So many cool things are coming out of Kansas City right now. Historically, Kansas City has always been a creative hub, with Hallmark being located there and Walt Disney being born there. Tad Carpenter is one of the coolest things coming up and out of KC.
A designer with an illustrator’s heart and an illustrator with a designer’s mind, Tad was lucky enough to grow up the son of two artists smack dab in the middle of the midwest. His father is an illustrator and has been a creative director for Hallmark Cards for nearly 40 years. His mother is a talented fiber artist.
The studio he runs with his wife, Carpenter Collective, has an overall approach to branding, strategy, and design that has garnered wonderful clients ranging from Target to Conan O’Brien, Macy’s, Coca-Cola, Ray Ban, Nick Jr, MTV and Adobe. Tad’s work has appeared in numerous publications and he has written/illustrated over a dozen children’s books. Since 2009, Tad also teaches Graphic Design at the University of Kansas, and we are so thrilled he did our ‘Dumb Questions’ over the phone while driving home.
Q. Where were you when the Kansas City Royals won the World Series?
The recent one, my wife and I had 10-15 friends over at our house for a watch party, and I was jumping up and down and crying like an infant child. I was so nervous. I was so excited. After they won, we all ran into the streets as soon as it was done, we just had to be in public. We’re like ‘let’s get out of here’.
I was 4 years old the last time they won a World Series, but I remember it pretty well. I don’t remember plays and players, but what I do remember [so vividly] is the feeling of our town, and the feeling of winning in my neck of the woods. I remember going to the World Series parade and being overwhelmed.
Q. Can you create a new Hallmark holiday off the top of your head?
Oh good gosh, never been asked that question before. My dad still works for Hallmark. I would probably be all about an International Snack Day. As a designer, sometimes it’s incredibly unhealthy, in that it’s hard for me to fit an actual meal. So I find myself with donuts over my keyboard again and again. There you go, first thought worst thought.
Q. Tim Riggins or Coach Taylor?
Oh hell yeah, now you’re speaking my language. I have got to go with Coach Taylor. Don’t get me wrong, Riggs is great. I was captain of the football team. I had a scholarship to go to college, but decided it wasn’t fun anymore, because my friends weren’t around, so it was all art school after that. I love Riggs, I can relate to that guy, but Coach Taylor is the straw that stirs the drink. He’s the coach that every athlete wishes they had. When you watch Friday Night Lights, which is the best television program ever made, you see that it’s about a high school, there’s a lot of cute 20-year-old actor old girls pretending they’re 17 or whatever, but you know you’re getting old, when you couldn’t care less about any of that, and it’s all about Mrs. Tammy Taylor, Coach Taylor’s wife. Are you kidding me? The combination of Coach Taylor and Tammy Taylor, what a wonderful supportive coaching tree they were.
Q. Can you name one of Kansas City’s 14 Sister Cities?
One of Kansas City sister cities? Shit. I think it’s Spain, like Seville or something maybe. The reason I know is because Kansas City has the most fountains of any city outside of Seville, Spain. And our city, specifically the country club plaza, which is like an old shopping kind of district, which we actually live like a block from, is designed after that city in Spain. I’m blown away that I go that right. The more you know.
Q. What place has the best BBQ in KC?
Barbecue is easier for me than Sister Cities. When it comes down to it, the umbrella answer for that, for me, the best barbecue is Joe’s Kansas City. Joe’s is the best, world renowned. I’ve always lived like a mile from it, so it’s way too convenient. I go over there or call in an order all the time, still. Whenever it’s open, there’s a line at the door, which is around the back of a gas station in my Kansas City. Wow. Pride.
Q. What is the best and worst thing about your commute to Lawrence?
The worst thing is when I’m pulling into campus and I’m like, I don’t remember one thing from my drive, how did I get here? My favorite time to drive between Kansas City and Lawrence to teach is Autumn afternoons. The fall in the Midwest, in rural Kansas, is just off the charts. It’s red trees and orange trees, and bright yellow trees. That is my favorite time to drive. It is just all so beautiful. This time of year in the winter it’s a little grey. There’s a toll booth I drove through every 2 days. I love seeing the same toll booth worker, every other day. There’s something extremely comforting about seeing that guy in there, working and doing the same job every day. To me, when I drive through and don’t see him, I literally think I’m going to worry and freak out about it.
Q. What’s the best kept Midwest secret?
The midwest is the icing in the Oreo, man. We are that sweet center. Nobody just eats the outside, no way. I love living and working in the Midwest. The people are so wonderful and lovely, and friendly and collaborative. It’s so unbelievable easy to live in a city like this because of that. Yet, it allows me to do the kind of work that I want to do, and not feel like I have to take on things that I don’t have to, because of where I live or some other burdens, that might come along with that. I don’t know if people realize how wonderful of a life you can have, living in the middle because of some of those things.
Q. What’s your favorite children’s book?
Oh man oh gosh, it’s so hard to pick. It’s Where the Wild things Are, and it’s because I got to meet Maurice Sendak when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I remember getting a book signed, and he also signed one of the stuffed monsters for me. I remembered talking to him, and really connecting the dots, like this is something you can do for a living, to tell stories, to inspire and create. That was a really special moment I think for me, so I always connect that feeling with that book. Whenever I read the book I get those feelings, and that’s really special to me. I mean as far as inspiration is concerned, my father has illustrated a ton of books also. So there’s no one in my life that has inspired me more than my Dad. I think that has helped me more to become a designer, an illustrator, and creative thinker like my Dad.
Q. Missouri or Missouruh?
It’s Missouri. It’s Missouri! Hill people say Missouruh. That is just not accurate at all. Missouri, it is Missouri.