- How did you get your start?
Tad: I was really lucky to grow up the son of two artists. My mother is a fiber artist, working in wool and my father a life long art director for Hallmark Cards and renowned illustrator. Growing up, I was lucky to always have art in our house. I always knew I wanted to do something in the arts but was not exactly sure what. When I went to college I started as a painting major and quickly moved into graphic design and illustration. After school, I worked for several years at a small branding firm prior to starting my own studio 2009.
Jessica: Growing up I always loved art. I think I knew deep down I wanted to be a designer. In grade school, I never had interest in acting in plays but always took on the role to create the programs and work on the behind the scenes visuals. In high school, my art teacher, Mr. Kopecky took me to an art career day at Avila College where I was introduced to the profession of graphic design and immediately knew that I found my calling. I went on to attend the University of Kansas studying graphic design where I met Tad. After graduating I worked for 10 years as a designer and art director at Willoughby Design with AIGA Gold medalist, Ann Willoughby.
- What advice would you have for a young designer?
Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time to find out who you are as a designer and find your voice. We often see students who really want to work for themselves right out of school or very early on in their careers. Our advice to is always go work for someone you respect and admire for at least 3-5 years. Get paid to learn our industry and grow in to your voice as a designer before taking that leap. If you are lucky enough, go work for one of your heroes. The time you spend with that person/company in the longevity of your career will be invaluable. Always remember how lucky we all are to be working in this industry. There is a lot of really awful jobs out there and we get paid to do something we love. Never lose site of that.
- What are your rates?
We wish we had a price list we could send potential clients but every project we take on is so vastly different from one another. Each project quote we write is equally as diverse as the work we develop. We quote all work on a project by project basis.
- Where did you attend college?
Jessica and Tad both attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas (Rock Chalk!!!). Lawrence is an amazing city with a beautiful University. The graphic design program is one of the best state design programs in the country. Tad has been honored to be an instructor at the University since 2009, teaching design systems, packaging and iconography. Not to mention, basketball was invented at our University and we have Allen Fieldhouse! Have you seen our hoops team? Add “watch a college hoops game at the Phog” to your bucket list.
- How do I get my children’s book published?
There are so many ways to get in front of a publisher today. This will sound way too simple but I would suggest going to a book store and looking at the kind of books you admire. Identify who the publisher of those books and reach out to them. Each book shares the mailing address for the publisher and often times the Art Director and editor within the book. I am a firm believer that you have to go get what you want. You have to make things happen. Very rarely are people going to just bang down your door for a new manuscript. You need to go out and ask for what you want.
- How do I design band posters?
We don’t get to design as many posters as we use to, but we always look forward to designing a new gig poster. We would suggest starting close to home. Every city has a venue. Even the smallest venue in your city needs help with posters, flyers and general announcements. Start there and create a relationship with them and see what their needs are moving forward. I would never recommend working for free, but work out a deal with the venue. Once you have several posters under your belt it is so much easier to get larger national events and tours on a regular basis.
- I want Tad to come speak at my school/organization—you cool with that?
Yeah, of course! Let’s have some fun. Shoot us an email and we can see if it is a good fit with our schedule. More info can be found about speaking engagements here.
- Are you hiring?
Currently we are not hiring, but we always have our eye out for talented people for the future. Feel free to email us you resume or contact info to keep on file.
- Do you prefer graphic design or illustration?
For us, they are one in the same. We could not be graphic designers without being illustrators and we could not be illustrators without being graphic designers. They very much co-exist for us in the way we work.
- Can we come visit your studio?
Of course! We just ask that you email us and set up an appointment first. We also open our doors to the public on most First Fridays. We have music, drinks and all our prints, posters and books on display and for sale. It’s a fun time. Stop by and say hello.
- We have a new project or business and want to bring your team on board. So, now what?
Please, email us info about your business and overall needs. All emails go directly to our partners, Jessica and Tad. We will respond with a game plan. The type of job request will dictate how we proceed. We will see if we are good fit for your needs and walk you through our design process. Read more about our offerings and process in the about section.
