What happens when you put 300 Minneapolis designers in a resort for a weekend and call it camping? Well, a party of course.
Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake was home to the 17th annual AIGA Design Camp where creatives came together to hear from the best in the biz and meet other innovative weirdo designers like themselves. It was a weekend of passing business cards, badass keynote speakers and a bad karaoke attempt at “Baby Got Back”.
135 miles, 2 bottles of whiskey, and one sprinkler-attacked bonfire later, these are the lessons we learned at AIGA Design Camp 2016:
Think through the design of everything.
Anton and Irene, a visual and UX designer duo, won a project that they didn’t even realized they were pitching for by being conscious of the design of their proposal deck. Making everything polished from start to finish will put you on top.
Organize your plan from the start.
It seems like an obvious thought, but being thorough in the organization of your project and process means no surprises, from or for the client. Anton and Irene use a Google Sheet to think through every single feature that will go into a website build, and then rank them in priority from their perspective, from a client perspective, and level of difficulty.
From Irene’s mother’s book of knowledge, she says there is no harm in asking for what you want. “You already have a no, but you might get a yes.”
“Because I thought it was cool” is a really good reason to do something.
It’s okay to know absolutely nothing about the thing you want to try. Anton didn’t know anything about making watches, but he mocked one up and it is now produced (only one in the world, but still, it’s real).
Make every project your best project, no matter what the process is.
Allan Peters spoke about working under a realm of creative directors and agencies who have a differing creative process than you’re used to. Being willing and able to adapt to a different process will yield the highest outcome of work.
We all need to be T designers.
Today, it seems that no one designer is trained in a specific area anymore. Yes, we have our niche, but the idea of a T designer is to be greatly and deeply knowledgeable in one area, but also have surface level skills for many things. An example of this is Kay Rossbach, an animator at FRWD. Her training and focus is in animation and illustration, but she also understands basic coding with helps our developer, and she also is keen on proper grammar which gives our writer proofreading support. Being able to have these top level skills are crucial to being an intertwined creative team.
Design + Copy = Win Win
When an art director and copywriter know how to work together, the work becomes something more than either could make on their own. It takes mutual respect, recognition, and teamwork (duh). Take it from Alison Fairbanks and Katherine Lamm who have been a design and writing duo for longer than they care to admit.
They start their process with developing the idea they both want to communicate. Then part ways to focus on the visuals and verbals separately, and eventually meet up, mash their work together, and repeat until they have the final project. You must question each others work to fully understand what the others reasoning is. Everything they work on is treated as fairly as possible. Always keeping in mind that the verbal treatment is just as important as the visual treatment. This has proven to be an award-winning and successful business for them.
Be proactive on good ideas, even if the client hasn’t asked for it.
A good idea is a good idea. Alex Center, Design Director at Coca Cola, experienced this when he decided to update the Powerade logo based on his own style and thoughts. The idea was bought immediately (which also meant purchasing the typeface he used from dafont.com).
Design means solving problems.
There is a difference between design and decoration. Design is solving a problem, while decoration is just making pretty shit. There is a place for both in the world; but it is not all considered design.
And lastly, the most important thing I learned at design camp: everyone fails.
Our failures are what make successes so sweet. Design is about breaking barriers, problem solving, and discovering new ways of thinking. If we are not failing or receiving critique on our work, we’re not pushing ourselves far enough. In Irene’s words, “We have to learn from our failures and learn to enjoy our successes. All of them”.
Oh, that, and don’t commit to singing Baby Got Back unless you’re positive you know all the words.