Hoodzpah — Amy Hood, Art Director & Co-Founder
Updated: Feb 16
Welcome Amy Hood!
Today we're so excited and honored to speak with Co-founder and designer at Hoodzpah, Amy Hood! Amy is from Anaheim, CA and has worked for amazing companies such as Disney, 20th Century Fox, The Lakers, Nike, and RedBull. ✨
Recently Hoodzpah got to work on some really fun title treatment explorations for Disney Pixar's animated film, Luca. Even though none of their concepts were chosen in the end, it was one of Amy's favorite projects with Disney.
We can't wait to discuss everything from live as a barista to Co-Founder and Designer at Hoodzpah, to their love of The Lakers, George Jones, British TV.
Thank you so much Amy for taking the time to answer these questions to help shed light on your creative career path—this is an amazing resource for younger creatives who may be interested in becoming an identity designer in the future!
Part 1: Career Details
Let's start from the beginning, what industry do you work in?
Branding and type design
What is your job title?
Co-founder and designer at Hoodzpah
What does this career’s ladder look like?
My career started with an apprenticeship at a tiny local print shop. They printed their own free coupon magazine (60% local coupons, 40% local interest stories). It started as a design team of 3 (my sister, our AD, and I). We laid out 2 magazines a month and literally did everything from writing, to photographing, and then finally laying out the stories. On top of that we had probably 30 ad clients each AND there was a print house side of the business that business cards and fliers and logos. It was mayhem but our Art Director, Jason Staggs, taught us everything on the job: how to use Illustrator and photoshop, how to manage clients, how to meet insane print deadlines. It's so rare to find an apprenticeship anymore, but if you can find one TAKE IT. We got paid $11/hour and we worked our butts off, but we learned a trade without any student loans. And I'm forever grateful for that. After that magazine folded, it was really hard for me to find more work. The magazine industry was hurting and my portfolio was mostly just print ads and editorial. After a month of hunting and hunting, my sister and I decided to start our own design studio. Hoodzpah was born and we just started taking on anything and everything. After a few years, we found what we were good at and what was most profitable for us and it was brand identity design. We began laser focusing into that niche and becoming known for custom wordmarks or logotypes and lettering. This led to designing our own typefaces and releasing fonts, which is now a substantial revenue stream for our business and lead to us working with clients like SeatGeek and Disney and 20th Century. The great part about working for yourself is the freedom to pivot your career. It's not for everyone, but if you're a self starter and good at research, it's so rewarding!
Where should I be looking for job postings for this type of work?
For brand identity, find a studio that does solid work and soak in as much as you can. Many studios share their process and are very transparent on social media. I've found that the greatest job opportunities (or mentorship opportunities) often stem from human connections. So on top of hitting the job board sites like LinkedIn, start investing in your design community in person and online: follow your design heroes and interact with them regularly! Ask questions and show interest in what they're working on (ideally not work related things - I promise it will make you stand out). They'll often post when their studio is hiring or looking for subcontractors. Even if they aren't, shoot them an email and introduce yourself. The worst that can happen is they ignore you or say "we're not hiring now." But they might just need someone or at the very least you'll begin to get on their radar.
Professional groups like AIGA, Creative Mornings, Letterform Archives Lecture Series, and conferences are another great way to get in touch with awesome studios and designers doing great things. Keep in touch with what they're making and when they're growing their teams. It's the small studios where you'll get the most hands on experience most likely!
Lastly, don't forget about your teachers! Stay in touch. I refer my former students ALL. THE. TIME. Having a personal connection or reference is always a major plus when applying to any job.
What do you look for in a portfolio when you are hiring?
Skill is a given, but the things that make a portfolio stand out to me are:
1.) Does this designer understand the bigger system? Anyone can accidentally make one nice thing. But making a system of things that work cohesively shows mastery. Whether that's a system of posters, or a brand suite of logos and marks and stationery, or a multipage website. I want to see that there is understanding beyond one thing looking cool in a vacuum.
2.) Understanding and solving the brief: It sounds so obvious but so many designers assume we understand what their brief was just by looking at assets. We don't. Spell out the who, what, why, and how of the project. I can't tell if it is a successful design solution if I don't know the audience, the problem, the client, and the use case scenarios etc. Lastly: Clearly define your role and acknowledge any other teammates and their role.
3.) Personal Projects! I love when people have personal projects in their portfolio. It shows a passion to just learn and create.
I have no work experience, what's the best way to get my foot in the door?
