CREATIVE COUPLE: KENDRA + KELLI
WNW Creative Couple Kendra Eash and Kelli Miller are And/Or Studio. They were a couple for 8 years before getting married last June. And/Or Studio arrived soon after. For a young studio, And/Or already has an incredible portfolio: the opening to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (below), the viral "This is A Generic Brand Video" (which has just shy of 1.9 million views,) TV network rebrands for the likes of Nickelodeon. AMC, and Spike, music videos, and lastly ingenious zines celebrating the cultural significance of comments posted below articles. The concept behind And/Or is that you can work with one of them or both of them, depending on what you need.
Kelli and Kendra's respective roles as designer and copywriter allow them to fully bring projects to life, owning them from start to finish. Their mutual interest for the likes of John Waters and Amy Sedaris injects a signature shot of eccentric humor to much of their work as well.
Below, the Creative Couple opens up to WNW about their work life, their personal life, and where the two meet. They also offer advice for fellow Creative Couples: "Be honest with each other. Always respect the other person’s point of view. Recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Hire a good accountant. Martini Fridays."
Kendra + Kelli
Tell us a bit about yourself, where you're from and what you're currently loving:
We’re the co-founders of And/Or Studio, a Brooklyn-based creative studio formed from our joint interests in entertainment, culture, and humor. The idea behind the studio is that you can get design (Kelli) and/or copy (Kendra), although we do more than that as well: strategy, branding, and storytelling with a comic edge. We’re both from the Midwest, which strongly influences our identities and work ethic. Kelli grew up in Detroit and Kendra grew up in Bloomington, IL. We’ve been a couple for about 8 years. We got married last June and started the studio shortly after that. We like weird and we like funny. We’re big fans of Miranda July, John Waters, Amy Sedaris. Lately we’ve been listening to Courtney Barnett and Shamir in the studio. We’ve also been looking at M & Co and Tibor Kalman’s work as inspiration for what we want to do with And/Or.
Describe your partner.
Kelli is an amazing designer and creative director. She comes at every project from a strategic perspective – she’s thorough and thoughtful in her approach, and meticulous and bold in her execution. I’m constantly in awe of her work. I’m always excited to work on something with her because I know whatever it is, she’ll make it look great. She loves punk and feminism and art and Hi/Low culture. She’s always curious and always learning, and she radiates this sense of quiet confidence. She has a great laugh and is a great listener – she’s just fun to be around.
What do you admire about Kelli?
Kelli has a great sense of adventure. She loves to travel and try new things. I love that she pushes me to take risks and go after what I want. She’s also very fair-minded and democratic – she’ll hang out with anyone, and has no patience for scenes that are pretentious or snobby.
Through working together, I have discovered that my partner is…
A producer, an accountant, an IT tech, and a creative director rolled into one. Kelli knows how things work. It’s embarrassing because I feel like a useless baby when it comes to anything technical. While I’m writing my fancy words, Kelli has set up our entire studio.
Describe your partner.
Kendra is one of the funniest people I know, if not THE FUNNIEST. It makes for a really fun studio. She’s a can-do person, so extremely capable of anything that comes up from strategic thinking to writing the perfect tagline to weighing in on an edit. She’s very smart and intuitive which gives her a lot of flexibility in how she applies her craft. She’s endlessly curious and giving. She knows about everything happening in the cultural sphere before you (trust me). I have coined her the “idea machine” because she cannot stop coming up with hilarious, creative projects for us to work on together. She can read faster and more than any living person in the history of humanity.
What do you admire about Kendra?
Kendra is very easy going, she calms me down. Her curiosity is really inspiring, I love that when we meet new people she asks them a million questions, really trying to understand who they are and what they’re about. She’s a Pisces so she goes with the flow, nothing trivial upsets her, she rolls with the punches of the creative world which can be tough at times, as we all know.
Through working together, I have discovered that my partner is…
A strategic dynamo. She’s on point with figuring out strategic positioning and knows much more then I realized about branding. I’ve also discovered a sensitivity about her work, she deeply cares about how our clients feel about the work we’re doing.
Kendra + Kelli
What came first, romance or work?
Romance, but we both love to work, so it was a natural progression. We started doing little collaborations about five or six years ago, and the studio grew out of some of that work.
Had you dated anyone in the creative field before?
