Since the day I came to terms with the fact that I will never become a professional racecar driver, I’ve turned my career focus to design. I was thirteen years old at the time, and my passion has only grown since. At Top Hat, my job is to build identities that exude the values and personalities of the brands behind them, and if I’m not the best person for the job, I find someone who is. The "director" part of my title comes from the time I spend channeling Ben’s insane amount of creative energy, filtering out the ideas that are"‘just plain crazy" and tweaking those that are "just crazy enough to work."
This place is a creative playground.
When you build something that’s successful, it’s easy to rest on your laurels. Ben does the exact opposite of that. He takes the laurels, rips them out of the ground, trims them into a gigantic "Top Hat" logo and puts them on his roof. Then, he hires a creative director to light them on fire. In short, no pitch that might generate some buzz is out of the question. We work in a collaborative space, two feet away from each other to throw ideas and feedback any time we need to.
Here, there’s no tug-of-war between design and development. It’s a collaborative effort where Ben says, “I can develop anything,” and I say, “Challenge accepted.” We build on each other’s knowledge and experience, and I can design without doubting Ben's ability to execute. That’s as much of a luxury for me as it is for the client who gets to own the end product
THE WORLD’S FIRST INDIE-MUSIC-LOVING, RACECAR-DRIVING, FOOD-MAKING, ECONOMIC-THEORIZING CREATIVE DIRECTOR
My love for design is really a product of my interests away from the office, and it always has been. At a very young age, soda was my favorite treat in the world, and Sprite was my drink of choice. One day, strolling through the aisles of Giant Eagle with my mom, I saw a radical departure from the familiar green and blue label. It was primarily white. I had no idea why. I just knew that it was different, and I wanted it. “Special Sprite!” I plead. My mom immediately dismissed my request. “You don’t want that. That’s diet.”
That moment struck me in an odd and vivid way. From that point on, I became very intrigued with understanding why I was so excited by just a change in packaging without even understanding its significance. I began taking a critical eye to everything that caught my attention as we went through the aisles. That was really when I began caring about design. My passion has always been commercial art and the power it carries.
This section is about passions outside of Top Hat but design touches everything. My love of racing led me to learn how to make simple websites and begin selling them to local racers at the age of thirteen. When I was fifteen, I was creating desktop wallpapers and e-cards for Kevin Harvick, my favorite NASCAR driver, in exchange for swag. That same passion led me down the road to purchasing a vinyl cutter so I could design and letter my own racecars and eventually see my work all over local tracks.
Back in the olden days, when flat rings of plastic with a shiny underside was the medium of choice for playing music, I’d scour the $1 and $2.50 bins of The Exchange, hunting for great album art, or even just album art that caught my attention, at a clip of ten to twenty at a time. It didn’t matter if I knew the artist or not.
In food preparation, presentation is half the battle. My interest in cooking and fine(er) dining started in high school after being dazzled by the insane creations I saw while flipping through the channels and landing on Iron Chef America. Some of the plates looked like paintings, and I began wondering where I could experience that kind of culinary treat in person, or create it myself.
Design touches everything, and public awareness of design is only growing. In any of my interests outside of work, I could never escape it, and I would never want to.