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Weapons of Mass Creation

by Grace Bonney

This past August I spoke at the best art & design conference I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending: Weapons of Mass Creation. Held in Cleveland, OH, this year’s WMC marked its 6th anniversary and the conference showed no signs of slowing down or resting on its laurels – it was incredible. Most people in the creative community are familiar with the “big” conferences that happen every year. They cost a lot of money, involve a lot of big sponsors and focus on personal branding, sponsorships and image. I felt so disillusioned with them all that I stopped going and, until this year, had all but sworn conferences off. But several of my friends who have attended WMC for years encouraged me to give this conference a try, so after missing out on last year’s conference because of a scheduling conflict, I was thrilled to be invited to speak at the 2014 event. It was one of the most inspiring weekends of my professional life.

What’s so different about WMC? For me, it came down to this: inclusion. The design community is a diverse place, but that diversity is rarely visualized and shown in the way it should be. I struggle with this myself and am working harder to show the full depth and breadth of our community and not fall into the trap of mainly talking about people that look like me. WMC made that inclusiveness their focus this year, with panels that discussed gender, race and sexuality in design and panels that were designed to show all of us how to make everyone feel welcome, comfortable and celebrated in our community. Some conversations were raw, some emotional and every single one of them was eye-opening. Frankly, they were the sorts of discussions we all need to be hearing, listening to and participating in. There was so much substance, open dialogue and real creativity happening at WMC that I could barely take it all in. All I knew was that I was lucky to be there and to be a part of a group of people who made me look harder and more closely at my own behavior and how I can be a better supporter and champion of EVERYONE in our community, not just the people that are the easiest to find.

I wanted to share some of this year’s videos because I hope they’ll inspire you to attend next year. The tickets are affordable, WMC provides a ride board where you can find a way to car-share with someone to get there and the cost of lodging and eating in Cleveland is reasonable, too. All of that is to say that if you save up or take off time from work to attend one event next year, I hope you’ll make it to WMC. I promise it will be a weekend that makes you feel like you’re a part of a very special, very welcoming and incredibly creative family. I don’t know how else to explain it other than to say that WMC felt like the college experience I always wished I’d had. You’ll be challenged to think differently, open your mind and meet people you may have never met otherwise. Oh, and did I mention you’ll get to see comedians and bands play between and after talks and panels? It’s pretty amazing. Click here to keep an eye out for next year’s conference. xo, grace

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  • Wow, I just watched your speech in the second video, and I was so moved that I had to email it to my friends! I am so excited to go to my job in Englewood, Chicago and create beautiful things today.

  • Aaah!! Thanks so much for writing this! I’ve not been happy with the recap I tried to write, it just seemed too biased coming from me as an organizer of the fest. Like, of course I would say it was awesome. It means so much more coming from you! Thanks for the continuing support and I hope we get to do it all again next more! <3

  • just finished listening to your entire speech – it was phenomenal, great job! I was particularly blown away by the fact that “after the jump” started from your desire to overcome your public speaking set-backs. amazing. so many great points I’ll have to listen again!

  • Grace thanks so much for putting into words what so many of us felt about the weekend! There is really something magical about WMC and I so glad I got to be apart of it! And it feels really special to have my video highlighted among such a great line up of talks! You rock! <3

  • Wow Grace, that was such great speech. Your honesty, vulnerability and tenacity are inspiring to me! Hearing about the way you approach tackling your fears head on is quiet something. In particular the things you said about looking at what it would mean to close your business and the thought of working for someone else motivated you to do what you needed to do to carry on – I can certainly relate to that. The thought of having to work for someone else’s dream is my worst nightmare – it motivates me to do everything I can to keep my little business going. Thank you so much for the inspiration !:)

  • Sound advice, so generous. I love your podcasts and listen in every week while crafting or walking my dog here in Berlin. Who would have guessed that After The Jump was a result of overcoming fears? Thanks so much for sharing this back story and producing such inspiring shows week after week.

  • YAY!!!! They have the videos up! I saw the speakers and discussion topics for this years conference and almost fell out! I’ve never seen a conference this diverse. NEVER. It made me so happy. Things like that give me the reassurance that I have a place in the design community and my point of view matters too. It’s awesome you could be a part of it.

  • Grace, what a wonderful speech! For some reason I instinctively saved this post to view later and I’m so glad I did. Your words resonated so deeply with me!

    Also I think I’ve heard you talk about your vision board on a podcast before, it was great to see a photo of what one actually looks like and have some more context about how they work for you. It is definitely something I am going to try particularly as the year is drawing to a close and I’m actively looking ahead to life next year.

    Thank you!

  • Thanks Grace! Your speech was wonderful! I am finally attending WMC this year and can’t wait to be inspired and to connect with other designers and entrepreneurs! :)