DDQ&A: Michael Schafer

One of the reasons I started Designer Daddy was to meet and network with other designer dads (and moms) — to swap stories, compare notes, and generally support one another in our endeavor to raise aesthetically conscious children in a world of Day-Glo plastic molds. In that vein, I’m debuting a new feature: DDQ&A! From time-to-time I’ll be interviewing other designer dads about how fatherhood has affected their work and creativity, and vice versa.

To kick things off, let’s meet Michael Schafer, the owner of openbox9 (who just also happened to do the programming for this site!)…

Q&A with designer dad Michael Schafer

Tell me briefly about your design business.
Ironic question, as I started openbox9 to attract a baby-maker because ladies love graphically superior daddy types. Secondary to that, I started openbox9 to offer non-profits a design studio that can come along side them in their mission and fundraising efforts by providing strategy, design, marketing and technology. Since 1999 we have delivered a bevy of online solutions as well as the offline types. During those years I have had the privilege of seeing our clients grow and their efforts to improve the world expand.

How long have you been a Daddy? How many kids? Ages?
Five and a half years have I been a proud daddy for two incredibly kind and creative daughters that light up our office with their wit and charm… not to mention the never-ending singing of The Sound of Music song. I wish I knew what I know now and threw away that DVD before it was opened.

How has fatherhood affected or influenced your work?
I can honestly say I am more playful and open to brainstorming, to which I hope the ideas generated are more inventive and unique than before. Watching and hearing how a child thinks and comes up with ideas can teach us so much about our banal ways of idea generation.

Have you ever designed anything for or related to your children?
I put my one week old daughter in an ad… okay faux ad.

Have you done any work related to children, education, parenting, etc?
Many of our clients focus their efforts on children. We have done a lot of strategy and design work for National Wildlife Federation whose core mission is to preserve the wildlife for future children to enjoy. Recently we had fun designing a brand campaign for Ranger Rick’s Geocache trails and last summer we created an event brand campaign for Hike & Seek. On a smaller scale, last summer we designed and built a site for our local heroes at Anacostia Gracious Arts Program – where access to creativity is given to children.

Do you have any work you feel was inspired by your kids or fatherhood, whether it’s directly related to children/parenting or not?
To a certain degree all my work is inspired by my strong desire to see a world I want my children to live in — whether it’s through the social-good clients we work with or by making the visual world more appealing and exciting for their young eyes. A specific example was a poster project where my oldest daughter sat next to me and told me what colors to use… not sure if that is inspiration or art direction but the client dug it. Since then her color choices have not been dug.

Is there any particular child product whose design you really like?
Trunki Sunny Orange Kids Suitcases – I saw a Dad pulling two kids sitting on these through the airport – fun for all and more importantly not some embarrassing Disney-induced imagery. I would have bought this but the logo is far too big for the cost of it – my child will not be a billboard for a company.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I think daddy designers have a profound responsibility to raise aesthetically aware children or our vistas are doomed to uglyville.

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