Husband-and-wife design duo Eight Hour Day (i.e. Nathan Strandberg and Katie Kirk) illustrate stuff that keep us quite inspired. STATUS chats with the duo about how it’s like to run a business together—for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, with design softwares and without. It’s highly recommended that you check out their site after reading the interview. Their other designs are as charming as they are.
“The business is much more about a lifestyle than an 9 to 5 job.”
Hello, Nathan and Katie. Describe yourself and your work with one adjective.
Katie Kirk: So yeah, we like to go by Her (Katie Kirk) & Him (Nathan Strandberg), it seems to make things a little easier. Me: graphic.
Nathan Strandberg: Crafted.
Why the name Eight Hour Day? I’m pretty sure your work doesn’t only happen between 9 and 5.
Her: For us it really has this dichotomy of meaning steaming from iconic feelings that come along with the phrase. On one side, there is the pride and feeling of accomplishment that comes from working hard and giving it your all. One the other side, it’s a bit tongue and cheek for us as the business is much more about a lifestyle than an 9 to 5 job.
What made you decide to work together?
Her: We started working together as freelancers at Target. So, we knew we could do it, we just needed to be given a chance. The defining moment came after we had designed a Shaun White blog for the Target Chalet at the X Games. They wanted to send one of us to do daily updates to the site but couldn’t because we were only freelancers. So, we quit and they hired Eight Hour Day to do it!
“It feels good to help people find who they are.”
You guys do a lot of commercial art. How do you balance your own vision with the client’s? What was the most challenging project you’ve done together?
Her: That is something that has always been evolving. When we started EHD, it was a little difficult. We weren’t that well known so clients weren’t that familiar with our style. As we got out there more, projects have been coming to us based on a specific look, making it easier to manage expectations. As for the most challenging, some of our earlier projects where we had to play designer and web developer. Ugh, that sucked.
Who or what brand would you like to design something for?
Him: I love the challenge of branding a start-up. It feels good to help people find who they are.
It seems that your work heavily depend on design softwares. What if all computers and other design gadgets are nonexistent? What would you do to pay rent, buy food, etc?
Him: Wow, great question… I think we both wish there was a bit more of a hand-rendered feel to our work. So, we’d probably grab the sketchbook and start opening those doors. If that didn’t work, I’d build bikes for people.
“One myth that we believed (coming out of design school) was that [design duos] weren’t human—they were just too damn good.”
What did you guys learn about each other when you started working together professionally?
Her: Things definitely got easier for us at that point; our life became more streamlined. Though, we were forced to start paying close attention to how one another works and to learn to respect that.
What’s a common myth behind design duos? How do you disprove that myth?
Her: In Minneapolis there is an insane number of incredible design duos. One myth that we believed (coming out of design school) was that they weren’t human—they were just too damn good. We’ve helped to disprove that myth by traveling to different cities and meeting with designers and duos—documenting and learning that their efforts aren’t magical, it’s just a whole lot of hard work.
“The biggest thing in maintaining those relationships is communication…”
You guys sold your Minneapolis condo, rented out your studio, and set off on a tour around US and Europe. Which 5 countries do you think have the best “resource” for inspiration?
Her: The heart of our journey was cities in the US., we needed to be able to drive to each location with our dog. Unfortunately, we barely scratched the surface of design outside the US.
What advice can you give regarding creating and maintaining relationships with corporate clients?
Her: For us, being emerged in corporate culture as in-house designers at Target was a huge learning experience. That got our foot in the door. Otherwise we attract a lot of that work by getting our work onto blogs and through ad agencies. The biggest thing in maintaining those relationships is communication: being up front with deliverables, costs and the process.
Interview by Reena Mesias
For the full story, grab a copy of STATUS April 2012 issue