The Busy Creator Podcast, episode 48 with Commercial Artist Eric Kass

The Busy Creator 48 w/guest Eric Kass

Eric Kass (@funnel_erickass) is a Commercial Artist who has built a distinct solo practice across identity, graphic design, packaging design, and more. His practice — Funnel, the Fine Commercial Art Practice of Eric Kass — works with startups and artisanal food companies on developing all aspects of their brand story.

Our conversation cover Eric’s definition of a commercial artist, how we works with clients, and his new side project. Catch up with Eric on his website, Funnel.tv

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Transcript

A full text transcript of this episode is available thanks to support from Goodwerp.

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Transcript for The Busy Creator, episode 48 w/guest Eric Kass

Hello and thanks for downloading. Today I’m speaking to Eric Kass, who calls himself a commercial artist. He and I do some similar types of work in identity & packaging design for small companies, except he’s really, really good at it. Eric also works solo, and from home, so it’s interesting to hear where our processes differ, and where they align. Definitely two designers talking shop, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

Something new for you, dear listeners, we now have a full-text transcript of this episode available if you prefer to read the proceedings, or if you need to revisit something later. To grab the transcript you can head to the show notes page for this episode, which is busycreator.com/48 for episode 48. That’s also where you can find all the links to everything we’re about to discuss.

And the transcript is made possible by a new sponsor, Goodwerp. Goodwerp is an online project management tool created with agencies and professional services firms in mind. It’s extremely intuitive, allows you to manage projects, track time, send estimates and invoices, and collaborate with teammates and clients. I’ve started using it myself and think you should give it a try. You can sign up for a free trial by visiting busycreator.com/good or by following the links in the show notes page. Once again busycreator.com/g-o-o-d, and thanks to Goodwerp for sponsoring the transcript for day’s episode!

Alright, let’s get into the conversation with Eric Kass. I spoke to him via Skype from his home office in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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Prescott Perez-Fox: Hey, Eric. How are you?

Eric Kass: Hey, pretty good. How are you?

PPF: I’m good. I appreciate it you coming on and I’m looking forward to chatting with you and to introducing you and your work to the busy creator audience. And also to talking with another designer, again. Because I feel like for a while there in the fall I talked to several graphic designers, but then I actually haven’t had another designer on in a while, it’s good to I guess get back to basics and chat with someone who’s kind of in your same line of work.

EK: Awesome. Happy to be on here.

PPF: Excellent. All right, so let’s start from the top with the basic questions. So, how do you describe yourself and your work?

EK: Well, I create heart-made craft brands. So, I do that for artisanal food and beverage companies, boutique products, emerging technologies, artistic services, things like that. All the way from start-up companies that are just coming around and need a name, and don’t even have that, yet, and create everything from the name to the identify, the logo, the packaging, the website, the point of purchase displays, sometimes the store interior, the product itself in some cases. Just having input in on that, as well. Just really carrying that brand narrative through every point of customer contact. So I can say I do that from everything like really small companies, to some larger companies, and also work with some in-house design departments from time to time. And I work pretty much globally. I’m headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, here in the Midwest, but don’t do a whole lot of work in the local area, but most on the Coast in LA and New York, and kind of everywhere else in between.

PPF: Great. Is it too broad of a definition to just call you a graphic designer – to say branding and packaging design? Is there a particular phrase you like to use, like brand strategist, or commercial artist that is written on your website?

EK: Yeah. Graphic design has always been a term that I found kind of confusing because ever since I was in school and learned that term that that’s what my career was going to be called, and graphic seemed really specific – too specific. And design seemed really broad. I didn’t really ever feel like those words meant a whole lot to me or to the general public. So when somebody is bringing a new product to the market and they haven’t experienced working with a designer or with branding, before, I think that isn’t a very helpful term. So years ago I kind of went back to this idea of a commercial artist because to me those words together actually mean something. It means art for sale and art that helps commerce and creates money and all of those kind of things. It has connotations to it that I think people can make a leap and kind of see in their mind what it is.

