• Agency Insider: TOKY

    / Comments (0)

    Company Name:
    TOKY

    Year Founded:
    March 1, 1997

    Physical Location:
    HQ’d in the Midtown Alley neighborhood in St. Louis. We also have satellite offices in the South Loop of Chicago and in Boston.

    Online Location:
    toky.com - We got to the web early, and that four-letter URL attracts lots of offers from would-be buyers in China.
    wearetoky.tumblr.com
    news.toky.com
    facebook.com/tokydesign
    twitter.com: @tokybd
    vimeo.com/toky

    Company Philosophy:
    Work hard, work smart, find time for joy. We all volunteer for causes we believe in.
    Logic should drive great design. We research and write as much as we design and code.
    Work with good clients who are doing good for the world. Polluters, poisoners and money-grubbers are not welcome here.
    We’d rather be smart than cool any day.

    Client List:
    The National Gallery of Art (Washington DC), Centene, MIT (Boston), The University of Chicago, National Geographic (Washington DC) Washington University in St. Louis, The Catholic Health Association, John Burroughs School, HOK, The Phillips Collection (Washington DC), a bunch of musicians, artists, architects, fashionistas, museums, galleries, outsiders, assorted charitable organizations — and one very cool cemetery. Circle of life, man.

    Personnel Count:
    28, but we have two more print designers and another social media expert joining us in the next month.

    Best Achievements from Last Year:

    • There were eight babies born to TOKY staff in the last 12 months. That’s just crazy.
    • We have great clients from New York City to San Jose, California. And the opportunities we are getting are better than ever.
    • We had work in this year's CA Design Annual, the CA Typography Annual, the Type Director’s Club Annual, the Brand New Annual. Very fun.
    • Eric was asked to judge the CA Design Annual this year, and got to judge the San Diego and Louisville design shows.
    • We have had at least four kick-ass, teeth-rattling parties and lived to talk about them.

    3 Things The World Doesn't Know About TOKY That It Should:

    1. TOKY people co-founded Pecha Kucha in St. Louis, Crappy Hour, The Not Just An Art Director’s Club (which became the AIGA Chapter), St. Louis Design Week, and helped to conceive and organize the Midtown Alley creative neighborhood. We like to create ways to get this great design community together.
    2. We sometimes play washers on the roof. The view is pretty darn nice.
    3. Pappy’s Smokehouse was named by Mary Thoelke after her Uncle Jim “Pappy” Emerson, and she’s Mike Shannon’s niece.

    Our Space






    Our Work







  • Making Great Stuff is the Best Way to Meet Great People

    / Comments (1)

    *Originally posted on the Need/Want blog.*

    The below painting of a cat as Napoleon Bonaparte helped me get my startup team acquired, become a partner at MetaLab, and meet Jon to start Need/Want together (which produces SmartBedding, Mod Notebooks, and more).

    There’s a million books on how to “network” and meet cool people. I think they’re all mostly garbage. The single best way I’ve found to meet interesting people is to make great things.

    Over the last couple years, I’ve met some really amazing people, and am fortunate to call many of them friends. A few of my most cherished and successful relationships have all stemmed from a single project I made.


    The Project

    In October 2011, I was living in Santiago Chile for Startup Chile’s round 1 program. It was late and I was surfing Reddit and drinking wine with my buddy Amir. I don’t remember quite how it happened, but while intoxicated I had the idea for what became 18th.me.

    18th.me is basically face-in-the-hole with real paintings. I found a team overseas with some amazing painting talent. They can re-create any classic painting (think Mona Lisa) but using anyone’s face I give them. It’s been a fun side-project, and has turned out to be a really great way to meet some really interesting people.

    Building 18th.me

    Once I had the idea and sourced the painters, I began brainstorming names, domains, and wireframes. I eventually settled on 18th.me, and snatched up the domain for $10.

    Intense wireframing then followed. Here’s  the final design I came up with:

    I then hired a great designer off of Dribbble that turned my wireframe into something great.

    Cost to build

    18th.me domain: $10
    Test paintings: $287.70
    Website design: $450
    Website coding: $328.77
    Shopify hosting: $87

    Total cost to launch: $1,163.47
    Total time taken from idea to launch: 3 months


    Meeting Great People

    After 18th.me went live, I began reaching out to people I admired. Looking back, it helped me to stand out during these interactions.

    Meeting Andrew Wilkinson, Founder of MetaLab

    When I first launched 18th.me, I sent out several paintings to some people with good blog followings to draw up interest. One of those was for William Wilkinson, a designer at MetaLab. He also happens to be Andrew’s younger brother. William posted this to his blog:

    You know when someone asks if you want a free painting from their new service and you forget about it for three months, then it shows up at your work?

