From the first moment I met today’s interviewee, I looked up to him (keep reading and you will know why). Since that time, besides being someone I look up to, Stefan has become someone I deeply respect. He is a teacher, author, great speaker, excellent kisser, creative shaman and a fellow cinephile. Spend a few minutes to get to know our friend and also check out his books if you need some creative kick starts (in the pants).
1: Where do you exist most of your day?
At the evil lair of Reign, my creative shop. We’re in Kansas City, MO on the 3rd floor of a hundred-year-old, 3-story brick building in the Crossroads Arts District. Our studio is directly above Bazillion Pictures, a killer animation studio. My office, in particular, is directly above the sound designer’s booth, so most of the day I get the thump. Helps me keep my groove.
2: Tell us about where you work?
Reign is technically an ad agency. I say “technically” because the core of what we do is campaign work and falls in the campfire of advertising but our particular brand of advertising has always been a bit twisted. We believe heavily in story, so much of what we do follows a particular narrative in one way or another. We create stories for the brands we serve, then we tell the bajesus out of it.
3: What is your favorite type of work to do?
I love the beginning of anything. I’m a serial starter, I love to begin any creative process. I enjoy the finish, too, but not nearly as much as the start. The start has all the great things packed into it; the ideation, the thinking, the possibility, the hope, the chance, the exploration, the finding, the searching, the discovery, the failure… It’s made up of the best of me.
But if you’re talking mediums, I’ll take long-form branded content 100 out of 100 times.
4: What is your actual height minus the shoes and afro?
I’m 6’3”, with the afro 6’9”… Oh, wait… That’s Fletch. No, I’m 6’8” all the time. The mark on the very top of my oversized melon would suggest I’m actually 6’8.25” tall, as most standard doorframes are 6’8” exactly. A fact I can defend painfully.
5: Pros to being tall?
Tons. In a crowd, I get to see what everyone is looking at first. I rarely get lost at county fairs, the servers at Chipotle typically give me larger portions as an internal ratio reaction, I typically don’t require stepstools to replace lightbulbs and I always know what goodies have been stored on top of the fridge.
Tons. Footboards become mortal enemies, I can’t shop for clothes like regular human beings, those great shoes in the store window rarely come in a size 16, simple hugs become circus spectacles, I don’t fit on any of the rides at Disneyland, sitting in the back seat is an exercise in origami and hide-n-seek blows.
7: Have you ever worked with a little person?
Everyone’s little when you’re 6’8”, so yes. Everyday.
8: You are an author, tell us about your books – really sell them, perhaps infomercial style?
Do you wake up in the middle of the night, sopping wet from sweat and fear coursing through your body like red wine through a designer? Does that fear emanate from a constant reminder that your tables are wobbly, the legs don’t all fit, there’s something non-straight about your writing surfaces? Well, Stefan Mumaw has the answer for you. He’s written not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, but 5 different books, all of different thicknesses to serve even the most lop-sided of tables! You need just a little support for that rickety dinette? You can turn to Simple Websites or Redesigning Websites, Stefan’s first two books! Written on the topic of web design, either are sure to stabilize and secure. Have matching end tables with slightly different wobbles? There’s Caffeine for the Creative Mind and Caffeine for the Creative Team! With over 400 creativity exercises to train yourself to practice creative thought daily along with being made of woodchuck-free paper stock, these are sure to end your unsteady concerns. Have a particularly tough Herman Miller in your study? Turn to Chasing the Monster Idea, Stefan’s most recent effort. Designed to illuminate the 7 characteristics of monster creative ideas and how we can use those characteristics as a measuring stick for our own ideas, this paperback features an original Von Glitschka illustration on the cover and smells of rich mahogany. The perfect gift for anyone with stumpy buffet issues. Order now!
9: Which book is your fav?
Well, that’s a tough call. The creative in me loves Caffeine for the Creative Mind, it has played such a huge role in my own creative development and the feedback we’ve gotten from folks who have found value in the exercises is immense. But the writer in me finds favor in Chasing the Monster Idea, as it represents not only a base philosophy on ideation but my own personal philosophy. It’s how I approach creativity, design, advertising and marketing. While both Caffeine books are wonderful resources and great turn-to’s, Chasing is how I think and writing it was like bearing a child (I hear).
10: What would you like to write about next?
I have two projects I’d love to undertake. The first is a set of children’s books that wrap around the concept of a group of kids that happens to each have unique skillsets that mirror the typical creative team. The other is a fiction book for a short story I wrote about a murder mystery that takes place in an ad agency.
11: What is your favorite type of monster?
I’m partial to fur. It has to have fur. No scales or wings, just fur. It could be a hairball for all I care.
12: What is your go to brainstorming technique?
In a group, I love WordWeb. You write down the central topic and circle it then draw 6 lines coming out. Then write 5-7 words (matching the number of participants) that have to do with that topic, each person providing a word. Then circle that, switch places and write 5-7 more words branching from that. Start taking those branches and combining them to see what emerges. You get crazy stuff when you get to three or four rings out.
13: Who inspires you in the design world?
