2 Minutes With ... Halle Kho, ECD at Frog Design

A Canadian's adventure in the NYC design world

Halle Kho began her career at New York agencies as a graphic designer and worked her way up to running teams for clients like Tommy Hilfiger, Grey Goose Johnson & Johnson and Armani.

She spent two years as senior creative director at Barnes & Noble, where she oversaw the design and maintenance of the e-commerce website, a rebrand of BN.com, new digital product ideation, conceptualization and build, and the user interface and marketing of the NOOK device.

She joined Frog Design in 2017, and last year was made executive creative director.

We spent two minutes with Kho to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations, and recent work she's admired.


Halle, tell us ...

The town where you were born, and where you live now.

I was born in Welland, Ontario, in Canada. I live in Brooklyn now.

What you wanted to be when you grew up.

I wanted to be an architect like Mr. Brady from The Brady Bunch. I always loved the idea of having a drafting table and an office filled with cool '70s furniture.

How you discovered you were creative.

My favorite thing to spend time doing was writing stories, drawing and making books. When I was 7, I loved to draw and my teacher submitted some drawings into a local contest. I was disqualified because the judges thought I had traced the characters in my drawing. I had to speak to the judges and explain how I used a grid to draw from reference. I won $25!

A person you idolized creatively growing up.

I can't choose just one person. Marion Willick, my first art teacher, taught me to see the world differently and opened my eyes to art and being "different." Leopold Plotek, a Russian Canadian painter and professor, saw something in my art when I was 18 and convinced me to get a BFA rather than focusing on art history. His work was overpowering, gigantic, and the narrative was mysterious. We would all sit in his office sipping Baileys, discussing Chekhov, smoking Gauloises, and the sweet smell of oils fills my memory. He was a driving force for the creativity that grew in me, and my dedication to craft.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

I had mono in my first year at McGill University and I was permitted to delay my exams. One of my professors decided that because of the delay, my exam would have to be oral, and I ended up memorizing the text for Renaissance Art History. Several months later, I studied and traveled through Italy and was able to experience and recognize the art without needing to read or research. I still recalled the timeline, stories and movement. It felt awesome.

The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today.

First concert: Erasure. Favorite music today: my own personal playlists that range from Van Morrison and Fleetwood Mac to Perfume Genius, Father John Misty, and I still love Thievery Corporation.

Your favorite visual artist.

Pat Steir.

Your favorite hero or heroine in fiction.

Wonder Woman.

The best book you've read lately.

My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

Your favorite movie.

Interstellar.

Your favorite Instagram follow.

@abbywambach because Abby Wambach.

How the Covid-19 crisis has changed your life, personally or professionally, in recent weeks.

Happy stuff: more quality time with my family, more sleeping, eating better, working more decisively, writing more coherently, not wasting time, everyone is healthy, and I used a chainsaw for the first time.

Unhappy stuff: homeschooling is stressy, really wanting a soy chai from Bluestone, missing my colleagues, and a little chipmunk infestation.

Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on, and why.

Reebok digital redesign. I loved working with Matt Blonder and Karen Reuther from Reebok. They were amazing, trusting and incredibly respectful partners in design. They allowed us into their world, their archives and their new product development process. It was constantly exciting and fulfilling. We were able to do our best work with some of the wildest risk-takers I've ever met.

Your favorite creative project from the past year, and why.

For so many reasons, the work we've been doing at frog with Florida Blue has been my favorite recent creative project. Our clients are incredible to work with, and our teams have been inspiring and experimental in so many ways. We transformed the UX and L&F of the online experience and launched a very cool web and mobile experience last fall that serves to both educate and truly help customers navigate the ins and outs of health insurance.

Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago.

Karen Van de Kraats is one of my all-time favorite graphic designers. Her work on the agenda for Zoo has always struck me as incredibly thoughtful and intelligent. Throwback to my own Design Archive: physical agenda for Zoo publishers. The design is based on the amount of hours of light during the day, and the changes in colour that are reflected through the change of season.

Someone else's creative project that you've been envious of lately.

I've been envious of the incredibly gorgeous, provocative and unique branding design and strategy work that Love & War has been doing lately. They have a very different approach to their work than we do at frog, but I really enjoy the detail and craft that they apply to every single project.

Your main strength as a creative person.

I continue to design and make things even though I am responsible for direction and management. I firmly believe that in order to maintain a connection to my team and to the work, I need to be able to have a hands-on, empathetic point of view.

Your weakness or blind spot.

I need to think out loud, and most of the time people listen too hard to what I'm saying.

One thing that always makes you happy.

Really sweet hot black tea in the afternoon.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Cold weather.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in design.

If I weren't in design, I'd be lying in the grass, making shapes out of clouds and singing songs in my mind. In other words, nothing.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and the founding editor of Muse by Clio.

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