    Not long after launching, I noticed an order come through from Andrew. He commissioned us to paint his cat as Napolean Bonaparte. I had been following MetaLab for years, and was a fan of Andrew’s work.

    Several weeks later, MetaLab launched Design Capital, their hybrid investing approach. Essentially they invest their resources in startups. This could include design, dev, cash, or a hybrid of all three.

    At the time I was still working on my startup, Obsorb. We needed some additional capital, and maybe help on our design. The day they launched I reached out with this simple email.

    To my surprise, Andrew responded, citing 18th.me!

    Eventually after many back and forth emails and calls, Andrew and I worked out a non-typical Design Capital deal. I proposed a joint venture between Obsorb and MetaLab to build a new product together.

    My co-founder and I went up to Victoria for 2 months to build out the prototype with Andrew and his team. By the end of the two months, it was obvious we worked well together. Andrew eventually made an offer to have us join MetaLab.

    The product we were working on became Peak, and I’m now a partner in MetaLab’s software business.


    Meeting Jon and starting Need/Want together

    While much of the deal above was happening, I was tinkering with a new bedding concept. My interest in physical product design had been growing and after a few prototypes, I started to make plans to Kickstarter a project.

    Jon was a tech guy that had just launched an iPhone case company, Peel. I found it intriguing that Jon was going from software to physical products, a rare occurrence.

    There’s something interesting that I’ve noticed in the world of startups – most tech guys just don’t want to deal with designing and selling physical items. It seems like manufacturing, large upfront costs, and the lack of infinite scalability intimidates many.

    Jon’s move from tech to physical products resonated with me, as I had started to dabble in the same. So, I reached out via Twitter.

    If you’re curious what those first two emails between Jon and I looked like, you can read my original reach out email to Jon here, and his response here.

    Jon and I kept talking via email and learned we had a lot of shared interests. Eventually I pitched him on doing SmartBedding with me. In the following months we went on to launch the Kickstarter campaign, raising $57k+.

    Due to SmartBedding’s success, we decided to create Need/Want and build a portfolio of  products together. This blog also followed.


    Lessons learned

    When you execute on ideas, you are forever associated with a tangible thing. People remember tangibles, not ideas.

    Looking back and connecting the dots, I’ve realized that any big career advancements or opportunities that came my way were always linked to something I made, or built.

    And so, the single best way I’ve found to meet interesting people is to…

    Make things, and then share them with the world. You’ll be surprised with who you meet along the way.


    If you found this post interesting you can follow me on Twitter @Marshal and Need/Want @NeedWantInc

  • A 3-Step Process for Naming a Project/Product (And Some Resources)

    / Comments (1)

    Naming a project is always an awful experience.

    An earworm that won’t stop tapping your skull from the inside. A tenacious pop jingle with teeth and a paycheck.

    As a freelance designer, I do a fair amount of this for clients. Generally, my process has been a garble of notes and trips to thesaurus.com, but lately I’ve noticed a fairly simple pattern emerging, a 3-step framework for cutting through the fog.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    3-Step Process
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Step 1.
    Identify the feeling you want the brand to convey. A great brand communicates on an emotional wavelength, so make that feeling your bedrock.

    One way to identify what feeling you’re pursuing is by figuring out what you’re not. A great brand is defined as much by what it is as by what it is not. So if you’re entering a certain market that is a certain way, identify that point of frustration and invert it. For instance, if your market is confusing, you could pursue ‘Relaxed', or ‘Lucid'.

    Step 2.
    Embody that feeling in a list of persons, places, things or phrases (etc) that communicate viscerally. For instance:
    Relaxed = a picnic
    Exclusive = Studio 54
    Cool = Paul Newman

    Step 3. Final
    Identify a detail that represents the [embodiment] of [your feeling] in a non obvious but compelling way.
    Relaxed = a picnic = Sunny Nap™
    Exclusive = Studio 54 = Velvet™
    Cool = Paul Newman = Ben Quick™ (a character he played)

    Repeat.
    New insights gained from the process should help you get a better handle on the unique feeling or value your brand has to offer.

    Ideally,
    the name should have a ‘special wrongness’* to it. An unforgettable newness. A new shape. 1+1=3. If your name lacks this, the product itself may have a hard time differentiating itself in whatever market you’re entering. Why are you different than your competitors? That difference should be reflected in the brain jam your name causes in its audience.

