature. There was a wide range of creatures: a super-accurate realist horse and racer, an animal cracker-sized horse, a daisy duke jort-wearing bear, a cubist horse, a piece of toast with a long tongue, a Scooby-Doo-looking horse and racer, a pink slime monster, and a green horned monster.

From left to right: ClipArt™ (Katie), Tongue Lasher (Jennifer), Run On Sentence (Rachel), The Gobbler (Sara), Happy (Emily), Bearly Legal (Brian), The Blob? (Suzanne), 2 Cute 2 Lose (Dylan)

I also encouraged everyone to make a derby hat, tie, or any other derby accessory with whatever we had around the office.

Dylan brought some “Pick your nose” cups, which are always funny.

After the decorating was over, we got down to business and raced our creatures along the track. There were conspiracy theories that I somehow rigged the paper die to keep rolling sixes. Whatever the case may be, I won, with Katie in a close second, and Sara rounded out the top three.

Although there was no direct connection to design, sometimes activities like this one get us away from our desks and refresh our brains, allowing us to renew ourselves and keep fresh.

creative exercise – let it roll

26 Oct

At my current job, I have been given the opportunity to hold weekly “Idea meetings.” These are held late Friday morning to cap off the week with any work-related idea farming, or just to share what anyone is currently working on or has recently finished. Then, if time allows, we do some sort of an activity, usually pulled from my Caffeine for the Creative Team book. A few weeks ago, I had an idea that I thought I would try out.

I brought a bunch of empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls in and asked our team members to bring a pair of scissors with them. The instructions were as follows: Create anything out of these rolls using only scissors (no tape, glue, etc.). The concept behind this challenge was that we are given very little to work with on a daily basis, and expected to turn it into something great. This is something we deal with all the time, granted our clients don’t bring us a bag of cardboard before we start a project for them, but the overall concept is the same. You could use any type of raw material to do this type of activity, too. I would like to do this again using a completely different medium, but similar parameters.

The team seemed to enjoy the activity and the creations turned out great. Here they are:

Castle by Leah

Totem Pole by Suzanne

Moustache Dude by Dylan

Aviator Glasses by Brian (me), Aviator helmet by Melanie

Brooch by Jennifer

Father’s Day gift

23 Jun

I started reading An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers while on vacation last week and got to thinking. My 2-year-old son, Benji, has shown a pretty strong interest in drawing. So much so, he started wanting to draw in my sketchbook. Like any other father who wants his kid to be creative and have a supportive upbringing, I let him draw in my sketchbook, carefully guiding him to draw on the blank pages. I may be partial since Benji is my first-born child, but I was pretty impressed with what he was drawing. Sure some of it looked like your typical 2-year old kid scribbles all over the page, but his happy faces, spiders, and bananas/hot dogs are pretty convincing. I’m fairly certain that his face-drawing skills are strongly influenced by the Mii Channel on the Wii, which he calls “Guys.”

So, a few days before Father’s Day, I decided I wanted to buy Benji a sketchbook of his own. This would be a gift from me to him, which in turn, would be a gift to me. I love watching him learn, grow, and try new things. Why not give him something to help him draw, create, and dream? Plus, I thought it would be great for me and my wife to look back at his drawings and see how much he has changed through his sketches. I hope that he continues to draw and sketch so we can have a little library of his sketchbooks starting at 2 years old. I also wanted to draw with him so it was force me to sketch more often. Now, I have to say, I’m not pushing any of this on him. If that ever changes, I will not force Benji to draw in it, but will always encourage him to keep doing something to challenge himself and keep his mind sharp.

The sketchbook is a standard 8.5″ x 11″ black, hard-bound blank-paged book. I put a label on it with his name so it wouldn’t get mixed up with my completed sketchbooks and told him that this is his special book that he can do whatever he want’s with it. Above are some of his sketches; the top was done before he got the book, and the second one was done today. After I ask him if he’s done with the page, I asked him what he drew so I can note it on the side of the page along with the date.

I plan on keeping a digital record of his sketchbook, to share his progress. I’ll set up a set in flickr and be sure to update this posting with the link.

I wonder if anyone else has done this, and documented it. If you or anyone else has done this, please share!