DDQ&A: Khoi Vinh

January 24, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Of all the fellow designer dads I’ve interviewed,* Khoi Vinh is the one I’ve known the longest. We were together in the DC design trenches early in our careers, building up our portfolios and burning lots of midnight oil. While I can’t think of a designer whose style (and personality) is more different than mine, I’ve always respected and admired him and his work. As we’re both now dads of preschoolers, we finally have something more in common. Except that he also has twins, so I obviously have some catching up to do. I settled for catching up through this Q&A.

Q&A with designer dad Khoi Vinh

Tell me briefly about your design career: how long in the industry, what kinds of clients you have and/or work you specialize in.
I graduated from art school in 1993 with an illustration degree but have done some kind of design ever since. Jeebus. Twenty years. I started out in print media and switched to digital media in 1998.

DD note: Khoi’s being coy (sorry, had to do it) and leaving out lots of details. He was the design director for NYTimes.com from 2006-2010, created a photo collage app, is a published author, and has been blogging for over a decade at Subtraction.com. In 2011, Fast Company named him one of “The 50 Most Influential Designers in America.” Coy, indeed.



DDQ&A: Evan Spiridellis

July 10, 2013 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF

Like most of the world, I was first introduced to the work of Evan Spiridellis (the designer half of the humor site, JibJab) through the still-hilarious lampoon of the 2004 presidential election, “This Land.” In 2011, he and brother Gregg launched StoryBots, an awesome online land of apps, videos, books and activities for kids (and parents). As a longtime fan, I was downright giddy Evan agreed to a DDQ&A!

Q&A with designer dad Evan Spiridellis


Tell me briefly about your design/illustration career.
My brother and I started JibJab back in 1999. Early on we supported the studio by doing service work for clients like Disney, Scholastic, Kraft and Sony — but the goal was always to build a new kind of entertainment company. So we would take on enough client work to pay the rent and our team, then we would turn down commercial projects until the coffers ran dangerously low. Nowadays, JibJab supports itself by selling our products directly to our audience without commercial interference. We much prefer this approach 🙂 READ FULL ARTICLE >>

DDQ&A: Steve Spatucci

June 24, 2012 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

I was introduced to Mr. Spatucci by Rob Kelley (AKA: Keeper of The Aquaman Shrine), who noticed I was profiling various designer dads and thought his friend Steve would be a good guy to blog about. Hailing from the great state of New Jersey, Steve is a fellow comic book fan nerd and an awesome illustrator! He also has a darn-tootin’ cutie of a son. (Ask him to see pictures—he posts them weekly!)

Q&A with designer dad Steve Spatucci

Tell me briefly about your design business: how long in business, what kinds of clients you have and/or work you specialize in.
I started doing freelance illustration back in the early 90’s, after I’d graduated from college. In those pre-Internet days, I’d do sample black and white illustrations, which I’d make into little photocopied booklets. I’d look through magazines, local newspapers and publishers at Borders and Barnes & Noble, compiling my own contact list, then I’d mail the books out. My first professional job came from one of those mailings. The art director for a gem and jewelry magazine, Lapidary Journal, liked my style and hired me for an editorial illustration. I wound up working for them off and on for almost ten more years.

I got a website up in 1997, and started doing more freelance design (mostly for print) and logo work as well as illustration. As Flash developed, I started using it for animation, and by the early 2000’s I’d learned to program in ActionScript and started developing games and interactive demos. I also started doing more website design. I incorporated my business, Plasmic Studio L.L.C., in 2003. I continue to do all of those things – design for print and web, identity, illustration, animation, online demos and game development. I’ve also done voiceover work, music composition, video editing and writing. I love the variety of work, and I really love a project that lets me incorporate those multiple disciplines. I do a lot of work for startups now, but some work also comes from larger, more established businesses that might need an updated identity, an interactive demo or some other type of creative project.


DDQ&A: Dicken Schrader

March 19, 2012 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

If you’re wondering “Who the heck is Dicken Schrader?” you’ve obviously not seen this video:

That’s Dicken (a video producer from Bogotá, Colombia) with his kids Milah and Korben — also known as DMK — rocking one of their three Depeche Mode covers. I’m a lifelong Depeche Mode fan (as is Papa) and the night I came across this video we sat in bed watching and laughing so hard at how incredible it was. In addition to being amazed by the video’s cleverness and creativity, I was equally intimidated by this dad’s dedication to raising some seriously talented offspring. Dude has set the bar seriously high. I hunted Dicken down and he generously agreed to do a DDQ&A about all things DMK.

