Spotlight
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Kinfolk Creative: Design for the heart of Kansas.
September 11th, 2019
Bryan Lisbona founded Kinfolk Creative in his home state of Kansas. Together with Toby Kuhn and Mark Breaux, they run a design collective that explores the design language and voice of Kansas and the American prairie region.

Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

I was born and raised in a small community in Northeast Kansas. Like most rural kids of the early 90’s we lived in free range communities. Our parents sent us outside everyday to explore and we loved it. We didn’t have phones, cable, or the internet. We had each other, our bikes, and our imaginations. My childhood was an amazing time filled with wonderful people and I am still thanking all of them for the impact they made on my life.

How did you get started in graphic design?

My mother is a children’s book Author, my father an Architect, his sister an Interior Designer, and her husband an Illustrator. Needless to say my family is filled with creative talent. That early exposure lead me into the field of visual communication at the University of Kansas. There I joined my now business partner and cousin in design and printmaking coursework. The craziest part of our “creative lineage” is that our family is filled with Midwest entrepreneurs. We were raised to think differently.



What led you to develop the Kinfolk Creative brand?

In 2008 my wife and I started our own family. Similar to our childhood, neither of us wanted a stranger to raise our kids. So I chose to stay home with our baby and begin taking freelance clients whenever I could. Local accounts quickly grew into national ones and my work became a full-time focus. Working from home allowed both my studio and our family to grow. A few years later my uncle retired and sold his agency. This allowed my cousin Toby to join me and our studio rebranded as Kinfolk Creative. Our “design runs deep” philosophy is literally our family story and could not be anymore true and honest as our brand focus.

How would you describe your work?

As designers, we are passionate about our craft and very disciplined. Our work is deliberate and instead of chasing RFPs we research companies and businesses that we feel would be a good fit for our team. It’s very much a Midwestern approach to slow growth through sustainable relationships, and we treat everyone here like they are family. Our clients are friends and each one came to us based on a referral from another.



Who else’s work has influenced or inspired your work?

Wow, this is difficult to answer because there are so many unique and talented designers out there. For me, I try to focus on the person over the work. Some of the people currently influencing me most are former classmates I studied with at the University of Kansas. A couple of names that stand out are Thomas Ryan RedCorn of Buffalo Nickel, because I have never in my life met someone more passionate about their heritage and Native rights. Nathan Walker of All The Pretty Colors also resonates because I grew creatively alongside Nate at KU and I have seen his professional transformation first hand. His illustration skills are amazing. But most importantly because he is a husband and now also a father. He recently started his own studio and works hard to set an example for his young son.

Can you tell us about your creative process?

My process is more of a feeling. At least initially. And as an intense personality type the design process is probably the only time I actually stop talking! I like to absorb the problem and the details and then be alone to think about it all. I will sleep on ideas, stress about integration, and then I’ll take all of that back to our team. Together we combine everyones insight and start an open dialogue about solutions. The rest just kinda happens.

What advice have you got for artists just starting out?

Listen to yourself. Process your instincts and don’t be afraid to follow every idea. Even if that means spending real money or crossing the virtual hurdles you have mentally or physically placed in front of yourself. In the end, if you are not 100% willing to invest in your idea, why would anyone else?



What interesting projects have you worked on recently?

Locally, we have been fortunate to bring our historic Kansas apparel brand, Kinfolk Created, to the Kansas Historical Society, Kansas State Capital, and the Johnson County Museum system. We just discovered that one of our designs is currently orbiting the Earth inside the International Space Station. Kansas Astronaut Nick Hague was seen recently wearing our Ad Astra Per Aspera design during a live-feed from the ISS to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, KS. How cool is that?

Internationally, we were recently able to work with a NFP organization in East Africa called Burundi Friends International. They educate people and support economic empowerment for better, self-sustaining communities. This was our first international project and we hope to do more of that in the future.



What areas of your work are you hoping to explore further?

Kansas history is a big focus. The impact we have measured in our apparel line, Kinfolk Created, has motivated our team to dig deeper into the current state of Kansas and the reasons why young people are moving away. This fact contrasts with older generations and people approaching retirement that are returning to Kansas, or coming here for the first time in attempt to better their economic footprint. Yes, Kansas does have a reputation as an inexpensive place to live. However, we want people to see Kansas for the beauty it holds, the opportunities it provides, and the adventure it offers. We want younger people to stay in Kansas to build a family. Perhaps even start a business. We are working very hard to think about Kansas again for the first time.

To see more of Kinfolk Creative's work, visit:
www.designrunsdeep.com
www.kinfolkcreated.com

 
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