Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Monkey Doodle Dandy Feature!

Monkey Doodle Dandy is a fun and creative studio from Brooklyn NYC and is the brainchild of husband and wife team Kurt Marquart and Elaine K. de la Mata. Their studio has worked on everything from Dora the Explorer ,to Barnie, to Disney's Little Einstein's. In the coming year they hope to kick off several creations of their own including the Squaredy Cats ™ and Squarey Monsters ™. !

Please take a minute to stop by their website and check out their portfolios. They have great work and you will learn tons. Enjoy the interview!

1. You are a husband and wife consultancy/studio, that’s awesome! Could you give us a little history on how you ended up together as a design team?

We were both working at full-time jobs. Kurt was art director for a local newspaper chain, and I was an art director at a toy company. (So, I guess we have being bossy in common.) Kurt was really not happy, he didn't have much chance to be creative and there was no place in the company for him to move up. He was trying to work on his own projects at home, but it was really tough. His hours at the newspaper were very long and soul-sapping. He decided to live frugally and quit his job and see what happened. Luckily for our bank account, the toy company where I was working needed freelancers, so I recommended him, and as it turned out, they loved him and continued to send projects his way. I basically liked my full time job, but I was also at the point where there was no more room for growth. There were so many other creative avenues that I wanted to explore, but it wasn't possible to do while working 14 hour days for someone else. My original plan was to take 6-9 months off for exploring, drawing, painting and refreshing my brain, but I started to get freelance jobs, too, and I guess I was a little bit of a work-a-holic and I couldn't turn them down, so Kurt and I decided to incorporate and have a design company!

2. Have either of you worked as an in-house designer? If so how does this differ from employing yourself? What are some of the benefits of working for yourselves and some of the pitfalls?

Kurt has worked as a designer for newspapers, and I have worked for a few toy companies (as well a newspaper when I first got out of college). Working for ourselves has given us the ability to dedicate some time to developing our own properties. We don't have to waste time commuting or sitting through endless meetings. Occasionally, we can play hooky and sit in the park on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon and there's no one to answer to. We feel like we have more control over how much money we make, too. When you work full-time, if you work on the weekends, or until 4 am, you still get the same check at the end of the week. But if we work super long days, at least we get paid for it. It makes it easier to give up sleep. And we can bring our dog to the studio!

There are definitely pitfalls, too. There are those times when there are no checks coming in, and you start to get really nervous about paying bills. It gets hard to separate work from personal life because you can never truly get away from it. You're always talking about work, thinking about work, dreaming about work. Even though we worked long hours when we were in-house, we work much longer hours now!

3. Your studio is called Monkey Doodle Dandy, Inc. Where’d you come up with the name?

Um, I don't really remember! I think we wanted to communicate that we were fun and silly, and do art. So, that's the "Monkey", the "Doodle", and then the "Dandy" was just catchy.

4. Who is responsible for what at the studio?

We have our individual clients, but we also share a lot of work and help each other out when we get swamped. Kurt takes care of most of the billing and office work, which is a full time job in itself. I try to drum up new business. But mostly, we both do everything.

5. Dealing with clients can sometimes be daunting being that you often have direction coming from within the studio as well as the direction from the clients. For those who are already working professionally, we all know inter department teams have their strengths and weaknesses. What do you think the secret is to a successful relationship between two teams? (That being your studio and the client)

It's striking a balance between maintaining your creative integrity and knowing when to "roll over and play dead" - meaning that the client is after all the client. They are paying the bill, and you might not agree with their decision; but you must smile and accept it. At the end of the day, the client owns the work, not the studio. The faster you realize that the better, or freelancing is not for you. No client is going to come back to you with repeat business if you are argumentative. They need the work done quickly and to their specs. To balance that out, we're developing our own characters and products that we have complete creative control over. That's where we can be picky, and love it and hug it and squeeze it. Because WE own it.

6. Your studio does mostly illustration, concepting, branding, and product licensing. What’s the process when working on a product? How does it get from the sketch, through the control drawings, and into production? Do you continue to work alongside the engineers and industrial designers or is the next time you see your concept when it hits the stores?

Each project is different. Sometimes, we work on one little aspect of the product and we might not even know what the big picture is. Other times, we get to be involved from the very beginning - fleshing out the idea, thinking up names, doing drawings and presentations, working with the engineers. That kind of project is the most fun. And it's always fun when you see your concept on the shelves or in a tv commercial.

7. The product illustrations on your page are fantastic. How do you approach the presentation illustrations and what are some tips you would give to keep a product illustration looking playful rather than just sitting there static on the page?

Thank you! I'm not really sure what tips we have. Kurt especially is great at doing shadows and highlights and making the toys look super shiny.

8. You two have some great concepts coming straight out of the studio including my personal favorites Squaredy Cats ™ and Squarey Monsters ™. Can we expect to see these coming to market?

Thanks! We were hoping to see the Squaredy Cats plush in stores nationwide in October, but now it looks like early 2011 is more realistic. We're really excited, because we just signed a deal with one of the largest plush companies in the country! We can't say the name of the co.yet, though. Both Squaredy Cats and Squarey Monsters already have a deal in place for vending machine stickers and temporary tattoos across the US and Canada. So look out for them! They will also be showing up, along with GirlMonsters, as an iPhone app from Shakey Planet.

9. I see you have a licensing show coming up in June. How important is it for consultants, freelancers, or even just artists and designers in general or attend these shows and fairs to get their name out there, network, and see what’s new and fresh?

Thanks for reminding us of that. We have now taken that banner off of the web site, because it was actually 2009. It's so expensive, that we can't afford to exhibit this year, although we would still like to attend the show in 2010 as visitors. That being said, it is very important to attend the shows, fairs, exhibits, groups, meetings, etc. You can't spend all of your time drawing in the studio. You really need to get out and meet other designers, see what everyone else is working on and thinking up. We always find that we return to the studio with a renewed determination to create good work. That's also how you make contacts for collaborations, jobs, everything.

10. What programs, tools, or simple inspiration objects could we find in your studio that you couldn’t design without?

E-mail. Almost no one ever calls, but everyone e-mails. If our e-mail goes down, we lose our minds.

11. Do you have advice for young designers wanting to break into the field? And for those already in the field what advice do you have?

Just to keep working, believe in yourself and your personal style, and know that it's really hard, but there will come a time when it gets easier. Call people, meet people, get out there. And don't waste beautiful days when you could be drawing in the park. I've wasted a lot of gorgeous, sunny days sitting in my dark studio, but I'm determined not to do that anymore!

12. What other artists/designers do you look to for inspiration?

We like old monster movies, cartoons, fairy tales, weird animals, and friends and random people we run into who are designing stuff and making art. Some of the creators who inspire us are Jim Benton, Jhonen Vasquez and Arthur Rakham. We look at a lot of contemporary cartoons, and children's programming to see what's happening, and do an awful lot of poking around at the gazillions of artist portfolios online. There's so much to look at that is a constant inspiration.

1 comment:

  1. It's official, we signed our plush deal with Gund! The first series will be 9 furry Squaredy Cats, followed by more plush cats and fuzzy covered journals.