Pattern Occurring Features - Khristian A Howell

I will always remember the kindness today's featured designer Khristian A Howell showed me.  I broke my knee cap in the winter of 2006 and to my rescue came Khristian and Kelly Howell.  Both have gone on to great things with their careers, and I am excited to share with you Khristian's story today. She has a fantastic knowledge pool and thankfully is prepared to share that wisdom with us. 

Khristian Howell  P.S. How cute is this picture!

Khristian Howell

P.S. How cute is this picture!

Anne Marie - How did you become a Surface designer?

Khristian - You know this story well because you were there with me!  I found myself in Seattle because of my husband's work.  In my eyes the only game in town was to work at Nordstrom headquarters.  I had no art degree.  Armed only with my degree in advertising, and what I believed to be an innate design sense, I landed a job as a colorist in the kidswear product development area.  Lucky for me I sat with all the artists.  Of course I wanted to know what they were up to, so I started asking a lot of questions.  Soon I was asking if I could help with simple tasks like recoloring artwork.  Then I just started creating artwork and offering it to them to help with their extremely large workload.  The rest as they say is history!

Anne Marie - Where do you find inspiration to produce a collection?

Khristian - The runways, travel, food, people watching, culture, language.  I am best when I can get to the water, and when I can get out of the studio and just experience life.  The inspiration wells up from within in those times.

Anne Marie - What makes a design commercial?
Khristian - COLOR!  Color is our first impression of anything visual really. So much emotion is tied up in color, that it is my number one factor and always the place I start any work.  Second, balance.  There is even balance in asymmetry.  I want the viewer to feel settled and like of course it is meant to be that way because there is no other way.


Anne Marie - What does a typical day with Khristian look like?
Khristian - Ha!  There is no such thing!  Tasks can range from contract review, email, prospecting new clients, cold calls, project proposals, research, daydreaming, product shots.  New designers take note, creating art is not on that list.  There is so much that goes into running the business  of art, that those moments are rare.  I am always working to create more space for creativity, but all of these other things are a must.  hat's the reality when you represent yourself as opposed to working with an agent.  I love all parts of it so it works well for me.


Anne Marie - How do you keep yourself organized? I know you are a real pro at that!
Khristian - Many systems! Favorite programs for tasks and contact management are Daylite, Things App, Evernote.  I also have an AMAZING full time design assistant/graphic designer/photographer and use a bookkeeper.


Anne Marie - How do you like to create your designs and what is your tool of choice?
Khristian - Mainly illustrator.  Other methods are fun, but at the end of the day licensees want the files in AI


Anne Marie - What was the hardest step to starting your own business? 
Khristian -The constant grind.  There are no real breaks.  There is no paid time off when you can really release it.  I am always thinking about my business - about what's next.  That is not a complaint.  I love it, and it works for me.  The other thing that is hard is confidence certainly ebbs and flows.  Creating a work/life balance is something I am constantly working to perfect as well.


Anne Marie - Tell us a little about your experiences at Surtex?
Khristian -This was my 4th Surtex, and my perspective keeps changing each year.  It is a great show, and it is evolving and growing everyday. The biggest take aways this year are that you must BE DIFFERENT and to be persistent.  The biggest compliment I got over and over this year, is that no one else looked like me.  That is so great to hear especially as so many people are jumping into the world of surface design at the moment.  You have to have an edge and be unique to get through all the noise.


Anne Marie -What type of projects do you like working on best?
Khristian - Probably because it is where I started, but I love product development and design consulting.  I love working deeply with licensees on the whole process.  Handing over the artwork and letting them do everything is great too, but I really love the collaborative process.
Anne Marie - Which other designers are you crushing on right now? 
Khristian - I just had the opportunity to spend some time with Ana Davis, and I think she is doing some very smart things.  Love her!  I can't get enough of Ana Romero and Lourdes Sanchez.  Always crushing on John Robshaw and LOVE Monquilla 
Anne Marie - Future plans?
Khristian - I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you.  :-)'s a secret!