    *"Special Wrongness” is a term I’ve stolen and adopted from Peter Mendelsund from this amazing interview: http://portersquarebooksblog.blogspot.com/2013/05/interview-with-peter-m...

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Credentials
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    As for credentials, here are some of the things I’ve named:

    Svpply (snobby social shopping)
    Varsity Bookmarking (link-based interview magazine)
    10,000 (TBA athletic apparel)
    General Projects (design studio)
    Work Of (maker community and store)
    Mined (TBA digital marketplace)
    Lookwork (visual RSS for professionals)
    Lunch League (foodie clothing line)
    Embrella Group (design consultancy)

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    G.O.A.T
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Some of my favorite brand names of all time, the ones I aspire to matching, have the appearance of having emerged from this kind of process. Names like:

    Saturdays
    Girlfriend
    Hunter Gatherer AKA HUGA
    Mo’wax
    Slack
    Dress Code
    Mother
    The Quiet Life
    Public School
    Free People
    Girl Skateboards

    These names emerge from the fringe of their vibe. Familiar details that've been blown out larger than life.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Pretty Good Tools & Resources
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    http://www.Phrasefinder.co.uk — A robust database of slogans, phrases, idioms and such. Annual fee for this one.

    http://Rhymezone.com — Rhymezone is great for finding rhymes, but even moreso, it’s great for a feature it calls “related search”. Like a drunk cousin reading the dictionary, it often yields connections you wouldn’t see elsewhere.

    http://Thesaurus.com - Yep.

    http://Niice.co — Visual search engine. Good for non-linear, non-verbal associations. and its “Surprise Me!” button is great for knocking you out of a loop.

    http://iwantmyname.com - I use this for domain name searches because it has the most comprehensive list of TLD results that I’ve found.

    http://domai.nr - Domainr will cut your name up into chunks and tell you if there’s any odd domain combos available. Think: de.licio.us or days.am

    USPTO Trademark search - Once you’ve landed on a name, you’ll want to check for existing trademarks in your product’s space.
    USA: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/
    UK: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/tm/t-os/t-find/tmtext.htm

    USPTO class list - When doing a trademark search, you’ll want to know your product’s class so you can tell if you're rubbing elbows with a trademark holder.

    Don’t Call it That!: A Naming Workbook - Folks I trust have recommended this book.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    That's all I've got.

    I hope it's helpful.

    If you do wind up with any success because of this, I'd love to hear about it. myfirst@lastname.com or @pieratt

  • Lessons From the King of Agricultural Advertising

    / Comments (0)

    Originally written for Forbes.com
    This article was co-written by Dan Callahan

    If you have lived in the Midwest in recent years you have probably noticed billboards and television ads sponsored by Monsanto on behalf of America’s Farmers. It was an idea nurtured over nearly a quarter-century by advertising veteran, and perhaps the king of agricultural advertising, industry legend Joe Osborn.

    Never heard of Osborn? No, you probably have not unless you sling soybeans or corn for a living. That’s exactly the way he and his ponytail would have wanted it. You see, Osborn passed away this month, less than four years after retiring from an agency he co-founded in St. Louis, Osborn Barr, and his legacy literally changed the face of one of America’s most vital industries.

    “Joe was an incredibly creative, talented man with very high standards, but he had the temperament of a man at the beach,” said Brad Chalk, who worked with him in New York at the ad agency Dancer Fitzgerald in the mid-1980s. “Never yelling, always calm, even when faced with difficult clients.”

    Monsanto’s America’s Farmers campaign had its roots in a very similar – and beloved – campaign that Osborn, Chalk and others at Dancer Fitzgerald created for Ciba-Geigy in the 1980s. The ads, the first to put an agribusiness company on network television shows like NBC’s “The Today Show” and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” were the company’s bid to enhance its reputation with farmers (Ciba-Geigy has morphed into ag giant Syngenta ) featuring the folksy voice of John Bartholomew Tucker reading copy written by, you guessed it, Osborn.

    “It was a tough sell with the client, but they were very successful,” Chalk said. “The farmers loved them.”

    Twenty-five years later and now out of the bright lights of New York, Osborn was working at his new agency in St. Louis and pitched what was in essence the same idea to Monsanto.

    “When I saw those ads, I turned to my wife and said, ‘that’s Joe Osborn,’” Chalk recalled.

    In remembering his days working closely with Osborn, Chalk recalled exploits similar to the story of New York advertising depicted in AMC’s immensely popular “Mad Men,” noting a parking lot accident that convinced a client to discontinue hard liquor at company meetings. Indeed, those were the days – clients insisting on being wined and dined when they got to town and as the clock ticked for meetings the next day, which explained why, by the time we became friendly in 2009, Osborn no longer favored the drink.