So, the name of my company is kind of longwinded, but it’s Funnel: The Fine Commercial Art Practice of Eric Kass. You know, that part of it, too, the “practice” part, you know, I always wanted it to be like a doctor or a lawyer. I always thought those guys have practices, why is what I do not a practice? Because I really feel that way about it. I’m always learning, I’m always trying to perfect my craft and get better. And, you know, it’s a journey. It’s a constant journey and it’s going to be that way forever. So, to me that part of it made a lot of sense, too, and having it be “fine,” the “fine commercial art,” it just speaks to quality but also the idea of kind of the fine art aspect of things, as well. So there’s a lot of different things I feel like happening in that name. And then my name at the end, of course, being the personal part. Because I think that’s really important – that idea of the individual and individual expression. So I just always want to have that on there, as well.

PPF: Absolutely. There’s a lot going on. You’re almost becoming a verbal engineer, something like that. Like verbal design even for your own company name, which is always interesting. Going back in time just a little bit, you know, not a full back story, but is branding and packaging your sector from the start, or did you kind of arrive in this niche through a journey through the industry, in general.

EK: Yeah, I think it just always appealed to me. Because what I really like about it I think of as creating a brand narrative and telling a story. That’s really the way that I look at it. And I love the kind of big picture thinking and being able to craft a message and a story and look at every little detail at the same time. So working at the logo and looking at the topography and the printing and every little aspect of it, but all along just making sure that I’m creating and experience for people and telling a story. And I think that idea of systems and groups of products and then just being able to craft every aspect of the experience and how it’s on the shelf and how people interact with it and all that is really exciting to me. I don’t get as excited when it’s one sliver of that. Every once in a while it’s just do a logo or something, which is still enjoyable, but it’s really, really rewarding and fun to be able to create that whole experience all the way through for people. So I think that’s what really drew me to branding.

And then over the years I had tons of experience doing different types of branding and advertising, even, and doing kind of business to business stuff and more corporate things. I kind of settled in to where I felt like I really wanted to do more consumer work and retail work and kind of products that I’m more interested in myself and things that I buy. And I always felt like I had a better understanding of that. Because at some other companies I would do work for, you know, like small to medium manufacturing companies, software, you know, or something, and I could obviously learn about that. I could go and meet people that do that and manufacturing facilities and things like that and kind of learn their business and be able to design to that. But it was just something I was never super passionate about. And I also, again, didn’t feel like I could really get inside their heads enough to be able to create great design. So I started pretty early on wanting to gravitate more to thing that I felt like I had expertise in and an understanding in and that I was kind of involved in on a daily basis.

PPF: That sounds good. I mean, it’s the sector that I sort of have arrived in, as well. So I always appreciate it the folks who have a different opinion and a different back story and how they came to that. I’m curious about the scale of the projects. You mentioned earlier that you worked with in-store displays and packaging, as well as I suppose some 2D applications, like on a website, which is electronic. I mean, are you really doing the whole integrated brand act, or are you teaming up with people when you need their expertise in a particular medium?

EK: Yeah, I do a lot of it, myself, probably too much, sometimes. But when it comes to digital type things I do web design and emails and app design. And with those kind of things I do the interface and the look and feel and make sure that it ties into the brand. And also a little bit of kind of figuring out how it navigates and how it works and some things that it’s going to do. With those type of things I do partner with some development people and people who really know that side of it to make that come to life. The same way that I do with print, where I’ll design it all and have it finished and then work with a printer to execute it. It feels really similar to me. And, you know, it’s the same with displays and things like that, and signage, having things manufactured. It’s a matter of putting it together, designing it, and then finding the right person to really execute it and kind of bring their experience to it, as well.

PPF: Sure. But you are generally a solo act I think is important to note, as well. That you’ve developed a kind of private practice, a one-man practice, which is interesting. Because a lot of folks have partners, or they naturally want to group together into threes and fours. But you found some success working solo.

