Kylie Henry

Creative Director & Principal

15 years experience

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Kylie Henry is a proud immigrant to Canada, having moving here from New Zealand in 2005. Named one of the top 11 Young Designers in Canada by Design Edge Magazine, she has been featured in Applied Arts, Communication Arts, Graphis, and How International. Her awards include but not limited to The One Show, Ad Rodeo, Hermes Creative Awards, FPO Sustainability and Binding Awards and Graphex. Kylie's family and design studio are located in Calgary, Alberta.

At what point in your life did you learn about design, and what drew you to it?

As a kid, my Mom would take me what seemed like every art museum and gallery she could find. Being immersed in a plethora of fine, street, and commercial art introduced me to a world of visual storytelling that I never knew existed. Decoding the symbolism, colour, composition, typography, and ultimately the meaning was my happy place... I was hooked.

Describe the first office where you worked as a designer?

I was lucky enough to land a job at a small design studio with two incredible bosses who shared a passion for design, wine, and all things creative, and also for creating a trusting and supportive workplace. As a result, I put my hand up for every opportunity that came in the door, and it paid off. At 23, I was doing the 2 a.m. press checks solo, facilitating brand workshops with the oldest university in New Zealand, and creating design work for local and national brands.

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Describe your design process?

Think big: My process is a bit old school: It involves a lot of research, planning and sketching. In fact, I’d say these three parts of my process are always the biggest lifts. I like to front-load my creative process because I believe that well-thought-out concepts make a foundation for creativity to thrive in both meaning and visual impact.

Work it out: I like to work both collaboratively with my team and independently to push and experiment with design concept and execution, and I find informally presenting the work internally is a great way to separate the good from the exceptional. I’m also a strong believer in the client having an active role in the creative process, and so I try to engage them as much as possible along the way.

Make it tight: I get a serious kick out of details; you name it: kerning a headline, aligning pixels, or adjusting .psd layers, I’m all in. This last step in the process is the polish that gives the piece a structure and balance that most viewers don't consciously see, but I like to think, most will feel.

What is the boldest thing you've ever done in your professional life?

When I quit my safe and salaried job to start my own design studio, I was the sole income earner in my home, with a four year old daughter in daycare and a husband at grad school full-time. It was risky and I had a few 'holy shit' moments, but the bold move paid off. My business partner Katherine and I have weathered the entrepreneurial learning curve, and I'm so proud to hold the title of designer and business owner.

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What does success mean to you?

I recently made a trip back to my hometown and saw some work I contributed to fifteen years ago; it struck me that this creative was being embraced now with the same relevance and impact it had back when it was originally created. So, success to me is the pride in knowing that my work can remain relevant and hold true to the organization's goals and objectives.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in design?

Although there is still a huge gender divide, the tides are slowly changing, and woman designers are becoming more visible, vocal, and acknowledged for their contributions. Strong role models and initiatives like this one help to expose and educate the industry about the gender politics that sadly, consciously or not, still play a part in our studios today.

I’m partner at a company where everyone is incredibly intelligent, exceptionally creative and a pleasure to work with—they all just happen to be women. Being a female designer means you have a responsibility to support and inspire fellow female designers not because they’re women, but because they’re fantastic designers.

Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when starting?

I would have spoken up for myself more. For some reason, I could always fight for the creative and push for the best in my projects, but I lacked the confidence to do so for myself when it came to promotions, wages, or recognition.

What are the best and worst pieces of advice you've ever gotten?

Worst: My high school careers advisor told me to be an accountant; she said there were “no careers in the arts.”

Best: Get out of your comfort zone, it’s where your best work is hiding.

As a woman, what sacrifices have you had to make in your professional life?

I took a nine-month maternity leave, in which I still worked part-time, and even when I was back at work full-time the demands of being a new Mom had a huge impact. From working evening and weekends to continue to perform beyond my role to pumping in the storage closet at work over lunch, the impacts on my personal and professional life were forever changed.

Who are your design heros?

I have such huge admiration for Debbie Millman. She’s truly the whole package: designer, writer, educator, speaker, industry leader, and she still somehow remains a grounded and awesome human. I was lucky enough to meet her in person at a conference in my early twenties, and sure enough, she was just as engaging and confident as her work would imply.

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