May 13, 2018

When It Comes to Creativity, Stephanie Andujar, from Acting and Singing to Fashion Design and Modeling, is a One Woman Show


It was while binge-watching the first three seasons of the Netflix TV series “Orange Is the New Black” (2013–Present) that I discovered Stephanie Andujar, who gave an unforgettable performance as Young Rosa. Here, she elaborates on proactively driving her creative pursuits.

Firstly, do you have Family and Friends in Puerto Rico? How are they doing? Hope they are doing well! Thinking about the people of Puerto Rico. Thank you for your efforts in giving relief and development.

Thank you for asking me that! I have some family out there and know that they are OK—however, the situation regarding Puerto Rico is not, you know. We have been put through so much for so long. At this point, we’re warriors and will continue to stand for what is ours. To just be treated as human beings. Mi gente Boricua sigue palente!

Been appreciating your championing the involvement by your Mom and Siblings in your creative pursuits. How does Family play a role in your creativity and work?

Yes! My family means everything to me because they’re my support system and help produce my “StephA: One Woman Show” along with everything else in my life with Andujar Productions! I also champion them because they’re artists as well: My mother is a chef/interior designer; My sister, Melanie, is a graphic designer and My lil’ brother is an artist! We’re the Super Creative Andujar Fam! LOL.



In your online bio, there’s something about “the school program that would change the course of her life.” What was this school program and how did it influence/inspire you? So cool that your Parents encouraged such a program for you to participate in. How are your Parents engaged/connected with creativity/the arts?

In 1997/1998, my mom put me into a Beacon After School Program and that’s where I found what I was good at and what I loved! Acting, singing and dancing! A talent manager scouted me out from the play I was in, “The Wiz”—I was the scarecrow (below), and from there, I knew I wanted to try for drama school and keep performing. Found my calling you could say! My mom grew up watching “I Love Lucy” and my father loved films. Mix both those up and there you have me—a lil’ comedy and drama.



How did you get to play the young Miss Rosa character an effing magnetic performance—in Season 2 of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black”?

Thank you! I auditioned for the role of Young Rosa. I had actually auditioned for other roles on “Orange Is the New Black”—the casting director brought me in for this role and it just happened to fit! It was so fun getting to play this tough, cool, sexy character because it’s exciting, and who doesn’t wanna feel sexy and tough, right?!



Among your acting gigs, you also write and portray a cast of characters in “StephA: One Woman Show” → Write, sing and record your own songs → Design and sew your own clothes in “StephAsCollection” → Choreograph and dance → In addition to other projects I’m probably missing to highlight here. With all that you’re making, how do you manage your time to be productive as possible with your creative ambitions?

Crazy, right?! LOL. I love to create and being that I…we…have the opportunity to make what we want right now, it’s a great time to do just that. My one woman show came about too because my sister knew I could handle comedy and suggested I showcase my upbringing, and that’s where all these characters started coming to life. After that, I figured…why not keep going—start singing, dancing and sewing (below)! Do what you love while you’re here!



With all that goes on in realizing your adventures in acting, singing, dancing, more, how do you deal with stress? What ways of taking care yourself have proved helpful consistently?

I love to exercise, dance, ride, bike. These are ways to deal with all the other things that can weigh you down, but since I love a lot of what I do, I remind myself…yes, working out right now sounds like blah…but the results are so worth it. LOL. Also taking a walk with my Chihuahua Teeka (below) by the piers…she helps bring me peace. LOL.



What software/Web-based tools do you use and recommend highly to work on ideas and make them grow, to collaborate and get things done?

I work with Final Cut Pro a lot. YouTube, where you can see my “StephA: One Woman Show,” also has great tutorial videos on a lot of software programs that I think are great to learn from! Everything else is by trial and error, giving it a try and taking it from there.

How would you describe success?

I think that’s up to the individual because everyone might have a different definition for them. But I think it’s doing what you love and accomplishing goals that are meaningful to you. If you feel good, then that’s all that matters.

What artistic performances from film/TV/music/theater have stuck with you, that you keep going back to?

I actually love Al Pacino’s performances, especially from “Scarface” (1983). He was my inspiration for Young Rosa. Also for my recent character on “Blue Bloods,” I channeled a bit of Al Pacino and Heath Ledger as the Joker…Iconic actors and performances. I also read Lucille Ball’s memories in her autobiography “Love, Lucy” (1996) and always go back to reread advice she gives to actors!


Quad Cinema, New York City: Q&A for premiere screening of “Marjorie Prime” (2017), written and directed by Michael Almereyda (second from left), starring Lois Smith (third from left), Stephanie Andujar and Jon Hamm.


Quad Cinema, New York City: In a self-made dress at the premiere screening of the independent film “Marjorie Prime” (2017).

Are there actors/screenwriters/directors 
you want to work with?

There are so many who are great and talented…An opportunity with the best in the business is all I could ever dream of!

What are you must-experience movies/TV shows at this time?

Of course, check out “Blue Bloods” and “StephA: One Woman Show.” Actually, I did see “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” with my sister and I thought that was a great movie with great performances—a must-see.

In these charged times, what can individuals in the entertainment world do to contribute immediately to a better community/society moving forward?

I would hope for people to keep creating for the proper growth of our time here, to love each other as best we can. It’s easier said then done, but it can be done. Let free expression be for all and not just for some, you know. Let’s create for the next generation, so they know we took care of them and they can do the same for the next.

