Five year pin, you guys.

Five years. It could go fast or slow, depending on how much you have going on. I tend to always have too much going on, so it snuck up on me hard. And as busy as this time of year is, and as much as I like to always be looking forward, I thought I would take a moment and reflect.

I left Starbucks and started Vocal for a few reasons; a combination of being beyond fed up with corporate politics and needing to find a way to spend more time with my kids and less time commuting. All it took was reading a couple Seth Godin books. I distinctly remember my last day because my VP said the Studio would need to get “What Would Kelsey Do” bracelets in my absence. Since leaving, I have worked for 60+ clients, travelled, hosted a podcast, built a house, contributed to a book, opened a shop, volunteered, learned French, and spent a lot of time with my kids. Being able to spend afternoons coaching little league or acting as art docent in classrooms and still have a full plate of interesting design work has been amazing, not a work/life balance but a work/life blend. 

My work has varied, from lettering to art direction, packaging to interior design. I haven’t said no to much, and I have gathered experience, which is my favorite part. A lot of work I do can’t be shown off, but the relationships I have gained from the project partnerships mean the world to me. Every personal referral for work is a win, every client that calls that appreciates the qualities that forced me out of corporate is a glorious moment. Wrapping 5 years by having the honor of being asked to design a commemorative book for the leader whose studio I had quit to start it all was pretty sweet.

Looking forward, I am not sure the current path is the right one for Vocal. The sacrifice of working on large teams and having clearer paths to leadership opportunities in order to work this way has been hard for someone with my personality. The landscape around me has changed, everyone has a podcast now, bitches with leadership skills are trés a la mode.

Time to plan for what’s next. It’s a good time to set goals, clear paths and focus. I’m looking forward to spending the next couple of holiday weeks sleeping off hangovers, wrestling with my kids and planning for the future. 

Making work work around my life has saved me. Shout out to everyone who has been a friend, a client, a contractor, a partner, a supporter, a drinking buddy, or maybe all 6 along the way. Cheffettes, Blackmouth, REI, Soul Training, Eagle Harbor Wine Co., OK Bro, Design Trifecta, LeafWerx, ABCo., Riley Sexton, Receptor, Joe Coffee, Malibu Cookie Co., Borrowed Kitchen Bakery, AHB, STO, Fox’s Seattle, Amazon, TSET, Tweed, ViaRosa, BIO+D, Pleasant Beach Village, Ultalink, ORB, akaNRG, Fierce Femme, Arbor Dynamics, several teams from inside Starbucks, etc, etc. I love learning about all of the businesses and industries, and turning clients into friends. It doesn’t feel like a job very often. I’m a lucky kid.

Maybe there is too much yelling going on all around us, but I’m not in the yelling mood right now. Look for more yelling Kels in 2019;) Cheers everyone, Happy New Year, and go big or go home.


love, kels

The Lost Art of Giving A Shit.

Recently, I was involved in a real estate deal in my personal life that went south because one offer bumped an offer that we had made. Our offer could have been made days sooner, but the particular bank we were using, apparently, gave no shits. After taking what already seemed like too long for a particular service, (during which time, every time I called, our banker was 'at lunch' at all hours of the day) they had us waiting several extra days for something that had cleared underwriting but needed to be approved by the Head Underwriter, who was on vacation. 

Now maybe I'm old fashioned.. but I'm sorry, as a damn packaging designer I always needed to list a proxy when I went on vacation. You're telling me that some huge bank has a Head Underwriter somewhere in some office that has no proxy? All banking stops while this asshole takes his kids skiing? Doubt it. The message I got was, nobody cares. And the deal fell through. Not their problem.

Which of course caused me to go on an out-loud rant about business these days and how NOBODY GIVES A SHIT. Unless you are dealing with some lovely soul at a Farmer's Market selling her life's passion, anytime you deal with a large company, you don't matter. You don't matter because it is no one's problem. Corporations are set up such that no one has accountability anymore, so no one needs to give a shit. It is very, very rare to find someone in a large organization who actually burns calories thinking about you, your problem, and how they can best do their job. It has made me crazy for the last decade.

The reason I share this anecdote is because I am one of these crazy people who cares, and it's why I work for myself. When I deal with clients, their problem becomes my problem, whether I like it or not. It's a bit like a disease, actually- I can't go for a morning run and zone out to Audible, because my brain automatically starts thinking about potential solutions for clients. I fully believe it's also the reason I have the clients I do- many of them are people whom I have either worked with or encountered in the past, who saw in me something that set me apart. I do not advertise, I do not use staffing agencies, I do not chase down new businesses. I don't need to, because people who had meetings with me 10 years ago remember me as someone authentic who will be honest and direct to a fault, burn serious calories on a solution for them, and have full accountability for what happens. It's why I was a threat to middle management who only wanted to keep things status quo, and it's why I'm capable of now living the way I want to live. 

If I advertised, I think I would make a long-copy print ad that basically stated, looking for creative work for your business? Great! You are in a city bursting at the seams with creatives! Many of them are more talented than I am! And if you don't mind being ignored, being shamed for your own ideas, being charged overhead for a team of people ignoring you, and then being blamed when the end product doesn't move the dial, I welcome you to waltz into any number of trendy establishments! But when you tire of that, and you just want honesty and someone who gives a shit, we out here too.

My honest recommendation: Listen to people. Take notes. Internalize. Be proactive if you have ideas. If you hate your job, find a new one. And seriously, try giving a shit. It will come back in spades. 

Love, Kels