EK: Yeah, yeah. And like I said over the years I’ve worked in a lot of different scenarios and I’ve done that, having partners and having a company like that, as well. That was fun and it had its benefits because everybody has different strengths that they bring to the table, which is nice. But I just ended up a little bit of a control freak, I suppose, but I just really like to run this stuff and not having to get approval or run it anybody else and just go with it. As far as the company goes, though, I also like that there’s this kind of fluidity to it, where it can expand and contract. So, at times, you know, I’ve had employees, I’ve had interns, I had a gallery for a while – an art gallery below my studio and a space that was open to the public. And I did that for a bit. I’d kind of like to get back to that someday. So I love that ability to just kind of morph and change into different things as I need to and to just try things, too. Like I say, it’s a practice, so it’s interesting to see what happens if I work this way, or what happens if I bring these people in and how does that affect the work and what’s possible with this kind of a set-up. So it really keeps things interesting and exciting.

PPF: It’s funny that when you say practice, there, I just remembered that being in a yoga session, years ago, and when you do yoga it’s also called a practice. And the instructor was saying it’s called a yoga practice. It’s not a yoga show. It’s not supposed to be this very perfect thing that other people just kind of see and then leave. It’s for you and it’s continually improving and everything, which is, you know, and interesting analogy to design.

EK: Absolutely.

PPF: Awesome. Speaking of design, I really want to jump into the design process and talk about how you work with some of these small brands, these start-ups and everything. And do you begin with brand strategy, or central ideas, lots of verbal strategy and that sort of thing, or do you dive right into visual research, sketching, and really trying to put together some design, some art, some commercial art. So, really, can you take us through the process at all?

EK: Yeah, totally. It’s pretty casual in the way that it works, and it kind of goes back to the name, again, of the company being Funnel. When I originally thought of that name I liked it for two reasons. For one reason I feel like myself, as an artist and a designer, I’m a funnel of sorts. You know, everything that I’ve experienced in my life since I was born is in my head. They always say everything is in your brain, somewhere. You can’t always access it, but it’s all in there. I tend to think of as an individual I’m always soaking up everything around me and all of these experiences come out in the work in one way or another.

And then, also, it’s about the process. So, to me that’s kind of the biggest part of the process, where it starts, is that intake. When you picture a funnel it’s wide at the top so you can dump a lot into it really easily, and as soon as I start working with someone I do what we’re doing now. It’s dialogue, it’s a conversation. It’s kind of just asking questions and digging in. I go all the way back to like, “Where is your family from, originally? How did you end up where you end up now? What did you like to do as a kid that kind of led you to where you are now?” Some things that seem kind of irrelevant in a way because it’s so detached from that final part of it where it’s like, “Oh, we want to put this product up on the shelf and sell it.” I have often found that some of the best inspiration is where you least expect it and where you don’t usually look for it. So I like to have that be kind of the biggest part of the process, just that dialogue, that talking, and also I tell people, you know, email me whatever you want to email me. Send me links to your Pinterest board. And after we get off the conversation just continue to do that as we’re working through the process. And then we go back and forth a little bit like that.

That to me is a really collaborative part of the process, as well. Because, you know, there’s heads nodding and as the discussion goes, you know, this kind of feel. And it’s really generally. It’s not specific down to details at that stage. It’s still rough. And I kind of consider that, you know, the sketching stage in that instead of pencil on paper, it’s just conversation and dialogue. It’s the sketching and the ideation part of it. That also gets buy-in I feel like from people because they’re a part of the process at that stage really early on. Like I say, it’s extremely collaborative.

Then I like to just kind of go away. And I tell people I’m going to go away and do the magic, now, and bring back something that visualizes that, that makes their dream tangible. I talk about that, as well. You know, when I come back I come back with something that’s finished looking. And sometimes in my proposals I’ll put, “Let’s look at – there’s room here to do one to three concepts with a couple of rounds of revisions. And I talk to people even initially that my hope is to come back with one idea. Because basically there’s infinite ideas for anything. So, to me a big part of being a designer is to narrow that down, edit that down, to the idea. And I think if I do my job right, and I do that first part, the really big part, really well, and everybody is on the same page, then that’s really possible.

