It's 4xForth Friday and today we're talking to Margot Harrington, the communication designer, head honcho, and brains behind Pitch Design Studio. Margot fearlessly began Pitch Design Union in 2008 after being laid off from her job and she's been running an incredibly successful website, brand, and custom lettering company ever since. Did we mention she also teaches? That's right! She's currently offering a wonderful class on Skillshare titled Freelancing for Creatives: Kickstart your Independence.Read More
Pitch Design Union
You guys! Do we have a treat for you today, and it's called the Weapons of Mass Creation Fest. WMC Fest is the premier art, design and music event in the US, returning next weekend (August 15-17) in Cleveland, Ohio for its fifth consecutive year. These three days will be filled with a mix of speakers, artists, and musical acts at the Cleveland Public Theater. WMC Fest describes itself as a place where "creative professionals, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, students, and fans will gather to learn, get inspired, collaborate, network, and celebrate their passion for design, music, and entrepreneurship".
We sat down with two Forth Alum who will be participating in the festival this year - Margot Harrington, designer and owner of Pitch Design Union, and Jessica Jacobs - Columbia College Professor, artist, designer, and entrepreneur. Hear what these ladies have to say about this unique gathering!
Forth: WMC Fest celebrates creatives and tries to shed light on the struggles, fears, and failures everyone experiences, in hopes of those shared stories will help others feel confident in their creativity and work. Is that what drew you to this group?
Margot: This is part of the festival, certainly. Just being a human, stuff happens, and sometimes we get to talk about it in group setting. My job is to make sure it feels as safe, accessible, and welcoming to everyone. I didn't know much about WMC Fest when I first went though. I was asked to speak, that was my initial entrance, and aside from focusing on that I only knew there would be some internet friends IRL. I figured it would be great for that reason alone. I certainly didn't anticipate to be making a third return trip.
Margot: At the time I'd been feeling super overwhelmed and burnt out, due to saying yes to too many things (sound familiar?). I realized I was having trouble even prioritizing what to say no to, much less how. And that this was the talk I wanted to hear at WMC. Which meant it was the talk *I* had to write. Funny how that goes. I figured out a 5-step process for how and what to say no to, which you can read about here. Even despite this talk, it still took me the better part of a year to really clean up my act and it's still something I work to keep up with.
Forth: Will this be your first time at WMC Fest? What drew you to this group and what are you most looking forward to experiencing this year?
Jessica: This will be my first time at WMC Fest. I saw Twitter comments about it last year, and it looked like people were really enjoying it. It looks like a unique mix of music, art and design, which I think brings a vibrant energy that sets it apart from the usual design conference.
Margot: This was handed down in effect from the original speaker director, Joseph Hughes. We met because of twitter and have been maintaining regular chats and emails since. It's because of him that I even knew about the festival, and it's him who really injected the spirit that we hope to carry on this year. As for the talks/sessions, of course I'm thrilled for the Chicago friends who are speaking. And we've got some really great talent from the east/west coasts too. And the panels and debate are new this year and will really bring the Real Talk. I guess that's... everyone. Ha, I can't decide! That would be like picking my favorite child.
Forth: You're speaking on the Designer's Debate Club Panel, where you'll hash out sticky subjects. Can you share a bit more about the topic you'll be debating? In your opinion, what are some of the tough subjects designers face these days?
Jessica: Our panel is debating the idea of "do what you love". This is a phrase that artists and designers often hear, that we're supposed to throw caution (and possibly a livelihood) into the wind and follow our passions. But, as we all know, it is extremely challenging to make a living as an artist, and "do what you love" seems to ignore these challenges. I could speak to both sides of this, but I will be "arguing" on the "pro" side of the debate. My approach is that you can do what you love, but you need to have a solid business footing and a clear view of the marketplace in which you are operating. I don't know the questions ahead of time--I think we're going to fly by the seat of our pants which should make it a lot more interesting!
Jessica: I am thrilled to be working with Margot at WMC Fest, and this would not have happened without Forth. Whenever I think about business collaborations, questions, etc., I aways think of Forth first. With my job (as a professor at Columbia College), it is important that I speak at conferences and collaborate with the leaders in my field. So I was thinking about upcoming conferences and saw that Margot was involved with WMC Fest. I also saw that they needed more sponsors. So, I reached out to Margot asking if she needed speakers and if she needed help getting sponsors (because I like to give if I'm gonna get). Long story short, I hooked Margot up with the Columbia College marketing and admissions department, and they are now the lead educational sponsor of the event! So Forth absolutely brought us together, which is the coolest thing. The best part is that I have never even met Margot in person! So it's going to be a fun time in Cleveland.
WMC Fest is a three day conference that just might change your life. Make the spontaneous decision to go, learn and connect next weekend. Tickets are still available!
Margot Harrington is the spitfire behind Pitch Design Union, a web and branding studio in Chicago. We loved having her at our spring salon, as she was such an active and engaging part of the conversation. Today she's sharing thoughts in light of the recent #YesAllWomen campaign, encouraging the rest of us to join the conversation on equality, diversity, and empowering women.
For the last week regular mentions of the UCSB shootings and the subsequent #YesAllWomen hashtag campaign have crossed my feed, simultaneously breaking my heart then filling it with hope that this conversation is starting to moving further. I’m in awe of the people sharing their stories and the pain behind their words, but I’m tongue-tied over how to contribute or respond. And then I came across this encouraging article, which publicly announces and acknowledges the homogenous problems in the tech community with real, actionable examples on how they plan to fight it. This community, A List Apart, they get it. People are responding, in small ways already. The fact that they absorbed the shock of this event and used it positively is an inspiration. I would love to see all organizations posting some kind of diversity clause with their own rules and guidelines for addressing it. In fact, here’s another example of a real thing you can display to do just that.
From there, what else is there to do? For starters, we cannot let the conversation fade. There’s still plenty of folks who are tired of hearing about this, and think that “feminists just need to tone it down” (this was a real tweet I saw last week) but we have to keep working on making this conversation more productive. It’s tricky because it’s not at all linear. No 'do X' and 'get Y'. Even something like, “5 tip for improving the relationships in your office” can be seen as a broad generalization that might not be widely applicable. Other listicles I’ve seen are lady instruction books on surviving the world’s boys clubs, but those make me anxious. They put the onus on women to behave properly and stand up to fix the system, with no mention of how to get guys involved in the conversation.
What else then? Is that the best the internet has to offer? Thankfully, no. One of my favorites in recent weeks is the I Am Spartaca campaign. Intended as a unifying badge/banner/button that anyone can wear or put on their profile to tell the world they’ve either experienced discrimination in tech, or they’re an ally against it. It’s a judgement-free acknowledgment that says 'I see your pain, we stand together, and you are not alone'. I’m imagining a whole crowd of people sporting this as a button at the next tech conference, wouldn’t that be so powerful?
Further, here’s a long-ish piece interviewing ladies who are the only female in their band. It’s enlightening and refreshing to see the range in their experiences. It differs from the style of articles I mentioned above because it’s not positing anyone as right or wrong. It’s so empowering to see how each one has managed to make it work for them.
And finally, wonderfully, an encouraging story in the NYT from a man whose college-age son pipes up about how important it is for men to be outspoken feminists. It just about did me in. #YesAllMen, indeed.