Camp Firebelly: Inspiring Young Designers

Camp Firebelly, Camp Badges, Design Apprentice Ships

Young designers earn badges at Camp Firebelly.

Since it’s founding in 2008 Camp Firebelly has been empowering young designers to hone their design skills, make good art, and help the planet. Each year a team of 10 young designers descends on to Chicago for a ten day intensive design camp where they spearhead a design project for a non-profit under the direction and careful guidance of Firebelly Design’s staff. It’s here that each of these ten apprentice designers really blossom into their own and finds out what drives them. Recently here at HOW we got to sit down with Dawn Hancock of Firebelly Design and discuss this amazing apprenticeship opportunity for designers!

Q: What is the mission behind Camp Firebelly? What gave you the idea to create such a camp for young designers?
We love helping young designers realize their potential. Unfortunately we only offer 1-2 apprenticeships a year. Camp was our way to help more inspired young people learn the tools of the trade while greatly opening up their world view on important topics and causes in a collaborative environment.

Q: Ten young designers and ten days – is there any significance to the number 10?
Well… 10 is about as many people as we can comfortably fit sleeping in our studio (because they all have to sleep here on air mattresses, with one or two of us chaperoning ever night). It’s also the number of days we feel it takes to actually get solid work concepted, designed + produced…because before they leave here, whatever they created has to be printed and in-hand.

Camp Fire, Camp Firebelly, Design Apprentice Ship, Firebelly Design, Chicago

Camp Firebelly’s design apprentices hold a crafty camp fire party in Firebelly’s studio.

Q: Camp Firebelly focuses on helping non-profit organizations through their design. What do you hope designers who participate in Camp Firebelly take away from this experience in regards to design and non-profit work?
The fact that the organization is a nonprofit isn’t as much of an important point, as the work they are focused on. Every year we try to choose a group that is doing work that might not be part of most people’s everyday lives, somewhat fringe social justice topics. In the past we’ve worked on issues involving women in prison, young people working in the street economies and racial + immigration justice.

We hope that they learn something about life and people that they didn’t know first and foremost, but also in the short amount of time we get to spend together, we want them to see how design can truly affect people’s lives. And how one small act can create a ripple of positivity for years to come. We are also very conscious of underlining the power of collaboration + trusting each other.

Threadless, Camp Firebelly, Interactive Design, Mig Reyes,

Mig Reyes, former interactive designer for Threadless, speaks to Camp Firebelly design apprentices.

Q: What excites you the most about Camp Firebelly and how does what happen during this ten day intensive session contrast with the rest of your year? What drives you to keep hosting Camp Firebelly year after year?
We love doing this year after year because of the incredible people we get to connect with each time. Everyone at Camp Firebelly are coming from such different places, regardless of age and career level, and we love learning from and sharing with them. And while each year has a similar structure in order to get everything accomplished in the time we have together, they are all completely different. From the people and projects, to the side missions and surprise guests, we try really hard to make each year unique.

Q: What is your vision for Camp Firebelly and are there any plans to expand Camp Firebelly and have camps run all summer long?
Currently we do not have any other camp plans in the works. We close our design studio down while we have camp because it’s all hands on deck for us. That also means for those two weeks, we are not doing any billable work, i.e. making any money. So to run a camp all summer long would be quite a challenge for us.

We have loosely tossed around the idea of doing one off-site, but so far we haven’t found a way to do something like that without having to double or triple the cost of the experience. Maybe there’s a very generous sponsor out there who wants to help us realize that dream!

Letterpress, Camp Firebelly, Firebelly Design, Design Interns, Design Apprenticeship

Design apprentices learn all the skills of the design trade at Camp Firebelly — including how to use a letterpress!

If you’re a young designer you should definitely check out Camp Firebelly’s website and check out all the cool projects they’ve done in years past, this might just be the break you’ve been looking for! There’s still time to apply for Camp Firebelly 2014, but hurry the deadline to apply is May 9th!

Managing a Web Design Project

Can’t make it to Chicago for Camp Firebelly check out HOW University’s class Managing a Web Design Project from Start to Finish to expand your design chops into the high demand field of web development so you can tackle that next web project with confidence!