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The Busy Creator Podcast with Prescott Perez-Fox

The Busy Creator Podcast is a discussion program where creative professionals from across the spectrum share tools, techniques, and habits they use in their practice. Listeners are introduced to strategies and pro tips to be their most creative, productive selves.

Full website available at and for the show specifically.

Jan 25, 2016

Kirsten Modestow (@KModestow) is the founder & creative director of Brigade, a branding and design firm in Massachusetts. Brigade focuses on consumer packaging and communications; they create brands for products, and help them stand out on shelves. In recent years, this has translated to digital promotion and social media as well.

In this conversation, Kirsten discusses her origins as a young designer, learning from her elders, how she started Brigade in her house and where the company is now, and examines the curious culture of an agency that grows fast and lives in an open-plan office.



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Show Notes & Links

  • Brigade focuses on food & beverage clients, within the packaging and communication media types, so not everything.
  • In-store design materials include more items — shelf talkers, point of sales, mobile-friendly websites, etc.

    "Do you have to create a whole persona just for a box of crackers?"

    —Prescott Perez-Fox

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  • Lately, consumers are more educated and more finicky — they want information
  • NabiscoKraft - big companies in consumer goods
  •  Wheat Thins on Facebook
  • Kirsten started working out of her home after relocating to Western Mass.
  • Land Rover
  • Svedka vodka
  • To accommodate the growing team, Kirsten converted her garage into a studio
  • 5 colleges are located in the Amherst-Hadley area, but none have a graphic design course
  • Boss is sometimes a four-letter word
  • Kirsten started at Hill Holiday in Boston
  • Brigade has grown from 5 employees to 20 in the past 2 years
  • Recruiting is tough outside of a "design center" like New York, Chicago, London
  • Brigade's first Project Management hire was a photographer freelancing as a graphic designer

    "No one is on top of each other; they're alongside them."

    —Kirsten Modestow

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  • Brigade is [finally] at the point of getting cold calls from potential clients
  • The Dieline
  • Tarik El-Khateeb

    "Production is a huge part of design!"

    —Kirsten Modestow

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  • Hatch Show Boston
  • Dribbble

    "Side projects are the internal fuel for agencies and small firms."

    —Prescott Perez-Fox

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  • The Cult of The Overworked
  • Open floorplans create challenges (just ask Lucy Kellaway)
  • "The Middle School Cafeteria", Prescott's term for single-table, open-plan offices

    "Good ideas come from everywhere."

    —Kirsten Modestow

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    "Open plan only works if people give a crap about each other."

    —Simon Sinek on office design

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  • Five Guys Burgers
  •  Kirsten Modestow on Twitter
  •  Kirsten Modestow on Facebook
  •  Brigade on Twitter
  •  Brigade on Instagram
  •  Brigade on Facebook
  •  Brigade on Spotify



  • Focus on your main goal — pick a "story" and do it well.
  • Build your "dream team" from unconventional people — even if they aren't traditionally qualified
  • Create mentorship programs within your company/agency
  • As a boss, give someone "the big shirt, so they can grow into it."
  • Use daily "pow-wows", twice-weekly traffic meetings
  • Apply 80/20 thinking when it comes to routine work vs. exciting breaks


  • Continually evaluate your work, and whether it should be submitted to contests
  • Share work within the office; build culture of helpfulness to combat ownership/jealousy
  • Critique as a group for larger projects
  • Build office rituals, like picnics, lunches, bowling outings
  • Arrive at the office early, before chaos starts
  • Work toward 8 hours of sleep