    “Joe would ask, ‘how long do we wait before we call for dragging the East River?’” Chalk said. “And when the client came in, he looked like he had climbed out of the East River.”

    In 2008, while looking to launch Elasticity as a new kind of hybrid digital content marketing and public relations shop, we met Osborn’s business partner of 20 years, Steve Barr (ironically, in a bar). Together, Osborn and Barr had founded an ad agency that became a powerhouse in agribusiness, providing a welcome home to ag companies big and small — many of whom felt looked down upon by the Madison Ave. agencies.

    We first pitched Barr on the idea of funding our startup. He then brought us to Joe, and at first we really had no idea what to make of the silver-haired war-horse sporting a long ponytail and black jeans. Joe was virtually impossible to read, armed with a series of wry remarks and an endless smirk, yet we hit it off in the most peculiar way.

    “We were going in to meet with you guys and Joe thought this would be a waste of our time,” said Cheryl Bergeron, one of Osborn’s protege’s who worked under him at the time. “We walked out after the meeting and Joe looked at me and said, ‘Well that was a pleasant surprise.’ He felt an instant connection.”

    They ultimately adopted us, taking a 70 percent equity stake and catapulting three dreamers with no revenue and an idea, into what today has become a 20-person agency with nearly $3 million in revenues. Joe became a mentor, a trusted sounding board, and it was no coincidence that when he retired some 16 months later, Elasticity and the agency he founded parted ways and we purchased our equity back.

    “Steve brings home a lot of stray puppies,” Osborn told us on several occasions. “And you were by far the best one.”

    Osborn never sought credit or to be the center of attention. Perhaps that is why you cannot find any mention of him on the website of the company he built with Barr. I remember speaking to him quietly in a corner of the Kemper Art Museum during his retirement party and he was pained at being the focus of the event. Typical Joe, a brilliant man, singing his swan song, yet seeking no credit for songwriting.

    “Joe was the first man I ever worked with for whom gender was not an issue and I felt truly respected,” added Bergeron. “Because of that I developed a very good working relationship that became a deep friendship. He was my mentor, but more than that, a dear friend, and I miss him terribly.”

    After retiring, Joe left St. Louis and we continued to speak every few months. He moved with the love of his life, his “sweetheart” Leslie Kahl, to Portland, a city he wryly noted was ultra-hip, but did not fluoridate its water.

    Farewell Joe. We will miss you.

  • What I Learned in 2013 #23: John Hendrix

    / Comments (0)

    Over the last few years, twitter has become my virtual studio. As an illustrator who works alone in my studio most of the time, I have become marginally obsessed with the community of artists and illustrators I follow. After I reread my twitter feed from the last year, I was reminded of a few things I learned over the last year.

    What I learned in 2013 (according to my twitter feed @hendrixart)

    1. Easy solution for enjoying your illustration career: Don't draw things you don't like to draw.

    I draw in my sketchbook every week during church, just as a reminder that I need have fun and explore the stuff I'm interested in making. My sketchbook is more like a playground than a to-do list. Regularly drawing 'just for fun' is essential to making your best work.



    2. Every new project is an opportunity. Whether it is a good opportunity is pretty much up to you.

    My newest kids book, "Rutherford B. Who Was He?" is a project I initially turned down, because I thought drawing U.S. Presidents seemed liked it might be tedious, or even cliche. My wonderful agent talked me into it, and I'm so glad, I made some of my best images for this book- the constrictions which I feared set me free.



    3. You can't be a great artist if you are regularly impressed with your own work. Disappointment is one of your most important artistic tools.

    We all have to make bad stuff. My students often confuse 'making bad work' with 'doing something wrong'. Disliking your work proves that you have taste, and a longing for something better. I wrote 8 failed book proposals, had many jobs killed during production and redrew hundreds of sketches.

    (Imagine the worst image I made last year posted here)



    4. The only people who don't feel like frauds are actual frauds.

    I started a web comic this year which has no other purpose than to bring me enjoyment. I have no credentials to make real comics, other than I read them. But I really wanted to draw these little stories about what this very mysterious part of the trinity does during his days. It can be found at adventuresoftheholyghost.tumblr.com



    5. As much as an illustration style is a lens, it is also a vice. Without new risks, the tropes that once set you free will turn into a veil.

