Dear Design Camp,
This year, like every year, you were exactly what I needed. You are this magical, wonderful event where designers from all over travel to a tiny lake in Brainerd, where every form or realm of design is fair game, where every type of designer can mix and mingle, where the creatives stop to smell the whisky.
This year, you brought me change. And not just because we moved locations to the amazing and hospitable Madden's on Gull Lake. This year, I decided to unplug. I didn't tweet, I didn't instagram, I didn't facebook. Which is why, I think, I decided to write you this letter.
Maybe I unplugged because this year's theme, designed by Imagehaus and printed by Studio on Fire, created a secret society for us, The Order of Ipsum. I wanted to soak in all you had to offer and be present in the moment. You enticed us with your decoding invites, excited us with your hidden messages, and we all gladly initiated with matching black hoodies.
It seems to me there is always an unintentional theme that arises as the weekend unfolds. Now, as an obsessive LOST fan, the deliberate and maybe less deliberate LOST references did not go unnoticed this year. And I would love nothing more than to say your hidden theme this year was LOST, but I know it was actually much bigger than that. As the speakers shared and the workshops taught, one similar theme became clear: Passion is what drives us.
You see, Design Camp, all of the Keynote speakers started creating what they enjoyed on their own free time. Their projects were their passion and they participated out of the pure bliss they received from working on what they loved.
Armin Vit thinks inspiration is bullshit and uses his Smoothie Principle to design. Mixing all those ingredients led to his plethora of blogs: Brand New, For Print Only, Quipsologies, and Art of the Menu. Those blogs grew to conferences, awards, publications, and organizations. With the office in their house, Armin and his wife, Bryony, post, create, print, bind, and ship all that is UnderConsideration and they're continuously coming up with more passion projects to make a reality. The Smoothie Principle worked for Armin, "so go ahead and burp away."
Sue Crolick is a legend. Her personal talk allowed us to take a glimpse into her struggles and triumphs as the first woman Art Director in MPLS during the Mad Men era. After fighting to become a woman art director in an all men club, after paralyzing a vocal cord, after the building she worked in burned down, after she moved back in with her parents, she still picked herself back up and continued to push herself to new lengths. She became passionate about mentoring inner-city kids and turned that passion into her own organization, Art Buddies. We're all excited to see what Sue's next passion project will be. I secretly hope it will be a memoir.
Louise Fili loves type, food, and Italy. Really, though, what more could a lady want? She wowed us with her elegant type and shared her many binders of signage she's photographed that she continues to expand and turn to for inspiration. She realized there were not many easily accessible resources out there for her to explore typography. So, together her and her husband, Steven Heller, have created a vast amount of beautiful typography books. She's also mentored many cool cats, such as Jessica Hische, Dana Tanamachi, and Spencer Charles. Louise discovers so many passion projects through her never ending devotion for type, food, and Italy, I'm surprised she even has time to sleep.
Cap Watkins never gets in the way of the good time. Early in his career, Cap followed his heart and took the risk to be a part of several start up companies. Some of which are still alive and kicking. Some of which died a sad, sad death. None of which he regrets. Now as a Senior Design Manager at Etsy, he's "really good at un-shitting stuff" and discovering new ways to make an interface run efficiently. Etsy is extremely passionate about the transparency throughout all positions in the company. Transparency is viewed, for them, as the key to comfort and trust between all parties. And that, I think, we can apply to all careers.
Ty Mattson won me over immediately by telling me Time Travel is possible.
Brief LOST Fan Freak Out: Ty also hosted the weekly showing of LOST in his home, showed me secret images of JJ Abrams office, made my heart giddy with a video of Hurley announcing the show, and, while not confirmed inspiration from the show, named his son Shepard. Notice throughout this entire letter, Design Camp, I've referred to the attendees as a collective, but when it comes to LOST I'm assuming that was presented specifically for my eyes.
Now that I've got my LOST moment out of the way, let's elaborate on traveling through time. It's imperative to travel to the past in order to re-gain our sense of wonder and creative initiative. Both of which, Ty has mastered. By simply creating fan work based off of his favorite pop culture indulgences, he's been contacted by Maroon 5, LOST, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Discovery Channel, CBS, and so many more. He encouraged us all to make a tribute to what we love. By re-visiting our childhood passions, we can all become time travelers. He explains [LOST reference in 3...2...1...] we have to go back.
Which is a perfect thing to let resonate with the campers. We all have to go back. We have to go back to our past, to what makes us curious, to what makes us passionate, to discover what drives us forward.
As a woman of many lists, I have several passion projects that have gone untouched in the last few months (and to be honest, some in years). Design Camp, you have once again rejuvenated and refreshed me. You have given me the opportunity to meet new designers and printers and photographers and binders. You have given me the opportunity to sing bad karaoke, find warmth by a campfire of creatives, and realize that while all of us are different, we're all driven by the same thing. Passion.
You have changed me, Design Camp.
I'm ready to carve that time out of my day and start tackling that list of projects I've so wanted to finish. I'm ready to go back to my drive, my determination, my strength. And most importantly, I'm always ready to go back to you, Design Camp.
The Order of Ipsum,
Through Kerning and Leading,
Forever and Always.
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