Two things have really worked for me in my career (and I hear a lot of other creatives say the same):
1. Make the work you want to get: If you want to get brand identity projects, give yourself a brand identity assignment. Create a fake client and go through the discovery and design process as if it were a real client. The fake client should be in an industry you'd ideally like to work in (ex: restaurant, beauty products, entertainment and film, sports, etc.). Use mockups to make it feel real and prove that the design solution works. And share! This is called an "exploration". Many big designers still do this today, like Allan Peters!
2. Work for trade! If you're having a hard time finding paying clients, find a client you love or believe in (and that you ideally have a personal in with) and propose them a trade of your services for their goods or services. Your favorite coffee shop, a local brand you love, etc. Real world work trumps everything for me. If I don't see any real world work in a portfolio, I worry that creative doesn't have any experience working with client input and feedback to still come to a good end product outcome.
Advice on choosing a business (or industry) where my creative powers are being used for good and not evil? Business journaling is such a helpful way to create a map for yourself and to start identifying what's important to you, not just in business, but in life. List the things that make for a good job in your mind. It could be things that are good for you and your family (flexible hours, paid time off, healthcare and benefits) and also things that match your beliefs. So list out what matters to you! Give each of the items on your list a weighted value of importance (x1, x2, x3, etc.). This will help you to quickly identify if a company is a good fit for you and your needs. It's also worth noting: It can feel like your job needs to be everything: creatively and financially fulfilling. But if it can fulfill one of those needs, and it allows you the time and energy to fulfill the other in your own way and on your own time, then it can still be a good option.
What skills or programs will I need to know? What hardware or art supplies will I need?
First of all you need a knowledge of at least Illustrator and some Photoshop for Brand Identity Design. InDesign is a big plus if you're laying out printed decks or editorial. The thing with brand identity work, is it kind of encompasses everything! We often work on messaging, naming. visual identity, website, and printed collateral. But don't be overwhelmed. The great part is you can always outsource other talented creatives to help when you need it! But I have found that being able to use and understand web design in Figma is a great advantage. You can lay out presentations and decks in there and it is so intuitive. Plus they offer tons of free video tutorials on youtube!
For the type design, we started just by creating lettering in illustrator. Using basic shapes. A great way to start playing with type is by Frankensteining a font that exists into something new. We did this with logos in the beginning. Making the wordmark more ownable. Start there. Outline the font, and try to make it something unique and new. Then move on to building your own letters from scratch in illustrator. Start with simple geometric shapes and add and subtract shapes to build from there. Then when you get comfy there, you might look into Glyphs app: a font making program that is very intuitive if you're used to Adobe Illustrator but with much more precision. Glyphs Mini is great if you're just getting into making fonts. They have incredible documentation and a robust support forum. Plus you can find video tutorials from Kevin King and Lynne Yun on youtube. Aside from these softwares, type designers like James Edmonson shares really helpful introductory type tips on his instagram and blog (https://ohnotype.co/blog/tagged/teaching ), Ken Barber has an incredibly helpful lettering book to nail form and terminology (https://houseind.com/hi/house-industries-lettering-manual) and the Letterform Archive holds free seminars and paid workshops with professionals (https://letterformarchive.org/)
What type of work will I be doing in an entry level job or internship?
Lots of layout work and building out systems that a lead designer or Art Director have built the groundwork and guidelines for. Be a team player and soak in as much info as you can from your higher ups and peers. Being able to problem solve and communicate effectively and positively with clients and colleagues is how you work your way up the ladder (even over talent). So remember it's a team sport.
What does an average day look like for a professional like yourself now?
It's probably 40% management and 60% design at this stage in my career. When you run a small studio or work in a small studio you do a lot of management, but I like that because I always know what's going on. So I get up, get my coffee or tea, make a to do list of my 3 top priority items for the day, then check emails and make sure everyone knows when to expect things (always let clients know when to expect things from you so they don't hover), then get to designing! We always present first round proofs to clients, so we usually have 1 or 2 video calls in a week. 40% of our income for our business is from internal projects (no client but ourselves) like fonts, courses, creative resources, and other fun products. So usually 1/5 of my week is working on our internal projects. Having that diversified income takes so much stress out of client work.
Do you work for a company, own your own company, or work as a contract employee or freelancer? Are you repped by an agent?
