Get ready for the E-X-T-E-N-D-E-D version re-cap of AIGA Minnesota’s Design Camp 2011!
Most of us live in a word of traffic jams, deadlines, undue stress, and hours upon hours of staring at a glowing screen. We keep many hours at work and we work them hard. We compartmentalize our life and leave the smallest containers for leisure, free thinking and enjoying other people’s company. We book our friends and families into our calendars, like a stadium reserves sports games or concerts. We don’t wait for life to happen, we orchestrate it.
The more I think about it, something tells me that, perchance, this isn’t quite how the universe wanted us to spend our limited time on this amazing planet. Generally speaking, it takes a major life event for us to slow down, smell the pine trees, and feel grateful for our lives. We might experience an accident that leaves us immobile. Or we lose a loved one. Or we simply escape to the woods, to nature, to connect to something deeper, which reminds us to slow down. To pause and reflect. And then, like perfectly engineered gears, we revert back—back to traffic jams, deadlines, stress, and work.
In my post-camp bliss, I’m reflecting on my notes and memories from the keynote speakers and the activities of a most glorious of weekends. My thoughts center on two themes: time and choices. How we spend time and what we get out of it.
Jamie Koval of VSA Partners shared this quote from his childhood days at camp: “Take what you want, but eat what you take.” Direct link to the dinner table? Yes. But it also totally applies to how we choose to spend our time. Do you want to gorge and binge on work or do you enjoy it in bite size amounts? Life isn’t about efficiency and working all the time. Work is necessary to live in modern society, but we should remember to do it in moderation, balancing it with the other aspects of our life. This will allow us to experience all the parts, like in a chef-crafted meal: smell, temperature, visual, texture, taste, aftertaste. Sometimes I barely have time to enjoy the euphoria of having finished a project before I’ve already started thinking about what’s next.
Jamie said, “Whatever projects we get, we make them great.”
Jan Wilker takes the time to experiment with his designs, even using the liquify tool in photoshop! It may not be profitable to spend so much time “playing,” but if life isn’t a little about playing, what’s there to live for? He describes this playful way of working as “enjoyable but inefficient.”
Michael Osborne of Mod SF provided a good reminder to choose to spend our time and resources doing something worthwhile. In addition to running his own design firm, Michael owns a letterpress studio and runs a 501c3 non-profit design studio providing design services to other non-profits. Check out Joey’s Corner here.
Peter Buchanan-Smith lives in Manhattan but is alive in the wilderness. He turned in his 9–5 design job for an entrepreneurial opportunity he’s passionate about—Best Made Co. Best Made is known for axes. If you’d like to know more about how Best Made Co came to be, read my blog post on Peter’s presentation at the 2009 Insights Lecture Series. Peter’s words have encouraged me to meditate on finding out what makes me tick in the same way Best Made Co does for him. He also inspired me to set a goal and make a plan. See, Peter adds one new product to his website each and every week. If we wait to do something, we miss out. So set a goal and start right away.
Jolby is design studio collaboration between Josh Kenyon and Colby Nichols. They reminded me why the people in our lives are important. Even though we arrive and leave earth naked and by ourselves, the journey on earth is all about companionship. Collaboration is important and two heads are always better than one. As I “ooo-ed and ahhh-ed” over the fun, fresh visuals they shared, some of their illustrations reminded me of my husband’s style of drawing. I felt the urge to come together with my husband (that’s what she said!) and collaborate. I want to collaborate on an art project, one that is not photography related.
Shel Perkins taught me many legal lessons and reminded me to always have solid footing before leaping into the unknown. Solid footing and excellent use of contracts will allow you to live freer, free from the fear of scary legal problems. Shel’s book Talent is Not Enough: Business Secrets for Designers is super great. I’ve already polished off two chapters! Buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Time to slow down for just a minute and appreciate a well crafted object. We already learned this from Peter’s axes, but the craft of letterpress teaches the same lesson. Who doesn’t love running their fingers across the depression in a thick paper stock formed by the kiss of a letterpress plate? I’d like to send a shout out to Studio on Fire for printing the design camp materials and also to Spark Letterpress for teaching the letterpress workshop.
If you read the abridged version of my Design Camp 2011 re-cap, you learned that the board did indeed call a 3 am (unofficial) board meeting. The AIGA board is filled with talented, interesting and extremely fun people. I’m so glad for all the conversations: some centered on design, others were just crazy and silly and some were really deep conversations about our lives. I feel a deep camaraderie among my teammates on the board and I look forward to serving another year with this wonderful crew.
It was, indeed, another great Design Camp. While sitting in stopped traffic on they way to camp, I cursed the time it took to travel to the woods. But the woods provide an amazing backdrop for taking time away from design work to reflect on design thinking.