Interview with Fred Hart
By: Bella Sparhawk at Blake's Seed Based
Fred Hart is the Partner and Creative Director at Interact Boulder, the Design and Branding Agency that helped us with our new packaging refresh. In this interview, he shares his career path and what he enjoys most about working in a creative field. Read on to learn more about Fred and his passions, what part of his work "gives him goosebumps," and see how he rocks a Parrot Suit during company Zoom meetings. Hopefully you'll be inspired to #SeedYourPassion as well!
1. Can you tell our audience about yourself?
I figured I’d actually text my my mom and ask her to describe me to an audience. Here’s what she had to say, with zero bias of course:
“When Freddy was born he was so cute that I was terrified that any future sibling would feel inadequate in comparison, fortunately an unfounded fear.”
“Freddy was so fast rounding the plates his baseball team gave him a hat embroidered with ‘Fast Freddy’, which I still treasure.“
“Since Freddy was a toddler he had a strong caring and protective nature towards all those younger or more vulnerable, we said he was our “Hart with a golden heart.”
“Freddy evolved from a kid who would only eat pasta with butter to a man who’s culinary exploratory adventures on his honeymoon became family legend- and he’s still evolving, creative to his core.”
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t what I had in mind, but it was worth a shot.
2. In your LinkedIn bio, you describe yourself as a “designer, storyteller, and phrontist.” I admittedly had to google “phrontist” to discover it means “deep thinker.” How did this “phrontist” pillar of your personality develop?
Don’t worry, I had to google it too. I’ve always been more interested in listening than talking - which is ironic giving I’m doing the talking in this interview. I grew up in a quirky family that loved asking questions, both inquisitive and plain weird, and I’ve adopted that mentality. So the first time I meet someone, most of the talking I’ll do is asking questions after questions. And if someone asks me a question back, then I know I’ll like them. So the phrontist in me developed naturally as a result of listening and deciphering constantly.
3. You seem very driven, self-aware, and like you enjoy your work. What sort of practices or tools did you implement to get clear on what you enjoy, and how you could turn those interests into a career?
I always wanted to be creative for a living, mostly because it was fun and why wouldn’t I want more fun in my life. I started off wanting to be a shoe designer as a result of my love for basketball and the unique shoes my favorite athletes would wear. I eventually developed a love for architecture but lost a desire to be one after a 6 month internship (i still love buildings though!). I then pivoted into graphic design in college, had the internship of a life at a branding and packaging design firm in San Francisco (McLean Design) and my path has been set ever since.
4. What inspired you to work as a Creative Director? How did you get to be in this role?
Luck. 5ish years ago, at the age of 27, I moved from San Francisco to Boulder, Colorado to join my now business partner Blake Mitchell and run our humble and mighty studio Interact Boulder as its Creative Director. Before that I was a designer with ambitions to own my own shop someday, but truth be told, if Blake hadn’t given me the confidence to jump into that opportunity, I would’ve forced myself a lot longer to “earn” that title.
5. How did you get so interested in the food and beverage space?
My first job at design agency McLean Design, we would work with a lot of entrepreneurial food and beverage brands, and it dawned on me that food and bev is the most personal form of consumption. For that reason, many brands, especially in the beverage space, are forms of social currency. It’s the reason that which brand of energy drink I choose to be seen with says something about who I am as a person or aspire to be. Monster says I have very little wherewithal for my body and like extreme spots. Rockstar says I haven’t let go of my frat boy days. Red Bull says I’m a privileged white collar 9-5er who lets loose on the weekends. I became with understanding food better and how design could amplify our relationship to it.
6. What’s your favorite part of your job?
Watching the future come to life out of thin air. We’re latterly designing things into existence on a daily basis. Getting goosebumps just writing that.
7. What are the biggest mistakes you see companies make in terms of design/branding?
Many brands in the early days mimic the “rules” of their category. One of our primary principles as a studio is that “people don’t read, they recognize.” Building brands with recognition is critical to successful marketing. How that happens is a story for another time.
8. You seem to spend a lot of time imparting your wisdom on younger people through your roles as an adjunct professor and brand mentor. What have been your biggest takeaways? What have you learned from those you mentor and teach?
That the more I “teach” others, the more I learn. There’s a very interesting dialogue that happens internally once you embark on sharing your experience and understanding with people. It forces you to wrestle with what you find to be truth. And through that process, it’s challenged by new perspectives, and then reinforces your own ideas of the world.
9. Our motto is #SeedYourPassion, which means going out in the world and doing what you love. How do you #SeedYourPassion?
Basketball, outside of my wife, is the love of my life. It’s how I exercise, how I “play”, how I make friends, how I celebrate, how I find flow.
10. You coined the term #ParrotMode for us. What does this mean to you and how do you go #ParrotMode?
Honestly, this was a beautiful and happy accident. I think I was commenting on the redesign and it just struck me that we were showing off our full colors, confident AF and had gone full #ParrotMode. It’s like peacocking, but better.
11. How do you balance your passions with your career?
Fortunately my career is my passion. #blessed.
12. Who or what inspires you the most?
Smart design, clever humor, interesting people with unique obsession.
13. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received (in life or business), and how do you incorporate that advice in your life?
My art school teacher once told me to “make my mistakes on someone else’ dime.” Essentially, learn as much as you can working for other people. Sadly all my mistakes are now on my own dime..
14. What’s your favorite flavor of Blake’s Seed Based bars?
Pshhh, too easy. Blueberry Lemon. It’s nature’s Trix cereal bar. Don’t trust anyone that tells you otherwise.
Thanks for the chat, Fred!