How One Design Conference Made Itself Less of a Bro Fest (Plus a Sneak Peek at the Lineup!)

Cleveland design festival Weapons of Mass Creation will be bigger, better, and more diverse than ever this year.

It can be a challenge to curate an event that embodies a coherent aesthetic while managing to include panelists from a diverse set of backgrounds. (In fact, we've reported on this before at GOOD. A lot.) Creators of the all-white-dude project will often respond, "Well, we just invited the people we know," and that's exactly the problem: People tend to know others who think and look like them, and can be too busy (or lazy) to extend beyond their immediate networks.

So we were delighted to find out that a festival celebrating music and design in Cleveland stepped up to our challenge to create a more inclusive lineup for its third annual event this spring. Last year, we called out Weapons of Mass Creation, which founder Jeff Finley calls a "punk-rock-DIY version of SXSW," for not incorporating enough rock-star women designers. So we were thrilled when Finley sent us the lineup for this year's festival, which will feature a much-improved gender ratio—about a third of the speakers are women, compared to four of 23 last year. That's still not parity, but the improvement is notable, and we hope the upward trajectory to continue next year. The speaker roster has grown more racially diverse, too, though there's plenty of room to grow on that front.

"It’s definitely been a purposeful decision and it means a lot to us," Finley says. "You can’t just expect diversity to happen." Making diversity a priority made him realize that seeking out new voices required a time-intensive planning process that would pay off at the event, he says.

Finley describes Weapons of Mass Creation as a place for members of the design community—who usually connect online—to come together in the real world to share ideas and launch new projects. We're excited to see what comes out the festival this year, which will bring together nearly 30 bands, 20 designers, 20 speakers, and 1,000 or so attendees.

Finley was kind enough to give GOOD readers a sneak peek at the speaker lineup. Check out the amazing talent that's coming together below for the event, which runs June 8-10. Early-bird weekend passes are selling for $50, but Finley is offering GOOD readers a 20 percent discount—just enter the discount code 'good' when tickets go on sale April 2. (They're also looking for sponsors, if you're entrepreneurial like that).

Image courtesy of Weapons of Mass Creation

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