    I did this image for a Star Wars tribute show at Gallery Nucleus in Los Angeles this May. I simply could not decide what to draw from these movies- the films were so important to me that I was fearful of not doing the image justice. As I looked over my sketches, I realize the idea was right in front of me. I was going to draw everything I could remember without a sketch, without reference. The risk was thrilling, and I made my favorite image of the year.



    6. This sounds feigned for effect, but everyday I'm truly astonished that it takes a lot of time to make something really good.

    This giant map for Sports Illustrated was a mash-up of Game of Thrones and the sports world. Spent three weeks on it, had to remind myself everyday that doing something right isn't a waste of time. In the digital world, it feels like everyone is working fast and without errors. But, good word takes time, a lot of it.



    7. Got an email from a former student, gushing about her first job- teaching never gets any better than truly enjoying another's success.

    I teach illustration, hand-drawn type and design in the Communication Design department at Washington University in St. Louis. I've had so many wonderful students over the years, but this year, there were a few that really came into their own as professionals. Really proud of their success.

    Vidya Nagarajan, http://vidhyanagarajan.com/
    Sam Washburn, http://www.washburnillustration.com/
    Noah MacMillan, http://cargocollective.com/noahmacmillan
    Morgan Schweitzer, http://www.morganschweitzer.com/
    James O, www.facebook.com/jamesoart

  • What I Learned in 2013 #22: Jake Edinger

    / Comments (8)

    I look forward to ADDYs night every year. 2013 was no different.

    Actually, I take that back. It was very different. As different as an annually recurring event could be. The ADDYs were supposed to be bigger this year.

    A whole week of activity was planned around the show. We added an entire lineup of educational panels. We booked social gatherings on three of the nights. We brought back a printed book of winners. We made it a live presentation of awards instead of a reel. We created a microsite and some pretty extensive branding around the week and the show. The whole enchilada.

    It was an all-in kind of approach, led by David Johnson, Jen Oertli, Jamie Keim and Ellen Legow, with the goal of revitalizing an event that had lost some luster in recent years. And I was part of the committee that helped pull it all together.

    Up to that night, it seemed as though the week was going strong. We had great attendance and participation at the panels, and people seemed to enjoy the social events. All was going according to our hopes when we started planning the summer before.

    Then, we got snow. And when St. Louis gets snow, everybody freaks out.

    Should we postpone the show? Would the food keep for another week? Will the venue hold a slot for us? We didn’t want all of this preparation to fizzle because no one showed up to the main event.

    Luckily, I didn’t have to make that decision, but the right one was made. And somehow all the stars aligned for the event to take place the following Thursday.

    Bullet dodged.

    But we still needed the event to go off without a hitch. And we needed people, who may or may not have had other plans that following week, to actually show up.

    Coolfire hosted a pre-show happy hour at Plush, the same venue that was hosting the actual presentation. And by the time my wife, Toni, and I got there, the place was pretty full.

    I was relieved, yet still anxious.

    This was my first full year of creative directing at HLK. I was proud of the work we had done and grateful to have had the chance to lead the teams who made it all happen. I thought it was award-worthy. But more importantly, I was glad we had a decent number of entries that made it into the show, and everyone from our department had a piece that won something. All of our clients were represented. And my boss, Joe Leahy, was his usual optimistic and supportive self.

    Anything beyond that would be gravy.

    First stop: the bar. Toni, my designated driver, was 8 months along and was deeply involved in a lot of the work that was entered. (We work together in case that last sentence seemed strange.) But as she always does, she seemed to keep things in a healthy perspective and made a joke about how I was the one who needed to take a deep breath.

    She was right.

    I introduced her to the first person I recognized, a former a coworker of mine from Rodgers Townsend. He quickly noticed that she was—we were—expecting. And at this point, he didn’t need to be careful about pointing it out. We were giddy and thrilled to tell people we weren’t finding out the sex. As if we were the first people to ever make such a non-traditional choice.

    He was happy for us. Who isn’t when they see a happy couple on a happy night? We thanked him, grabbed our drinks off the bar and started to move toward the rest of the night.

    But he wasn’t done. As a father himself, there was more ground to cover, and our conversation was just getting started. Our pleasantries quickly dissolved into a real conversation.

    I’m paraphrasing, but I’m going to use quotes just because I can’t take credit for the next bit of wisdom that would come with a complimentary Anheuser-Busch product and a water with a lemon.

    He said, “You know, a lot of people are going to tell you that your life will never be the same. They’ll tell you to ‘just wait.’

    “Just wait until that baby comes. They’ll tell you to just wait until you’re up three times in the middle of the night. Oh, just wait. Wait until the baby starts crawling. You’ll have to baby proof everything. Just wait. Then they start talking. And they never stop. Just wait. Potty training is next.

