New Friends On The Block

newFriends This year was great. I got the chance to travel to California and St. Louis and even drove myself out to Wyoming for a weekend. BTW, 14 hours in the car will make you question your sanity. So here's a list of some great people I had the pleasure of meeting this year.

Aaron Irizarry

You're probably already familiar with Aaron if you're reading this, as I had been too via twitter. But this past summer I had the opportunity to fly out to Southern California and meet him face-to-face. Aaron is a family man and an all around "rad" guy. Even though I didn't get to see him as much as I would've liked, just visiting with him for a few hours at his house was awesome. We even sat down and recorded a video blog together.

Chris Wallace

Meeting Chris was like meeting a long lost brother that I never knew existed. Even though he's younger than me he doesn't act like it. Maybe it's his story of surviving cancer or the fact that having a wife and two kids is what drives him to succeed. Whatever it is, Chris has it, and I'm proud to know him. While I was out there in St. Louis we went to a Cardinals game and to take some pictures down at the graffiti wall. But probably my favorite part was just sitting down and talking with him. Check out Lift.


Ok obviously Firehost isn't a real person, but I did get to meet two of the people behind Firehost, Chris Drake and Casey Barthels. I don't know if I can say enough good things about these guys. Humble, reliable, innovative, generous, the list could go on. But seriously, if it weren't for these guys I'd still be stuck on the phone with Media Temple having to put up with their poor customer service. Thanks Firehost.

Garth Humbert

Garth is one of those guys flying under the radar. You may not see him in the limelight but don't be fooled, this guy has some serious design chops. It was Garth who flew me out to California and opened his home to me for a short weekend this past summer. Upon arrival I thought we would spend more time in front of the computer, but it turned out to be a relaxing mini-vacation with a trip down to San Diego and to the Temecula Valley Wine country. That was one of my favorite weekends of this past year. Be sure and check out his new company May.

Matthew Simo

It was only the second WordPress meetup group I had been to and the group had grown from about 10 people to close to 50. So it came as a surprise when I found myself sitting next to a like-minded designer. Plus he wore a really cool hat. Since then we've hung out more and more, and you can usually find us up at The Flying Saucer on Monday nights sharing a pint or two and talking about life. Matt is currently working on a new version of his website and I know it will be featured on smashing magazine, at least five times.

That's what it's all about folks, making real connections with real people. If you would've asked me at the beginning of 2009 if I thought I would be traveling across the country to meet people I only knew online I might've said "cool" (seeing as how I did meet my wife online) but it certainly wasn't expected.

Now I'm excited to meet you in 2010. If you're going to be in Dallas, let me know. If you like good beer, good food and good design let's plan a trip one weekend. I want to get out there and meet those of you who I've been connecting with online.

What I'm Not

mouth illustration by Kyle Steed I feel there's a lot of discussion, not just in the design community, about how we label/market/brand ourselves. I'm no brand expert, but let me tell you what I do know... me. I know who I am and more importantly I know who I'm not. That's what I want to tell you today.


I read a great article last week, Death to Creatives!!!, explaining the way we misuse the word "creative". It's not a noun, it doesn't describe a person, place or thing. Rather it's used to describe the person, place or thing in context. So me telling you I'm creative really makes no sense, albeit sounds good. But me telling you the way I design a website or illustrate a graphic is creative does make sense.

But there are other ways we can be "creative" outside of our careers, take cooking for example. I love to cook and enjoy tweaking the recipe to see how it turns out. Sometimes it fails, but every once in a while I get it just right and the food is delicious. Try it for yourself once in a while, shake things up, and most importantly have fun.


This title should only be given to people like Iggy Pop, Steven Tyler or Rick Astley (just kidding). I also hear it makes for an incredible energy drink. But the one thing "rockstar" shouldn't describe is a designer. Whoever coined this phrase for the design community should be ashamed. The lifestyle of a true "rockstar" in no way reflects the lifestyle of a designer. Unless you know designers out there that are on world tour, being followed by hardcore fans and more women than you can shake a stick at AND the millions of dollars flowing in, I think it's a little absurd to label yourself as such. (Please excuse the run on sentence.)

