How did you get started designing?
I can’t remember not drawing as a child, so being an artist was always there … but I didn’t know for a long time how I could make that into a living. I took every art class I could in high school, even had teachers make up classes for me to get out of others. During that same time, I started making t-shirt designs out of rubylith and silkscreening for myself and friends. I didn’t know a thing about graphic design until I heard about it from an art school recruiter my junior year. Once I learned about graphic design I knew that was what I wanted to do … even though I had barely touched a computer.
What was your big break into the design world?
My first major break into the apparel world was with Burton Snowboards in around 2005. I moved to Orlando in 2004 to work with a magazine and my coworker (the crazy talented Joshua Smith was freelancing with Burton and gave me a shot at a few tees. I think they bought two tees including this one called the Sideliner and it started rolling for me.
Once I saw my designs in print I couldn’t get enough and have been collaborating with Burton and other clothing companies ever since.
Who / what inspires or motivates you most when you design?
Inspiration is all around us, you just have to notice it. It could be a movie, the clean lines of the newest Audi or an interesting smudge on the pavement. For years I’ve been collecting magazine clippings, cool ads, catalogs, tags and printed matter that I find interesting. Recently, I started collecting a ton of online inspirations on the highly addictive Pinterest. There’s something for everyone and every project on pinterest, from cool motorcycles, to surfboards and rad typography.
One motivation to design is that each project is different and has specific needs which are fun to explore. Each new client is a new collaborator and brings a new perspective or list of dreams to the table. It’s fun to dive into their world and do something new.
You design everything from apparel, logos, magazine layouts to walls. What do you dig doing the most?
I really enjoy it all, The diversity breaks things up so you don’t get burnt out. One of my favorite things though is making things that you can hold or wear. Seeing someone walking around Union Square in San Francisco with one of my tees was a huge thing for me. A few years ago I painted a pair of Vans shoes for myself to wear and it led to an awesome commissioned job from Vans themselves.
I guess a big part of motivations for creating is getting stuff out there for people to see. Taking a project like a blank wall and a bit of text and turning it into something interesting with a bit of paint, vinyl and a few other raw materials. It’s so fun and rewarding to be able to see and touch it.
What’s one piece of advice would you offer someone who is designing shirts?
Know your limitations. Not your personal limitations as far as art goes, but the actual limitations .. who’s the audience, who’s printing the tees, how many colors can they afford etc. Once you know a few of those things you’re free to be creative within the constraints.
Who is one designer that you think is just freakin awesome, both creatively and technically?
I’m digging most everything New York artist/designer/letterer Jon Contino is doing. He makes me want to bust out the ink and get my hands dirty most any time I see his work.
How do you handle creative blocks and what do you do to get past them?
I usually just work through it and try to analyze the problem I’m trying to solve. Sometimes If I’m stuck I’ll just work on another one of the projects we have cooking in the studio and come back to the project later.
What music do you listen too when designing?
It varies a lot based on my projects. If I’m designing a magazine or brochure with a lot of content, I’m listening to something cool and instrumental like Explosions in the Sky or Sigur Ros. If I’m editing photos I can learn something at the same time listening to a podcast or audio book. If I’m trying to do something a bit more crazy by hand or for an action sports company I might throw on some punk rock to get the energy flowing.
What does KENEDIK stand for? And how difficult was it designing your own logo and brand identity?
KENEDIK is really an alternate spelling of the word “kinetic”. The KEN comes from my last name Kennedy. I liked that “kinetic” implies motion, that things are happening. At the same time I created the weird spelling I created a tagline that I still use to this day. Design Excellence Since Yesterday. The idea is that I’m always learning, always growing, always working to be better and inspire that creative spirit in others.
It’s really hard to design your own logo, I had been using a custom type treatment for a while, but last year I redesigned and created the simper (K) mark I’m using now. It references my love for DIY and my name. A lot of people ask me “Why pink?” and as a print designer I work constantly with CMYK and over the years I found that “M” (magenta) looks pretty great with “K” (Black) so I wanted to challenge myself to get over my fear of pink and make it cool.
Besides design, what do you do in your free time?
My wife and I have a two year old son, so there isn’t a whole lot of free time anymore, but I still try to get some time on the water wakeboarding and surfing when I can.
We know you went to Ringling College of Art & Design, but recently, I heard at a lecture that you, more or less, shouldn’t pay big bucks for a design degree. Do you feel the same or do you think graduating with a degree in graphic design is important?
I really enjoyed my college experience. At Ringling I was surrounded with so many talented people, that I wanted to push myself and out do others and myself with each project. Not all schools can push you like that. But, having the degree from a prestigious school won’t necessarily do anything for you. This business it’s about your portfolio of work. We’ve worked designers who had the degree and others who didn’t even step foot into college, but had ridiculously strong artistic drive. You have to weigh the pros and cons and be highly motivated wherever you end up to succeed.
Also, I know a topic that comes up a lot is “As a graphic designer, should I intern for free?”. What are your thoughts on this?
I recommend internships, but not necessarily unpaid ones. You learn so much on the job that you never learn in school. You just have to look at the pros and cons of the potential experience. Sometimes working for free can open some doors for you. While I was working in the magazine world we hired talented interns on several occasions. We needed the hands and I had already trained them. It was a win-win for everyone.
Tell us about your side project CameraLuv? How does that coincide with your graphic design background?
CameraLuv began as side project to showcase my camera-infused art I make from my vintage camera collection, but it’s become much more than that as a blog offering daily photography-related inspiration & resources to photographers and camera lovers worldwide. One of the most popular sections on CameraLuv is Photographers We Luv, which can help photographers and art directors find amazing photo talent they can connect with for fashion, editorial or advertising projects. My ever-growing wish list of fun and interesting Must-Have Cameras may help you experiment with something new. I put my design background to use everyday on site in my curation of photographer features and my creation of overall look and vibe. It’s really so much fun.