818 Open House

Happy fall everyone!

Please join 818 – a tiny design empire at our office on Friday, October 28th for a much anticipated open house! We are holding this open house in celebration of many recent milestones:

A new office spaceWe moved way back in March, but it’s still new to many of you! At our last taco party open house, we did a great job of packing over 60 people in about 600 sq ft (which is probably illegal) and it was pretty fun. 🙂 Come taco party at our new digs… It’s still on-brand and tiny-ish, but it’s more than twice as big as our last office and 4 times bigger than our first, and we totally have running water and so much room for activities. The joke is that every year we move a couple blocks East on Court… pretty soon we’ll be running the empire from the Capitol building. 😛

More awesome people – 2016 has blessed us with the addition of two new full-time team members, Toni & Chandler. If you haven’t had a chance to meet them, the taco party is the perfect opportunity to receive high-5’s from them. These 2 talented ladies bring a whole new depth to 818’s talents, capabilities and culture and we’re thrilled to have them here. 

YOU – We are thankful for all our clients, colleagues and friends who continue to support us and help us grow. Thank you!

Details: Add it to your calendar! iCalendar  •  Google Calendar  •  Outlook
Friday, October 28
3:00 – 7:00 PM
301 E. Court Ave., Ste. 105
Des Moines, IA 50309
(Insider tip: our office entrance is off E. 3rd St. on the south side of the building.)

Come enjoy good conversation, a selection of Iowa craft beer and of course, taco-y things. Prizes for those showing up in costume – we’ll be wearing ours!

Also, don’t forget to vote for which costume you’d love to see Paige wear to the event! (We haven’t told her about this part yet…ha!)


This poll is closed! Poll activity:
Start date 19-10-2016 14:57:26
End date 27-10-2016 23:59:59
Poll Results:
What should Paige come dressed as to the open house?


We hope to see you next Friday!


Meet Chandler Johannsen

Join us in welcoming Chandler Johannsen back to the empire! Chandler was an 818 intern during her junior year of college and has returned as a full time designer. Read more to get to know her!

Q: Where were you born?
A: I was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota!

Q: How would your team describe you?
A: Hmm…I’ve been told that I have a quiet confidence…but I don’t feel confident saying that, so they were probably using a kind word to accompany the word ‘quiet.’ I’m proficient in telling Dad jokes, I’m fairly organized and I prefer listening over talking 90% of the time. Overall, I would say that I’m the player with most assists on the basketball team rather than the person always shooting– I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Q: What is your design background?
A: I just graduated this May with my BFA in Graphic Design from Iowa State, where I did numerous odds ‘n ends freelance jobs, including my favorite one thus far– I teamed up for awhile with Burgie’s Coffee in Ames, where I helped create new handwritten elements for their website & for social media promotions, I revamped their huge chalkboard menus, and I designed a trio of new shirts, (printed by my pal Skyler Prenosil of CLZN Co.), that the community now sports proudly. I published a children’s book during my final semester of college, I was co-editor-in-chief of Revival Magazine on ISU’s campus for my last 2 semesters and I coincidentally interned previously with 818 during the spring semester of my junior year.

Q: What areas of design are you most passionate about?
A: I would say that I’m most passionate in the realms of illustration & typography, where I often love to combine the two– I love doodling with pen and paper, & then making my drawing(s) come to life on the computer. I also love social design + designing for good. One of the best projects I was part of during my time at Iowa State was when I took a class that was literally called ‘social design.’ The entire semester was devoted to identifying a need or problem, brainstorming ways to address or solve the problem, and then using design to exploit, educate or alleviate the problem. I was on a team of five other students and we created an anti-pornography guerilla-styled campaign that stretched throughout an entire semester, and we remained anonymous until our final reveal at the end. We called ourselves ‘Peter’ and used reverse-psychology to spark people to care about our topic– it was awesome.

Q: What is something you always carry with you?
A: A good pen– you never know when you’ll have an opportunity to draw something.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
A: Like I mentioned in my design background overview, I published a children’s book titled “What It’s Like” during my final semester at Iowa State, which I would say is probably something I’ve done that I’m most proud of. I’m not proud of this project because of the sheer fact that I did it, but entirely because of the reason(s) behind doing it & the inspiration that came from my loved ones along the way.

Q: If you could learn one skill, what would it be?
A: Man, there are SO many things I would love to learn! Here’s a small list: I would love to learn how to be a barista & make all of the awesome coffees, I would love to learn how to play the guitar or piano, I would love to learn to speak another language, I would love to learn how to drive a stick-shift, and so on and so forth.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: In the little free time that I have right now between planning a wedding & other life things, I love to spend time with all the near & dear loves in my life, I enjoy reading and cooking, I happily claim that I drink copious amounts of coffee and seek out the places that serve it, and I like being outside more than I do inside– camping & hiking are two of my favorite things ever. I also enjoy perusing through antique stores and riding my bike.

Q: What are you most excited about at 818?
A: Being back at 818 is so surreal, especially since this time around my role has shifted into the spot of a full-time designer, rather than a part-time intern. I already love being back in the tiny design empire, and I think moving forward, I’m just excited about all of the fun projects that I know will continue to come our way. The dynamic in the office is great and and I love that playing loud is something that happens on a daily basis.