As opposed to some other, you know, beliefs on that of showing a bunch of different ideas that’s a huge range and hoping kind of one of them hits it. And I always kind of felt like that was a little bit of having machine gun and just hoping you hit it, you know. I guess it’s more strategic in a way, I would say. Really focusing in on that on thought, that one idea. And I still work through a ton of stuff to get there. So, it’s not like I don’t consider other things. It’s just to me a big part is just editing it down to that one idea. And that’s back to the funnel idea of everything comes in, it gets distilled down to its essence, to that one thing that’s it.

PPF: Absolutely. And I think a lot of folks are sort of adopting that, even without a formal name for it. That you start working with the client, you start talking about high-level concepts and adjectives and characteristics, and then you get a little more specific and you start doing visual research and bringing in color and texture and type samples. And then you do a little more specific and it’s actual shapes and actual construction. And then by the time that they are ready to see, you know, a logo or whatever it is, they’ve already seen the work behind it. So it feels like an appropriate solution because they’ve been a part of it and they’ve seen what’s gone into it.

EK: And one thing I talk about, too, is that when we’re crafting what that story is and we’re talking about it, and we’re hopefully nodding our heads yes in agreement, then I explain even at that stage, so that’s how we’re going to decide what fonts it should be and what colors it should be and what style it’s going to be and the tone of it. Because it’s all got to come back and check against that story. And so that’s the experience we’re trying to create. That’s the story we want to tell. I talk to people about I know how to do that. That’s what I’ve been working at, again, my whole career, is to know how to do that. How to tell that story and choose the right design style and the right items to create that story. That seems to make sense to people, I think. It’s like, “Yeah, that totally makes sense.”

So, as opposed to like people – so, if someone starts telling you, “Hey, you know, I really like this font.” It’s like, “Well, you know, that is a nice font, but does it check with our story? Does that create the right feeling that we want it to have? Does it create the right experience?” And so it just starts to take something that’s really subjective and makes it a lot more objective, I feel like.

PPF: I want to leave client work for just a minute and I want to hear about some of your outside projects. Are you doing self-initiated work, or any sidebars, any blogs, things like that?

EK: Yeah, definitely. You know, that’s something that for me inspiration is really key and really important. Over the years, I’ve always really loved printed pieces, you know, of course books and things like that. But just also kind of ephemeral items, like tickets and just like undersigned things, basically. There’s a book I got in college that kind of really started that whole thing called “Printed Ephemera.” And it’s kind of a classic, I think. It’s like a book where people treat designed printed pieces as more like antiques and they collect them in that sense and less in a sense of the design, but just in the fact that there are these historical old pieces, just like furniture or something like that, I feel like. So that book was a huge inspiration to me. So over the years I have just been kind of building a collection of things that really inspire and inform my work.

This year I just launched a site and a brand called Ephemerotica: Curated Compendium of the Coveted Authentic & Inspired Vintage Goodies. Lots of fun words in there, again. You know, it’s going to be a place where I’m going to really showcase my collection of things for people so that they can also see them and be inspired, and then also things that I find other places on the Internet, when I travel, photos that I take. I’ve always taken photos. Even back in days of film when I would travel I’d take photos of signage and typography and things like that. So it’s a place where I can really just share that with everybody, but then I’m also going to create products inspired by that type of stuff. Work that’s kind of more contemporary but just has that kind of – it’s just informed by that, which I think will be a lot of fun and I think people will really be into it. I’m excited about it. I like, too, that I help other bring their products to market. It’s like I want to do that. I want to bring some of my stuff to market. So I’m pretty excited about that.

And in June I’m going to be doing actually a show at a gallery where I’m going to showcase my collection of stuff and people can come in and actually look at the pieces, the books and the printed things. And I think that’s really cool, too. To again get this idea of design in kind of a gallery setting is something that I’ve always wanted to do and feel that is important to get it looked at that way as something, you know, really special and something that you go and walk around and talk about and see in that way.

PPF: And sometimes the same work has a different feel, or different connotation if it’s viewed in a different context. So, for example, you can take something that might ordinarily be facing a street, but then when you remove the madness of a street it sort of looks totally different because now it’s in the quiet of a studio or an art gallery setting.

EK: Totally.

PPF: Aside from your own projects, do you have a particular kind of dream project or dream client? Something that you think would be really cool to get your hands on?