Q&A with designer dad Dicken Schrader

Tell me briefly about how DMK got started.
It just happened very naturally. My kids grew up listening to whatever I listen to, a lot of it being Depeche Mode and other electronic music. They really get into the melodies and love trying to emulate them on our keyboard. When we did our first video, “Shake the Disease,” we never thought we would do more than one, but the kids loved doing it and we just kept on going.

Why Depeche Mode?
Depeche Mode is my all-time favorite band since I was in high school. It was the band that really got me into music and it has been the soundtrack of my life ever since.

Looking chronologically at the 3 videos you’ve done, it’s great to see the increased involvement and musical skill of the kids. How old are Milah and Korben, and how do each of them contribute to DMK?
The kids are getting better and better with each video — their musical abilities growing steady. Milah is 8, loves to play the recorder and is about to take up flute. She’s very responsible and helps me keep Korben in line when we’re practicing. Korben, 5, is a little keyboard virtuoso and is amazing at keeping a beat. He’s also the diva of the band, the one most likely to throw a fit in the studio.


DDQ&A: David Sopp

February 25, 2012 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, THINGS MY KID DIGS

David Sopp is the head designer- and illustrator-in-charge at Wry Baby, one of my all-time favorite baby product-making companies. David is also co-owner with copywriter wife Kelly, where they have birthed such awesome creations as The Drooly Bib, Punkifier Pacifier Case and Eeek! It’s a Monster Hooded Bath Towel, all of which Designer Daddy JJ owns and loves.

Q&A with designer dad David Sopp

How long have you been a dad? How many kids?
I’ve been a Dad to one amazing boy for 11 years.

How did you get started in design?
My first paid job was illustrating a hose-handling guide for the Orange County Fire Department. I was in Junior High and it sounded as hilariously dirty then as it does now.

Designer Daddy's rendering. Not from actual guide.

I spent 15 years as an advertising art director in San Francisco. I worked on pretty much everything from Dell and Nortel to Star Olive Oil and an IHL hockey team called the Spiders. That’s what I like most about advertising, getting really smart about all kinds of businesses in really short time frames and nailing their problems.

Tell me about how Wry Baby got started.
Our son came with a free t-shirt at the hospital. It said the hospital name and the wrong month and we thought, “How lame! Why didn’t they just put NEW! In a red starburst and call it a day?” So we made that shirt and it was the first Wry Baby product.


DDQ&A: Doug Powell

January 26, 2012 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Doug Powell designs and dads in chilly Minneapolis, and is the current president of AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts, for you non-designers). I had the privilege of hearing Doug speak recently on the topic of AIGA’s Design for Good initiative, as well as his own work inspired by a very personal experience involving his daughter. Doug was kind enough to answer my DDQ&A, as well as some additional questions specific to his presentation on Design for Good.

Q&A with designer dad Doug Powell

Tell me briefly about your design business: how long in business, what kinds of clients you have and/or work you specialize in.
My wife, Lisa, and I founded Schwartz Powell in 1989. For most of that time we operated as a traditional graphic design studio working for a variety of clients ranging from Target and Andersen Windows to local arts organizations and schools. In 2002 our daughter, Maya, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (aka juvenile diabetes) and this caused Lisa and me to really reset our priorities around family and work. One of the outcomes of this experience was a line of products that Lisa and I designed to help families better manage life with diabetes. This grew into a bigger business vision over the subsequent years, applying this approach to a broader range of health care scenarios. In 2007 this business, called HealthSimple, was acquired by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Since then, I’ve been continuing to work with organizations in the health and nutrition space to work with design and design thinking.


DDQ&A: John Foster

December 6, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

I can’t remember exactly when I met John Foster, but I believe it was (appropriately) at a baby shower for a fellow designer. I’ve always admired his work, being so saturated with whimsy, sarcasm, and color. Three of my favorite things! Plus he’s a bona fide design superstar, from right here in little ole’ Montgomery County! Be sure and check out his site as well as the ever-expanding library of his books. Can I please be John Foster when I grow up?

Q&A with designer dad John Foster

Tell me briefly about your design business: how long in business, what kinds of clients you have and/or work you specialize in.
I have a little studio in Rockville, MD just outside DC called Bad People Good Things, which I set up roughly three years ago. I have been designing for almost 20 years now. My work is based around entertainment, advocacy, and food and beverage. I work for Fortune 100 companies as well as mom and pop shops, cutting edge record labels, innovative publishers, national arts organizations and tiny start ups. They just have to have a good product/message and be good people. I also am a writer, with several books to my credit (New Masters of Poster Design: Volume Two is out any day now!) and weekly columns. Mixing my writing in with my design work has been the biggest thrill with my current set up. Turns out that I am really good at both disciplines.

Almost all of my work is external – meaning that it has to compel someone to buy a product, donate to a cause, fund a program, join in a movement, attend a performance, etc… so it is a testament to my ability to stay relevant and current visually as a communicator that I am so busy. No hiding for this guy.