When/if you are approached by someone who expressed, “I want to become an actor,” what’s your response?

Have perseverance and a thick skin! LOL. It’s a climb, you know, in anything you want to pursue. But if this is what you want, then go for it! Do know that there will be obstacles ahead. You have to be brave and stick to the plan!

How does the city of New York contribute to your work? What makes it special for startups/business/creativity-at-large?

As a born-bred New Yorker, I can say it’s a Love-Hate relationship. LOL. NYC knows the deal! It truly is one of the best cities in the world. I use a lot of the city as backdrops and different locales around town to put New York front and center. Growing up here since I was born has been amazing, and I’ve seen the evolution of it. Getting to film it and play in the city makes it that much more special.

In the comic-book sense, what super power 
would you possess and why?

Hmmm, let’s see, I really love Batman, the Tim Burton version. I would then choose Cat Woman from the second Tim Burton “Batman” installment. Having nine lives and cat reflexes would be dope! My mom actually dressed me like her too when I was like 5 or 6. LOL. So yea, again, sexy, tough, the role for me!

• • •

All images courtesy of Carmen Andujar.

• • •

Read more from Design Feast Series of 100 (so far) Interviews
with people who love making things.


Donating = Appreciating: Design Feast is now on Patreon!
Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you find delight and motivation from the hundreds of interviews, including event write-ups, at Design Feast, please consider becoming a supporting Patron with a recurring monthly donation.

Please help keep Design Feast going and growing by visiting my Patreon page where you can watch a short intro video plus view my goals and reward tiers, from $1 to $12—between a souvenir and a satisfying brunch.

May 2, 2018

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: Type Designer Dyana Weissman Craves and Explores The Great Outdoors



What are you working on—on the side?

I co-lead hikes in a nearby state park, The Middlesex Fells Reservation. Every week, we guide new parents who carry their babies on a different trail. This gives them an opportunity to meet others going through the same experience, get some exercise, avoid isolation, and enjoy the benefits of being immersed in nature. In the summers, we also do short treks for young children, making a scavenger hunt out of learning about wildlife. The hikes are all free and open to the public. I take pictures, too, so families can stay in the moment, and still have those memories captured.

I am also on staff at the Independent Film Festival of Boston. I help manage volunteers for a couple shifts during the main festival, and usher at other events during the year. It’s nice having connections in all sorts of communities.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

I’m fortunate that my bosses are very supportive of having balance in life. I make my own hours, so I schedule projects around the hikes, as if they were meetings. Which they are, in a way. During the week of the film festival, I take a vacation.

Why have a side project?

I need to do something that has a deeper meaning to me. I care intensely about the environment and climate change. Getting people into parks is a great way to get them to care, too. It’s the same with the film festival—it helps people get out, share an experience, and learn about the world.

And it’s not just about others, I'm doing something for myself, too. It’s so nice to be out in the fresh air and sunshine, not hunched over a computer. I feel less stressed and more in shape. There’s a feeling of accomplishment after a good hike, and a sense of honor in helping people out.

Walking in the woods also helps me to be a better designer. I avoid burnout, as I always feel refreshed after a hike. Being away from distractions helps me to problem-solve and come up with new ideas. I usually take my camera, so I get to flex different creative muscles, too. The world is so fascinating; there is so much to experience. It’s important to stay curious and to always be learning.

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Dyana Weissman.

• • •

Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with Chicago creative agency 50,000feet—dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


Donating = Appreciating: Design Feast is now on Patreon!
Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you find delight and motivation from the hundreds of interviews, including event write-ups, at Design Feast, please consider becoming a supporting Patron with a recurring monthly donation.

Please help keep Design Feast going and growing by visiting my Patreon page where you can watch a short intro video plus view my goals and reward tiers, from $1 to $12—between a souvenir and a satisfying brunch.

April 3, 2018

Civic/Social Designer Megan Trischler Collaborates on Making and Sustaining Opportunities for Humans


I had the privilege of interviewing Megan Trischler for my other ongoing series Designer’s Quest(ionnaire). I’ve been kept impressed by her evolution as a passionate designer for the public good. Here, she walks the talk on galvanizing compassion and community through her sensibilities—nurtured through the practice of design.

You called out yourself as “a recovering graphic designer”? 
What happened? How did you get your groove back?

Ha! That’s just me being cynical. I’ve spent this first decade of my professional career exploring ways I can utilize my design sensibilities outside of the traditional corporate/commercial realm. While I consider myself a designer (and my training is in graphic design), I’ve never actually worked as a “graphic designer.” I’ve gone through phases of grappling with that title, largely because it seems designers get pigeonholed into a discipline based on our output: websites, buildings, toothbrushes, banner-ads, shoes, etc. I’ve always been more interested in design as a process to address civic/social problems, so I’ve never felt the “graphic designer” moniker quite fit. That being said, I do have a deep respect for the field and am still incredibly inspired by timeless examples of effective visual communication.

Incredible evolution from graphic designer to, among other descriptors, a civic/social designer—or in long form: good-design-is-goodwill designer. Assuming that graphic design was a springboard to your current ambitions and activities. How does the discipline of graphic design persist in your work?