EK: You know, I don’t feel that way about it, I guess. I feel like every opportunity I get is kind of like that in a way. Everybody that contacts me that I work with, I do work with, they’re really passionate about what they’re doing just the same way that I’m passionate about what I do. And that’s really all I ever ask for and what I love. As long as it kind of fits into the sort of niches that I’m working in, too, which goes back to the creative service type stuff, photographer, cinematographers, writers, painters, all of that, and then the artisanal food people and stuff like that. So really I’m just thankful for everything that I get to do. I’m always excited when somebody trusts me with their product or their company and lets me do my thing. I think that’s a big leap of faith and I think sometimes designers kind of forget that. You know, I do want them to trust me and I talk about that. You know, “Trust me. Let me do my job.” But I know it’s kind of difficult for people. So I don’t know, I’m really excited about everything that I’m working on right now and the stuff that I’ve done in the past and I just want to keep going.

PPF: That’s a great place to be, are you kidding me? I mean, I think a lot of times designers – especially in the early stages of their career – that you look for bigger and bigger scale as the next thing that you want to do, right? So if you did a brochure, now you want to do a series of brochures, and then you want to do a book, and then you want to do a series of books. And then you want to do a book store. You know what I’m saying? You kind of go up. But then maybe once you’ve done a bunch of book stores you realize that there is something to really enjoy just doing one book at a time, you know, for example. That’s just an example. It’s interesting to hear about the whole idea of a dream project or a dream client from different folks.

EK: I think, again, not being something specific, but just in the terms of, you know, I really love working with these kind of smaller start-up companies. It’s a really great opportunity to start with a clean slate and kind of create everything from the ground up. That’s awesome. But like I said, I worked also with some larger companies and get to collaborate with some in-house design departments and things like that, and some bigger companies. I definitely like that and that’s a whole different experience where I don’t have to think about everything. I don’t have to think about the whole big picture and execute it all. I get to do kind of a more specialized task of design. And there’s a marketing plan already put together and it’s like, “Here’s this line of wines and we need packaging design for these three bottles. Our team has done some stuff and it’s not really working and so we want you to kind of come in and put your spin on it. And that’s really awesome, too. That’s a lot of fun because it’s nice to just get it, do the design, and get back out, and help out that team in that sense.

And so I think for me more than anything, I would just like to get a little more mix like that, a little more balance. Kind of more of those projects, along with some of the smaller start-up ones. And I think they also sort of inform and inspire each other for me, you know. Because they are really different ways of working and sort of different ways of bringing products to market. So it’s just good to have that I think, that kind of balance, and that kind of varied experience.

PPF: About these start-ups and about working with these companies, do you have a sort of client outreach strategy? What are some of the tactics you have just to bring new projects through. Because I know a lot of folks would love to work with small, quirky little brands like that and maybe they don’t have that exposure.

EK: Well, I always kind of, you know, even when I was getting out of college, originally, and working on my portfolio and don’t have anything to go from, I just always thought of it as a snowball. And I thought I’m going to keep adding to this portfolio. I’m going to keep working hard. I’m going to keep putting work out there. I’m going to try to get work published. And I just thought if I do that it’s going to gain momentum, it’s going to gain steam, it’s going to get bigger and bigger and good things will happen. And I just sort of put faith in that and hard work and producing and practicing. I’ve been doing this long enough that the Internet wasn’t really around when I started working. I would enter things. I would get things out there and get published in books and magazines, like HOW magazine and stuff like that. And that was great because they’ve got me and my work in front of a larger audience. And, you know, it’s a strategic thing to do that because it’s market me and my work and getting me in front of people, but it also – I kind of just look at it as I just want to be part of that dialogue. Again, that idea of dialogue.

You know, I work really hard on this stuff. I put my heart and soul into it. I want as many people to experience it as possible and just see it. And whether they like it or not or whatever, just have it out there and be part of that mix. And I never focused on I want to do work to win awards, I want to do work to get published. I just thought, “I’m going to work hard, do the best work possible, and then try to get it in front of as many eyes as possible and see what happens, you know? So that’s what I did and back then, people would, they would go to the book store to the design section and look up the packaging book and find what they liked and then they might call me and say, “Hey, I saw your packaging in that book and we have a product like this and we’re interested in talking to you about doing this for us.” Now, obviously, we can all self-publish and we can get out there to the whole world really easily on the Internet. It’s just been that much easier.

