What I Learned At Design Camp

October 18, 2018

As an adult, I thought my days of going off to camp were over. However, the first weekend in October, that changed when I attended Design Camp. This three-day, design-focused conference, put on by the American Institute of Graphic Art took place at Madden’s Resort in Brainerd. It was a beautiful setting on a gorgeous Minnesota fall weekend. What could be more relaxing and inspirational than that?

It was my first time attending camp and it did not disappoint. It featured a good balance of daily creative workshops, scheduled times for networking and meeting new friends, catching up with old coworkers/classmates and keynote presentations from top creatives in the industry. They were funny, creative and inspirational, but also emotional, raw and honest about how hard the journey to success is. Whether it was their journey figuring out what type of work they wanted to focus on, defining themselves in the industry, or managing complicated projects with impossible timelines, each seminar was filled with expert advice.

I learned so much from some of the inspirational messages from the keynote speakers. It was a refreshing reminder for me that sometimes work is hard and you have to keep striving to put your best self out there. I consider it all such good advice that can be related to almost any career path, not just design.

An annual tradition for the first day at Design Camp – Plaidurday. There was a a whole lot of PLAID going on! (Photo credit – Design Camp photographers.)

Here are my top five inspirational messages from Design Camp.

Share Your Work With The World

This was a message that strung through almost all of the keynote presentations. No one will know what you have to offer if you don’t put it out there. So many of us are afraid to put ourselves and our work out there for fear of rejection or criticism. But you cannot grow, move forward and be successful by keeping your work to yourself.

Embrace Failure

As presenter David Hartman said during his presentation, “Great ideas are born from failure.” Sometimes it’s the springboard for a great idea and your next success. As those in the industry know, pursuing a creative career path is not an immediate success. The journey comes in waves of successes and failures. This can be deflating and discouraging at times. But it’s the tiny wins over time that bring you growth and take you to the next level. Failure may become less frequent as you grow in your career but it’s not entirely unavoidable.

Throw Away The Scale

Comparing your work to your peers and other successful industry professionals has no value. It’s a breeding ground for a negative self-image. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus your energy on yourself and your work. Remember, those people you idolize or compare yourself to have put in a lot of hard work and effort to become successful and get where they are at. Most likely they were not an overnight success and have gone through many struggles to get to where they are. Try not to forget that.

The Only Thing To Be Afraid Of Is Losing Curiosity

The final keynote speaker of the weekend, Andy J. Pizza said these four words, “FOLLOW CURIOSITY, NOT FEAR.” Whoa. Such a simple statement, yet so impactful. It is easy to fall into the trap of following fear instead of curiosity when you experience failure. When you fail, try a different approach. Don’t force something to work for you when it isn’t working. Look at it a different way. Don’t be afraid to redirect yourself. Start the journey over and take a different approach. Look for inspiration. Don’t give in to the struggle. Don’t give in to fear. Follow your curiosity, and don’t give up.

Materials from a letterpress workshop I took at Design Camp. The workshop focused on pairing the art of letter press/wood type printing with powerful messages. We split into three groups and each had to come up with advice we’d give to younger generations to make a better future.

One more message (this is technically number six but when you spend three days with creative people it’s hard to limit yourself to five):

Your Computer Screen Is Not A Good Source Of Vitamin D. Get Up And Get Out!

A great reminder from keynote presenter and designer Lauren Dickens. As a society we’ve become so reliant to our screens, that we don’t put them down often enough and focus on being in the present moment. There is a world out there to be explored. Get up, get out and gather it up. You’ll be much more successful if you take the time to be inspired.