Weapons of Mass Creation Festival Takes Cleveland

Lisa Sanchez
Cleveland is the epicenter of design. Trust me, I was just as surprised as you are. But, that exciting tidbit is just one small lesson I learned at this year's fourth annual Weapons of Mass Creation Fest. Not only did I learn something new, I saw a community of designers and creative freelancers get together to do art, talk shop, and generally nerd out about typeface and printing.

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest began in 2010 and features an impressive array of speakers, bands, and workshops. Sponsored by Go Media, the event draws in over a thousand attendees over the course of three days (this year August 16-18). The event is held at Public Theater in the Gordon Square district of Cleveland. For those who are unfamiliar, Public Theater is a beautiful building and is the perfect home for the creation-inspiring WMC Fest.

This year’s WMC Fest was the first to feature celebrity host Mark Brickey. Brickey hosts his own podcast, "Adventures in Design", which was recorded live at WMC Fest as part of the festivities. Brickey spoke and definitely entertained attendees in between each guest speaker. There is always that awkward milling stage when the audience has stopped listening and starts running for the door to finally release that eager bowel movement. Let me just say, that Brickey stops that urgent bathroom trip in its tracks. Aside from the main speakers, he was one of the big highlights just by interacting with the audience, fielding questions, and talking about his own love of food and destroying other people's cars.

Unlike your grandma's glaucoma awareness seminar, WMC Fest is far from a dull professional symposium. The fest itself promotes DIY, networking, and creativity. This includes anyone from the freelancer to the white collar professional, the newly graduated to the seasoned veteran. It appeared that all or most of the attendees represented the state of the design market today: young, vibrant and eager to dig deeper into their chosen professions and expressions.
One festivalgoer checks out some of the design prints on display at the WMC Fest.
(Sanchez 2013)
Joseph Hughes, one of the organizing partner's of WMC Fest said in Saturday's opening ceremony that the fest existed to reflect the workforce of design and the industry itself. Hughes went on to say that WMC Fest strives to present a realistic depiction of the design community, not water down the truth like some other professional conferences. Well, if that is the goal, WMC certainly succeeded by choosing vibrant speakers who demonstrated realistic strategies for success as well as truthful depictions of real life hardships.

The subject of highs and lows was a key point for Jen and Omar from the successful design team "These are Things". In their presentation they detailed the successes and downfalls they had faced in their careers and personal lives. Although it may sound like a bummer, it was a refreshing depiction of what a "struggling artist" looks like and how they can overcome. There are no easy answers, but Jen and Omar simply put it, "You are not points on a graph, you are lines connecting the dots." People's success is based on how they overcome their lowest points and reach their stratospheric success. A heavy lesson for a design conference, but a valued one nonetheless.

Numerous people had traveled across the state for the fest, but many others came from as far away as Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Indiana. One featured artist braved the seven-hour drive from Louisville to feature her art for one day at WMC Fest. I spoke with Miss Happy Pink about her cutesy kitty punk art (my favorite was a Hello-Kittified satan goat) and what she thought about her first year displaying at WMC Fest. "I love to listen and get inspiration from professionals who have already experienced the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs of success," Pink said, "it's great to see people follow what they love even if it may not be the most financially responsible decision."

That's exactly what you saw at WMC; do what you love, keep trying until you succeed and then keep on trying. Among the featured speakers were numerous bands and artists pursuing the same dreams as many of the freelance designers. This was definitely the most fun that I've ever had networking and the most entertainment I've ever acquired from any PowerPoint presentation.