And then, also, the fact that I’m up on the Internet, that people become supporters. When you do that, when you’re passionate about something and you craft really great work and put it out there, people appreciate it that. They want to be part of that, they want to share that. They want to tell their friends about it and it just becomes this thing where everybody is out there advocating for me and my work I feel like, which I really, really love. That’s kind of like the sales team for me and the marketing. So that’s basically what I do. I just work hard and try to do the best work possible and then get it out there in front of as many people as possible.

PPF: That makes sense. And that’s a popular strategy nowadays with publishing. I think it was Seth Godin who said, recently, or I heard him say it – it’s a popular sentiment. That basically every company now is a media company, and you have to continually produce and continually publish the reason that you are significant, or the sort of work you do and why it matters. You have to continually be putting out that message. And that even applies for solo practitioners, like you and I.

EK: Yeah, totally.

PPF: I want to kind of get the final section of the show going. We’ve talked about your client work, and your origins as an artist and this and that, but let’s take a little practical aspects. Let’s bring it home. What does your studio set-up look like? Describe for us your physical work station, as well as some of the software that you favor and maybe if you have any work flow processes and that type of stuff.

EK: Well, I live in a 1920’s kind of apartment building that’s turned into condos. So it’s sort of this big kind of U-shaped building that works pretty well. Because it’s comfy like a home, and since I live and work here that’s good. But it’s also feels like a building that people can come to it they need to. And like I said, when I have interns or someone working for me, here, it’s a space that can double for that and work well for that. I don’t meet a lot of people in person here, like patrons, at all. But it’s comfortable space, it’s an inspiring space for me because of the collection I was mentioning of books and printed materials and some of my own paintings and drawings and things like that surround me. I think that’s always been really important to me, too, to be comfortable, to be inspired, and be kind of in a place that’s conducive to being creative. So that’s what I tried to create in that sense. I have Toby, my dog, here, a cockapoo. He doesn’t help at all. He just lays on the couch and looks cute.

PPF: Moral support.

EK:Yeah, moral support. And then, you know, lately, for a while I’ve just been kind of like almost I feel like a hermit a little bit. Because, again, the technology works so well and the ability to work with people all over the world and to have them not even know where I am is really awesome. But it was a little bit like, “Oh, man, I’m not getting out and meeting anybody and I’m not getting all that inspiration out in the world.” So, in the last couple of years I’ve been making a really big effort to get out and get out in the world, out in the cities where I’m working. So, in the last year I made trips to LA, and San Francisco and New York and Tampa and just went there and kind of had vacation and also met with some past patrons that I had already done branded work for and also some new ones that I’m currently working with. And that’s just like really amazing and really awesome, and it’s great to get that face time again, and shake hands and see people.

So, basically, from a practical standpoint, I have a 15” MacBookPro and that allows me to just grab it and go on the road. And when I’m here I plug it into a monitor and work like that. I basically, mostly, use Illustrator. And I use Illustrator for a lot of things I shouldn’t. Because I think for me, too, all of the software programs were designed for specific types of work, and also for specific ways of thinking, I feel like. So something like InDesign to me is, you know, you have to plan things out ahead of time more. And that doesn’t work as well for me because I like to work really intuitively. And I like to just kind of move things around and see what happens and then keep fudging it until I get it there. And it’s more almost I feel like doing sculpture or something. And to me Illustrator has always been nice because I just picture it as like a big table top where I just sort of spread everything out and I embed everything in there and it’s all in there and I can move it around and try things. It just gives me that kind of same feeling I would have in the real world with physical items the most out of all the operating system. But then, of course, if I need to I use Photoshop for things I need to do in there. But really primarily everything I do is through Illustrator, for better or worse.

