We had the good fortune of connecting with Drew Brandt and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Drew, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I pursued this specific creative career, (a toy and playground designer), because it turned out to be a reflection of everything I was as a kid; artsy, with a knack for math, and loved playing outside. When I was little I thought I’d be a painter (because that is what all artistic kids become right?), but I didn’t totally fit in with all the art kids; I thought math was awesome and loved figuring out how things work. I found out those passions could meet when I went to college and studied industrial design. By the time I finished school I had this portfolio full of products for children; die cast cars, tree forts, and action figures. That’s when I thought “maybe I should look for design jobs that serve kids!”
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m quite young in my career (only been working 3.5 years at KidKraft), but one of the biggest challenges was finding that first job out of school. I had big (read: foolish) dreams of having dozens of job offers from the biggest companies all begging me to work for them the day after I graduated, but instead I had none. I moved home to my parents house and spent 8 months pouring lattes as a barista by day, applying for design jobs by night. I applied to over 100 jobs and got rejected (or usually ghosted) by all. It was incredibly discouraging and at times I thought “maybe this career isn’t for me,” or “maybe I should widen the scope to include work I have no interest in.” But a small toy company finally gave me a look and decided to take a chance on a young designer with zero experience, and it’s worked out! It was a really humbling time and taught me to be thankful and persistent about the things that matter to me.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Okay so we’re gonna wake up and get some coffee from The Merchant on Lower Greenville, explore some coffee table books while we’re there, perhaps grab a scone across the street from Boulangerie. Before it gets too hot we’ll walk down Swiss Avenue or through any of the Lakewood neighborhoods and look at my favorite houses. When it gets too hot we’ll go to the DMA because it’s air conditioned, free, and they’ve got a huge collection of art. We’ll recharge with some tacos for lunch at Velvet Taco on Greenville. Next we’re going to White Rock Lake, and we’re gonna walk, longboard, roller blade, or bike around the lake. For dinner we’re having pizza at Cane Rosso (ordering the Honey Bastard), and then ending the night listening to some live Jazz at the Balcony club.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I owe a shoutout to many people, but the two who have supported me for the longest run have been my parents. They are the art and engineering duo that have been dreaming up projects and building them into reality together since before I was around. My mom would let me cut out six foot stencils and let me spray paint them on the inside of the garage and my dad would help my brother and I build ramps and boxes to skate on. They definitely gave me the earliest, most meaningful tools that have brought me here today.