Q: What is your favorite dinosaur?
A: I would probably say that the pterodactyl is my favorite dinosaur, mostly because of my childhood love for Petrie from the Land Before Time.


Meet Toni Sarcone

So far, 2016 has brought many exciting changes to the empire. This month, we are expanding our team and welcoming senior designer, Toni Sarcone! Read more to get to know her.

Q: Where were you born? 

A: Right here. I’m a Des Moines girl. 

Q: How would your team describe you? 

A: Down-to-earth. Supportive. Open minded. Adaptable. Working on a creative a team is a fun, exciting, and rewarding experience. Seeing a project through from concept to execution requires embracing both sides of the brain and having fun doing it!

Q: What is your design background? 

A: I started my career in the non-profit sector working for the Des Moines Public Library, designing and marketing community based services and programs. After the library, I joined an agency where my primary focus was on a global, Iowa based, company that manufactures agricultural equipment, specializing in corporate communications and environmental graphics.

Q: What areas of design are you most passionate about? 

A: I’m passionate about all the elements of great design; deliberate typography, thoughtful illustration, and engaging photography. That said, the part I love most is the collaborative space where ideas come to life – the brainstorm. 

Q: What is something you always carry with you? 

A: Sketchbook and coffee. All day.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of? 

A: I’m proud to have created a career out of my passion for art and design. As for my biggest accomplishment, that would be my daughter, who is now exploring the diverse world of design. I’m blessed to show her that pursuing your dreams, while not always easy, can lead to success and lasting happiness. 

Q: If you could learn one skill what would it be? 

A: This is such a great question. One of the great things about being a designer is the lifelong opportunity to learn and add new skills to our toolkit. I’m really excited to learn a new animation program that brings illustration to life across the growing number of digital platforms.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time? 

A: My favorite way to spend free time is to get outdoors. I love the hunt for a new park, packing up the pop-up camper, and lighting the camp fire. 

Q: What are you most excited about at 818? 

A: Joining forces with the incredible designers here, meeting our clients to learn more about the amazing work they do, and sharing my love of tacos and beer! 

Q: What is your favorite dinosaur? 

A: Pterodactyl. It flies. ‘Nuff said. 


Iowa Small Business of the Day

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office in Des Moines recently launched a project that celebrates entrepreneurship by showcasing Iowa small businesses on their Facebook page. Among others, 818 – a tiny design empire was selected to be interviewed regarding our advice, knowledge, and wisdom we’ve gained from starting and running 818. Read the entire interview below!

What is the most rewarding part about running 818?

The most rewarding part is getting to know other small business owners and helping them grow their businesses. It sounds cliché, but it is true and it’s why we formed this business. Some of our clients are now some of our best friends and we enjoy working together to enhance the culture of our local communities. 

Who was your biggest supporter when you started 818?

Without sounding like an Oscars speech… the list really is endless. We couldn’t do this on our own. At our launch 3 years ago, we started out with huge support from family & close friends who shared our excitement. They were always there to bounce ideas off of, talk things through with or help with whatever they could. Having spouses that provided us some financial stability and health insurance was a big factor in being able to make the initial jump. As we completed more projects, the initial friends & family support turned into referrals and the support grew to others in our community and it continues to grow the more we do. Our first employee, Paige, has been all-in from the beginning and we thank her for being understanding of the start-up chaos. We are so appreciative of our initial clients, as they were the first to trust us and many of them continue to grow with us today and we love that. It’s fun to look back on our businesses together and see all we’ve accomplished.

If you could go back to the first day of running 818, is there anything you would have done differently?

We would have spent more time on a business plan up-front. We ended up completing ours after 6 months of being in business and we could have been a little more focused if we had done that work sooner. With that said, it was also nice to have some real-life experience under our belt before determining the plan. 

What was your biggest obstacle in starting 818? Did you overcome it?

Balancing cashflow was very difficult in the beginning. We started our business without loans, so we relied on ourselves to make sure we were consistently bringing in enough revenue each month to cover our expenses while growing the business. This didn’t allow us the ability to hire staff, so we’d work long hours every day in order to get both the business management tasks as well as the client work done. We still work those long days, but we’ve recently gotten to the point where we are comfortable expanding our team, so some relief is on the way. Cashflow will always be a tricky battle, but we’ve definitely gotten better at managing it.

What words of advice would you give others who are looking to start their own company?

Starting a business is a giant, scary, unpredictable roller coaster. But, as someone recently told us, everything is “figureoutable.” Approach each day and each hill with that word in mind and take it one step at a time. It’s hard. Really hard. But, you’ve got this. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry… and often together in the same moment. To run a successful business — especially in the beginning years — your personal life, health, finances and relationships will all suffer, so be prepared to make tough sacrifices in order to succeed. As you become more established, it will get better. Keep your head up and trust yourself and your team. Develop 1 yr., 3 yr. and 5 yr. goals and make time to reflect, evaluate and adjust goals as you grow. Find a mentor and/or a business coach that will help keep you accountable. 


818 has moved!