PPF: Sure. No, that’s not uncommon, especially if you work with packaging or with a lot of logos and typography. I mean, Illustrator is the one for that. It’s funny you mention that because in December of 2014 we had Felix Sockwell on the show and he uses Illustrator, of course, through great effect, but he admitted that he actually never used InDesign. And in the very next episode was the InDesign episode. And so here we are talking about how in Japan they use Illustrator for page layout. So even when they’re ready to do something that is kind of conventional print design, they go to Illustrator. It’s just kind of a cultural thing, which is a little shocking. It’s always good to hear about people’s set-ups and everything.

Then how about personal routine? Wake-up rhythm, exercise, eating habits, that type of thing. Have you found anything that really makes you more creative on a daily basis?

EK: Well, definitely having a space like this that’s comfortable and homey. I think that it’s important to have kind of a routine going. And I try to treat it like a regular job and get up at the same time every day. I have a commute. It’s the length of the hallway between the bedroom and the living room, but it’s something I just want to make sure that I do every day and I get in the rhythm of it. I make coffee, of course, and just like I’m coming into the studio to work, which I am.

There’s also a nice flexibility in it. Of like if I am kind of stuck on something, or stumped and not feeling particularly inspired, you know, I grab a leash, grab Toby, go for a walk around the neighborhood and kind of just let my mind wander a little bit and get some fresh air and then come back to it. I really love that as well. And there, again, the neighborhood is important. The place where I live is really important for that reason, to be able to do that.

PPF: That’s pretty much it. I mean, we’re starting to see a lot of trends about similar routines, as well. People like to have their personal space and they have their kind of anchor points throughout the day, but they also leave some flexibility, like you were saying about walking the dog or whatever.

EK: Yeah. It’s actually kind of funny because sometimes it’ll be like working on this big project that’s really a lot of work and it’s crucial and a lot of stuff to think through and then I’ll take a break and go put some laundry in the washer machine, you know. And sometimes I just got to laugh about it because it’s pretty crazy. It’s like do the dishes for a second, you know, do something where I’m not having to think so hard. Where I can just do a menial task that gets my mind off of things and still be getting stuff done around the house. It’s really interesting. Everything is just super integrated. There’s not that this is your personal life, this is your work life for me, anymore. And that makes total sense to me. I’ve always liked that and always wanted it that way. I grew up on a farm, so that kind of makes the most sense to me. Because that’s another profession I feel like where your life and your work are integrated. It’s just all kind of one thing. It’s like what you do.

PPF: Absolutely.

EK: I sometimes feel like a design farm or something. I don’t know. It’s kind of the same kind of set-up I feel like.

PPF: Yeah, I know where you’re coming from. Because I think I’ve always had the mentality where I kind of resonate with the medieval stone mason who kind of lives above the shop, you know, or the blacksmith where it’s like, okay, this is where you sleep, and then you walk into the next room and there’s your workshop. So, obviously you don’t take bits of metal and stone into your bed, but you don’t have to go very far to remain a blacksmith.

EK: I’ve even thought about, you know, it’s kind of a modern idea to have that. To have those separations. Because I think for a lot of human history it was like you’re working every day just to survive, you know. I got to cut down trees and make that a house, and I got to go try to kill something for dinner, you know what I mean? So it’s like, you know, it’s like all one thing in that sense, too. So it was not until more recently where it is so separate, your home life and your work life. I just like it better integrated. I mean, I think for some people it’s really difficult and I totally get that, too. And there are some days I wish it was more separated. But for the most part I love having it be integrated.

PPF: Great. Awesome. Okay, so here’s an interesting question. What are you struggling with, now? Is there anything that you’re really looking to overcome or that you’re working on in your own practice?

EK: Yeah. I mean, I think all of these things kind of have positives and negatives, right? So, I mean, this idea of being and individual and it just being me gives me this really nice ability to have a voice and to be able to get things done exactly the way I want them done. But it also limits my bandwidth and the scale of things that I can do and the amount of work that I can do. And then I also find myself doing things that I’m not as good at, particularly. Like when it comes to doing the bookkeeping or the taxes or some of that stuff that has to happen in a business. And I think sometimes I’m just sort of bad at that. I need to let go of some of those things and I need to bring other people into the mix to take care of some of that stuff, which would free me up to do more of what I do best. And, you know, having some other people around even to help with that stuff and being able to oversee some things and to be able to keep more things moving at once. I mean, it’s like juggling, right? I mean, that’s what we’re always doing. But you can only juggle so many things. I think that’s one aspect that I would love to change a little bit. To keep everything personal the way that I do it now, but be able to handle more.