I co-own my own company with my twin sister. Working for yourself full time isn't for everyone, but i do believe everyone should freelance in some capacity: whether to fully pay the bills, get some extra side income, or find creative fulfillment that your day job maybe can't offer. Working for yourself seems hard, but if you get your systems and procedures in place it's a breeze. There are tons of business courses and books out there (we wrote a book called Freelance and Business and Stuff on this topic) who can help you nail down the technical side so that you can focus on the fun creative side! It's all about having a system. That's it. https://hoodzpahdesign.com/product/fabas-freelance-business-book-print/
What client or company or project are you most proud of and why?
We've recently been doing a lot of work with Disney (and it's subsidiaries 20th Century and Hulu) on Title Treatments (movie logos) and it's so rewarding! Working with a creative team that massive on something that will be released on a global scale is so exciting! And they want to get creative and push it. It's such a dream gig.
Where do you work? Do you work in an office, your own studio, can you freelance from anywhere in your line of work?
I have a home office and always have since we started our business 10+ years ago. For anyone looking to start their own business, if you can make WFH work...do it! Office space costs are one of the biggest expenses, and one of the major perks to working for yourself is setting your own hours! If you have to keep office hours it sort of defeats the purpose. Save all that cash up and get you a duffy boat at the end of a few years instead!
Part 2: About The Artist
What are your pronouns?
What were you like when you were in elementary school?
I've always been creative! My sister and I created our own unofficial school newspaper at Salem Hyde Elementary, had our own detective agency in our attic and made a greeting card company that we'd send custom Christmas cards out from. We were always trying to hock our creative wares somehow! We were obsessed with animation and always figured we'd have our own business in some way.
What were you like when you were in high school?
Same in high school. I thought I'd be a professional artist, but I was doing graphic design without knowing it: making custom tees for my boyfriend and my friends for Football and Basketball and selling them. Designing my friends' album covers. I thought I'd go to UCLA or NYU and be a famous artist or animator.
Is college necessary for this role? Did you go to college?
When I finally got to the stage of seriously looking at college I realized I couldn't afford it (and my family couldn't either). So I did community college for a few semesters while working full time. In the end I learned that college is not necessary for this career if you can't afford it. There are so many online courses available these days and 2 year programs and CCs. I'm so glad I didn't take on huge student loan debt even though I absolutely felt the pressure to have a 4year degree at the time. These days talent, real world experience, and a solid porfolio is 1000x more important than a degree.
How did you land your first job?
A customer at the coffee shop I was working at gave me my first design job! He just knew I was a super hard worker and good with people and artistic. Your best jobs will come from the most unlikely places.
When you were just starting out (think first job), how did you handle life and finances?
My dad and my grandma have always taught me to be money wise and avoid debt. And I'm so so glad they did. Student loans and business loans and credit card debt can be such a burden and can affect what jobs you have to take out of necessity. Don't live beyond your means. Make a budget and figure out what you need to live, what you need for fun, and what you need to save. You want to save up at least 2-3 months of expenses for just in case. In case you lose your job, in case you get ill... you just never know! The sooner you begin to save, the sooner you can make life decisions motivated by your values and goals instead of fear and making ends meet.
How has your career evolved from one industry to another?
I started out mainly in editorial design and loved it and never wanted to leave. Then someone asked me to do a logo and I never wanted to do anything other than that. Then I made my first custom wordmark and type was life. In short say yes to new things! You never know what will become a passion.
Part 3: Musings Of A Creative Superhero
Do you have any shoutouts to special people that helped you land your first gig, or find your creative superpower?
My high school art teacher Rick Delanty made me realize you can make a living with art and got me my first art show. Jason Staggs taught me design and gave me my apprenticeship. My friends and peers in the design community like Mattox Schuler, Mark Hemeon, Neri Rivas, Josh Hemsley, Joel Beukelman, Josh Ariza, Kate Rosenow, Luke Hodsdon, Alice Lee, Jon Contino, and so many more have been sounding boards and given advice. Find your peers and mentors! They are indispensable.
Do you have a creative outlet outside of client work?
Yes! Baking, chain stitching, painting, livestreaming on youtube. It's so important to do something creative where there is no client and you aren't trying to sell it. Just being creative to explore and flex a new muscle.
Where would the world be without creative thinkers / creative problem solvers / designers / artists?
Do you have any organizations that you support and would like to mention? Any resources that are helpful to students that you’d like to link?
You can learn so much on Adobe Live! Livestreams from incredible creatives around the globe: behance.net/live
You can thank Amy for her story, learn more, and follow Hoodzpah at:
Freelance and Business and Stuff for Creatives: The Online Course: https://course.freelanceandbusiness.com/courses/freelance-and-business-and-stuff
Thank you Amy !!!