Bold, Business and Self-Confidence: Kendall Henderson on Important Creative Traits and Studio Goals
Having previously worked in conglomerates, like Nike and Google, to now run his own studio in New York City, Kendall has an unrivaled vision of the creative industry, from creative daring and design ego to questioning. and knowledge sharing. We spoke to Kendall to speak as such, discussing where he started, where he is now, and what he wants the future to bring.
Hello Kendall! How are you? How did that happen?
Smooth, ish considering. Take care of my plants.
For those who don’t know you, what’s your story?
I am Kendall Henderson. A design director from my own little collective in Bushwick, NY. The little story is, I grew up in Alabama, went to school in Atlanta, started my career at Nike, and worked my way through a variation of creative positions over the years until I decided to become independant. All this while dreaming of having my own “studio”, as they say.
With that in mind, how would you define your studio and the practice you practice there?
Since developing the studio concept, it was only last year that I really started to understand that his practice is defined by conditioning the desire to create differently. During projects, we expect this desire to extend beyond the eager creatives involved and want clients to be invited into this allure. It’s certainly been a lot of trial and error, but for the most part the creative services climate is ripe for these new ways of looking at work.
How to work for Nike compared to working in your own studio?
Nike’s in-house creation is, as you can imagine, very different. I was there in 2011-2013. But even so, it was very different then compared to now, so I hear.
Design, like graphics, was something Nike as a company was just starting to see high value from a marketing standpoint. But, inherently this has spread in my department working on t-shirt graphics. Pumping thousands of t-shirts per season across different sports categories was a big part of Nike’s business.
So they kind of threw money at it for a while, hired a bunch of people, had times (like the 2012 Olympics) that were really close to their hearts and some that were right here and there.
So a key difference in working for myself. I decide (and soon my team) the objectives of our company; we decide what we believe in and what we want to fight for. What clients or types of projects we want to pursue, etc. We are looking for even more autonomy in this form so that we can really develop our own sound design philosophy and put it into practice. The flip side is working with limited resources while trying to achieve the above.
Where would you say you find your inspiration for the work you do and your creative spirit?
I would say that I find the interest in things quite typical: food, drinks, movies and television, travel, popular music, a little sport etc. I used to see this general interest as a detriment while existing in a creative field that socially celebrates niche interests and intended uniqueness.
Recently, I took my interests into account and realized that I have always found an interest in the nuanced elements of this mainstream culture. I am constantly looking for connections between disparate parts and I analyze the psychological effects surrounding something like a “Drake” or a “Kaws” and of course I do all of this without any formal journalistic or psychological training. As 2021 recommends.
But I would say it feeds into my head what I may mistakenly consider my own unique form of inspiration gathering.
There is certainly a daring in your work, with great attention paid to the smallest details; how important is this to your job?
Audacity. Thank you. Sometimes I think I can tell seeing my work with blinders on. A lot of people comment on the style of my work, and my response is usually: Really ?!, huh…
I would say the process is arguably the most important thing to me. It keeps my work up to a standard. Not necessarily one top or another used to rank. It’s more something that helps me make sense of my work, the ideas of my clients and ultimately the purpose of what we do together, much like bookends that I have established over the years. professional years. They kind of let me know where I am on the scale and sometimes even if I should be off the scale. Within this range of consideration, I try to shift the majority of the thought to the goal. Which can sometimes be fair, sell that thing to people and make us money.
The process helps me understand my work, my clients’ ideas and ultimately the purpose of what we do together.
What do you think are the most important characteristics of a designer?
“What’s important” is interesting because it is subjective thought that elicits a subjective response. So I want to start by saying this with the open mindedness of being incorrect in my subjective opinion.
I think the most important traits in creations should be everyone’s most important traits, first of all.
So … integrity in decision-making, cognitive perspective, a nurturing disposition, genuine out-of-fashion empathy, a sense of personal responsibility, a curiosity for others – the world, and a commitment to an aesthetic personally approved. I’m going to stop there because now that you got me thinking, I think this list could go on for a while.
Having said that, I see a lot of common practices in the creative department (or really society as a whole) struggling against and discouraging almost everything I just listed.
Do you have a definitive style or something that is “your own” in the graphic concepts you create?
I would say no. I / we have a generalist approach in my mind a lot. But, compared to the previous question, I guess maybe the developed standard allows some visual continuity in the work. Similar thinking and approach tends to lead us to more readable typeface choices and to avoid decorative work.
Many people struggle with a sense of creative confidence; is this the case for you?
I think there are always changes or modifications that I would make to almost all of my projects. However, over time I learn to accept each project as part of a larger whole. It helps me let go a bit and let my design skills shine. It allows me to focus on the process and the purpose, which is multidimensional. And this multidimensionality of the output keeps me from questioning visual decisions, I guess.
Maintaining confidence through it all is a constant struggle. Now, with the social media sharing component in the mix, it’s nearly impossible NOT to compare your work to your peers, those you admire, and those who work in the same spirit – unless you don’t participate. . So the process and purpose drives me to develop things that are specific to my experience, and continuing to improve this skill from that angle builds my confidence.
What have you been up to lately?
The highlights of the past year were the launch of our studio website, the e-commerce site we launched for an only child, and during the pandemic, I was able to travel to Japan as per protocol. COVID, to create direct campaign resources for a new brand linked to Asics and no one got sick.
All very rewarding because they are projects only carried out through the studio model. Both websites are super special because they were executed at a pace decent enough that I was able to really collaborate and exchange knowledge with a growing designer from my team, Sophia Marinelli. We were fortunate to be extremely critical of the work, doubling down on our process, and bringing ideas throughout in the same way. They remind me more of the curious classroom experience than of the typical client project.
What do you want to see less and less in the creative industry?
So much that I want to see both ways. Basically, I want to see less ego-driven motivation – more working together to maintain integrity between creatives and our practices. There is a lot of resistance to sharing information and resources between creatives, which in my opinion is detrimental when working with massive, medium and even small clients. These companies have much more business infrastructure in place. This sets them up to be able to easily (financially) keep us online. Specifically, it is difficult for the design / creative to be seen as an equal and necessary partner in the game.
What questions would you like people to ask you?
How do we unionize? Haha, although I think the term union has loaded the context and is a bit outdated in practice.
But really, how do we train and, more importantly, adhere to some sort of conglomerate design standards that work in our collective interest so that we can potentially have some sort of leverage to go against the diminishing behaviors that are prevalent in our industry in companies and customers everywhere.
This could also perhaps be a bigger problem in the United States than perhaps globally. But yes, I am constantly working to expand my experiences in a number of ways, but these are still my experiences.