Awkward. Ha. Kelli has. She quickly realized it was much better to date someone with a complimentary creative skill set rather than someone who does the exact same thing.
How did you start working together? What was that transition like?
Well we had done a few creative projects together before – a ‘zine series called Post Comment Below and a website called It’s Conceivable – so we knew we could work together. At the time, however, our professional paths were a bit different. Kendra was working at a digital agency that handled big corporate and consumer clients and Kelli had been working at a handful of design and production studios that did a lot of broadcast and motion graphic work. As Kendra’s work moved more toward scriptwriting and content strategy, we both realized there was a lot of overlap in what excited us creatively. In 2014, we both had projects that separately were really exciting and felt closer to the type of work we were interested in: Kelli designed and creative directed the show packaging for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Kendra wrote This Is a Generic Brand Video, so it helped to have the momentum of those projects too. The transition so far has been pretty smooth. The first time we did a project direct to client that required writing and design felt really nice. If anything the biggest struggle has been trying to make sure we take on projects that we can own from start to finish, and that require both of our skill sets, and that fit our sensibility and vision for the type of work we want to do.
Do you have work/personal boundaries? If so, how do you draw that line?
Ummm…we probably should but so far not really. We did make it a priority to rent a studio space and try and get into a routine there. We still bring a lot of stuff home though. Kelli has been known to shut her laptop and say “The Office Is Closed!” in an Iron Chef announcer voice when we’re at our apartment.
Ideal Coupling: Not Coupling ratio
We love coupling! That sounds so dirty. But yeah, ideally we would work on every project together. Even when we’re working separately, we ask each other’s opinions.
Do you find that it helps to promote the fact that you’re married? Ever hide it?
Hmmm, I’m not sure. We don’t hide it, but we also don’t tell people right away. It’s interesting because you kind of have to deal with similar decisions as a lesbian couple in daily interactions. I guess we figure we’re open enough that it’s somewhat obvious.
Favorite thing about working together. Hardest thing.
Favorite thing is getting excited about an idea together and making it. Also, trying to make the other person laugh. We’ve started to create little rituals for the studio – like Martini Fridays – that feel silly and fun. Everytime we go out to eat around our studio one of us says, “This could be OUR PLACE.” I think we are constantly looking for our Cheers Bar. The hardest thing is balancing the non-creative work – admin stuff, etc. – and making sure neither of us is feeling overwhelmed.
As a couple: how have you seen your work evolve? As a professional, how has your relationship evolved?
Well it’s still early, but we are getting into a groove with the way we approach a project. We both really respect each other’s perspectives and feedback, and usually the other person can make something better just by weighing in. The next step for us is to create some studio projects that are fun and weird and personal – we’ve reserved some time this summer to make those happen and we’re pretty excited. Professionally, we’re both learning the value of networking and being able to talk succinctly and confidently about what we want to do. We made it a priority to set up a lot of meetings; doing those capabilities presentations not only forced us to become better at presenting and talking about our work, but has also led to jobs. As we’ve gotten older we’ve realized that selling yourself isn’t distasteful if you’re doing it in an honest way. It’s necessary – especially as a women-run studio, we’re constantly checking to make sure we’re not selling ourselves short. Confidence in ourselves and our work is key. We’re still learning, but that’s been one thing that we’ve made it a point to work on. i.e. We can turn projects down, we are just as capable and skilled as any studio out there. Basically, we try to do the equivalent of Dwight Schrute preparing to ask for a raise every morning.
Are you friends with other creative couples? Why do you think people date each other in this field?
Yes, we love meeting other creative couples. Kelli knows a lot of artists from grad school (Cranbrook Academy of Art), and many of them are in relationships with other artists. Kendra writes humor pieces and essays and has connected with other writers in the city who have partners that are in the literary and comedy worlds. We’re constantly looking for ways to collaborate with our friends – we have this utopian idea of a collaborative studio full of people making cool shit together. People date each other because of shared interest and shared energy, same as any other field I think. Anyone in the creative field has felt the energy that happens when you’re in sync with another creative mind, and if you’re also in a relationship with that person, it’s a connection that can feel really special.
Advice for other creative couples?
Be honest with each other. Always respect the other person’s point of view. Recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Hire a good accountant. Martini Fridays.