10 Things I’ve Learned at Camp

July 2 by Albert P.


Today marks the final day of Camp Firebelly, so I thought I’d share with you all what I’ve learned.

1. Nothing is impossible.


2. Theres no time for sleep when you’re having so much fun.


3. Tank tops make you look really cool.


4. Gold chains also make you look really cool.


5. Stop talking, start making.


6. All good things must come to an end.


7. You can make a positive impact in your community.


8. Cherish the magic moments.


9. Get weird.


10. Go the extra mile.


As things come to an end and we say our final goodbyes I’d like to thank all the wonderful folks we’ve worked with these past 10 days. This has been an amazing experience and we couldn’t have done it without the support and guidance of the fine folks at Firebelly. Thanks to the TransLife Center, Spudnik Press, Chicago Design Museum, Tomorrow Today, and to all the wonderful campers that shared this experience with me.

Til next year,
Al (aka Al’s Beef)

Party! Party!

July 1 by Rachita S.

This morning we were up bright and early to share with the group our civic interventions (the workshop conducted by Tomorrow Today) – it was amazing to see that in just 36 hours all that each team was able to achieve and how it can take just a simple idea and believing in a cause to make difference.

After this (which, we finished before time…for the first time!) it was time to prepare for the camp party – where people from the industry and those who supported and helped us along our journey were invited to celebrate and get and insight into what we’ve been doing the past 10 days.

We decided that we wanted people to experience what we had experienced, a snap shot of what the 10 days were like to be a camper and so preparations went underway…

the epic photo booth

the explosion of work, over the past 10 days

It’s safe to say the party was a BIG hit, we were all so overwhelmed with all the support that we received tonight and got to meet some great new people as well as catch up with those we’ve seen throughout the week. It was gratifying to see all the work we had done as a team, and absolutely humbling to see the response we got.

This would not have been possible at all without our Counsellors! I don’t know what’s in the water at Firebelly but these guys are AWESOME.

So, from the Campers to the Counsellors (and all those who have supported us) – we could not say this enough, but, THANK YOU!


p.s this isn’t the last you’ve seen of us


Camp Firebelly: Intervention Style

July 1 by Colleen T.


Today was Civic Intervention Day! As you may have read yesterday, we kicked off a civic engagement project with the help of Megan and Kate – the two masterminds behind Tomorrow Today. Energized by a delicious pancake breakfast, the campers shared out their ideas and in return got thoughtful feedback.

Rachita and Jeremy are creating a type installation reminding people to take life a bit slower. Kyle and Taylor biked the city to spread some love and celebrate strangers. Kinney and Jonathan made people smile with the #SweetBeardProject – who doesn’t love a ginger beard? Al and Chelsea are animating forgotten parking meters to reveal a new purpose. Kiki and I created shelter for our neighbors from tonight’s storm while lighting up Humboldt Park’s street corner. Hope you’re staying dry out there.

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A late dinner of Shepard’s Pie was perfect for the mood this evening. I ate my bowl curled up on a couch listening to the sound of rain. Some of us are still cranking but you should join us tomorrow on the livestream to hear all about it at 10am. See you there!



June 30 by Kyle N.

After six extremely tiring but absolutely amazing days we were finally given a free day to explore the city and enjoy each other’s company. Everyone was starting to get the itch to see what our next project would be, but it was obvious that everyone was really looking forward to spending the day out and about just hanging out. Oh… we also got to sleep in a bit later than normal too, and let me tell you, it was much needed. So after a later breakfast we were off.

There were a couple different groups that broke off to explore. A couple local campers stopped by their homes to give their pets some loving attention, and another couple of campers attended a service at the City Church followed by lunch with some friends (and a past camper) at a Chicago favorite, Publican Quality Meats. The rest of us decided to hit up some recommendations from our camp counselors and to go see the highly acclaimed CHGO DSGN exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center. We decided to use Divvy, Chicago’s bike share system designed by Firebelly and IDEO, to ride up to Wicker Park to grab a cold brew coffee from La Colombe before popping in Quimby’s Bookstore, which is a designer’s dream. There were so many books, magazines, zines and postcards to look at and flip through, and I think we all dropped a bit more cash than we originally planned – some of us checking out multiple times after finding another treasure. We all left feeling a bit more inspired to create, and we even found some pieces that we had a hand in making along with some of our friends’ work. I will definitely be making a trip back in the near future!

After grabbing some chips and guacamole and a couple tacos from the walk-up window and Big Star, we heading downtown to check out the CHGO DSGN exhibit curated by Rick Valicenti. If anyone in Chicago hasn’t seen it, you should really check it out! The work is amazing and covers such a range of projects from many of Chicago’s greatest designers, including some new mentors and friends that we have met this week. It definitely does not lack in style and taste, and the exhibit really shows off the innovative work of these local designers. We then found our way to wandering around Millennium Park taking selfies at the bean and enjoying the sunshine.

