This year was my first year at Design Camp, an annual AIGA design conference held in Minnesota.

The main events of the weekend are keynote speakers and a variety of workshops. If networking is your thing, there’s plenty of time to do so without food in your mouth during the daily cocktail hour. There’s also a business expo on Saturday, and drawings for prizes at the end of the weekend.

This year there seemed to be a reoccurring theme from the keynote speakers: Overcoming failure, rejection, and fear. Here are 3 points that summarize what I took away from their talks:

Whether big or little, everyone and everything has a story

Don’t be who someone else wants you to be in your career, pursue what you are passionate about from the start. Everyone was a beginner at some point, and a lot of times it’s during the early stages of our career that we feel like we’re fumbling our way through every single day.

Discover who you are, and accept it even if you’re weird

It was cool to hear speaker after speaker this weekend talk about how they felt like they didn’t fit in to others’ definitions of success. But guess what? They didn’t get to be where they are by shrinking back in fear of criticism.

Someone from the audience added that she would never be a “rockstar designer” but finds meaning in the application forms that she creates, because they go toward a good cause. That affirmation she gets from her work is her own, personal success. And that’s what matters to her.

Be the best version of yourself

Know who you are, but don’t work yourself into a rut either. Be inspired by trying new things and grow the skills you know and love by continually refining them. That way, you’ll stay ahead of those who don’t want to work for it.

The designers that presented this weekend told some raw and transparent stories – their stories. It made us look beyond their success to see the real, flawed, dedicated person behind the name. The people who ended up looking a lot like us. And getting people to realize they’re not alone is a great way to connect with them.

You can get more info about AIGA Minnesota’s annual Design Camp here.

Justin Redman

Justin Redman

Husband, designer, + co-founder of Redman Creative. Located in Minneapolis.