How long have you been a dad? How many kids? Ages?
I am from a big Irish Catholic style family so I changed millions of diapers before ever having one to call my own – haha, but I just have one 10 year-old daughter, who more than keeps me busy.


DDQ&A: Jeffrey Conrad

September 29, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of meeting Jeffrey Conrad at a “Meet the Judges” event prior to the DC Art Directors Club’s annual design competition. Jeffrey is the Chief Creative Officer of AG Properties + AG Studios (the “AG” is American Greetings), the keepers of and creatives behind a slew of kid-friendly properties — most famously the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake. In addition to helping develop AG’s Creative Licensing Studio by reintroducing CB and SS to a new generation, Jeffrey has written/illustrated/designed 1,500+ “social expression products.” Must be impossible to pick out a card for him…

Jeffrey graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions, as well as rehash some of what he spoke about at the Art Directors Club event.

Q&A with (brand new*) designer dad Jeffrey Conrad

In a nutshell, what does being the CCO of AG Properties + AG Studios entail?
The job has a lot of different requirements, but I try to focus on setting a clear direction for the team, knocking down all the obstacles that prevent us from focusing on creative invention and creating an environment that engages the team in making us the best. It’s a diverse group of writers, illustrators and designers that span three different offices. Thankfully everyone is way more talented than me and all I need to do is give them the stage to be brilliant.

Old School Care Bears

Care Bears 2.0

You were responsible for the Care Bears reboot — how did that come about? What did you change/update?
The Care Bears sat dormant for a number of years until a small group of people, led by our now COO (Jeff Weiss), decided to peddle them around in hopes of reinventing the property. It was the perfect storm of creative, marketing and retail execution. It all went so fast, and those of us on the team for the most part were novices in the business. We made mistakes that were pretty forgiving, except when we changed the sexes of bears and started to receive letters! We’ve since — through corrective invasive measures — solved some of those problems.


DDQ&A: Armin Vit

August 4, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

I met Armin Vit at Design Ranch, the awesomely hands-on creativity conference I attended earlier this year. Armin and his wife, Bryony Gomez-Palacio, led one of my favorite workshops, “Posters from the Ground Up.” Also in attendance were Armin and Bryony’s two adorable kids, who got crafty right alongside us and even strolled around the room, critiquing our work. In addition to being a designer dad, Armin (with Bryony) runs UnderConsideration, where they not only design, but tirelessly blog via sites like BrandNew and FPO. Originally from Mexico City, Armin and family now live in Austin.

Q&A with designer dad Armin Vit

Tell me briefly about your design business and what kinds of clients you have/what kinds of work you specialize in.
We’ve been in formal business since 2007, when my wife (and fellow designer and business partner) and I established UnderConsideration as an LLC and left our respective jobs. BUT, the core of our business — blogging — had been in place since 2002, but that’s part of a bigger story. In our first two years we did a lot of client work. Websites and identities for a good balance of for-profit clients and non-profits. In 2009 we sort of lost all our clients (thanks, economy!) and we were forced to figure out how to make money on our own, and we have transitioned into a strange “publisher” where we generate content online through our blogs. We’ve self-published one book and are in the process of another; we run one conference right now and are planning to run two next year; and we’ve established a couple of design awards that have attracted some really fantastic work.

Armin doing double duty as designer and dad.

How long have you been a dad? How many kids? Ages?
I’ve been a dad for four years. Two daughters — the oldest one just turned 4, and youngest one is 13 months.


DDQ&A: Kevin McFadin

July 2, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Kevin McFadin is the husband of a former co-worker of mine. He and his wife Dawn are both incredible illustrators/designers and together own and operate Fan Works Design in Richmond, VA. He also wears a few other hats, which I’ll let him tell you about…

Q&A with designer dad Kevin McFadin

Tell me briefly about your design business and what kinds of clients you have.
I’ve been running the shop with Dawn since 2002. Before that I was an AD in Alexandria [VA] and up until then I was the staff illustrator at a couple of newspapers. I still pursue illustration, inside and outside of the shop.

Getting up and running out of the DC Metro area many clients are, of course, associations and non-profits. We’ve worked with organizations based out of Richmond, such as Southern States and Child Fund, and helped some start-ups here in town when we were starting up ourselves.

I also volunteer/DJ at WRIR 97.3 FM, the independent radio station here (the largest LP station in the country) and volunteer on the Marketing Committee. So I offer up what I can when they need it: posters, logos, CD packaging, ads, etc. It’s an amazing place, amazing people and a real oasis.

How long have you been a dad? How many kids? Ages?
Renny turned 9 in June. She’s it… she sets the bar pretty high.


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