PPF: Absolutely. Good luck with that. The final question, of course, how can folks see more of your work, get in touch with you, connect on social media, check out your side projects and everything like that?

EK: The best way is to go to funnel.tv, which is F-U-N-N-E-L.tv, like television, and everything on there in the “Correspond” section there’s links to all the social media stuff. There’s a link to Ephemerotica, which is ephemerotica.com, which is the other side that we were talking about. So really from there you can kind of find out as much as you want to know and more, and get linked to everything else.

PPF: Absolutely. And folks I think you should definitely check out Eric’s work. I mean, it’s very visual. It’s always tough to have some folks come on and describe their work, but especially in Eric’s case it’s very layered and unique and visual in the sense of branding and design. So absolutely check out his site. And I’ll link up everything in the show notes, as well, so you’ll have an easy place to find it.

All right, Eric, thanks for coming on and sharing your time with us.

EK: Oh, yeah. Thanks so much for having me. It was really fun.

PPF: Of course. All right, take care.

EK: You, too.

***

And there you have it. Definitely check out Eric’s work and his blog, Ephemerotica, and connect online. If you missed any of those links, I have everything up on the shows notes page, busycreator.com/48

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Next week on the podcast, it’s another single-topic episode. I chat with Jim Hopkinson about salary and fee negotiation.

That episode will be released next week.

Guys, I absolutely appreciate you listening and taking part in The Busy Creator. I’m hanging out online so come connect with me. I’ll talk to you soon.

Show Notes & Links

  • Eric creates “heart-made craft brands”
  • His practices reaches across naming, identity, packaging, point of sales, and more
  • Graphic Design isn’t a great term; “graphic” is too specific, “design” is too broad
  • Commercial Artist is a better description → art for sale
  • Branding always appealed to Eric for its ability to craft a narrative, to appreciate details (typography, logo, etc.)
  • Practice, a term usually applied to Medicine or Law, can also be applied to design (or Yoga)
  • The name Funnel emerged from Eric’s experiences and observations, as well as a reflection of his design process
  • Printed Ephemera by John Noel Claude Lewis On Amazon
  • Ephemerotica.com — Curated Compendium of the Coveted / Authentic & Inspired Vintage Goods

“Every company is now a media company.” —Seth Godin ← Click to Tweet

Tools

Techniques

  • If you’re a designer, partner with developers for app design and particular touchpoints
  • Engage the client/brand manager in conversation, keep it loose, let ideas and dialogue flow
  • Allow multiple concepts and revisions, but direct your process toward presenting one idea and getting it right
  • Start with high-level concepts, then research, then explore together. So when you present design work, the client already feels this is an appropriate solution; they’ve been along the journey all along.
  • Always test design elements (fonts, etc.) against the over-arching brand story
  • Surround yourself with art, inspirational objects
  • Work intuitively in Illustrator; move things around, be free
  • Take the dog for a walk to allow the mind to wander, solve problems

Habits

  • Photograph signage, typography, and design inspiration in the wild, especially when you travel
  • Continually add to your portfolio, seek to get work published
  • Put out into the world the sort of work you want to get from clients
  • Aim to wake up at the same time each day
  • Integrate your home and working life, especially if you love what you do

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About Prescott Perez-Fox

Prescott Perez-Fox is a New York-based graphic designer and brand developer with 15+ years experience in branding, packaging, graphic design, and web design. He runs The Busy Creator.
  • Eric Kass

    * thanks again for having me on the podcast – i really enjoyed it! //

    • Definitely! I think folks will find it useful. One quick thing to note is that currently Ephemerotica.com only works if you put a www in front of it. That could be a setting on your domain host.