One Year in Review: A Conversation Between Two Designers.


Dom Phyall and Parker Bolin are both designers at Kale & Flax and began their journey at K&F in May 2022. Last month, Dom, who lives in Atlanta, was recently visiting with the team at our headquarters in Louisville, KY.

Dom and Parker sat down together at a local coffee shop for a retrospective chat. In this conversation surrounding their first year at Kale & Flax, they dug deep into design, reminisced about past projects, and discussed the upsides of the Four Day Work Week.

The Interview.

Parker: So, for the both of us, it’s been one year working at Kale & Flax.

Looking back, what challenged you the most? It could be a project, a problem, or a corny joke that someone made (probably Tarik). 

Dom: Adobe. When I joined the team, it was my first deep dive into using Illustrator and Photoshop. I was a Webflow developer doing small business work before joining Kale & Flax. I mostly built websites. So joining a rebranding project or jumping into an Illustrator design file felt very new to me. 

P: So you were thrown into the fire? 

D: Yes. 

It was also challenging being an older person joining a team of vibrant, mostly young people. But I’ve since changed my perspective, and have come to feel revitalized by the energy here at Kale & Flax. 

P: As an introverted person by nature, I can relate to the energy piece of that. But I also feel like being a part of this team has helped me to grow as a communicator and a collaborator. 

P: Changing gears here.

The big question that everyone wants to know: How has the 4-day work week shaped your view of work over the past year? 

D: It’s hard to answer. I came from an industry where I had a 4-day work week, but I was putting in 60 hours in 4 days. (The inverse of that is, at Kale & Flax, we work a 32+ hour week, a true 4-day work week, however we’re on call every Friday).

Working at Kale & Flax has made me realize that work is not the #1 thing. Societally, we’re brainwashed into thinking we need to work, work, work. But at this point I’m allowing other things to take precedence, like my family and myself. I’ve learned that when you have time to prioritize other things that are more important to life, you have a clearer view. You are ultimately better and more energized when at work. But when work is the priority and everything else is suffering, then what are you going to start to resent?

P: I relate to that too. My time outside of work has allowed me to grow my family and to give more attention to my personal creative projects. I have a more holistic view of how work interplays with my life outside of work.

P: Another thing I’m interested in knowing, how do you see the design industry differently after working in this field for more than a year?

D: I have a lot more respect for the process of designing. I’m tuned more into creativity as a practice, and into the creative community. I’m very proud to be a part of a community where I can view work more critically and foster respect for creative visionaries.

P: What have you learned about design that has challenged your thinking or your preconceptions about design?

D: I’ve come to see it like this: design is one of the most powerful tools in the world today. Everything from the clothes we wear and the products we use, to the websites we visit and the buildings we inhabit. We are surrounded by design, and it starts with creatives like us. Through my journey of exploring different aspects of design, I have developed a deeper understanding of the subject, realized how design is literally everywhere, and gained insight into the power of design. Everything surrounding me has a totally different meaning. My lens on life has been magnified through design thinking.

Damn,  who am I? LOL.

P: Awesome. Switching gears, what have you accomplished in this past year that has inspired you to accomplish more in the year ahead?

D: The tools available to designers are ever-evolving, and I am kind of obsessed with learning them. As someone who is passionate about design and creating work that I’m proud of, it’s exciting to explore the new design tools on the market and to collaborate with clients who share the same vision. Through my work with Kyndly Benefits and Smartflyer , I’ve had the opportunity to experience the benefits of new design tools and to create work that I’m proud of. Those things excite me.

I also highly value building relationships with my co-workers.

But I think what has inspired me the most is when our team goes beyond the client’s expectations, and we get to see them light up.

P: Is there a particular moment that you look back on that is important to you? It could be something funny that happened in the past year, or something that was inspiring.

D: Going to go inspirational here. On one of my first visits to the Lou, I was in the office expressing to Tarik just how badly I wanted to improve. I was working through my imposter syndrome. He didn’t say much — just listened. Then he sent The Gap by Ira Glass and told me to try and watch it every day.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.”

It changed my perspective from that moment on.

P: I love Ira Glass. And I think it’s awesome that this clip made a big impact on your view of imposter syndrome. It doesn’t make it easier, but I think it’s something that most people experience when they’re starting something new, progressing their career or creating something. It’s kind of an innate ineffable feature to the creative process.

D: Let’s turn the questions over to you. 

P: Oh man, here we go. 

D: You’re the one who said this Q&A was a good idea. 

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about yourself since starting at K&F a year ago?

P: Communication is something that I’ve learned a lot more about in my time here. Particularly, I’ve learned to trust my instincts in identifying problems and solutions while collaborating with clients and team members.

Sometimes there is a confidence barrier to overcome. No one wants to be the only person in the room that’s wrong in their approach to solving a problem. I think that speaks to a form of my own imposter syndrome. But pushing past that insecurity, digging deeper into my expertise, and helping to drive the ship is where I’ve learned that I can make a difference.

D: How nervous were you jumping into K&F a year ago, or were you pretty chill from day one (Parker is always chill)? What was the most intimidating aspect of the onboarding process?

P: I’d like to think that I was pretty chill on day one. 

D: Really? No, you totally were! 

P: No, I think I was mostly nervous about showing up on time and doing a good job. 

D: Showing up on time?!  We are remote!

P: Turning the video on is showing up! I wanted to make a good first impression. 

D: Fine. So, what has been the project you are most proud of and why?

P: I feel proud of most of the work that I’ve helped develop in my time here. But I’m particularly proud of the Kyndly rebrand that we just completed, the Trager Family Foundation branding, and the entire process of launching Haymarket. They’re set to have their Grand Opening at their River Road location in Louisville, KY in June of 2023.

Haymarket is one of the most comprehensive projects that I’ve ever worked on, let alone co-led. It runs the gamut from branding, packaging, signage and wayfinding, to web design, marketing, and customer experience. It’s a project that has taught me a lot this past year. 

D: What would you say will be the future of design? What do you think the next big trend will be?

P: That’s a big question. 

D: I know.

P: My answer won’t encapsulate the whole picture. But I think something that has been trending historically, and will continue to evolve, is the blurred lines between different forms of design. I see so many designers that began as graphic designers (originally creating posters, lettering, websites, etc.,) that are designing for products, user experiences, furnitured or interior spaces. They’re creating full experiences that don’t settle under a single design framework. And I think that A.I. (although you didn’t ask about that explicitly) may have a heavy hand in fostering the development of that kind of work or at least making it even more accessible.  

D: What is your dream creative role?

P: Dang. This is another big one. I don’t quite have a full picture of that yet. But I’ll level with you in your comment about the excitement that comes with giving clients work that exceeds their expectations. I love being a part of the process that makes good work come to fruition. And in the future I want to continue to help facilitate an environment where that process is more easily attainable and repeatable. I know that doesn’t quite hit on your question. But I’m doing the best that I can.  

D: I think that does it! Looking forward to our two year retrospective.

Get to know Parker Bolin and Dom Phyall on Insta’, and keep in touch with Kale & Flax too.