    “You’ll hear this all the way through. Just wait until they’re going to school. And the homework. And the practices. And just wait. Your life is over. It’s now their life. Just wait until they hit puberty. It goes on. People always want to tell you just how much things have changed. And that you should just wait. Just wait ‘til college. Just wait for the next phase. Just wait. You have no idea.”

    I was listening. And all of this was ringing true. As one of the last holdouts among my friends to have a child, I had heard this very warning on several occasions. And, honestly, it kind of made me cringe a little each time.

    Then, he said, “They’re right.”

    He went on, “Your life won’t be the same. It has forever changed. But don’t just wait.

    “Don’t dread what’s coming next. It’s all amazing and absolutely unique. Each stage comes fast. And afterwards, you’ll look back and see that it went by even faster. And the next phase will be right there, completely new and unexpected and incredible.”

    We talked more about how I should record the sounds the baby makes while taking a bottle at 3am. Because soon he’ll be sleeping through the night. He warned me about growing out of onesies and when the first semblances of words finally arrive. (Dada is easier to say in case you were wondering.)

    Now, I’m sure Erik Mathre isn’t the first person to feel this way. But he was the first to look me in the eye and know exactly where my mind was at that stage of father-to-be-hood. He may have wished someone else had told him that, going in. Maybe not.

    I don’t know. He and I haven’t talked since that night. But I left that conversation with a verbal shot in the arm and even more confidence and excitement for the coming days, months and years.

    I couldn’t wait.


    Wesley Calvin Edinger with his mom last weekend, 9 months old. (Erik was right.)

    If you’re interested, and since this is an advertising blog, here’s a Coke spot from Argentina captures what I think Erik was trying to tell me.

  • What I Learned in 2013 #21: Linda Solovic

    / Comments (1)

    What have I learned this year? Every year seems to bring lots of learning, especially in my personal life. However, last year, I went back to school. I did not go to a university nor take a traditional course. No, I took my first e-course called Make Art That Sells by Lilla Rogers, one of the most respected reps of art licensing. The course was broken into two parts, a 5 week session in June and a 5 week session in October. I took the course to learn more about how to license my art. But I also needed to expand my knowledge about art licensing so I could better teach a new course, Illustrating for Licensed Products. I am currently teaching this course to Communication Design seniors at Washington University.

    So what did I learn? I learned a lot about licensing all kinds of products including bolt fabric, paper products, home products, wall art…the list goes on and on. And although this knowledge was valuable, the best thing I learned through the course was how many ways 530 artists (my classmates) could interpret the same material, drawing seed pods, to producing an end product: designing dinnerware using drawings of seed pods. The artists used different kinds of media to do their artwork from traditional to digital. Yet when viewing the final artwork, each artist’s final piece was unique and clearly their own showing their personal style and sensibilities.

    There was a Facebook group for this course where you could share your progress and your artwork with everyone in the class. And this provided the best learning experience.

    Every artist joined the group and then shared their artistic story, gave encouragement and feedback to others in the group and we all became like a family. We made videos of ourselves and our studios. It was so much fun even for those of us who do not like a camera’s lens. I met artists from all over the world including some of my illustration heroes. I learned that all of us artists, from the ones just starting out to the pros, have the same fears about our work: "Is it good enough? Does it work for the assignment? How am I going to get work? Who is my audience? How am I going to juggle my kids?", were just some of the discussions. For me, this knowledge was so valuable, to have concrete evidence that I was not alone in my creative thoughts and in pursuing a creative life.

    I now have a group of like minded artists to chat with and share all matters of the art world. This course was a lot of hard work but I am so glad I took it. Making so many friends from around the world was not what I expected I would take away from this course, but as it turns out it was the best thing.

  • What I Learned in 2013 #20: Joe Bishop

    / Comments (0)

    Sometimes You Just Have To Walk Away

    I have three little girls. The two older ones needed a trip to Disney World before it lost it’s magic. The 6 month old was up for whatever. So off we drove to Orlando. It was awesome. It was way more fun than I expected. Towing a 6 month around was no problem. After all, we had one of those pumpkin seat strollers. It worked well, but they’re so bulky. Our last day at the park, the kids where in the pool at the other end of the resort and I was packing the car. The last thing that needed to go in was the damn stroller. It wouldn’t fold up. I tried everything, but it wouldn’t budge. I was so freaking frustrated. I was yelling at it. Banging it on the concrete. I threw it across the lot. Meanwhile, my wife calls. “The kids are ready to go, where are you?” Frustration. “This damn stroller” I barked back into the phone, followed by a slew of obscenities directed towards that piece of crap stroller. She was trying to interrupt me with shouts of “Joe, JOE!” I settled and she let me know I was on speakerphone. I imagined the shock and horror of kids and their parents hearing this from around the pool. Bobby and Sally Sue, frozen and looking gaped mouth towards my wife’s direction. I could hear the subtle murmur of water washing down the waterslide in the distance. Virgin ears defiled. I let out a long “ugh” and hung up.

