Todd Paulson

Featured Interview ~ Todd Paulson

Judging an international design competition is no easy task. It takes a special kind of person that is willing to give their time and experience for the betterment of the industry.

It's time to shine a spotlight on these special individuals and dig a little deeper to see what makes them tick. Therefore, on behalf of the CSSDA founders and crew, please enjoy the following interview with one of our esteemed judging panel members.


Todd Paulson, CCO of KNOCK Inc., a creative agency in Minneapolis, MN - USA

Time Warp:

1. When and what was your first ever computer? Can you remember the spec?

Macintosh IIsi, circa 1990 with a whopping 80 MEGAbyte hard drive. And literally thousands of colors available. Spent a lot of my time watching a spinning cursor while it was "thinking" with its scorching fast 20 MHz processor. Certainly feels prehistoric looking back, but it was a game changer then. Now all I need is my MacBook Air.

2. When and what was the first website you were involved in designing/developing? Which elements of the project did you do? Can you remember the 'cutting edge' tech used at the time? How did the site turn out and what did this experience teach you?

Way back in 1998, at the forefront of the "Dot Com" boom, I worked on a frozen meal delivery site. All the technology was cutting edge at that point. Everything was new. We were just emerging from the dark ages, after all. It certainly did show me the endless possibilities the internet would bring.

3. Which project has been most rewarding for you over the course of your career and why?

The most rewarding has definitely been the long-standing relationships with our clients. That's when you can really dig in, year after year, and affect more change throughout their business. It gives you chance to build upon what you've done for them in the past. You get to grow and change with them. It becomes rather symbiotic and keeps getting better and better. That's a beautiful and rare thing in this industry.

4. What career advice would you give to yourself if you could send a 'temporal text' 5 - 10 years into the past?

Ten years ago I became a partner at KNOCK Inc., and I was very much looking forward to the challenges ahead. But as always, there's a little voice that wonders if you're making the right move. So my back to the future text to myself would be "You'll have your share of headaches and have to manage some bullshit, but the great people, amazing work and growth will all be worth it. Oh, and also get in early on unlimited data plans and start designing emoticons."

5. Better still, if you had your own hot tub time machine, what time period would you travel to and why?

I would jump ahead to the future. Why dwell on the past? I'd steal their trends & innovations and bring them back. Plus, I'd get to drop spoiler alerts on people all the time.

Favourite Things:

1. What are your favourite aspects about working in design?

It's simply what I love to do. There are creative opportunities everywhere. Almost anything can be made better with a fresh perspective and thoughtful design. When you get to solve problems with creativity, it's a truly great feeling. I can't imagine doing anything else. Besides, what else am I going to do at this point?

2. What are your favourite design tools, sites, fonts and resources right now?

There are so many amazing tools out there, and more keep showing up every day. But the main one for me is the internet itself. It's what keeps me connected with a wide network of amazing, creative, talented people. All our tech is meaningless without the right brains behind it.

3. What are your favorite devices right now from mobile to desktop?

I can't live without my iPhone, my MacBook Air, and Netflix. Together, they are the sum of all human triumph.

4. Which 3 cities would be your favorite to open an office in and why?

That's currently in the works for us and legal counsel has advised me not to speak about this. No comment!

5. What is your favorite activity outside of work?

Taking in art & culture everywhere I can. Getting my exercise. Family, of course. And whatever spare time I have left I spend staring bravely into the nothingness, searching for a way to make sense of the universe. Other people call this youtube.

Life Hacks:

1. How do you stay motivated?

It all comes down to keeping a positive outlook. Don't get caught up in negativity. Also, military calisthenics.

2. Do you have a good life/work balance? Could it be improved? If so how?

I don't think anyone has a good life/work balance now. The two need to meld into one. Incorporate your life with your creative passions. It's not like you can ever really turn either one off, so live both at once.

3. Do you have any career advice for young designers and developers?

First off: don't! But, if you insist, you have to be passionate about it. Really passionate. For years and years. And expect to hear many, many noes. When they kill your ideas, just keep coming back with more. So stay passionate with a thick skin.

4. How do you keep up with the latest trends & tech?

Keeping your eyes wide open. Seeing what's happening in the world and online. Also having a great IT dept filled with the smartest people I know.

5. If money was abolished and nobody needed to work anymore, what would you do with your life?

Sounds boring. What's the point here? Who says work has to be about money? It's about making life better.

Versus: In your opinion...

1. Are great designers born Vs. made by experience?

Designers are born. But experience hones and enhances them. Chicken, meet egg.

2. Is the best long term goal to be a founder Vs. freelance Vs. full­time job?

I've done them all. I'm currently a partner. They all have pros and cons. I'd say try as many as you can. Get perspective on as many angles of life as possible.

3. iPhone 6s vs Samsung S6 vs other?

Nice try. C'mon.

4. Printed book vs eBook?

Printed book at home. eBook when I'm traveling.

5. Star Trek vs Star Wars?

Is Hunger Games an option? Can't we all just get along, space operas?

Thanks for your time. Any last words?

The calls are coming from inside the house.

Todd is chief creative officer/partner at KNOCK Inc. and has over 20 years of experience working with numerous award winning campaigns.

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