Plus, no client deserves to have their house trashed, liquor cabinet emptied and women stolen (a.k.a the "Rockstar" treatment). So it's time we put aside childish things and take a good look at who we really are. Hopefully we'll see that we're not some jackass "rockstar" but more of a confident designer.

Know It All

I don't know everything. Please don't assume I do. There is only one person who ever will. But I am always learning and improving, from past mistakes mostly. And when I approach a new client, or a new project, I focus on keeping an open mind. Listening to the goals of the client/project instead of hammering them with my own ideas will lead to a better working relationship. Sometimes though you don't always get to work with the optimal client, so knowing when to input your "2 cents" is a fine art you learn by experience.


I was created for dependence upon others. I thrive off the relationships in my life. From my personal relationship with Jesus, to my marriage, to the great group of friends I connect with face-to-face, to the larger creative community I interact with online. I can honestly say that I have a need for you all in my life. It's only when I think I can hold the world on my shoulders that my feet fail me and I crumble under the weight, tired and beat down. And the same thing happens in design. When we try and handle a project all on our own it wears us out. Without those wiser and more experienced watching over us we wouldn't be able to better ourselves. We need to bring back the master/apprentice model of working.

world on shoulders illustrations by Kyle Steed

Final Thoughts

I hope you learned more about who I am than what I'm not. My goal here is to help you think before you speak when describing yourself and what you do. I know words have a lot of power and when we use them loosely we usually end up putting our foot in our mouths. So that's why I think it's important to be as transparent as possible, and be the first to admit our mistakes. We can all learn from each other, but only if we're willing to open up and share.

our space

Kyle and Amanda Steed

This is a story ahead of it's time where a man meets and marries a woman he met on myspace.

I arrived in Japan August 19, 2004, exactly one year after entering the Air Force. I had no idea the many trials and triumphs that awaited me. One thing was for sure though, I had a very strong unfamiliar feeling when I first arrived.

That first winter was the coldest, harshest winter I've ever experienced. And not just because of the weather, but because of a recent break-up. I had fallen for a girl, bad, and she tore my heart in two. I felt more alone and hopeless than ever before with no one that could help me. It was my darkest hour. Then to make matters worse I had to travel 4 hours south to Yokota, alone, to have an operation done on my ear. This was December 2004.

Being alone those 2 weeks for my operation just about drove me crazy. My mind was on a dangerous emotional roller coaster. I called and called (and called) my ex-girlfriend and even at one point became so enamored with jealousy that I called one of her friends asking "why hasn't she called me, is she with another guy?" I know, I was unstable at best. Even today, almost three years later, I look back at those feelings and wonder how I ever got to that point.

Yet, there was a silver lining to the dark clouds surrounding me. In the hotel I was staying in they had a small internet cafe. I made myself right at home checking my email and curiously navigating around this new site called MySpace. It was great, I had never seen anything like it. I could search millions of people all over the world who had the same interest as me. And then it happened, as I was filtering search results based on the college I had attended before the military I found her, Amanda Lindsey. I didn't know her, had never seen her before, but her profile picture jumped out at me and I felt something familiar. The first contact was made.

Jan 2, 2005 5:47 AM

"I spend too much time on the internet, not enough time with God, and entirely too much time doing things I shouldn't be doing."

Hello, you don't know me, but I like looking for people I might have known before I moved away. Sorry if this sounds weird, or creeps you out, I'm not like that, but I saw what you had to say and totally could relate, especially to the forementioned quote. I hope you find some time in your day today to spend a little more time with God, I know I need to. But in whatever you're doing, may God bless it.

-Kyle Steed

With my ear still in tact and a new spark of hope I returned north to Misawa, my home in Japan. Even with a huge hole in my heart I had found a new friend that understood my pain. Amanda had also just come out of a long-term relationship and was able to relate to my situation. It was nice to be able to express my inner pain to her and have her respond with understanding and care. (Unlike like my ex, who deemed my emotions as weakness.) I poured myself, writing paragraph after paragraph, in to emails about my life and faith and likes and dislikes to Amanda. I kept waiting for her to block me or tell me to get lost, but she just came right back putting her heart out there. Even from the very beginning she respected me.

