Making Humans Smile - Kate Smith Q&A Takeover

Tell us a little about you...

OMG, my friends! It’s so nice to sit down with you in this little corner of the interwebs and chat for a minute! I’m Kate. I make paper hugs and high fives for a living. And I’m a firm believer that life is best served extra light with a side of nonsense and a big gulp of laughter.

I live, work and travel full-time with my husband and business partner, Ryan, and dog, Frank, in our 27-foot Airstream travel trailer. Which means my “studio” has to fit inside my backpack, but it also means that sometimes the view from my office window is pretty cool.

Have you always been creative?

Emphatically, yes. Ever since I can remember I’ve found joy in creating. As a child, I spent my summers weaving dandelion flower crowns for my dogs, my autumns constructing homemade Christmas gifts in my dad’s wood shop, my winters building elaborate snow forts and my springs dying Queen’s Ann’s lace flowers with food dye. Making things has always made me happy. And making things to give to others makes me even happier.

How did Kate Smith Company start?

Well, unknowingly…I guess it started with my dog, Frank.

In 2011, I launched my first greeting card line, From Frank™. A brand centred on a little dog with a big mission to make humans smile. He couldn’t go more than a block from his house, so he made greeting cards. This resulted in some rough edges and masking tape, but also produced a collection of cards that connected with humans in a way that only a dog could.

From Frank earned some great success—including publishing a coffee table book with Chronicle Books, Don’t Fart When You Snuggle. Lessons on How to Make a Human Smile.”, launching lottery tickets in multiple states and placing product in over 40 licensed product categories. Frank’s ego is still swollen from the endeavour, if we’re being honest. However, after a while I realised that dogs were just ONE way to make humans smile. I had so many more ideas. So, in 2016 we expanded into Kate Smith Company and pulled From Frank underneath this umbrella. With this expansion, I’m now free to create multiple lines, brands, collections, and any other weird, little ways my heart desires to make a human smile. It’s been really exciting to have a blank page again and a place where all my ideas can live right next to each other.

Where do you find inspiration?

Humans. We are such wonderful, weird, funny creatures. I’m constantly on the look-out for tiny human connections. And when I come across an amazing connection or interaction, I love boiling it down to its most simple form to figure out which action, word or imagery evoked the most emotion. I’m kind of like a modern-day, real-time archaeologist with a cheesy sense of humor.

What do you love about designing greeting cards?

I love the simplicity of greeting cards. I love the fact that a simple folded piece of paper with a bit of writing in the middle might be saved in a shoebox under the bed for 50 years because it meant so much to someone. Greeting cards are tiny, tangible human connections that we can see, feel and hold onto. And I think that’s nothing short of magic.

What’s the funniest greeting card you’ve ever received?

Oh! This is easy! My brother sent me a card for my birthday one year…but put my address in the return address spot and his in the main address spot. As you can guess, the letter promptly came right back to him. Then realizing his mistake, he just crossed out addresses and wrote the right ones next to the mistakes. So, when I finally got my birthday card it had four addresses on the front of it (two crossed out) and was this hilarious little story of his mistake and how he couldn’t be bothered to even get a new envelope out to correct it. It made me literally LOL. I promptly framed the envelope and will probably never get rid of it because it just encapsulates the hilarity that is my brother so well.

What’s the most memorable card you’ve ever received?

Also, easy! I struggled quite a bit with the transition of From Frank to Kate Smith Company. The usual fare—am I good enough? Will people like what I make? Would anyone care about what I had to say? (If you’ve ever created anything in your life, you know this inner monologue well, amiright?) Well, one afternoon, Ryan had enough of my negativity and self-doubt. Mid-discussion he left my office, went into his, came back a couple minutes later and slapped one of my From Frank greeting cards down on the desk in front of me. Inside he had written the dollar amount of profit From Frank had produced over the lifetime of the brand as proof that people cared about what I had to say—proof that I was “good enough”. I remember sitting there holding the card once he’d left my office in awe. Awe of what I had indeed achieved and awe at his belief in me—which was bigger than what I had for myself. That card was one of the few items that made its way into the Airstream when we edited our lives down to 180 square feet and I still have it today.

How do you hope to impact people with your work?

I think every morning you have a question to answer — what do I want to put into the world today? Will I focus on what is good—or bad—in my life? Will I put some hearts, hugs and high fives into the world? Or will I add a few more gray clouds, poop emojis and half empty glasses?

I want to help you be a force of good. Which is why every product, piece of art and silly joke we create is meant to be shared — meant to give you a small, simple and fun way to put joy into the life of another. I want to remind you how good it feels to you make another human happy. I want to show you it doesn’t take much. And I want to encourage you to do it every day.

Because I know one thing to be true — the simple act of making one human smile every day has ripple effects. Not only in your own life but the lives of those who see you do it. Your small act of kindness inspires others …which inspires others…which inspires others. And when people think about each other more the world becomes a kinder place — one cheesy pun, one silly joke, one greeting card at a time.

You encourage people to make one human smile every day, but sometimes life gets busy…like really busy. Give us some easy tips.

Oh, I see you, I feel you and I get you, my friend! Life can be a lot sometimes. And not every day is gonna be perfect. However, I think when we work to form the habit of taking a second or two to think about inserting a smidge of joy into someone else’s life every day our own life becomes richer for it. So here we go…

Got one second? Give someone a good greeting—like a really good greeting. Say their name. Look them in the eyes. Shake their hand. Give them a hug. And be genuinely glad to see them. Make them feel like they’ve known you for 100 years and that they’re most important person you will interact with that day. They will feel it, trust me. And it will feel like a million, kazillion, two-thousand billion bucks.

Got two minutes? Grab a marker and head to the bathroom. Draw two eyes and a smile on the toilet paper roll. (If you’re a weirdo like me and keep spare googly eyes around…add these too!) This should be enough to induce a smirk from the next captive audience, but if you’re feeling extra crafty write them a little note too.

Got five minutes? Stock up on our “Good Day Pants” card and next time one of your favourite humans needs a little pick me up you’ll be ready! (Yes, this is kind of a shameless promo 😊) Anyways, grab the card, write a little note of encouragement, then tuck it in the pocket of their favourite pants. Place the pants (with the card in the pocket) back in their drawer for them to find later. And when they do, they will definitely put their good day pants on!

What do you do for fun when you’re not designing?

In no particular order:

  • Travel to small, quirky towns
  • Snow ski
  • Mountain bike
  • Work out
  • Pet dogs
  • Eat brunch
  • Drink coffee
  • Sit around campfires with friends

What does the future hold for Kate Smith Company?

I mean, honestly…who knows exactly. But I think it’s gonna be really, really fun! And you’re totally invited to come along for the ride! Join us as we wander around the U.S. and make some humans smile by following us @katesmithcompany on Instagram and signing up for our mailing list at katesmithcompany.com.

Thank You Card - Cute Kate Smith Text Design
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Thank You Card - Cute Kate Smith Text Design
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Thank You Card - Cute Kate Smith Text Design
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Thank You Card - Cute Kate Smith Text Design
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