My work is about shaping places and spaces. I think about that in macro/micro terms. Sometimes the work is about reimagining neighborhoods. Sometimes the work is about adjusting kerning. The space between letters is just as important to me as the space between buildings. The way type and image come together on a page is just as interesting to me as how everyday citizens align with influential partners to bring about real and lasting change in our communities. These are all great design challenges, and my graphic design education has given me a language that I use throughout every part of the community-focused work. Beyond that, being a graphic designer has helped me develop a mind for clarity and organization. My design work is stupidly simple. That’s just how my brain works. I’m always trying to make the complex clear. Hopefully, people like it, but that really doesn’t matter to me. I can’t change who I am.





Your co-building of philanthropic lab People’s Liberty reminds me of Reason to Give by Firebelly Design, OpenIDEO and SYPartners, among several in the transformation-enabling business. What experiences helped steer, even inspire, what you’re doing now?

Many. I cut my teeth for the first time in 2008/09 as a designer with Project M. We built a pie shop (called Pie Lab) that doubled as a community center in Hale County, Alabama, a very small, rural and generally overlooked part of the country. That experience introduced me to a new path of operating as a designer. I saw the tangible impact my work could have on very real people in a very specific place. I lived in Alabama for a little over a year, totally enmeshed with the community. After that experience, I couldn’t just go sit behind a computer and move pixels around. I joke that I became forever unemployable. While this experience in the rural south kickstarted my design/career journey, I really spent most of my 20’s questioning if I’d ever be able to make a living (and start paying back school loans) doing this community-focused work. I also decided that if I were to ever go as wholeheartedly into a project like Pie Lab again, it needed to be in a community that I identified with.

I grew up in Flint, Michigan in an inherently blue-collar, Midwestern family and I spent my formative years in Detroit, a city that has undergone tumultuous times beginning in the latter half of the last century. With that in mind, I returned to Detroit in 2011 to begin teaching and doing some design work alongside some incredible organizations working to bring vitality back to the urban core and surrounding neighborhoods. At the same time, I was becoming more familiar with philanthropy and how foundations invest in communities. My world opened up at that point. My thought process went something like: I don’t know how to make money doing community-oriented design work; wait…foundations exist to fund community-focused work; maybe I should start working with foundations?! Thus began my journey connecting with a number of philanthropic foundations throughout the Midwest and the South, each focused on shaping stronger cities and better lives for the people who call those cities home. That’s what ultimately led me to Cincinnati and this work stewarding People’s Liberty.



In these charged times, what can designers, whatever the discipline, do to contribute immediately to a better community/society/world?

Designers are uniquely positioned to help imagine, re-imagine and shape future scenarios. I’m always especially blown away by what design students are able to dream up. Something powerful happens when youthful naïveté mixes with refined technical skills and ample curiosity. The professional design work I’m most inspired by somehow maintains those childlike sensibilities. Beyond that, I think our world/cities/neighborhoods/offices would be better places—if we weren’t so quick to hide behind our job-roles and professional titles. Let’s be citizens before being designers. Better yet, let’s be humans first.



What is People’s Liberty? How did it originate
and how did you join its team?

People’s Liberty is a philanthropic lab that invests directly in people. We don’t fund nonprofits. We don’t fund businesses. We fund humans. An outpost of the Cincinnati-based Haile Foundation, we offer citizens three distinct grant opportunities ranging from 6-month $10,000 project grants to full-year $100,000 fellowships. People’s Liberty is a five-year experiment exploring how philanthropy can change a community by uncovering and investing in great people. We launched at the end of 2014 and opened our building in the spring of 2015. Now three years into the process, we’ve awarded grants to 66 people, hired 28 early-career designers/storytellers, hosted nearly 20,000 people for 305 unique events and connected with 56 organizations to compare notes and share our model.

I have been part of the team from the very beginning, moving from Detroit to Cincinnati at the end of 2013 to do this work.









What is a day like in the work life at People’s Liberty? How would you describe the work culture at People’s Liberty? How is it important? Are there staple methods/activities to start/sustain your day as productively as possible?

Every day is different. We’re a small core team with a rotating roster of early-career folks cycling in every three-months. They keep things fresh and keep us (the lead team) on our toes. We have team rules that may better explain the office culture. We work regular 9–5 hours and really prioritize work/life balance. Every Friday, we take a field trip to explore a new part of the city or meet someone doing important work. There’s a lot of laughter, a lot of energy; a lot of team meals and activities. Sometimes we get on each other’s nerves, and sometimes we have conflict—when this happens, we work it out pretty quickly. At the end of the day, we’re a family trying to do the best work we can.

How do you handle disagreements while you’re working?

We over-communicate and talk about whatever’s causing concern immediately. 100%.

With all of the moving parts inherent in making a business, how do you deal with stress? What ways of taking care of yourself have proved helpful?

I’ve been exploring a number of practices to help me establish a healthier relationship with my work. I take a 30-minute solo walk everyday around lunchtime. If I don’t step away, I’m absolute rubbish by 2 P.M. I’ve also learned to stay out of my inbox in between more important tasks that require deep thinking. I’m learning to give myself permission to just have shit days every once in a while and to be honest about that with coworkers and the younger staff I oversee. There’s some freedom there. Outside of work, I jog, go on long walks/hikes in the woods, meditate, do yoga, pray, have coffee with people who can offer perspective, cook with my husband and make sourdough bread.

What are your principles in running your career and doing
your best work? How would you describe success?

I’m reminded of a quote by the great priest/chef/writer Robert Farrar Capon who says: “Any principle applied with sheer consistency borders on madness.” I no longer really have principles or tenets that I follow. Everyday, I try my best to show up, be present and love the people around me. That might sound trite, but that’s how I measure the success of my days. Did I show up? Was I present? Did I try my best to live a life of love? If not, there’s always tomorrow.