From that point forward our relationship only grew stronger. Even with a 14 hour time difference between us, we learned to adapt and overcome. We eventually transitioned from strictly email-based communication to talking on instant messenger. And there was the occasional late night drunk chat. (Those were fun.) We didn't know it yet, but there was more than just a solid friendship being built. Every week that went by we became closer. My old wounds were slowly closing and my heart was beginning to warm next to hers. Then her letters came.

Seeing her words written by hand instead of glowing from the monitor in front of me really brought new life to our relationship. I would sometimes hold the paper to my nose in search of her scent. (I guess that's one of those animal instincts.) The letters were a special treat for both of us because we still spent most of our time talking online. But when we would get a letter it was like finding a hidden present under the tree at Christmas. My face would light up whenever I saw one of her envelopes in my mail box. There is something special about a handwritten letter. Maybe it's the sentimental value they hold. Or maybe it's the feel of the paper between your fingertips as you sit down to read what the other person wrote. The only way to feel any closer was to talk on the phone.

May 13, 2005 8:24 PM

I had butterfly's going on BIG TIME dialing your number. but I'm glad I did though.

It's still crazy that I actually spoke to you, like you were so close but still impossible to see.

Love, K

That first time I called Amanda she was asleep in the backseat of her friends car on the way to the beach for an all-girls weekend. But she had posted a bulletin to myspace before heading out that weekend with her phone number and a note that read "if you need to talk, call me on my cell." Now I don't know if she meant that for me or not, but I took it as the perfect excuse to call her. You see, I had been planning this call for a month or two and I thought I was going to wait until her birthday in August. I'm so glad I didn't. With each day that passed talking on the phone and writing letters our hearts were being knit together from 9,288 miles away.

There was no "magic" moment where I realized Amanda was who I was going to marry. It was more of a collage of all the events that had led up to that night on the phone where I asked her to marry me. The phone? Yep. Now I had never heard of, or imagined myself, asking the woman I loved to marry me over the phone either. But when you're separated by the entire Pacific Ocean and half the United States there isn't much you can do about it. And we knew the distance was only a temporary measure. Plus, God had brought us together so we knew we would make it. However, that still didn't change all the scrutiny we got from friends and family alike.

Of course I expected some people not to understand, i.e. - the guys I worked with in the military. They would always tell me that Amanda was going to be some fatty with 2 kids and a wooden leg. (Or something crazy like that.) I just ignored it. But when my Dad told me "how do you know she's not a con-artist that just wants to take your money" I couldn't help but laugh. And what money? I was in the military. But you have to understand that my Dad can be a bit extreme with his paranoia at times, he calls it being cautious, but I think he just needs to relax. He finally came around though after he and my step-mom met Amanda and her family for dinner one night. (I can't imagine how nerve racking that must have been meeting my family before she met me. What a Rock Star!) Even if they thought we were crazy, our families still supported us.

I flew home December 09, 2005 and we were married five days later at the County Courthouse. I don't think words can explain the relief we both felt when we first saw each other. All that weight of waiting for each other fell off the instant our eyes met. I still love to see peoples reactions when I tell them that we only spent time together, in person, for five days before we got married. Next month we will celebrate our three-year anniversary and it's been an amazing journey so far. My only hope is the next thirty years will be as great as these past three.

7 daily needs

Between my wife and I it would be fair to say that I enjoy the mornings a lot more. My wife is definitely the night owl. Not me. Maybe it's the four years that the military made me work 12 hour shifts and wake up at 4 am to exercise? Or maybe it's the fact that I have a dog who thinks it's fun to wake me up by stretching his fronts paws right in my face and then rolling all over me until I get up to let him out. But I like to think that the time I have in the morning is worth getting up for. I see it as a new leaf turning over, another chance to right the wrongs and to start fresh. The following activities help me on a day-to-day basis. I hope they help you too.

This doesn't necessarily mean spending an hour on your knees in a solemn state of mind. Maybe you pray in the shower, or before you eat breakfast. I don't know, that's between you and God. But from personal experiences I've found it's impossible to have a heart-to-heart with God when feeling obligated to pray. My best advice is just be real with God and allow your heart to be open.