We’ve recently moved our office location in order to accommodate growth. Our email, website and phone numbers are all the same, but our new address is:

818 – a tiny design empire 

301 East Court Avenue
Suite 105
Des Moines, Iowa 50309

Stop by and say hello if you’re in the area! Helpful tip: the entrance to our office is on South side of the building.

P.S. Also, pictured last, meet our new fish, Taco. (see what we did there?)















Join the 818 Team: Sr. Designer

Exciting news! We are seeking a full-time Sr. Designer with 5+ years of experience to join our growing studio. Within this role, priorities include creative direction and execution, project management, client communications and design team leadership. Additional details can be found here.

To apply, please send your resume and digital portfolio to Rachel at


Spring Intern: Phil 2.0


We’d like to introduce to you, our spring intern: Phil 2.0! Phil Kruzan Jr. has signed on with us again for the duration of the spring semester.

The first time we introduced Phil, you got to know a little about him through our official 818 Intern This or That questionnaire. We would like to reintroduce him with a few more branded questions.

Favorite dinosaur? Bear

Favorite pantone? PANTONE 032 C

Favorite taco topping? Jalapeños

Coffee or beer? Beer

Logos or Environmental Graphics? Logos

Design inspiration? Ja Rule & Justin Bieber

Favorite 818 experience thus far? Writing my bio for 818’s website and becoming the official male of 818.


AIGA Design Camp 2015

AIGA is the national professional association for design who’s mission is to enhance the value of design across all disciplines (P.S. No big deal, but our own Paige Kleckner is the Co-President and Membership director of the Iowa chapter). The Minnesota chapter hosts the annual Design Camp – a conference with over 400 attendees centered around education and recharging creativity. A weekend in the woods with speakers, breakout sessions, and inspiration with topics on everything from type design to animation to user experience. Design Camp is a nice reminder to step back and think about the process of design.

The 818 team headed up early to spend a day experiencing the Minneapolis design and brewery culture. First, we stopped by the design studio, Little  who designed the graphics for this year’s Design Camp We toured their space, met some fellow Iowans, and got a peak at some brilliant design coming out of the midwest. Next, we met with Michael, the creative director at Surly Brewing Co., where he took us on a brewery tour, talked brewery branding and design, tasted some delicious beer (mostly Todd the Axeman), and got to enjoy food from their fabulous Brewer’s Table restaurant. (The octopus, I’m telling you!)

Once we arrived at Gull Lake for Design Camp, we met up with fellow Des Moines designers, made new friends, wore some plaid (#plaidurday), attended some inspirational presentations from nationally recognized designers and spent the weekend nerding out over motion curves and kerning. Each day ended with a bonfire by the lake, a few rounds of darts and the occasional whiskey.

On the way home, we stopped by IKEA to pick up a few items because exciting news… we’re moving — again!! We’ll be expanding into a new office building this spring. Keep your eyes peeled for more news on that front as the New Year comes around. After lots of walking and not nearly enough Swedish meatballs, we packed up into the car once more and headed back to Iowa. We ended our roadtrip with a rousing game of 20 questions that ended in tons of laughter and guacamole. Another empire roadtrip in the books!

-818 gang












Fall Intern

The summer has flown by so quickly! We want to give a shout out and a big congratulations to our former intern, Becca Berry! She just accepted a full time position at Delta Design in downtown Des Moines.

Today, we welcome our fall intern: Phil Kruzan Jr.!










Learn a little more about Phil with the This or That Intern Questions:

Coffee or tea? Coffee. Can I say Mountain Dew?

Black or white? Black

Pepsi or Coke? Pepsi

Early bird or night owl? Early Bird

Winter or summer? Summer

PC or Mac? Mac

Ketchup or mustard? Ketchup

Crushed ice or cubed ice? Cubed Ice

Antique or brand new? Brand New

Numbers or letters? Letters

Pen or pencil? Pen

Grammys or Oscars? Grammys

Multiple choice questions or essay questions? Multiple choice questions

Call or text? Text

Roller coaster or Ferris wheel? Roller Coaster

Stripes or solids? Solids

Bright colors or neutral tones? Bright colors

InDesign or Illustrator? Illustrator

T-rex or Pterodactyl? T-Rex

Sans Serif or Script? Script

Instagram or Twitter? Instagram (follow me @kruzanjr_) 😉

Digital or Analog? Digital

We are pumped for Phil’s first day! Can’t wait to get started!



The Des Moines Girl Gang is a local community of female creatives that I’ve becoming involved with this summer and through this group was invited to photograph the first annual summer music festival, Hinterland.

Hinterland – meaning “The land behind a river. The rural area near a city. A backwater.” – is a two day music festival in St. Charles that features a diverse blend of relevant artists, camping, on-site art installations, craft vendors, family engagement and more. The first year’s bill included amazing acts from T.V. On The Radio to Brandi Carlile to Old Crow Medicine Show. Hinterland was a unique concert experience as there was art, food and drink vendors  (a few 818 clients, even!)  as well as camping grounds that cultivated almost a community of it’s own. 

Here are some of my favorite images I took that weekend.










You can check out more images from this festival captured by over 10 different local photographers here.