What are your consistent design, business-related influences?

I listen to a handful of podcasts with some regularity: “On Being: Conversations with Tyler”“Here’s The Thing”“Monocle 24: The Entrepreneurs”“The Observatory” with Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand. I tend to gravitate toward more story-based or interview-based podcasts, largely because I’ve always retained more insight from hearing people’s stories as opposed to reading a set of instructions or “keys for success.” I read the New York Times Magazine on occasion, but I’m mostly reading memoirs—again, so much wisdom can be gleaned from the lives of ordinary people.



How does the city of Cincinnati contribute to your work and what makes it special for startups/business/creativity-at-large?

In the 19th century, Cincinnati was a lauded innovation hub and a powerful force driving our nation’s progress. The City of Seven Hills was the first municipality to develop its own light rail system and construct the world’s first reinforced concrete skyscraper. John A. Roebling built the world’s longest suspension bridge across the Ohio River, a prototype that would later inform the Brooklyn Bridge. William Procter and James Gamble—both European immigrants—settled in the Queen City where they humbly grew their soap and candle making business into a multi-billion dollar corporation. Cincinnati has long been a place where ideas come to life.

The past ten years have brought about radical progress in Cincinnati, creating a culture that continues to open to new ideas. Notable public/private partnerships have kick-started development throughout our distinct neighborhoods. Lifelong residents and new recruits alike are beginning to see Cincinnati’s promise and unrealized potential. The momentum is palpable and, block by restored block, a culture of innovation, risk and hope is being renewed.

From my vantage point, Cincinnati is a city ripe with untapped opportunity, and we’re teeming with bright, creative minds eager to make their mark and looking for practical ways to make it happen—quicker and better. This is what Cincinnati has to boast. Our creative talent isn’t more skilled than any other city, but the ecosystem of support—the platforms that encourage individuals to dream big, be bold and fall lightly—seem to be growing a strong foothold. And that feels special.



What total effect do you strive to achieve through your work 
at People’s Liberty?

To create opportunities for humans to be in relationship
with one another.

• • •

All images courtesy of Megan Trischler. The city of Cincinnati, Ohio, photographed by Dave Schmidt of Cincygram.

• • •

Read more from Design Feast Series of 100 Interviews
with people who love making things.


Donating = Appreciating: Design Feast is now on Patreon!
Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you find delight and motivation from the hundreds of interviews, including event write-ups, at Design Feast, please consider becoming a supporting Patron with a recurring monthly donation.

Please help keep Design Feast going and growing by visiting my Patreon page where you can watch a short intro video plus view my goals and reward tiers, from $1 to $12—between a souvenir and a satisfying brunch.

March 24, 2018

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: Designer and Marketer Kimberly Gant Cultivates Her Creativity through Exploring, Capturing and Making



What are you working on—on the side?

I created my personal brand All That Is Kim where the goal is to document how I explore, capture and create. I accomplish this by creating content on my social media channels and taking on various freelance projects. One example is my video series “Kim In a Minute” where I take a minute with creatives, game-changers and entrepreneurs to get to know their authentic selves. I also recently started creating tutorial videos on YouTube to show how to take your creativity to the next level using social media.

Outside of my personal brand, I manage brand and digital strategy as the COO of Foolies, a lifestyle and apparel brand whose goal is to inspire black millennials to dream without limits. Through our content and apparel, we strive to not only encourage people to live out their dreams but also emphasize the power of intent and activation by doing the work.

I witness the power of activation firsthand as a partner of OCTO, a creative collective founded in the San Francisco Bay Area, that incubates and supercharges individual and collective creative talents for the betterment of the world. This past year, we created a workshop called The Cake Shop where we worked with creatives and entrepreneurs to take their ideas from half-baked to piece of cake.

As you see, I love to collaborate and create with others; however, I also take the time to continually build my own personal skill set in order to master my craft. Currently, I am focusing on product design, HTML, CSS and Data Visualization to incorporate into future projects that I have planned.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

I have a lot of ideas that I write down, so it is easy for me to want to do everything at once. However, I try to set SMART goals by being self-aware and understanding my bandwidth at the time. I like to plan my year in quarters, so if I can complete 1–2 goals a quarter, then I feel accomplished. It can be a lot of work at times but creating to me is fun.

One thing I recently had to learn is that when it stops being fun due to occurrences in life that disrupt your creativity, don’t fret. It’s important to give yourself grace when needed, and it is OK to pick up that project again when you are ready.

Why have a side project?

I love to learn, so creating side projects gave me the opportunity to explore new things. My educational background is Industrial & Systems Engineering; however, one of my engineering professors told me that I was really creative which sparked my inner creative once I graduated and moved to the Bay Area. Through my side projects, I was able to learn photography, design, production, marketing, content creation, digital strategy and much more. My side projects allow me to become the multi-hyphenate digital creative that I strive to be.

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Kimberly Gant.

• • •

Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with Chicago creative agency 50,000feet—dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


Donating = Appreciating: Design Feast is now on Patreon!
Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you find delight and motivation from the hundreds of interviews, including event write-ups, at Design Feast, please consider becoming a supporting Patron with a recurring monthly donation.

Please help keep Design Feast going and growing by visiting my Patreon page where you can watch a short intro video plus view my goals and reward tiers, from $1 to $12—between a souvenir and a satisfying brunch.

