It always starts with the spark. The little flicker of a flame and the voice that gently whispers to you, "This is what you must do." So many of us ignore the whisper and turn the flame down low, or even extinguish it altogether. I confess to sitting in meditation, hearing the whisper, and actually telling myself that no, that’s not it.
What happens when you push down your intuition, or never sit in silence to hear what it’s telling you? Pain. Remember, you are not bigger than your calling. Respond to it.
Brittany Campbell, a designer at Groupon, children’s book writer, and budding Etsy merchant, has the spark, heard the whisper, and is responding to the call. Women who embrace #ClimbYourOwnLadder start by finding and following their own compass. Brittany’s story is about this compass as well as about pursuing the good. As she says, it’s not enough to just make things and pursue goodness - we must make good things with purpose.
tell us your story.
I grew up in a small rural town in Northern Utah. I always had dreams of moving to a big city. When I was a senior I visited Chicago and fell in love. I moved to Chicago 3 months after graduation with little more than $800 in my pocket. I came to the city to study at Columbia College.
I first started as an Interior Architecture Major. I switched my major 3 times until I finally picked Advertising. During and after school I had internships at a local Chicago blog, a nonprofit, The Federal Reserve, and Groupon.
During my time at the Federal Reserve I realized that as long as I had to get a paycheck from someone else I wouldn't really ever be happy with the work I was doing. When someone is in charge of your paycheck they tend to believe they are in charge of your creative output. While I still needed a job to pay my bills I started working on my own entrepreneurial goals. I have started an Etsy shop, wedding invitation business, and a series of children's' books. Today I am able to have creative projects and a steady paycheck. While my profits can't sustain me know, they do give me hope that someday I will be the person who is in charge of my paycheck.
what and who inspires you?
One of my favorite mentors is someone I've actually never met. Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer who is responsible for some of the most beautiful industrial designs that came out of the German company Braun. He is not only famous for his designs but for his 10 Principles of Design. The design principles are meant to remind designers that they have an obligation to produce good design. While products should be beautiful, they should be functional. With everything I make, I aim for it to have purpose.
After returning from my first trip abroad, I wanted a project where I could harness all my excitement and love for travel. I sketched poster designs and other decorative ideas down but I wasn't satisfied with their usefulness. From this brainstorming I was able to create my Tiny Travel book series. Not only was I able to use my illustration skills but I was able to use my experiences to create a book that would engage children on their own adventures.
With every product I work on, whether it be my own or a work project, I aim to meet all the principles provided by Dieter Rams. I want the things I create to be innovative, useful, aesthetic, understandable, unobtrusive, honest, long lasting, detailed, environmentally friendly, and simple. These are the principles that inspire me to not only make things, but to make good things.
what rituals are a key part of your day/week and contribute your well-being?
I listen to lots of podcasts. Especially when I am designing at my computer. Whenever I tell someone I listen to podcasts, they ask which ones. Honestly, I listen to so many. I listen to a new one every week. I listen to them because it engages a part of my mind that isn't being used when I am pixel pushing.
The best thing about listening to all sorts of podcasts is the beauty of being involved in so many different communities. You get to learn about different cultures, stories, and people that you would otherwise never learn about. These stories can help you open your mind to different beliefs or simply new ideas that I can bring into my creative process.
When you listen to these podcasts you somehow become friends with the hosts. You start to learn so much about them. Most podcasts hosts aren't only the hosts, they tend to be the founder, producer, and sometimes the sole person working on the podcast. These people are great examples of successful entrepreneurs and I see them as my own mentors.
how do you cultivate creativity? what gets in the way of your creativity and how do you overcome it?
When I have an idea, I write it down. I never want to forget it. When I write something down I feel like it makes it more real. Writing it down puts it out in the universe and I kind of see it as a promise that I will make this idea happen.
My main adversary in creativity is exhaustion. Depending on the type of day I had at my day job, sometimes I just want to come home and do anything but work on a computer. There is only so much time in the day. If I come home and have a freelance project, that takes precedence over my projects. Sometimes all you have enough energy to do is make dinner and fall asleep on the couch.
The best way I have found to overcome this exhaustion is to have a greater value of want. You need to have the want to get things done. That want needs to be stronger than your exhaustion. I have also found that telling friends and family about your personal projects gives you some responsibility. The next time you see a friend, they will ask you how your project is going. If you've been putting it off, this question can spark motivation so the next time you see your friend you will be able to deliver some progress.
what does #ClimbYourOwnLadder mean to you?
#ClimbYourOwnLadder is a great metaphor. I love it because there is a very distinct visual when you hear it. But to me, I believe it means that you have to climb that ladder yourself. You can have excuse after excuse but at the end of the day you are the only one who can affect how high you can climb.