Kevin Brouillette is a recent Columbia graduate and native Chicagoan who flies by the seat of his bicycle. He’s an entrepreneurial graphic designer who focuses on print and web design.
Spudnik Press Cooperative (SPC): Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
In general, what I do is a mix of print and web media. I’ve been trying to focus a lot on print lately–which has been really good. What I do most of my days is work on designing service industry/restaurant materials that will help promote the café environment, from menus and signage to things that are graphic for the inside of a café.
(SPC): What do you do when you’re not working or designing?
I try to volunteer with charities if I can. I helped out with Food & Water Watch for a while. I like coffee culture and going out for cocktails. I bike a lot. I bike almost everywhere I go and just carry all my stuff with me. I kind of have a mobile workflow so I’m always on the move.
(SPC): How do you feel that being on the go constantly has affected your design practice?
I’ll have a day where I feel like I’ve done something very substantial. That is what drives me and motivates me to do more. Each day I like to get something solid done. Being on the go gives me the flexibility to jump from place to place whenever I feel like–which is really nice. It’s stimulating and helps me keep my mind and environment fresh.
(SPC): Tell me a little about Limitless (LMTLSS) Branding.
That was my original thing I started back in 2009. I worked with my friend Eric Youngberg to collaborate. Limitless was a brand name for us. I did the whole design concept for it and Eric did all of the back end coding and development aspects. We made a handful of websites together. Another aspect of Limitless is that we used to screen print t-shirts with my friend Clare Byrne who does illustration. Right now Eric and I are working on a brand new site for Dollop- but we don’t call that Limitless since I work for Dollop Coffee now.
(SPC): How do you approach print design vs. web design?
I think the approach is similar. With print I do a little more work with creating concept boards. With web I find a few ideas or concepts generally that I like in different websites that I see online and then start taking those ideas and apply them to what I’m working on. I usually start with a clearer end goal for web as opposed to a print project. I’m very pre-meditated due to the level of collaboration.
(SPC): What kinds of things are influencing your work right now?
A lot of time when I’m given a project I try to do some research to find some things to make references to. For a recent project, I started out researching old bakeries around Chicago with archival photos to use as reference points as how a bakery in Chicago looks- then and now. I look online a lot for influences. Particularly how other people are using type. Typography is something that I focus on a lot–collecting and finding typefaces that I like.
(SPC): What’s your favorite thing about Chicago?
Chicago has a really strong design community. I try to go to different events because I really thrive off of inspiration from other artists. Everyone is very supportive of each other, which is something that I really appreciate. It’s a collaborative effort when you really get down to it.
(SPC): How did you get into designing for coffee brands? Do you think you’d be in a similar line of work if you lived elsewhere?
I don’t think so. It’s a very fun story how I got into working on coffee brands specifically. My whole time in Chicago has been cohesive with all of this. Back when I was 16 I started working in a café out in the burbs where I grew up. They serve Metropolis Coffee there. I developed a very strong brand loyalty to the Metropolis brand because I liked their design work and I liked their coffee. I worked for them for about 3 years and then started going to Columbia so I moved to the city to be closer to school. During that time I was looking for a new job but knew I wanted to work somewhere with Metropolis coffee. I had visited Dollop in Streeterville, which is our main location. While I was there I just happened to meet this guy named Dan Weiss, who is the owner of Dollop Coffee. About 6 months later I sent him an email and we got in touch to start working there. Everything worked out exactly how I wanted it. I did café work with Dan for about 2 years at Dollop. Dan slowly started shooting ideas my way since he knew I was interested in design. We started collaborating from there and started doing more and more. Firebelly Designs is a really great design firm that created the initial branding for Dollop back in 2012. I really look up to them. So now I fill in the gap and make things that stem from what that they created as the Dollop brand has become more established.
(SPC): Since you are rooted in the web world and branding, how do you feel about social media as a marketing tool for designers and printmakers?
I’m more inclined to follow a designer on social media that posts more about their day-to-day life and things they’re doing as well. Things that they interact with day-to-day influence their work in some way or another. I think design relies so heavily on culture, so for a designer to only post their designs seems less authentic.
(SPC): What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on?
Most of the past four months has been spent designing identities for new Dollop cafes as they expand. We try to design them around the neighborhood so that they shift with the audience. Right now my big thing is working on the new location for Dollop in Hyde Park. It’s on the University of Chicago’s campus. It is very graphic and interior design oriented. This project has been weeks in the making but we are now finally scoping out the space to decide what we want to do with it. Everything I design for the shop has to play off of contractor/ designer, Paul Leissen, as he builds and designs all the furniture and interiors. Basically I collaborate with him and take some of the colors and things that he’s doing and we work together to make it a well-rounded project. For example, we are doing a really cool wall installation that is going to be typography and illustration mixed together that will span across many walls. We are also building a potentially screen printed wall menu structure, as well as whole walls with graphics that were once on my computer screen. It’s pretty cool to see that blossom.
(SPC): If people want to see your work where should they go?
There are a few things that I’m working on for Metropolis that will be popping up across the U.S. in Metropolis carrying cafes. The Dollop café on Monroe is a great shop to see stuff we’ve been working on. I helped create the marquee sign and all of the wall graphics there, as well as menus.