March 19, 2018

Designer and Web Developer Kim Goulbourne is a Chronic Creator


It was through her nifty Web-based tool Conference Calendar that I discovered Kim Goulbourne, aka Bourn: Designer, self-taught Web Developer and proudly self-proclaimed Chronic Creator. You’ll learn why in this interview, where she shares her perspective on pursuing ideas and getting them real.

Appreciating this portrait of your Mom. What experiences/principles from her do you carry with you as sources of contemplation and ambition in your work?

I’ve actually just come to realize how similar we are. Her entrepreneurial spirit, ambition and independence has definitely rubbed off on me over the years. She’s not one to wait on anyone to get things done and that’s one quality that has been integral to my success as a chronic creator. She’s always pushing herself to think outside the box of what she can achieve and lately has been pushing my siblings and I to do the same.

How did you become a Girl Who Codes? What were some essential steps you took to make this a reality?

I sort of fell into it actually. In college, I studied Graphic Design, and the summer after my sophomore year, my mother wanted to build a website. I told her I’d design it, and for some odd reason, I also wanted to take on the challenge of building it. That summer, I picked up my first book on HTML and CSS and the rest is history. From there, I took one or two relevant classes at my school, watched tons of videos on Lynda.com and practiced on projects I made up or portfolio sites my friends needed.


Codeland is a conference for anyone learning how to code. All levels are welcome. 

In awe of your formidable portfolio of creative projects: 
No Questions Asked, More by Bourn, Election Rewind, Bitter Renter NYC, Founder Mantras, Send Thanks and Hshtags. How do you come up with an idea for a creative project? Can you describe this journey from notion to idea to build to launch to post-launch? What was this journey for your newest effort, You & Sundry, for example?

Most of my ideas come from experiences that I’ve had throughout my life. One could say, I’m designing the world I want to see.

When I first have an idea, I write it down in my iOS Notes app. It could be anywhere from one sentence that describes it to multiple notes exploring the full solution. Then it typically sits there for a few weeks, months and even a year (as in the case of You & Sundry). I give my brain time to subconsciously think about why I want to do it and how feasible it would be to do it right now. The ideas that actually make it to launch were the ones I couldn’t stop thinking about for a variety of reasons. There were also the ones that made it past the main two questions I try to always ask my self: “Why do I want to do this project?” and “What is my goal post-launch (i.e. do I plan to iterate)?”

Once I’ve decided to do a project, I pick a start and end/launch date—deadlines are crucial for me to actually complete anything, then I go through the motions of making it a reality.

Post-launch varies from project to project, but it typically involves a little marketing, sharing and basking in the feeling that I made it happen.

You & Sundry started off the same way. I’ve always felt uncomfortable in barbershops, and one night, I laughed to myself as I wrote down the idea for opening a barbershop for women and the LGBTQ community. I thought I was crazy since I knew nothing about the industry or brick-and-mortar businesses. However, one year later after my barber moved, the idea resurfaced, and I decided to give it some real thought in feasibility. I’m still going through the motions right now, but I can definitely say this one will be my biggest venture to date if I can pull it off.

How do you manage this massive portfolio to ensure each creative project running and humming as well as possible?

The trick here is, I don’t. Apart from paying all the hosting bills, answering the little support emails that come in and checking on each project every once in a while, I don’t actively keep tabs on all the projects I’ve done. This is because my post-launch goal typically includes this fine print: that I wont iterate. Generally because I probably won’t have the time or interest to keep working on it and adding to it (I learned a lot about myself on my first big project, Hshtags). Therefore, I’ve managed to build my projects in a way where it doesn’t require much upkeep. It solves the immediate problem I wanted to fix and that’s it.


How every project starts—with pen and paper.

Who/what influenced/inspired you to pursue your creative projects full-time and make yourself the client? Or as Seth Godin put it: “Pick yourself.”

I’ve always wanted to be self-employed and I’ve always enjoyed the process of working on my own ideas than a clients’. But it took time to get here. An opportunity presented itself for me to finally give this crazy business idea a chance so I took it. It also helped that I saved up enough in time to make this jump.

How would you describe success?

Right now, success for me would mean building a business where I don’t need to rely on client work to sustain the business or my personal life.

With all of the moving parts inherent in making your venture studio—Bourn—how do you deal with busyness and stress? What ways of taking care of yourself have proved beneficial?

Until my shoulder injury, kickboxing was my go-to activity for managing stress. Working out in general also does the trick in keeping my body and mind sharp. I also sleep a lot. Probably too much in fact, but I’m always at my best after a good night’s rest. And now that my “9-5” is my own business, I try to give myself a break ever so often, on nights and weekend to go out, relax with friends and reset.


Gave my workspace a makeover—complete with standing desk.

What software/Web-based tools that you use and highly recommend to work on ideas and make them grow, to collaborate and get things done?

My go-to tools are Trello (for organizing features, deadlines and the project overall), Evernote (for notes, to-do lists and ideating) and Google Spreadsheets (for lists that makes more sense in the form of a spreadsheet). I use all of them in some capacity to manage all the moving parts of my projects.

Sketch synced with Dropbox and InVision are my design tools. Sublime Text, iTerm and FileZilla are my dev tools. I use MailChimp for email marketing and Google Analytics.

How would you describe “good design”?

