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kHyal™ is a communicator, a brand, an AIGA award-winning designer and creative director with blue chip clients from Black&Decker to MTV. She founded fiZz Agency in 2007 with a focus on interactive services and a strong emphasis on social media.

During her 20-year career, kHyal™ has held the positions of creative director at Microtech International and Circle.com (now Euro RSCG Discovery). In addition, her fine art and design have been exhibited from New York to London. She also designs one-of-kind recycled apparel under kHyal Kouture and co-founded Push Workshops in 2007, talentEd in 2008 and DesignerGrill in 2009.

12.07.10

Spark Your Creativity and Challenge Your Intellect

If you have a degree in what field is it? I come from the school of hard knocks. I attended Emerson College, The Art Institute of Boston, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Boston Film and Video Foundation in the 1980s but couldn’t sit still long enough to graduate. When I moved to Los Angeles, I attended programs on legal issues in the visual arts at Loyola Law School then got distracted by the cause of one of the speakers—Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts—and became a fundraising chair for them and abandoned my studies while working in Beverly Hills for an art gallery and also for a restorer. The gallery taught me how to market expensive art and put on celebrity events; the restorer taught me the art of making period picture frames for LACMA, the Getty and the Norton Simon Museum. It was fascinating work that involved finishing hand-carved, gold leaf frames to make them appear centuries old. Truth be told, I learned about design in my childhood from reading the books and back issues of annuals and magazines like CA that I found on my father’s bookcase. I learned it quietly and alone inside my head and later I disciplined myself to execute it successfully through a continuous stream of failures that I worked through until they shined. I’m still doing that.

Which designer (or design studio), other than yours, do you most admire? Honestly, I’m a big fan of Stefan Sagmeister. I admire the passion of his work and his bad boy reputation. I don’t usually follow what’s popular, it’s probably because I have such a rebellious fine art side that draws me to his work. Just recently I again saw the five posters he has in the MoMA design collection and they are incredibly energetic, edgy and original—all things that transfix and interest me. Earlier in my career I was a Rudy VanderLans junkie. I loved the diverse cross-section of design, type and music that Émigré cranked out. Strangely, I later met and befriended Émigré artist and designer Elliot Earls in Connecticut (a pretty bland state—from which I hail). Elliot visited my studio, Blowtorch, during the ’90s in New Haven, and so did former Andy Warhol factory star, and author of Famous for 15 Minutes, Ultra Violet, another amazing creative force. I also met R/GA’s Bob Greenberg through the gallery, and he remains the guy in the industry I admire most. Totally visionary in the art/design/technology merge.

What’s the strangest request you've received from a client? “Can you add this photo of a turtle under the testimonial section?”

If you weren’t working as a designer what would you be doing? Training to be an astronaut or working with horses.

What well-known identity is most desperately in need of a redesign? Tropicana?

From where do your best ideas originate? They seem to emerge unintellectualized, floating through my subconscious as an innate intuitive force that guides my hands.

How do you overcome a creative block? For small ones, I often head to the gym or take a walk. For the tsunamis, I indulge in the great mind knot untangler—psychotherapy.

What’s your dream project (not client, but project)? It’s actually in progress: to design, build and market my own products.

Do you have creative outlets other than graphic design? Writing, photography, illustration, painting, sculpture, fashion design, product design, furniture design, character design and cooking.

What’s your approach to balancing work and life? I found another designer/entrepreneur that agrees that work/life balance, with regard to creative pursuits, is happily 24/7/365.... and, then I married him.

What product/gadget can you not live without? For now... my iPhone, It’s not so much the particular product/gadget as it is the ability to read/write and compute/connect in a smart, fast, portable format that is well designed. The actual phone component is what I use the least.

What’s your favorite quote? “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.” —Dr. Seuss

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Yes. Use all of your resources, every angle of social media and technology, many of which are currently free, to create a unique persona that represents your best self. By doing so, you’ll make your work known and accessible to the widest reach of potential clients. Constantly push yourself to get better at all that you do, always try new things and get out in the world for inspiration as often as possible to industry events, museums, galleries, nature—whatever sparks your creativity and challenges your intellect. If you plan to work within an organization, the most important thing you have to offer is a great personality coupled with the spirit of generosity, teamwork, collaboration and innovation. Be excited about whatever you choose to do. Solve problems.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? That the fear I felt from others while taking creative risks should not be something that caused me to temper my work.