Cami Travis-Groves is a case study in how to become a HOW Design Conference speaker: A couple of years ago, she pitched a presentation idea to the planning committee. (Want to do the same? Check out our Call for Speakers.) At the time, Cami didn’t have a ton of speaking experience, so she worked toward gaining that experience, including hosting an Office Hours discussion at last year’s HOW Conference. After we had great recommendations from people who’d heard her present, we invited Cami to be a part of this year’s program.
Cami is the graphic designer for the American Public Works Associations. A 20-year veteran, she has worked with companies such as Pepsi and Frito-Lay.
Cami and I will be holding a live interview on Twitter next Thursday, May 12, at 2:00 p.m. ET. Be sure to follow @HOWBrand, and search the hashtag #HOWLive, and ask Cami your burning questions about quantum physics, design, juju or, well, whatever. In the meantime, here’s a recent Q&A we did with Cami.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a graphic designer?
The short answer is that I wanted to be a graphic designer as soon as I realized that an airline stewardess was really a flying waitress. A cool flying waitress, but a waitress all the same.
The long answer is, well, longer.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be an airline stewardess. My family was very poor, and college just wasn’t an option. This was a career that didn’t need a college degree. Between my junior and senior years of high school I moved from California to central Missouri. Because the California school system requirements for graduation were heftier than the Missouri school system, I had several credits to burn on electives. One of which was commercial art. About this time, I determined that stewardesses were flying waitresses. So, I took a year off after high school to figure out what I wanted to do.
Faced with choosing a different career, the voice of my commercial art teacher, Ed Stewart, rang in my head. He proclaimed I was a natural and that there were plenty of high-paying jobs to be had in the field. Commercial art had been fun, and the carrot of a high-paying career dangled in front of me. Cringing, it was then I decided I’d take loans to go to college for a commercial art degree.
I went to the local state university and told them I was interested in majoring in commercial art. They were not nearly as excited about this as I was. Actually, the woman I spoke with said, “And…?” and wanted me to leave my portfolio for 4 to 6 weeks. Not wanting to let go of my scrawny little portfolio, I went to one of the small, private colleges in town, Columbia College, and told them the same thing. They sprang into action, getting me appointments with the dean, with the financial aid department, and with the head of the art department. I ended up getting close to $35,000 worth of grants and scholarships (that I didn’t have to pay back!) to get my BFA in graphic design and illustration. I think I chose wisely. Either that or I totally lucked out!
Do you have a pet project—a side business or a charity to which you donate time or services?
My pet project is being a volunteer staffer at the Kansas City Irish Fest (KCIF). It started with an email. Two small neighborhood festivals combined for the first annual KCIF back in 2003. Unfortunately, after 45 days of no rain (and therefore no rain insurance) it rained 11 inches in one day, flooding the grounds, and closing the fest a day and a half early. I sent an email saying that my best friend and I went anyway and had a wet blast! That little bit of good juju sparked what has become my link to my community, and a gateway to dozens of really good friends. I believe you can only feel connected to that which you nurture, and I feel VERY connected to my community. I’ve never worked so hard for so long (8+ years) for free. And I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
The musical environment at KCIF is also great for spawning creativity and drawing creative people together. Through KCIF, I’ve met budding musicians and bands for whom I’ve been able to do trade work. In exchange for design work, I get copies of their next CD, a cool band shirt, backstage passes, etc. And I get creative freedom and a great portfolio piece out of it as well. This is a great break from my day-to-day corporate work I usually do at my day job.
What is your favorite design tool? Why?
My favorite design tool is my head. You never know what will come bubbling to the surface there!
Yeah, ok, that and Adobe CS4 (I haven’t upgraded yet). In college, I did all my design stuff by hand, and it makes me really appreciate the time-savings with a computer involved. Especially with making books!
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
At this point in my career, If I weren’t a graphic designer, I’d be a speaker—telling stories and spreading good juju. There is a wonderful feedback good juju loop that happens when I do my talks that is just great.
If not for my complete lack of math skills (seriously, of any kind) I’d be a quantum physicist. How cool, when stuff gets down to sub-atomic size, normal physics no longer apply, and that’s where quantum physics takes over. It’s a whole separate set of rules for the physical world. For example: particles can be in two places at once, or disappear from one place and simultaneously appear someplace else. Or, when you slice aluminum foil too thin, it stops being just thin strips of aluminum and explodes! Weird! And cool! If I could be anyone else, I’d want to be Aaron O’Connell, the (rockstar) quantum physicist.
Tell us a little about your HOW Design Conference session.
When I attend conferences, my goals are to have my creative fires lit, and to get the good juju flowing. If I want this out of a conference, then someone else does too, right? My conference presentation is about how to get and stay out of your rut, using stories of cilantro, quantum physics, caterpillars and more seemingly unrelated weird stuff. I have wanted to do talks for a while, and recently taken my own advice and started the rut-busting ball rolling. If you want to bust out of that rut, and get the good juju flowing, I’ll see you at my session, Get Out Of Your Rut! on Saturday June 25th at 2 p.m.