I think good design does a few things for a user. It entices. It’s easy to navigate. It’s effortless to take action without much confusion.

When/if you are approached by someone who expressed, 
“I want to have a career composed of my creative projects,” what’s your response?

My first reaction would be to dig deeper into their portfolio of “creative projects” to understand what angle they would be considering. After much back and forth to understand their goals, my general response would be: Go for it!

However, if I had to share one thing I learned (and still learning) about this process it would be that as much as you won’t want to think about money (and how you’re going to sustain yourself), it’s going to be the most crucial part of making this dream a reality. I find that as an artist or creative person, the business side of things don’t come as easily, so things like revenue fall through the cracks, but it’s vital to our success.

In these charged times, what can individuals in the design and web development worlds, whatever the discipline, do to contribute immediately to a better community/society/world moving forward?

I think using our skillsets to help, share, educate and inspire, in whatever ways we can or are comfortable with, will always be helpful. But in my opinion, it has to come from the right place or it won’t be as effective.


Madrid, Spain.

From your traveling locally/internationally, is there a destination you find yourself wanting to experience again and again?

I’m definitely a little obsessed with California but haven’t made the jump to move there yet. After my travel overseas however, I would love to experience much more of Europe and broaden my travels to South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, The Caribbean, basically as many places as I can while I still can.

How does the city of New York contribute to your work? What makes it special for startups/business/creativity-at-large?

New York is such a fast-paced city filled with go-getters. Because I identify with that culture and feeling, I think that’s why I’ve lasted so long here. I feel inspired to push myself when I see others pushing themselves from afar. I’ve walked into so many coffee shops and have appreciated seeing other people who are also on their grind.

I think it’s special for startups/business/creativity-at-large because of the community that exists here across the board. Almost every industry has a thriving community, from tech to fashion to the arts. With that community comes inspiration, collaboration and innovation.

What total effect do you strive to achieve through your work?

On a deeper level, I silently hope to touch someone in some capacity. It could be as simple as them gaining knowledge in an area that was confusing before (Bitter Renter), giving them easier ways to explore more of their city (No Questions Asked) or providing a space where they feel comfortable being themselves (You & Sundry). Even though all my projects start with me in mind, I secretly hope I’m not the only one who will benefit from it.

• • •

All images courtesy of Kim Goulbourne.

• • •

Read more from Design Feast Series of 95+ Interviews
with people who love making things.


Donating = Appreciating: Design Feast is now on Patreon!
Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you find delight and motivation from the hundreds of interviews, including event write-ups, at Design Feast, please consider becoming a supporting Patron with a recurring monthly donation.

Please help keep Design Feast going and growing by visiting my Patreon page where you can watch a short intro video plus view my goals and reward tiers, from $1 to $12—between a souvenir and a satisfying brunch.

March 10, 2018

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: Writer & Director Tara Cocco’s Comedy Chops



What are you working on—on the side?

My side projects mostly revolve around film—writing, directing, producing and acting. The last year has been incredibly rewarding. I just celebrated the release of “Strange Company,” a comedy webseries that I wrote, directed and play a small role in. My team was nothing short of mindblowing. We had no budget and most of us had spent little to no time on set. So to see how beautifully it came together was a testament to how far hard work and surrounding yourself with talented people can get you. We’re three episodes in and I’m currently writing the fourth, which we hope to shoot at the end of April!

I’ve also jumped into other writing projects: a feature-length comedy called “The Slammer,” which was a semifinalist in the 2017 Screencraft Comedy Screenplay Contest (currently in the development stage for future production), and co-wrote the first chapter in a three-part SciFi miniseries, “The Star of Elia,” (currently in production).

Because I don’t like to ever let myself get bored, I also recently joined an improv group in Louisville. It keeps the wits sharp and my life grounded in the absurd.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

I’m very lucky that I have a job that I love and leadership that is very understanding of the work-life-other work balance. My full-time role covers photography, videography, design and social media for a nonprofit which requires a flexible schedule (while I’m covering events and productions on non-normal working hours). That comes in handy when I have to run off for the weekend to shoot, focus on editing an episode or hit a writing deadline.

It’s also very fortunate that both my full-time and side gigs deal in story and narrative. I like to think that the constant practice in such different industries allows me the space to think outside of the box and apply the lessons I’m learning on both sides. Particularly, focusing on comedy in my side projects gives me a fresh way to approach a marketing project in a fun, engaging way. So much of comedy is about understanding how your content resonates and connects with your audience.

Why have a side project?

For a creative person, I’m incredibly logical, structured and pragmatic—I like to Adult with a capital A. Having a side project gives me the space to be playful and expressive and me. I spent several years leaning on my creativity to pay the bills—attempting to compel people to action in marketing or making photographs for other people. My side projects are for me. They’re my mark on the world.

Before finding my current position, I spent four years as a professional photographer full-time and thought that I should focus my energy solely on honing my skills as an artist and business owner. I said no to side projects, thinking that they would diminish my commitment. I improved technically over time, but I started to lose my passion and love for the craft. It wasn’t until I started taking acting classes about a year ago that I started to figure out how to be human again, reconnect with my emotional life and start pouring myself back into my work. That was the gateway drug into the world of film. And I’ll never look back.

My side projects, by virtue of film being such a group effort, have also introduced me to an incredible community of like-minded people. Warm, energetic people looking to collaborate, hustle and make their mark, too. I mean, I get to hang out with my friends and create stories that make people think and laugh. How much more fun does it get than that?

