Hello, and welcome to our new Spotlight blog series. In these blog posts, we’ll be interviewing a variety of people who help to design, develop and support ProPhoto.
We’ve had the opportunity here to work with some really talented designers; from freelancers who are relatively new to professional graphic design, to larger, more established design firms with decades of experience. Our series starts with a recent addition to our ProPhoto designer network, Ellen Petty of Identity Kitchen. Be sure to look at the bottom of the post for the brand new designs from Identity Kitchen that launched in our store today!
PP: Where are you based out of Ellen?
ELLEN: Los Angeles
PP: Have you always been there?
ELLEN: No, I moved out here 10 years ago. I’m a New Yorker. I lived upstate New York, and moved to New York City when I was 18. Almost 10 years ago, after my daughter was born, my husband is in the entertainment industry, we decided to come out to the West Coast and give it a try. It was post 9/11 and things in New York was still in a heightened alert state. It was time.
I had a studio in New York; 10 employees. I did a lot of work with some big name clients, World Bank, Bristol Myers Squibb, Matrix, Columbia University, New School University. I had given up my studio before our move out here and had some time to think about what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to continue with design, and took some time to consider how I would re-emerge.
PP: Tell me a bit about yourself, are you married? Do you have kids
ELLEN: I am married, it will be 15 years this August. He is a pianist, composer, and a session and touring musician, and an all around fantastic human being. I have two beautiful daughters, ages 10 and 8. They keep me on my toes, and are my true joy.
“That’s one thing that I tell a lot of photographers that I work with is don’t be afraid to really focus. If you really want to be successful, focus in one or two areas, and don’t be afraid to be know for that.”
PP: You mentioned you were with a firm in New York, was that your first design job? Tell me a bit about your education and experience
ELLEN: I went to the fashion institute of technology and I graduated with a BFA in advertising and graphic design. My first love is advertising, and I worked for some big NY advertising firms like Ogilvy & Mather, and Kirshenbaum and Bond. It was fun and challenging, but I quickly realized in the first couple of years that I was much more a graphic designer. And the advertising field was not for me. I went back to school and did some post graduate graphic design classes and reworked my portfolio. Then I worked for a couple of smaller design firms, and then I started my own firm called “Wee Small Hours Design”, in New York.
PP: How long did you own “Wee Small Hours”?
ELLEN: That was…um, 6 years. It was a really exciting time. We grew the company to a team of 10 at one point. We had some dot com companies, but mostly brick and mortar, and not-for-profits. We were able to expand and contract depending on our work load and survived the bursting dot com bubble, which many design firms did not. It was a crazy time, and after six years I was feeling a little burnt out. Then 9/11 struck. The New York economy took a big hit, and I was ready to start a family and move on to the next phase of my life. The company had previously gotten so large that I really wasn’t designing any more. I was doing a lot of managing, and you really get away from your first love because you’re, you know, managing employees, managing clients, and doing a lot of directing. I really missed design, so as I was thinking about how I wanted to structure identity kitchen, that was one of the first things, was that I really wanted to make sure that I was able to focus on designing.
PP: Sure. So you took some time to re-evaluate and think through what you really wanted to be doing, and came up with Identity Kitchen. Talk to me about how that took shape and what you’ve got going there now.
ELLEN: I kind of looked at some of the mistakes i’d made with my old firm, and I was really young when I started it, I was 28, and I was just happy to get any gigs that I could. We were just all over the place. We were doing annual reports, brochures, websites, identities, and I knew that if I wanted a nice small firm, then I needed to focus on one area. We had done a lot of work for dot-com companies that had a name, but no brand, and I realized that was the aspect that I really loved, branding. I loved going in there, figuring out what their business model is, what their product was, what their philosophy was, and kind of pulling that out of them; almost like therapy.
So then I met a photographer friend when we got out here and she said I should do this for photographers. I thought, “What are you crazy? How many photographers are there? You can’t base a whole business on doing branding for photographers.”, then I went to WPPI.”, and I then I thought “Wow. Okay, maybe you can”. Identity Kitchen was born.
PP: What’s more satisfying to you, the process of pulling the brand out of the client, or the hands-on graphic design work giving an actual appearance to the brand?
ELLEN: Of course the most satisfying is when you feel like you’ve pulled out this thread or core piece and you’ve been able to turn that into something that is graphic, that tells the story, and then the client loves it. I love talking to people, I love hearing about what makes them tick, what makes them love photography, what do you want to do with it? For a lot of photographers that I work with, it’s the first time asking themselves those questions, so I love trying to pull that out of them.
“I love talking to people, I love hearing about what makes them tick, what makes them love photography, how they want to grow their business”
PP: How would you describe your design style?
ELLEN: It really is all about the process, and the design style is really secondary, because it’s just a tool to express that process.
PP: So you’d say your style ebbs and flows depending upon the application?
ELLEN: Totally, I would say my style is personal. In other words, it personally tells the story of the studio behind the brand. I think I can hit a pretty wide range, but you know, no matter how hard I try to fit a wide gamut, but that being said there are certain design tendencies I tend to lean toward. I am a bit of a typophile, which means I tackle a type solution first.
PP: Looking back, is there a particular project you’re done that really stands out to you, something you’re particularly proud of?
ELLEN: There’s this one project for a restaurant in New York called Thalia, it was my first restaurant design and I just loved it. I worked with two friends of mine and their architecture firm, and it was actually the last project that one of the partners did before he passed away. It was a very personal project. I worked with the architects and the three owners and the chef, and they all had something to say. It was literally too many cooks in the kitchen. We worked really hard to get the brand just right and I feel like that identity is still relevant today. I was just in New York a couple months ago and walked by, and there it was. Its almost 15 years ago and it still works. I feel like I still have a presence in New York and that really makes me feel good.
PP: Yeah, it’s got to feel great to have such a tangible representation of your work.
PP: So we first talked to you about designing for our store last year. When did you first start using ProPhoto?
ELLEN: Well, i’ve been aware of ProPhoto for a long time because I was actually a co-owner of a company that was in competition with you. So i’m pretty versed in understanding your product. So when I left this other company I had to find something to fill that void, so I started working with ProPhoto last year, and I was really pleasantly surprised with how easy ProPhoto is to use. There are some things that we were trying to develop, and you guys have just taken it into the end zone. Really nailed it. You’ve just done a really nice job, and I am proud to offer my clients customization on your sites.
PP: Thanks Ellen, and thank-you for taking the time to let us know a bit about yourself.
Check out these designs from Identity Kitchen just added to our store today:
[designList designer_slug=”identity-kitchen” designs=”notebook-sketch|chalkboard|bohemian-ribbon”]