- What is your design process like?
Lots of drawing—good old-fashioned pencil to paper drawing! We can’t start designing anything until we sketch out a concept on paper and create a plan. Whether it is a poster, book jacket, logo or a simple type treatment, we start with a sketch. To us, spending more time upfront on a concept and less time on execution is always the recipe for success. Sometimes the execution of our work is bold and graphic, but many times as we move in to the final execution of a project, maintaining that human element is important. We don’t ever want the human element to disappear from our work.
As a couple that designs together, our process changes all the time based on the project and our current workload. A lot of people assume Tad handles a lot of the illustration and iconography and Jessica handles the typography and design elements. But really, it changes on every single project. Some projects Tad creates the word mark or custom lettering and Jessica might take the lead on an illustration. As a couple we thrive in a true collaborative environment. We are at our best when we pass files and ideas back and forth. There are not many files that both Tad and Jessica did not both touch at one point. Our desks, which are pushed up against each other is a quite fitting layout. We design like an active tennis match, back and forth all day.
- Who are your biggest influences?
Tad: Bar none, my biggest influence is my Dad, Stephen Carpenter. He is the most talented illustrator I have ever seen. He has taught me everything I know about design, composition, drawing—everything really. He would stay up late at night drawing and encouraging me on all my projects growing up. He also introduced me to a lot of mid-century illustrators that have continued to shape the way I make marks. People such as Aurelius Battaglia, Dick Bruna, Tom Eckersley, The Provensens, Mary Blair, M. Sasek, Daphne Padden, Jim Flora. Some of my other favorite designers are Alexander Girard, Stuart Davis, Charles Spencer Anderson, Fredun Shaper and Ikko Tanaka. This list could go on for a while if I don’t just stop now.
Jessica: At KU I took art classes every chance I got. I fell in love with learning about artists’ processes and how they pushed the envelope to force you to look at something in a new way. My favorite place to be every time I go to New York is wondering around the MOMA, admiring the work of Picasso, Matisse and Giacometti to Warhol, Haring and Basquiat. My biggest design influences include Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Charles and Ray Eames, Louis Fili, Sanna Annukka and Jonathan Adler to name a few.
- Why do you keep your studio in the Midwest?
We are very proud to be from and working in the Midwest. We both grew up here and love Kansas City. There is something about the people in the Midwest that really inspires us—their work ethic, their kindness. We love experiencing the seasons, eating the food and being close to our families. It is home. It also makes a lot of sense for our business. We do work on both coasts and being only a 2-3 hour flight to either coast makes travel and communication convenient.
Not to mention, Kansas City is a huge creative community. It starts with Hallmark Cards, headquartered in KC and branches off from there. Hallmark employs hundreds of creative people from all over the world. They move to KC and fall in love with city. There are so many talented people in Kansas City and of course, the Midwest. We created the platform, Made in the Middle that features amazing creatives in the Kansas City community. In 2016, in partnership with AIGAKC, we threw our first design conference held at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.
Oh, and did we mention the food? Kansas City has the best BBQ in the world—why would we ever leave that?
- As a team led by a married couple, is that a challenge?—come on give us the dirt!
We consider ourselves lucky to be married and run a business together. Like any married couple will tell you, there are good days and challenging days. But for us, this is a dream come true scenario. We are able to be incredibly honest with one another about our work, we get to share our passion for design and develop our practice collaboratively each day. In the end, we complement each others strengths and weaknesses perfectly—which is what any partnership should be.
- What is Tad short for?
Nothing. Tad’s full name is Tad. He is actually named after Tad Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s favorite son. Tad’s father is a big Civil War historian and Lincoln superfan.
- How long does it take to get my order, jeez?!
All orders are shipped on Friday mornings via United States Postal Service. For domestic orders I would allow 5-7 business days and international orders I would allow 2-3 weeks. We will email you a tracking number on all orders on when we prepare shipments.