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Tara Cocco.

• • •

Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with Chicago creative agency 50,000feet—dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


Donating = Appreciating: Design Feast is now on Patreon!
Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you find delight and motivation from the hundreds of interviews, including event write-ups, at Design Feast, please consider becoming a supporting Patron with a recurring monthly donation.

Please help keep Design Feast going and growing by visiting my Patreon page where you can watch a short intro video plus view my goals and reward tiers, from $1 to $12—between a souvenir and a satisfying brunch.

February 19, 2018

Wenting Li Realizes Her Creative Work Life through Illustration, Comics, Paintings and Inspirations Yet To Be Explored


It was Wenting Li’s winsome cover concept for Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” that drew me to her work. Here, she elaborates on her journey to becoming an illustrator and exploring

How did you arrive at the desire to become an artist 
who makes her art her life’s work?

I remember always being fascinated with drawing, from when I first figured out how to drag pencils across paper. This could be wrong, but the first thing I ever drew was a bunny-bug-person. ‘Look!’ I told my parents, who were not impressed. They have long been my most vigorous critics which has been helpful in keeping my dreams realistic, and also led to some detours along the way. And this would, as my mother likes to say, probably took more years off their lives, but I’m still not sure I’ve gotten to where I want to go, if I’m working on my life’s work yet. But I guess no matter what I’m doing, I do want to be creating things.

Your work spans illustrations, paintings and comics. 
Which area of practice was engaged first? How did 
you get interested in each medium? How do you maintain
practicing each discipline?

Comics are probably the most recent thing I’ve started doing. The comics that I read mostly weren’t like what I make myself, and I think the disconnect between when I knew about comics and what I wanted to do with comics was a difficult separation to cross. I didn’t think comics were necessarily something I had the capacity to do until I threw out some assumptions. Ink and painting I picked up more seriously at art school. I found this old bottle of Chinese ink my grandmother had left behind during her last visit over a decade ago, and really liked working with it. It’s kind of different from India ink—less emphatic, more transitional. And illustration…it’s hard to pinpoint when that started. I didn’t really understand what it was when I was in high school and racing toward a future in the sciences, but sometime during my first attempt at a degree, I became obsessed with the idea that I could be an illustrator, left the university, and went off to art school. Now I’m out of school, illustration has taken over my life and pays for my bedroom under the stairs, and it can be hard to think about doing other things. There is never enough time in a day, so you just need to sit a bit harder on the lid to make it close.

What methods/activities did you activate to help you actually 
start working and living your passion? Because “Just do it” 
is easier said than done.

I credit this podcast—“Your Dreams My Nightmares”—with a lot of my early ideas about illustration, and how to make it work—and I’m sure there’s so much more information floating around out there now. I think no matter how you get somewhere, there is a lot of see-along-the-way. I don’t regret my first school, and not going to art school right out of high school was good for me. I am also very privileged in that my parents helped me pay for a large part of my education and were very adamant that I get this education.

To add my thoughts to the art school argument, I found art school helpful (and revelatory and challenging and sometimes frustrating), and saw classmates both struggle and succeed. If you’re going to go to school, it can help to go in with a plan—certain expectations of what you want to get out of it. If you are lucky, your instructors may take an interest in you and offer guidance, but in large part, this is also your responsibility—do your research. Chase all the opportunities you can, don’t be afraid to get your degree at your pace, try to use all the facilities from different departments that will be difficult to access once you’re out of school, apply to everything you can, and try to start getting work experience as soon as possible, without letting employees take advantage of you as a young person and a student. I started figuring out freelancing while still in school, and that has been so helpful.



What experiences do you carry with you that empower 
your work moving forward?

I think as an illustrator, just everything in my head is the force behind my work. Illustration, to me, is about making connections and visual metaphors and this all draws from the data bank of being a person in the world. Particular things I am obsessed with include the intensity of solitude, the super vast beauty of the natural world (I spent my childhoods being dragged on long camping trips across the country and the states), poetics, and my entanglements with the important people in my life, particularly my parents.

Being an indie creator, what does independence mean to you?

In my creative work life, I get to work on what interests, inspires or is important to me. I get to be challenged in ways I chose for myself, I set my own pace within deadlines, I can go for a walk outside whenever I want. I get to make a lot of decisions personally and on my own. Also, I get an unlimited number of snack breaks throughout the day. And theoretically, I can go wherever I want—which I want to do, soon!

Love your cover art direction for the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960) submitted for the Penguin Cover Prize (2017). Can you tell more about this project? Was this a competition? How did you discover it? What was your process/workflow like toward the final version of your illustration and graphic design?

Thank you! The Penguin Cover Prize is something you should check out if you’re a student—try out as many competitions as you have time for, although be wary of people who want actual work for free (the cover competition is a mock cover). I found the competition probably while I was clicking through tumblr or someone’s portfolio, noticed a student entry and looked up the competition. Because I’m also an obsessive reader and love book cover design, I was instantly interested. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is an interesting book. I first read it in high school, before I was really aware of the larger discourse around race in America, in Canada. Re-reading it as an adult raised some uncomfortable, provoking questions about the work. I wanted that conflict, and the conflict in Scout to come through on the cover—the cast shadow of racism. I’m not a trained designer, so my cover is illustration-focused, with some hand-lettering, and quality design feedback from the wonderful Kevin Pham. Laying something out equals lots of fiddling for me—I was just setting type on a short comic-esque piece for a really cool newspaper my friends run (“The Chunky Omen”) and that was just hours of questionable design decisions on my part. In summary: lots of sketching, lots of drawing (sometimes re-drawing), lots of fiddling.



