Moth Design and 43K have joined forces on some pretty amazing projects over the years, ranging from a full suite of creative for Yuso, a Japanese on-the-go snack brand, to our recent kick-ass collaboration for Deerfield Academy. We recently sat down with the company’s founder and creative tour de force Tammy Dayton to find out how Moth came into being, the role of blind faith in her creative journey, and why JetBlue is her airline of choice.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE YOU STARTED MOTH?
I was working for Stoltze Design as a senior designer. I first interned at Stoltze while I was still attending Mass Art. The studio owner, Clif Stoltze, was one of my professors. After a brief stint on the West Coast, I moved back to Boston and began working at Stoltze again. Clif was great about giving me a really long leash in terms of autonomy, which allowed me to really grow up as a designer.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT THE TIME WAS RIGHT TO GO OUT ON YOUR OWN?
Starting my studio was like every major life decision I’ve ever made. I just closed my eyes and jumped. I was 27 when I started Moth, and in retrospect, I was nuts. I had no clients, no savings. I only had some blind faith that it was going to work out.
LOOKING BACK ON MOTH’S BODY OF WORK, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PROJECTS THAT MAKE YOU MOST PROUD?
We worked with MassArt for about a decade. In fact, they were our first paying clients. As an alumna, I am very proud of our work with them. It was an opportunity for our studio to educate them on the impact of good creative, and our long relationship created mutual trust. Over the course of our engagements, we rebranded them from the ground up. I’m also proud of how Moth has grown from a user-experience perspective. When I started my business, web design was still in its infancy. With the help of our senior UX guru Dan Rukas, we’ve been able to really grow our web practice to a place where we’re taking enterprise-level projects. It’s an area where we really punch above our weight.
YOU’VE CREATED CAMPAIGNS WITH SOME HEAVY-HITTING CLIENTS OVER THE YEARS. WHAT’S YOUR PROCESS FOR KEEPING THE CREATIVE FRESH?
We’re always trying to stay current with what’s happening in our space. We have a team of super-talented designers that is great about being active and involved—whether it's sharing articles, going to events, or inspiring one another with good communication. We strive to keep our body of work varied and are always asking ourselves, “Does this work reach the bar we’ve set for ourselves in terms of quality?” The day we get lazy about where we put that bar is the day we’ll close our doors.
WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY WHEN IT COMES TO WORKING WITH WRITERS AND OTHER CREATIVE PARTNERS?
My general philosophy with creative partners is to be pretty hands off. When I get my hair cut, I don’t go in with a picture. I always try to find the most skilled person for the problem at hand. First and foremost, it’s important to find someone who you trust, who inspires you with his or her work. By giving my creative partners a wide berth, we get the best work, and it ultimately builds a culture of mutual respect.
HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE MARKET CHANGE SINCE YOU STARTED IN THE BUSINESS?
Creative has become a much more complex, digitally driven landscape. Designers are expected to play a much more strategic role in institutions and businesses. On the plus side, that means that we’re given much more control on the creative side of a project, as long as we have a solid strategy underpinning our designs. For those just coming out of art school and into the space, there’s definitely more pressure to wear many different hats.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO IS LOOKING TO BREAK INTO THE BUSINESS?
Having a kick-ass portfolio is critical. I get several queries a day from people interested in working with us, and I still always look at the resumé first. If it’s poorly designed, I won’t typically follow up with a response. A portfolio doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to look like there’s been some real effort put into it. Having passion for your work is so important, especially in the early days. For those breaking into the field, don’t underestimate how hard it is to be a good designer. Good design takes time.
WHAT IS MOTH’S ONE-SENTENCE ELEVATOR PITCH?
Moth offers top-notch strategic solutions and design executions with a boutique approach.
AS A PART OF 43,000 FEET, I HAVE TO ASK: SOUTHWEST, JETBLUE, OR VIRGIN AMERICA?
My preference is definitely JetBlue. Their brand is smart, their app is really nice, and I like that the in-flight voiceover isn’t canned. They talk like humans.
To learn more about the people and projects that make Moth one of our favorite creative partners, visit mothdesign.net