Jenny Johns

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Design Camp 2014

When you wish upon a serif, your design dreams come true.

Ah, the joys of stunning lake views, bonfires, s’mores and unreliable internet connections. Typical camping trip in the Great Minnesota Northwoods? Wrong. It’s the 24th annual AIGA Minnesota Design Camp, where designers from around the Midwest and beyond flock to network, hear keynote speeches from the best designers in the business, and be inspired by fellow creatives in a down-to-earth — or quite literally, earthy — setting.

Basically, it’s a place where a design nerd’s dreams come true.

“You mean I can meet the typeface designer responsible for the Proxima Nova font?!” Why yes, of course! “And play graphic design bar trivia?” You betcha! I just hope you all know what the “K” in CMYK stands for.

Seems like all fun and games, right? You are correct! To the majority of designers, their job is not just a job. It’s enjoyable. It’s a way of life. Not something you leave at the desk at 5 p.m. every weekday. Our favorite celebrities aren’t just Beyoncé and Joseph Gordon Levitt. They’re Beyoncé, Joseph Gordon Levitt AND Sue Crolick — one of the first female art directors during the Mad Men era. This pioneer carved a path for herself and other women in the industry. She wasn’t just the first, but also one of the best, with an impressive assortment of advertising awards to prove it.

If that isn’t inspiring enough, she is also the founder of Art Buddies, an amazing nonprofit that I’ve participated in, pairing creatives with low-income Minneapolis youth to create costumes for an end-of-the-program parade.

This year, Design Camp was fortunate enough to have Sue speak to a full auditorium of young, experienced and student designers. Other keynote speakers included famous food packaging and restaurant branding designer Louise Fili, Etsy’s senior design manager Cap Watkins, LA designer Ty Mattson and Brand New Conference founder Armin Vit. So what exactly did I learn from my first Design Camp experience? 1. Taking initiative can provide you with so many more opportunities. You won’t get the jobs you want by having them fall effortlessly into your lap. Offer to design a logo for that local band you love. Who knows — they could make it big and call on you to design merchandise for their 20-year career. 2. Work hard. Don’t give up. Or as keynote speaker Armin Vit said, “Never stand still. If you stand still, you get lost, because someone else is always moving.” 3. Authenticity is the best policy. Consumers are looking for brands that are transparent and trustworthy. That means be true to yourself as a designer too. 4. I need to watch Lost. Apparently every designer is obsessed with it and I didn’t understand any of the references that were made over the course of the weekend.

So as I return to work I bring back not only these insights, but also the lingering smell of a bonfire.

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