Travis Kochel

Owner/Designer at Future Fonts

Font Design, Kablammo, 2020

Interview by:

Whitney Mokler 

April 10, 2020

W: Historically have you found yourself feeling the most creatively fulfilled by the work you do professionally or outside of that?

T:   Obviously there are moments where I work on things that I wish I didn't have to, but for the most part Lizy, my partner at Future Fonts, and I have been conscious about the work that we take on. We try to make sure that we're interested in it. If we have found ourselves in a position where we're working on stuff that we're not excited about we try to figure out a way to move past it. We've been fortunate in that sense. I think there's a trade-off that we've always had where we could probably make more money if we pursued more traditional career paths, but we trade that for a little more freedom and power to choose what we want to work on. For about 10 years we were taking on a lot of client work, but we were still working on our own typefaces and products.

W: You could say that was your side creative fulfillment, if you will? 

 

T: There's always been stuff creatively that I've worked on like music, arts, and then typefaces. Typefaces are a good happy medium for me because there's a lot of freedom to do whatever you want, but there's still a potential to support yourself on it. There's practicality in it, but still a lot of freedom. I really like that. So, from the very beginning like there's always been these two paths of the typefaces and the separate apps and products that we've been making. They've complemented the client work that we did. For example, stuff that we would learn on our own projects we would then bring into our client work and stuff that we learned from our client work helped us with our other products, like Future Fonts and the apps we built. It's a symbiotic relationship. Having the two separate helped us to diversify a little bit and allowed us to be a little more picky about what we're taking on with clients because not all of our income was coming from that client work. What that has led to is us not taking on client work anymore unless it's something that is really exciting for us.

W: Lucky!   

T: I guess that's the dream, right?

"Typefaces are a good happy mediym for me because there's a lot of freedom to do whatever you want, but there's still potential to support yourself in it."

W: YES, that is the dream. To be able to take on what you want when you want because it interests you. When you talk of making typefaces as a personally driven endeavor it sounds like you see that as more of an artistic endeavor. Most would see that as design. Do you agree? 

 

T: I think there's potential to take it a lot of different ways. With each project you have to decide what the market is interested in, what you're interested in, and try to find an overlap. We have definitely made stuff that nobody else is interested in and that's also hard because ultimately you want people to use your work. Other times you can go a little bit too far toward what the market wants and that may also not work as well because you're not as excited about it. In the end it's that middle ground you're excited to work on and what people want. It's hard to make a typeface and not consider what people are interested in unless you are doing something custom, but then that client is dictating what their needs are. I think a lot of projects do start off as you exploring your own interests and then you take a step back and see if there is a place for it. 

W:  Yeah it's an interesting dynamic of what do you want to create and what do people want to use. I’m going to shift the topic a bit, How do you find your creative drive impacted by times of high stress? Including right now as we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?

 

T: Right now, work has been pretty busy, and is providing a good distraction. Fortunately we're also fairly financially stable at the moment, and everyone in our close circles has been staying healthy and safe. 

 

In general though, work is sometimes a coping method for me, so my creative drive is not always a reflection of my stress. But there have been many times throughout my career, where I just needed to take a step away and focus on myself.

"Try to make sure you're taking care of yourself...

it's really difficult to be creative if your mind isn't in a good place."

W: What are 3 tips you have for finding creative inspiration/outlet when in isolation or a high stress environment?

T: I just want to note these are things I myself find useful. I think everyone has their own methods of handling stress. There's no right or wrong way, and I don't think people should be pressured into following what others are doing.

    Try to make sure you're taking care of yourself. If playing video games, watching tv, baking, etc, helps make you feel better, do it. If work, or being productive makes you feel better, do it. Try to make sure you're getting enough sleep and eating well. It's really difficult to be creative if your mind isn't in a good place.

    Try to find small easily achievable tasks to help feel like you're being productive. These don't have to be related to your work. Even just cleaning the house.

    Try to learn about something new. Don't worry about whether you can put it to use in your work. Just find something that sounds interesting. For me, curiosity is a big driver for creativity.

I was listening to an interview with Jimmy Chin, a rad climber, and he had some great advice about how to handle high stress situations. He tries to help out the people around him, and find ways to make them feel less stressed. Even though he's helping others, it's just as helpful for him. It can be a good distraction, and help him get into a good mindspace.

 

I realize that not everyone is fortunate to be in a position to try these things. Some jobs or financial situations force people into tough situations and unavoidable stresses. I don’t want to give the impression that these tips are a solution for everyone.

W: If you could create any project right now with unlimited time, energy, and resources, what would it be?

T: I've always wanted to work for NASA or JPL and work on some kind of data application with their research projects.  Being involved in that industry would be fun!

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