NDO Podcast – Ep. 063 – Brown Paper Fox – "FALL INTO DESIGN"
On the NDO Podcast, we interview creative entrepreneurs on the story behind their particular craft, including their why, their how, their creative influences, and much more.
This is a snippet of Episode 063 from the NDO* Podcast with Kelsey Inkol, the Founder and Creative Director behind Brown Paper Fox, a pin, apparel, and merchandise company based out of Guelph, Ontario.
On this episode, we discuss the origin story of Brown Paper Fox, how design school influenced her, typographic influences, the importance of doodling, and much more.
Ryan: What was design school like for you? I know it’s different for a lot of people. Do you feel like it helped you a lot?
Kelsey: It’s so hard to say because I was so young when I was in it. I graduated when I was 21 and entered when I was 18. I mean…especially at age 18, I don’t know if I fully understood myself or what I was getting into. I mean at that age, I was a baby!
R: We all were! I mean, what did we really know about ourselves and the world when we were 18 years old?
K: There was a lot I didn’t appreciate until years after; in the first year of the program, everything was done by hand. You didn’t touch a computer. Typesetting was done by hand.
And at the time I couldn’t stand it, but afterwards…it wasn’t until 5 years after leaving and doing design for myself – especially hand-lettering – that I thought: Damn. This helped a ton.
In hindsight, I understand why they got us to do that; it was to appreciate and analyze the process behind doing it. But there were parts where I was trying to make 12 pt Garamond look like 12 pt Garamond with a tech pencil.
R: Damn. I mean, I think in school you think it’s everything to ace an assignment and forget the importance of doing the process itself. Hell, I think tons of people after school still think about the end goal much more than the process.
K: In design school, they break you too – and they do it on purpose. They used to do these evaluations where you put your work up on the wall and have it judged by your instructors. You basically sit in a hall for 3 hours while they deliberated and critiqued your work. The whole time you’re thinking about the mistakes you’ve made, about how you haven’t slept in order to finish this project, about if they’ll like it, etc.
And then you stand up there, and they tell you a bunch of negative things about your work. And I started to bawl when they did, thinking “I suck”.
R: It’s so personal! It’s your work. There’s your design sensibility and opinion stamped all over it. I definitely know how defeating that can be.
K: But in hindsight, the bigger reason they did that was because they wanted to help you remove your ego from the process and see the objective parts of your work.
That way, you wouldn’t react as emotionally to feedback and take the objective points from the criticism to move the concept forward in the right direction. In the client world, that really helps you navigate things. Now mind you, being 18 and hearing that [criticism] was a trial in-and-of-itself., because at that point you don’t really have the mechanisms yet to deal with that [criticism] as you should – but that’s what time does.
R: If you’re a copywriter or art director or anything like that, getting the job done is way more important than your ego being kept intact. As a young writer, I had to remove my ego very quickly, especially freelancing so much for so many different clients. Being able to see things objectively is key towards pushing the idea forward and meeting a client need.
K: It makes you feel a little lost, but then again –even leaving design school, I felt like I didn’t know what to do with my life. I didn’t feel confident and didn’t have a direction, really. It was a terrible feeling – but looking back I can appreciate it, only through seeing how things have shaped up now.
And ironically, my school now will post my work and say things like “Look at what our alumni are up to!”.
R: The NDO Podcast is almost exclusively geared towards designers now; the one through-line with the recent guests is this: everyone felt lost after design school, everyone took years to find their way after it was finished, and some are still finding their ways. We’re all early in the process.