    I bummed a cigarette from a passer by who either out of fear or sympathy obliged me. Smoking is frowned upon in the Magic Kingdom, but I decided screw it. I pulled out my phone and took a picture of the stroller. And that’s where I left it, sitting in the lot next to that RV. I have no idea if someone in that RV saw me that day, but if they did – I hope they got video.

    I can spend a lot of time trying to make something work, but sometimes - it’s just better to walk away. Thanks idiotic stroller.

    People Are Fake

    Productions aren’t like they used to be. People cost a lot of money. So when you have to fill out a stadium, you have to rely on fake people. I didn’t really think this was a real option until it was a real option.

    I Need A Creative Outlet From My Day Job

    I didn’t go to art school. Kind of glad I didn’t. But there are some things that I missed out on. One of which was working a letterpress. Early in the year I got a note from an old co-worker, Bruce Calvin. He was going to take a print making class at Firecracker Press down on Cherokee street. I decided to join in. It was a lot of fun. I had kind of forgotten what it was like to just design and create for me. No client. No pre-loaded mandatories. I made a goofy little landscape print. I found it very therapeutic and suggest it to anyone looking to find a non-work related creative release. Not saying it was good work, but it worked for me.

    I’m An Art Director, Not A Zoologist.

    This is an aggressive pose for a kangaroo. I had no idea. I thought they were just standing up to get a better look around. You only find this kind of shit out when you’re trying to track down a taxidermy kangaroo for a commercial.

    You Can Be Cool, For At Least 33 years.

    My friend Carol owned a clothing store in The Loop called Ziezo. I say “owned” cause she just closed her store. While it’s not uncommon for a small boutique-clothing store to close down, I think this one was special. Ziezo had been in business 33 years. Let that sink in for a minute. That’s 33 years in what could arguably be one of the most fickle industries. It’s impressive to say the least. She hired college kids, molded young fashion buyers and gave some great opportunities to local designers. At the end of the day, she closed the shop not because she had to, but because she thought it was just time. But in those closing weeks I saw how the outpouring of thanks affected Carol. You could see it wash over her face or read it in her Facebook posts. You got the feeling that she realized that “hey, this meant something”.

    I think that we all get really close to this business. You get so busy with the day-to-day grind and hyper-focused on the product that goes out the door that you forget that it’s not just the things you make or sell, but the relationships and people you affect along the way. It’s a good thing to pause and reflect on.

  • What I Learned in 2013 #19: Rob Hutti

    / Comments (10)

    It's not you, it's me.

    Years ago I heard an interesting musing about financial success that I thought translated well to our industry. Put simply, a person’s value can be directly attributed to the company he or she keeps.

    I loved this idea. It became the engine that propelled me to the next stage of my career. It was my mission to surround myself with talent. Thinking talent. Design talent. Top talent.

    I locked in. Worked on my personal brand and social presence. Made better work for clients and myself. Read more. Wrote more. Lived more. And somehow… it worked.

    I convinced Sang Han to give me a chance on his team at Rodgers Townsend. This put me in direct proximity to not only his design finesse and passion, but also the talented Randy Smith and incredible storytellers like Kay Cochran, J.Chambers and Mike McCormick . Everyday, I witnessed folks agency wide create work that evoked everything from gasps to out loud laughter. I was intimidated, yet eager to glean some knowledge.

    It wasn't until this last year, when Sang migrated to HLK and later Apple while Randy ventured out on his own that I began to reflect on my time at RT. I was worried I had blown my brief window for their influence. Sure, I had learned some stuff and done some good work, but I hadn’t reached the NEXT level. I didn't feel transformed or enlightened. I felt stagnate.

    And that's when it dawned on me — once I landed the job, I thought of my mission as being accomplished. In reality, that should have been step one. I had merged on to the freeway, but rather than racing to the next destination, I got in the right lane and turned on NPR.

    I thought I could get comfortable, and let some sort of creative osmosis better me. The truth is, I wasn't a contest winner who got the chance to play for the pro's. I was drafted. My team wasn't there to make me better. I was there to better them.

