For the past 14 years I’ve been blessed by working for a creative agency that has allowed me to reinvent myself every few years. From a young age, I knew that I wanted to do something that brought together two things I was passionate about: art and computers. When most kids were dreaming of being an astronaut or a professional NHL player, I was dreaming about being a graphic designer. I began my professional career as a front-end Web Designer and Videographer. I worked my way through print production, dabbled a little bit in photography and video editing, became an Art Director and later a Senior Art Director, then a UI/UX Designer (User Interface/User Experience). All throughout this journey, I’ve had the opportunity to challenge myself to develop new skills, explore new areas of interest, and build upon those passions that brought me in to this industry. My bosses fully endorsed my hunger for learning new skills, thus paving the way for me to broaden my horizons at every turn.
Then last summer I was offered the position of DKY’s Director of Interactive. At first glance, it was a natural progression and an easy transition. I had worked with a slew of developers over the years, had long interfaced with our clients and had well-nurtured relationships with them, and my desire to lead teams internally to help fully realize our agency’s goals for our clients was fully within reach. But I hesitated—in moving to a director’s role, I would be giving up direct, hands-on control of what had always been central to my heart—designing the varied pieces of our clients’ campaigns with my own two hands. It might have been the control freak inside me, or the OCD kicking in, but the thought of handing over the creative, my creative, to someone else was terrifying. Would I still feel whole? Would I still love my job? Will this cause my creative juices to dry up? Would this become just another desk job? Only time would tell. My fiancé and I talked about it at great length. The next morning I walked into a meeting with my three bosses and told them I’d take the job.
Fast forward to early winter of 2016. In just a few months I would be married to the love of my life, the beautiful and extraordinary Thalia Ries. My fiancé and I were busily sweating all the details for our upcoming wedding: Save-the-Dates, Invitations, RSVPs, wedding website, photo sharing app, etc., along with vetting photographers, musicians, caterers, etc…the list goes on and on. Typically, guys want as little to do with these items as possible. And being totally honest, there was a brief moment that I was hoping to elope, for all of about 30 seconds. That moment quickly evaporated when I realized all of these items presented me with an opportunity to do something I had been longing to do: design. Immediately, my energy level shot through the roof. This was the opportunity for which I had been longing. I went to work designing our wedding crest, working with Ty on a slew of color palettes, fonts, personas, brand promises, etc. To my surprise, she fully embraced this energy with great zeal, allowing me to educate her on color theory, typography, the ins and outs of page layout, the importance of white space, etc. She even got excited when I showed her all the benefits of adding tracking codes and analytics to our wedding website. She worked with me in crafting the right messaging on every print and digital correspondence with our guests, and encouraged me to personalize everything, making it our own. Talk about a true partner!
We started with the traditional print pieces. I worked with my brother, Corrie, and his connections to a fabulous, local invitation printing company, MagnetStreet, to take care of the printing for the Save-the-Dates, Invitations, RSVPs and Programs.
Wedding Party Gifts
Once we had all these pieces in place, we turned our attention to the gifts for parents and those in our wedding party. We wanted to celebrate our unique relationships with each of these special people and express our gratitude for the impact they’ve made on our lives. Anything off the shelf was off limits. Everything needed to be memorable and something to be cherished for years to come.
Laser-etched Stainless Steel Growlers
I created highly simplified caricatures of all the bridesmaids and groomsmen. I then sourced a stainless steel, insulated growler engraver out of Oregon and had them engrave my customized artwork on each growler for each person.
Sticking with the same theme, I decided to build beer caddies for each of the guys. Having built all the furniture in my living room out of reclaimed wood, I had the necessary experience and tools for woodworking. I started with a template I engineered in InDesign, purchased some rough-cut cedar boards from a local lumberyard, cut the individual pieces, stained them with a mixture of vinegar, water and steel wool, and sanded them to bring out some worn highlights. Next, I wanted to affix our wedding crest to the ends of the caddies, so I purchased a DIY screenprinting kit, through some trial and error became quite proficient at it, and transposed our wedding crest onto the wood, giving it the desired burnished wood look. To top it off, I affixed rustic bottom openers on each caddy, which I sourced from Amazon.
Custom Wine Glasses and Carriers
For both sets of parents, I sourced customized wine glasses, again, with our wedding crest printed on them. Then, having a little inspiration from a similar concept I saw on Etsy, I built a wine glass carrier that fits over the neck of a wine bottle. This was also made of aged/stained cedar, and had our wedding crest, along with the words “All You Need Is Love…And Wine” screened on them.
For each family member, I created screen-printed performance tees as a functional keepsake. Everyone was wearing these with pride the morning following our wedding.
Wedding Website and Photo Sharing App
Neither our wedding website nor our photo sharing app were completely built from scratch. At this point, we felt we were burning the candle at both ends. I personalized theme packages for each with our wedding colors, custom artwork and photos, along with the story of how my fiancé and I met and our journey up to this point. I found it wise to pick and choose which services necessitated the time and effort of creating something from scratch versus utilizing tools that already existed for efficiency sake—and for the sake of our collective sanity. The end result was something that was fun, interactive and allowed us to tell our story and share photos with our friends in a way that complemented all of our other fully-designed pieces.
Laser-cut Guest Book
Wedding guests were greeted with a custom poster, branded maps and the day’s itinerary, and a custom, wood-etched guestbook.
Later, at the reception, guests were treated with a photo slideshow, documenting our lives from birth to today. I had to brush up on my skills in Adobe Premiere for this one.
Commemorative Wall Plaque
Lastly, as a tribute to Ty and the celebration of our journey together, I created a wall plaque with my bride’s and my wedding caricatures, our wedding crest and a fitting Bible verse that is a running theme of our relationship: “I found the one that my soul loves.”
The Journey Ahead
As of this morning, I have been happily married for over a month and a half (and counting), I’m thoroughly enjoying my job as DKY’s Director of Interactive and can honestly say that I am happier than I have ever been in my entire life. It is fun looking back at everything that led up to this point, both personally and professionally—through the struggles, trials and the victories—knowing that everything happens for a reason, and you eventually end up right where you need to be in life. You just have to strive to know yourself, know your heart, continue to push yourself to try and learn new things, and find someone who complements you in everything you do in life. Though every once in a while, it’s good to go back to your roots and embrace the passions and skill-sets you honed to get you to the place you are today. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll find the drive and inspiration to guide you to a new and exciting tomorrow. Until then, I’ve found true partnerships in my wife Ty, my family, my friends and in my coworkers at DKY who will be there for me each and every step along the way. The rest is just icing on the cake!