At dinner, another meal of some delicious tacos and margaritas at Takito Kitchen, we met our workshop leaders, but under Dawn’s contract they too were keeping the surprise for after dinner. Once we got back to the studio, we were thrown right back into it… there ain’t no messing around here at camp! But we were all so excited to see what we would be working on next. Megan Deal and Kate Creason from Tomorrow Today, based in Cincinnati, OH, would be leading us on a workshop in designing and deploying a civic intervention in the next 36 hours. We were all randomly assigned a partner, an objective, a color, a letter (which would limit our typeface choices), a mystery budget, and a buzzword to get us started. We got right to work and have been brainstorming all night. Tomorrow we present our ideas to the group and then go out into the world to make it happen. It should be a fun ride and I absolutely cannot wait to see what comes from it all!

I guess we will all just have to wait and see!

Playboy, Olympics & Big Brother

June 29 by Jeremy L.

Our hearts are full as we enter beyond the halfway point of this camp. I think I can speak on behalf of all the campers that this experience has surprised, challenged and changed our hearts over the past 6 days. Today was no different. After driving downtown again to the Loop, we entered a mall called Block 37 and could not be more clueless what we were doing among Sephora, Anthropologie and Zara. Lo and behold on the third floor was the Chicago Design Museum, a place tucked away that most citygoers wouldn’t have a clue it was there. We were going to change that today.

After meeting some of the staff, we were introduced to the story of this museum and its inaugural exhibition focussing on the history and future of Chicago design. What struck me was how much I did not know was based out of Chicago. The sincerity and passion of each of the pieces was refreshing and seemed distinctive from other design exhibitions I had visited before.

There wasn’t much time to soak in everything and shortly after we were faced with a challenge put on by the museum: 5 teams would be made from all the campers – who can pass out and promote the most tickets and have patrons come into the museum? With only a billboard, some postcards and our personalities, the task was definitely challenging as each team needed to assess which locations were best to draw people in. In the end, the humanity of the Chicago design community proved itself again, as we realized that ultimately, this was about sharing passion of this museum to the general public. I think its safe to say we left behind a feeling of encouragement and confidence for the museum moving forward.

Our afternoon led us to Humboldt Park and the Chicago Dyke March, a place to celebrate not only the completion of our campaign for the TLC but to also celebrate with the rest of the LGBTQ community. After revealing our materials to the client; they couldn’t be more satisfied and challenged us again to go out amongst the march and hand out brochures. Admittedly, this was much easier than trying to pass out tickets to the ChiDM as people were warm and receptive. What a relief to see how design can directly affect a person’s life. Rarely can any designer in less than a week see a project move from start to finish and even have some time to give the product to the intended audience.

Naps naps naps on the grass ensued shortly after this.

Snack Time

Finally, our day concluded with a night on the town to iO,  one of the most famous improv comedy clubs in the city. Laughter, beers and some unfunny performers brought us to the end of a fulfilling Saturday.

With a full heart,


Friday Fun Day

June 28 by Taylor N.

Today was a really fun day! After a good nights sleep (over six hours y’alll!) we awoke to breakfast as per usual. I will say the food at camp has been superb. Compliments to the chefs on that breakfast pizza. We left the studio around 8:45 for Spudnick Press. Spudnick is a really cool nonprofit printmaking studio with shared equipment and classes and work spaces. We all got to participate in screen printing the posters we had designed. The lovely Angee Lennard and company taught us the basics and oversaw as all ten of us mix paints, burn screens, and print posters. Super fun and super satisfying to see your work go to print right before you eyes, so thanks Spudnick!


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After lunch we got whisked away to yet another undisclosed location. I have given up trying to guess or plan what is happening next on the schedule and am learning to just roll with things. That undisclosed location ended up being the Department of Design at Leo Burnett. We arrived to lot of smiling faces and a table of snacks and grilled peach whiskey sours, so that was fun. It was really great to hear about tty work they do up on that 27th floor. Then came dinner at Cafe Ba­Ba­Reeba. Tapas and sangria for all! This was a great meal filled with good food and good conversation. After dinner we had a fun little evening of karaoke ! It was perfect because I have been talking about karaoke all week. Popular songs included Mr. Brightside by the Killers, Wannabe by the Spice Girls, Zombie by the Cranberries, and Complicated by Avril Lavine.

Overall, today was a great day. It felt really good to kind of relax, and start to get to know my fellow campers and our camp counselors a little better. With no work to talk about, we were able to talk about important things like nostalgic 80s prom songs, Fleetwood Mac, and our favorite vegetables. I am exceed to see what these last few days of camp will bring, but for now bed.

Surprise, Surprise

June 26 by Jonathan B.

Late last night, we learned we would present to a panel of judges on one of our design concepts the next morning. Only catch is that we would be doing so individually. After much anticipation, sweaty palms and rehearsing our pitches alone in the bathroom, we found out how this pitch was going to happen: SHARK TANK STYLE.