Some of the most intimate moments I've had in prayer have been when I laid bare all my doubts and fears and allowed The Lord to wash over me with His Word. If you have never prayed out loud, or at all for that matter, I highly recommend you give it a try. Once you start a journey for the Truth, God will find you.

There is a great book called "The Artists Way". It's marketed as a spiritual path to higher creativy. Maybe, like me, you are a creative person and think why do I need a book to help me be creative? From my own experience the book is not meant to teach you how to be creative but to assist you in letting your creativity flow freely.

Writing is something I enjoy, but not something that comes all that easy to me. And keeping a journal is a perfect way to throw out all the rules and express your desires, your opinions or your next great idea for a project. If writing is not your style why not keep a sketchbook or collage book? There are plenty of great resources online and in bookstore that show you how to make your own journals.

Think of it as a way to clear out all the clutter that might be clogging up what you need to be focusing on.

Eating healthier and in moderation helps me feel better about my self. I think it's sad how our modern culture has chosen fast food as a respectable choice for breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It sets the tone for your bodies daily nutritional needs. I'm not saying that we should be stuck in the 50s. Times have changed and it's tough in our fast-paced society to sit down as a family. But even sitting down with a bowl of cereal and some juice will do your body good.

Following suit with eating a good breakfast, it is also important to choose wisely what you drink in the morning. I think most everyone would agree coffee is the "best part of waking up". However, while coffee is a good place to start, as your body actually benefits from caffeine (in moderation), there are other alternatives such as hot tea. Most parts of the world actually drink hot tea instead of coffee. With the vast amount of herbal teas available there would seem to be an extra health benefit from choosing tea over coffee. And lets not forget the classics. Orange juice (complete with 100% Vitamin C), milk (try to stay on the organic side and you're body will love you more) and of course there is always water. I actually find water to be quite refreshing in the morning while my stomach is not ready for something more acidic.

Maybe it's the first thing you do when you wake up, or maybe you wait until later. Whichever time you chose you'll notice you feel healthier throughout the day. My daily workout consist of taking my dogs on a walk. Walking is the perfect way to stay in shape your whole life and is actually the most popular form of exercise in Japan.

In America we live by the creed "bigger is better!" So all you see in fitness magazines are perfectly sculpted, bulky men and women. For me, simple is always better. Why try and kill myself over attaining a body that I neither need nor really want. There are tons of workouts that can be done at home. Pushups, crunches, lunges, squats, chin-ups, stair climbing (works great if you live in apartments), and if you add a core exercise ball or a small set of free weights you can increase the intensity of these basic workouts. I think the best advice I've heard about working out is listen to your body and know what your limits are.

I love to hear what the world sounds like. And where I'm located that includes the sounds of birds, cars passing on a nearby road, dogs barking, lawn mowers and the wonderful sound the wind makes. Most of all I like to listen in between those moments for the silence. Wherever you live, whatever your surroundings, open your ears and explore how amazing it is to be alive.

Another way I enjoy starting my day is turning on a favorite song. If I feel like relaxing I'll turn on some Iron and Wine, or if I'm feeling energetic I'll turn on some Arcade Fire and if I feel like I need to let some steam off I like to listen to Underoath. Whatever your taste in music, find something that suits you.

When God created man He gave him rule over all the earth, but one thing was lacking, a help mate. God saw that it was no good for man to be alone and so he created woman, a perfect fit for him. My intention here is to show that as humans we were designed to live with support in our lives. We were never meant to be solely independent. We all need someone we can talk to, about anything and everything. Sure, keeping a journal is a good place to start, but a journal doesn't talk back. We need people in our lives that will talk straight with us, and tell us when we're screwing things up. We need those relationships in our lives where we can confide in the other person and vice-versa.

For the record I hate "step" programs. That's why I chose not to use a title like "7 daily steps to a better you" or some junk. They never work. I think we are easily drawn to self-help books and articles like that because we want the easy way out. We want to know the answer to everything and how to fix every problem. But that's the beauty of life, we never know what each new day will bring. Every day is another chance to start fresh.