    So, what did I learn?

    I learned that my failures and successes are on me.

    I learned it's through the process of pushing yourself for the sake of the team that achieves the most robust growth internally.

    I learned it is not about occasional sprints of creativity and learning, but a marathon of daily craft.

    I learned that "The People" cannot be my answer for why I am doing anything. The people could be gone tomorrow.

    Finally, I learned that I needed a fresh start to get it right from the beginning. Which is why, as of Jan 2, you can find my career moving forward at HLK — pedal down.

  • What I Learned in 2013 #18: Kevin Kelly

    / Comments (7)

    One of the first things I’m asked in most social interactions is, “What do you do?”, meaning: what do you do for a living, what’s your job, how in the hell do you make money? I’ve typically struggled to answer this question in the expected bite-size way because I myself am not really one-hundred-percent sure of what I do for a living.

    Normally I just say, “I don’t really do anything,” which typically gets a laugh and ironically leads to a more in-depth conversation – as opposed to spitting out some easily categorized and mentally referable professional title. This is because – in all honesty – I don’t really like talking about the phone calls, emails and pixel pushing that I typically find myself engaged in for 8-10 hours a day because they don’t have much in common with where my real purpose and passions lie.

    What I’ve recently realized is that, just like the majority of individuals, the things we do to make money don’t necessarily come close to describing or defining who we are. We all spend our time toiling away on things that we probably wouldn’t if we didn’t have to worry about bills, health insurance and putting food on the table. Most people who have the incredible luck of being born in any one of the western civilized countries end up spending the majority of their waking life in professional situations that they may either a.) kind of like b.) feel ambivalent towards or c.) despise wholeheartedly. But they do this with the acknowledgement that it allows them and their loved ones to live a life of relative comfort. If we’re really damn lucky, we find ourselves in an industry that allows us to pay tribute to our creative callings and get paid more for it than these people who hate what they do everyday.

    And yet, after finding myself in this latter circle of individuals that get to work on projects that test their creative abilities, in comfortable $800 chairs and utterly safe from the bitter cold or extreme heat, I still am able to find myself underwhelmed, bored, procrastinating and ready to move on to something else at the drop of a hat. Poor me! Right?

    So let me get to the point. When you realize that the majority of people on earth (probably 80%) live on under $10 a day, and really, really think about this fact as much as possible, then me sitting on my ass-padded chair and passive-aggressively bitching in a fourth e-mail about the size of a logo is pretty ri-damn-diculous.

    In light of this realization, here’s what I’ve learned this past year, and relearned pretty much every year for the past six as I’m undeniably one of the slower pupils in the school of life. Disclaimer: these are voiced to myself and only to myself, if they somehow are able to help you out in some way, then awesome:

    1. Always remain humble and accept the fact that things could always, always be worse.

    2. Realize where you’ve come from. The unavoidable sacrifices you’ve made to get where you are, the shitty jobs you’ve moved past, the late nights working on insanely unimportant things, the whiny e-mails, the phone calls that start at a time of day before you can think above a 2nd grade level and the endless meetings that make your spirit die a little bit more each time…

    3. And for fuck’s sake – don’t let that bullshit stand in the way of the truly beautiful things you’re going to do with this life. Just because you’re already lucky to be living and working in America doesn’t mean you have to settle down and live in a template. At the end of the day, week, year – you are your biggest idea. You have these goals that are important to you… even if they changed slightly… and you hold on to these goals because your plans will align themselves to these goals. And it had better be a completely unattainable, one-in-a-million shot type of idea so that you can have that much better of a story when it actually does happen. And if it doesn’t happen you can at least die somewhat content knowing that you gave it one helluva shot.

    Again, let me reiterate that this is how I say it to myself – I don’t think everyone has to have some massively improbable idea of what they’d like to achieve in life. But… I guess I do.

    Maybe you do too.

    - - -

    Hopefully, reading this wasn’t a waste of your time. Here’s three quotes from inspiring individuals over the past year that helped me out in case what you just finished reading did absolutely nothing for you:

    “Take advantage of everything the world has to offer before it decides to take you out of it.” – Anonymous Yoga Teacher

    "My singular goal as an adult is to realize all the promises I made to myself as a kid." – Casey Neistat

    "The hugest triumphs you will ever have are the ones that no one will ever know about." – Flea

    - - -

    Kevin Kelly
    Invincible and Ever-Triumphant Supreme Commander at Anti-Agency
    @KevinKellyUSA

Rocket Fuel