In Pursuit of Passion and Continuous Creation
Creatives are artists and not always in the conventional sense of the word. Alex Kolbe, Creative Director at In Good Co, embodies everything a creative is, in all senses of what that means. Chasing passion and constantly creating, Alex shared on everything from the creative process to retail and branding to empowering women to all things In Good Co.
In Good Co was founded 3 years ago, by Kirsten Ludwig and Chris Danton, two women that Alex Kolbe worked with at a previous creative agency. Describing these ladies as her dream team, when they asked her to come aboard at In Good Co, it was an easy and resounding “Yes!”
“It was an opportunity to continuously create and push myself. We have a culture and an atmosphere that allows us to be incredibly real and honest. The majority of what we do now is creating brands, crafting their story, building out the strategy, digging into their purpose, shaping how they appear in the world. It’s about creating the whole brand story, from logos, websites, packaging, ect. Previously, we focused more on retail and pop-ups, but that’s really become an extension of what we do.”
"Growing up I didn't know that being a creative was a career."
Born in Texas to a family in STEM fields, Alex started to pursue a nursing degree but having no real interest in it, she dropped all her classes. With a push from someone in her life to go to art school, she went on to study interior design. After getting her degree, she left Texas on a one-way ticket to New York City.
“I had a ton of energy and I was just craving to learn.”
“I had so much momentum from school and I was obsessed with reinventing my portfolio, taking in new experiences and gaining exposure in the design world. I took every opportunity to meet new people, and went out every night. In New York, the first question someone asks you is ‘what do you do’ to which I would shamelessly answer ‘I’m an Interior Designer, but I’m looking for work’. Within in my first month someone responded with ‘Oh, perfect—we’re hiring’. A few days later I went to the agency and told the receptionist I needed to schedule an interview. Slightly confused they called HR, who was also slightly confused, and they scheduled an interview with one of the owners, under the assumption that I had previously connected with him. When I walked in to that interview the following week, he was impressed and humored at how I managed my way in, and recognized how eager I was to work and learn, so he gave me my first agency job.”
"I don't have an ideal of myself, as in how I want to be. I just know how I want my journey to be. I want to always be learning, growing, pushing, and creating things that continue to expand my mind.”
After her contract was up, Alex was offered a position to stay on at the agency but instead she followed her heart and went back to the drawing board. She was searching for something that fueled her love of high-level design and satisfied her craving to create at a rapid pace, when she came across the opportunity to be an experiential designer. It was then that she met her dream team and the rest has been history.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have my team, it wouldn’t be the same without them. Not just work, but life would not be the same. It’s all about the people you surround yourself with. It’s amazing to work with inspiring women that empower you.”
In Good Co has a created a culture that fosters creativity, empowers inspiration and encourages collaboration. They are rethinking what it means to be an agency and how one functions. “We all work remotely—we don’t have an office. Most of the team is in LA now, I’m still in NY, and we even have a team member in Mexico City. We are very collaborative, both with each other and our clients. It helps with every part of the process. We are a bit of over-achievers, but we can’t help it because we love what we do. We have this spirit of exploring and discovering the possibilities, it really helps everyone achieve the best design. When you work like that, there’s never a point where you deliver a final product that you’re not proud of or that client isn’t stoked about.”
“I think it’s always been one of my fears to end up delivering something that I’m not happy with. We have a pretty clear style, which our clientele seeks out. We work closely with our clients to identify their needs, helping them to dig deep and encouraging them to move out of their comfort zones. We build trust, recognizing blind spots they might have and leading them in the right direction. We try to think ahead for their brand, past the project, which makes it feel like more of a partnership. This is essential to how the vision comes together. Throughout this process we’re creating boundaries for the brand that help it start to take shape, whether that’s with the voice or the visuals—helping it to become more focused, unique and recognizable.”
"For me design is so emotional and everything is about feeling that emotion, tapping into that emotion, listening to that emotion, creating emotion.”
“If I’m designing something and I’m getting bored, something is wrong—but it totally happens. It happens to all creatives. That is when you have to think way further outside of the box. This just happened to me. I was creating something I wasn’t stoked about but it was because I wasn’t reaching enough outside of my comfort zone. I needed to reach further. Once I did that I got into this really weird space and it’s like ‘ahh, there it is’. I just had to keep digging, it takes time and patience. When you feel burned out or like it’s a chore, it inhibits the way you feel about what you’re making. It’s necessary to be in a good head space, to be collaborative and open to change. I need to be able to step back, look at what I’m making and have an honest conversation with myself. And if it’s not working, have the ability to say “The visual that I’m creating isn’t doing anything for me, so let me try something completely different.” But, you can only do that if you give yourself room to challenge and push. As a team we do a great job of questioning the status quo, asking the hard questions, and always aiming to create something we are all really, truly excited about. Then when we share our work, that energy comes through. You can see the love and passion. It’s all a process.”
As creatives, it’s important to step away, recharge, and get inspired. Travel is a vital source of inspiration for Alex. “Because I work remotely I get to travel often. We also have unlimited vacation, which a lot of people who have it find that they don’t take advantage of it. What we’ve learned to do is recognize in ourselves when we need to take time. For myself, every three months I like to take a break and that helps me refresh, but in between those 3 months I continue to travel while working. Traveling allows you to live a different life. You are in situations that you aren’t totally comfortable in, it sparks different sensations. You become aware of different things around you versus when you’re on vacation and tend to be more checked out. I find that when I work while I travel I get a lot of inspiration.”
“I think it’s helpful to just go and get moving. You see things in a different way.”
We asked Alex to share her view on the retail industry and its future. “For so long in the not so distant past, a lot of brands were measuring the success of their events or pop-ups or spaces based on a specific KPIs, like how many Instagram shares or how many tweets. I think that has really come full circle because it became such a saturated thing with people just creating these Instagram spaces. There is a certain market for that still, I don’t think that it will go away entirely, but I think the majority of consumers are starting to see through that. They are looking for something more. So, when I say it’s coming full circle, I am really saying that the pendulum is swinging the other way. I do believe that we are going to see a lot more experiences that people don’t pull their phones out for. People will be engaged and will become participants- fully consumed, emotional participants. It’s going to be something that gives them a mental space that they’ll want to be present for.”
“I think the future of retail spaces is something that is going to wow you in a different way that’s not purely visual.”
“We are evolving as a civilization and technology is becoming more a part of that evolution every day. Tech integration is already happening in retail. That is making everything easier, from consumers picking out their next purchase to moving products from display to dressing room to check-out. That’s not what is going to set brands or stores apart from each other. What’s going to set brands apart is their brand story and how those brand values come through in individuals’ interactions and mental spaces. People want to feel like they are a part of something and they want to feel that that brand really gets them and is on their side.”
“I’m a true romantic in that I believe that people want to fall in love and I think that people really do fall in love with brands.”
“When we create brands from scratch we always start with purpose. Creating the story behind the brand, we build on the brand’s values, by digging deep, defining their ‘why’, and extracting their truths. This allows people to connect with their story. Audiences want more than a pretty package, they want to understand who you are and if you’re aligned with their values. That’s how you create true brand love. “