Kevin Bruinsma

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Kevin Bruinsma. I’m currently working as the associate creative director for Cultivate, a branding agency in Chicago.

Do you have a side hustle or hobbies?

Yes, In addition to my full time job, I’m an artist, freelance designer & video director, co-founder of the INsight Conference, founder of The Pink Piano and my wife and I have a store in Crown Point called after8.

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Grandville, MI (just outside of Grand Rapids) but currently reside in Crown Point, IN

What are the top tools you need to do your job?

iPhone, Macbook Pro, Shinola Sketchbook, Ticonderoga Pencils, coffee, and some peace & quiet.  

How did you get started?

I was horrible at school. I have A.D.D. so school was really hard for me. In high school, college was not looking like an option, so my junior year I ended up at a tech center (trade school). I got into a visual communications course and found my love for art and design. I ended up getting accepted into Ferris State University where I graduated with a B.S in Visual Communications. Two years after I graduated I landed my first job doing graphic design for Faith Church in Dyer, IN. I stayed there for 14 years, eventually becoming the creative director. Then in October of 2017, I was offered the associate creative director position at Cultivate and that’s where I’m at now.

What was one of your biggest mistakes and what did you learn from it?

I got comfortable.

I stopped being challenged and I wasn’t learning anything new. In the world of branding and marketing, things change everyday. I fell behind on technology, design trends, marketing strategies…you name it. For a season, I felt like a washed up designer. But through this season, I never lost my creativity, just my abilities to execute my ideas to a standard I deemed excellent. Having ideas that became bigger than what I could build on my own forced me to learn the art of collaboration. To collaborate well, you need leadership skills. A key ingredient of leadership is communication. How to collaborate, be a better leader, and be a better communicator are gifts I received from wrestling with my failures.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your industry?

Comparison is toxic.

In the world of social media you are fed a constant stream of awesomeness. If you constantly compare yourself and your skills to what you see online, it’s easy to feel defeated. Just keep doing your thing. Just know that someone out there will be doing it better. The way I see it, you have three choices: You can either hate on them for being better than you, hate on yourself because they are better than you, or you can reach out to them, buy them a beer, and learn from them. Option three has always worked out best for me.  

What’s next for you?

I want to travel more. I used to travel quite a bit but that slowed way down since having kids. Now my kids are to the age where they can survive without a bunch of crap thus making it easier. For someone whose job is to be creative, getting out of your element is mandatory. Besides that, traveling is some of the best memories I have from growing up and I want that for my kids.

Who/what inspires you and why?

I have people who inspire me in all categories of my life (work, family, spiritual…) but for this I’ll focus on work:

Charles & Ray Eames. Sure they were great designers but above that they were great problem solvers. I think the way they tackled problem solving was admirable. I also have a lot of respect for being a husband and wife team. That’s hard.

Dieter Rams. His product designs are beautiful.

Angela Ahrendts. The way she pulls together physical and digital retail is rad.

Pharrell Williams. The king of collaboration.

Tom Kartsotis. He either is the CEO or has a hand in some of my favorite brands.

My kids. Their unadulterated creativity is a constant source of inspiration.

I also find a lot of inspiration in thrift stores, garage sales, antique shops, and dumpster diving. I love junk!

What do you love about Northwest Indiana?

The shoreline. We take for granted how amazing the Great Lakes are. The beach is my favorite place to recharge.

What resources are you finding to educate yourself?

Books:

  • Creative Quest by Questlove
  • Untitled: Thoughts on the Creative Process by Blaine Hogan
  • Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
  • Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind by Barry Kaufman & Carolyn Gregoire

Podcast

  • Song Exploder – Great examples of creative process & collaboration

My favorite way is to find someone who knows what I want to know, buy them a taco, and bomb them with questions. People will give you so much knowledge if you give them a taco. It’s amazing!

Where can we find you?

Web: www.kevinbruinsma.com

Facebook: KevinBruinsma

Instagram: @KevinBruinsma