Do you have usually a sketchbook on your person? What’s 
your frequency in making time to sketch? Is this one of 
the major ways you practice drawing and sharpening this skill?

Always! Drawing is a compulsion, and of course I make a lot of bad, loose sketches for work. But what I really love is drawing the world around me. I love-love drawing people, and I try to make time to go out and paint forms at the museum, in coffee shops, outside when it’s not winter. Probably the nicest place I’ve painted are out east at the city beaches—my travel kit is permanently full of sand now. I’m also part of a science/nature drawing group and we spend time drawing the natural world together.

What are your creative and storytelling influences and why?

A lot of creative/ storytelling influences come through reading though—short stories, longform articles, newsletters, restaurant menus, weird informational signs in national parks. And just looking at things. I love starting out through and into windows.

What is your vision of satisfaction and growth, 
as it relates to your livelihood?

I’d like to always be doing creative things. I want to do more illustration adjacent kinds of work, like teaching myself more about animation, even design, maybe trying in-house work for a while. Making more things with my hands (masks, paintings, weird socks), and sharing a studio space with cool people—I have to move out of my current space soon. I’m almost a year out of school, and not yet sure where precisely where I’m going!



How is creativity and art a coping mechanism 
in these turbulent times?

I think for everyone, looking at art and creative work is a visual respite from the other things we can’t look away from. Artists also make work for marches, for Black Lives Matter and anti-Islamaphobia and gun safety and abortion rights and general editorial issues—and these images move us, hopefully a little bit toward where we are going.

What is the one tool that helps make your work more 
accomplished and pleasant, as a result, making your life good?

Photoshop is super useful. Even if I’m making something without the computer, it gets cleaned up in Photoshop. And if you’re hardpressed, you can do everything in Photoshop, including layouts, making invoices, writing contracts, putting together a zine. I certainly have, probably in ways that would make a designer’s eyes bleed.

How do you get the word out about what you do? 
How do you attract people to your work?

In the professional sense, cold mailing and emailing hundreds of art directors who I think might hire me. Sometimes meeting up with a few of them! I have a large spreadsheet of contacts that I researched last summer. It’s an exhausting and weirdly constant process, and some information I just can’t find. It’s possible to pay for subscriptions to access this sort of information, but I’ve only heard negative things about these databases, and if it’s necessary to double-check the information you’re paying for, I figured I’d just find it myself. Being a part of the arts community also helps—I’m not always on top of this, but going to gallery openings and showing up is important. And then there’s social media, which I maybe use more casually than professionally, but you could theoretically email me through my Instagram profile which I would be very excited about if you did.

In running your creative business and managing all of those 
moving parts to live and keep yourself busy, how do you 
take care of yourself?

Also something I need to work on. The last few months I haven’t been sleeping too much, but it’s hard to find time for all the work I want to do and the friends I want to see, and I’m young right now. I try to structure my life by doing normal things like packing lunch the night before, batch cooking for the week during spare evenings, cleaning the sinks in our basement regularly. I need to go on more runs, maybe I’ll go do that right after this interview. I like to run with silence and just myself, and that’s a really nice time being alone.



If an aspiring illustrator approached you and said, “I love to draw and want to become a working artist,” what’s your response?

That’s amazing, working in the arts is a really different and special, and a lucky way of looking back at the world. Have you done your research? Do you know what to expect? Your investments and sacrifices may not necessarily pay off right away—it can take years, but if you’re very lucky and able to do the hard work, it’s possible to make the way smoother. Reach out to people doing the work you want to do, and be respectful and thank them for their time (write them an email). Do you care about monetary wealth, and do you have a game plan? If you’re going to art school in the states, especially a private school, think very hard about your student debt, against your future salary expectations. And there’s a lot out there! Creative work is very diverse, from fine art to UI/UX.

What is your patronus charm (spirit guardian) and why?

Can I tell you what my dæmon might be instead? I don’t really like to look into mirrors, but my friend Andrea has to look at me all the time and decided my dæmon would be a spider. Someone else asked me if she really is my friend—and really, Andrea is one of my closest friends.

How does the city of Toronto, Ontario, contribute to your work? 
What makes it special for startups/business/creativity-at-large?

I love being in the city. Walking around it especially while intensely alone and often after sunset, but also with others. It is full of interesting, strange things. It’s a great place for being a creative person—there are more events happening all the time than you could possibly go to, things like free lunchhour concerts at the COC, lectures on ethics at the University of Toronto, gallery openings, early morning creative talks, design festivals… The city also invests in the arts, and has area-specific opportunities, grants you can apply for, and councillors who will champion arts causes, like creating a new tax class for cultural buildings.

• • •

Portrait photographed by Rena Rong. All other images
courtesy of Wenting Li.

• • •

Read more from Design Feast Series of 95+ Interviews
with people who love making things.


Donating = Appreciating: Design Feast is now on Patreon!
Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you find delight and motivation from the hundreds of interviews, including event write-ups, at Design Feast, please consider becoming a supporting Patron with a recurring monthly donation.

Please help keep Design Feast going and growing by visiting my Patreon page where you can watch a short intro video plus view my goals and reward tiers, from $1 to $12—between a souvenir and a satisfying brunch.