One by one, we entered the “shark tank” and pitched our design and strategy to a panel of Chicago design professionals. Six of us would be offered personal mentorships or other exciting one-on-one opportunities in the design community.

Check out our guests!

-Chuck Anderson
-Kim Knoll
-Kyle Eertmoed
-Kevin Krueger
-Sara Frisk
-Ali McDonald

A falafel lunch followed after. These delicious meals keep getting better and better.

Design Process
Based on the design feedback we received from our guests, we jumped back to work with only a few hours to prepare for our final presentation with the folks at TLC. (which turned out great!) We surprised them at the end with news that our friends at Pitchfork will be launching our TLC campaign on their website in the form of banner ads.

It’s looking like we’ll be in bed much earlier than the past few days tonight. More sleep makes for happier campers.

Seeing The Light

June 26 by Kinney S.

Each day becomes increasingly more jam-packed yet rewarding. After receiving yet another wind of energy to get us moving in the morning; we collectively gathered around the breakfast table, arranging the last slides to be presented in front of the client at 10am. Not only would we be presenting a wide array of process materials but we had to show that our understanding of yesterday’s presentation was strong enough to streamline the initial three strategies into one.

Equipped with our initial mock-ups of the billboard, poster and postcard, we braced ourselves for the client. To much relief; we were greeted with 3 more optimistic and well-spoken individuals from the TLC. Immediately, they responded to the success and challenges with our initial copy and offered solutions that opened our perspective. Particularly the visuals and copy for the billboard and postcard needed specific and massive alterations in both tone and visual representation of their respective issues.

By the end, we were overwhelmed with encouraging words; specific directions and a rally call to get us going for the next 24 hours of work. After a brief presentation on papers from Unisource; we buckled down for work.

It is now 4:10am. It is also now wonderfully surprising how far we’ve come in the past 24 hours. The illustrations, one of the key visual elements have found their voice and the copy has greatly improved in communicating our initial objectives. Conviction is in the air about all our deliverables above our very weary and tired bodies.

Pressing forward,


PS. Can’t believe we were surprised by a visit to Pitchfork today. What a joy to see the humble and honest inner workings of a rich and sophisticated publication.

In Action

June 25 by Kiki K.

group talk

Today we woke up bright and early to prepare our presentation for TLC. I don’t think anyone was expecting it to go as good as it did. Owen and Keisha were thrilled with our concepts which made us even more motivated going forward. After lunch, we had a surprise lecture from Cec. She gave us a little more insight into our work with the TransLife Center.


We then began a long day of collaboration and design which turned into a long night of more collaboration and design. Through viewers watching the live stream and seeing our presentation from earlier in the day, we were given the opportunity to have Skype session with people from the Transgender community. We were so grateful people were willing to share their stories and open our eyes even more. (So thank you, viewers!) For the rest of the night, there was lots of back and forth and starting over, but we will be ready for our first design presentation tomorrow morning!

And We’re Off!

June 24 by Chelsea C.


***Disclaimer: The author of this blog post had been awake for 25 hours straight while writing the following post. 

Day 1!

Camp Firebelly is off to a fierce start.

We all arrived at the Firebelly studio this afternoon, from near and far.

Colleen from Chicago.

Rachita from London.

Al from Brooklyn.

Myself (Chelsea) from Chattanooga.

Kiki from Chicago.

Kinney from Chicago.

Jonathan from Chicago.

Taylor from Seattle.

Jeremy from Toronto.

and Kyle, also from Chicago.

After some brief introductions and a leisurely lunch, we headed off to meet our super secret client. We showed up on the doorstep of a home in Chicago with absolutely no context around what we were going to be doing. We walked inside to meet our clients at the Trans Life Center, also known as TLC. TLC provides housing, legal, health and employment services to Chicago’s transgender community. We spent the next couple of hours engaging in a mutual dialogue that was both vulnerable and respectful.

We were given the opportunity to ask questions like: “Is it rude to ask what your gender is?” and “How is extreme poverty connected to being transgendered?”

And they shared experiences and frustrations like: “It’s enough. We don’t need to have our children murdered because they don’t identify with their gender. It’s enough.” Or to voice skepticism like, “I know that you are coming to serve our community, but I don’t see anyone here who looks like me.”

Many of us walked into that house unprepared. Transgender issues are not something that all of us deal with every day, and it can be difficult to know what is politically correct or accurate. We are thankful for the openness and strength of the people that we met with. We all left that house pairing a human’s face with real stories that are so often dehumanized.

Over an Ethiopian dinner with the talented Rick Valicenti, he reminded us of our role as designers – to take the powerful stories we heard at TLC, and to tell them through the lens of the people who shared them, with our own filters. Together the ten of us carry ten unique views of a powerful story we heard today. We are doing our best to communicate the reality of the trans women and men we met today in a way that promotes understanding and respect.

It’s 5:04 AM here at Camp Firebelly and we are working on our concept presentation to give to TLC in T-minus 4.5 hours. We’ll keep you updated!