Inspiration is a fleeting thing, but I’ve always been inspired by the work of Brad Johnson and Julie Beeler over at Second Story Interactive. They tell such amazing stories in their work, it’s intricate and thoughtful and always provides a breadth of experience you rarely see in a medium built for the temporary.
14: Other than design, what is your secret dream profession? To be a nun?
Here’s the problem with the nun: peeing in a habit is nearly impossible. I have no idea how they deal. I would only consider it if someone invented a Velcro fly into that thing or something. No, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an archeologist or a stand-up comic. In a sadistic twist of fate, I am now both.
15: What super power would you most want?
To fly. No question. Imagine what you’d see if you could fly? Wanna grab a pizza…in Rome? Bang, you’re there. Wanna work outside this afternoon, get some rays while you finish that logo? Cool, there’s a park bench over there…in Honolulu. It’s by far the greatest superpower. BY FAR. I don’t care what Mig Reyes says.
16: Which super power would you want your mortal enemy to not have?
If hatred or loathing is a superpower, I’d say that. That would solve our conflict immediately. But since it’s not, I’ll go with memory. If he would just forget we’re mortal enemies, I’m golden.
17: On an island (a non magical island) what fast food restaurant would you want to be stranded with?
Chipotle. Chipotle. Chipotle. ‘Cuz then I’d eat there 25% more than I already do.
18: How do you feel about clowns?
Not a fan. When I was 9, I went to a street fair in Fullerton, CA where I grew up. People had lined the streets for the parade, and I got a seat on top of one of those ubiquitous green boxes that are seemingly everywhere on street corners. The clowns were coming by, and they were painting kid’s faces and handing out balloons. I was in a prime spot, easy reach. I was hoping for the Spiderman paint job. Instead, I got the business end of a giant pushbroom handle as they passed me by. Knocked me over into a family of smelly children. I now harbor ill will.
19: What do you do for fun?
I love the movies, I go 2 or 3 times a week. I’ll see anything, I just so love the cinema. The smell of popcorn, the sound of Dolby Digital, the shrieks of children who thought the flick was animated. I love it. I especially love it when I get to go with my daughter. If I do nothing else as a father, I hope I pass along a love for the movies. And I hope she’s 6’9” and can dunk so I can go to more when I’m old and decrepit.
20: Do you believe in Bigfoot?
I am bigfoot. So yes.
21: If you could be an Olympic athlete which sport would you want to do?
I think you have to look at the time it takes to become an Olympic athlete, and you have to wonder… When that’s done, and you look back on the 15 years of training you undertook to reach that pinnacle, now that it’s over, what can you do with what you learned? When you filter it that way, training to be a shot putter or javelin thrower seems short-sighted. I mean, in what way can that skill serve you later in life? With that in mind, I think I’d choose the winter games sport where you ski, then shoot things. There’s plenty of applications for either or both when you get older.
22: What was the moment you knew you wanted to be in the creative world?
I knew early in my life, freshman year in high school. Only, I wanted to be an architect. It was the freedom to design whatever I wanted that I fell in love with, but the intensive math and pressure to be right all the time kind of killed it for me. So I turned to design. Now I don’t have to add squat.
23: What is your guilty pleasure snack?
Brownies. But they have to be super-dense. Almost solid. Like a brick of Hershey’s. With chocolate chips in them. And a glass of milk. I’m the only guy I know that drinks milk at the movies. I love milk. That also is why my daughter doesn’t like to go to the movies with me much. The other dads drink Coke, like regular people.
24: What do you do for fun?
You already asked this in question 19, so I’ll come up with another question to answer. How about “If you and Justin Ahrens were a tag-team wrestling duo, what would your names be?” Great question. I’m going to say Justin would be “The Iron Rutebega” and I would be “Hammer Pants”. You always have to have a 3-word name matched with a 2-word name to be taken seriously. Everyone knows this.
25: What are some blogs or sites you go to for inspiration?
Like a lot of people, I dig Seth Godin blog, but I also like Sam Meers’ blog (Smoke & Meers), This Ain’t No Disco, Parse, Logic+Emotion and of course Making Creative Matter.
26: What advice would you give to a young creative?
Resourcefulness and humility are the two greatest character traits you can have as a young creative. As you grow, an insatiable curiosity will serve you better than any skill you can obtain. When you get older, be responsible enough to mentor someone as they come up. Call it the Creative Circle of Life. I’ll get Elton John to work up a number…
27: Favorite Baseball Team?
Let’s Play Two! Go Cubs! (we so suck…)
28: What are you working on now that has you most excited?
We are pitching someone right now that, if we get it, will be the absolute coolest, most awesomerest campaign you’ve ever seen. It involves a 30 minute webisode, a search for hidden gold, TV, web, mobile, print, live action, actors, elephants, the coast of Kauai and a 80-year-old mystery. Pure baddassery in a can.
29: What does design mean to you?
It means working in an industry that tracks growth based on failure as much as success, and those industries are few and far between.
Any questions for my friend the Yeti aka bigfoot? Please ask away.