Zachary Kern

With a love for Steak 'N Shake and probably using Trello while maybe hanging out with Cloris Leachman, this is the Creative Director of Farmboy.

Tell us about your childhood. I spent the first 15 years of my life in Springfield, Illinois. It was a pretty happy childhood, growing up in a middle of the middle class family, like a not-as-memorable John Hughes movie. I spent 10 years in Catholic school and think the public school kids were missing out on uniforms. You never had to decide what to wear everyday, how wonderful that was. I moved capital to capital, coming to the metro here in the summer of 2000.

What was your first job? That would be McDonalds in Waukee (where I lived) starting sophomore year of high school and lasted about 4 years. I had to burn those work pants. You can’t wash out the smell of Ronald grease.

Why do you call Des Moines home? Didn’t have a choice when I moved here, but I definitely made the choice a few years back that I wanted to stay here. Almost since I arrived, the metro has changed so drastically and almost always for the better. I have friends who grew up here and talked about how dull it was. I just can’t picture seeing that for what this city has become.

If you could write the Des Moines area a mission statement what would it be?"Des Moines: You can learn all that there is to know about it in a month, and yet after a hundred years it can still surprise you in a pinch.” Of course I’m paraphrasing Gandalf. You’re welcome.

What’s currently keeping you busy? I am the Creative Director with Farmboy, a brand, web, and design firm here in the metro. I also co-own myTown Magazines, a community based publication, alongside the owner of Farmboy. I also do a bit of freelance design and work on my own projects that I try (poorly) to sell to the public.

What app do you use on a daily basis and why? We use several: Google Drive, Slack, Dropbox, WeTransfer... Probably the one I could not live without is Trello. For those who do not know, Trello is a visual collaboration tool that creates a shared perspective on any project. We manage all of our projects with various clients through there. I even use it with my sister when we're tracking all the fun stuff for my nephews birthday parties. It's extremely versatile.

I’m afraid I’m rather more dull than some of my peers. 

Walk us through your design process. On any given design project the deliverables vary widely, but there is a common practice through all of them. We ask our clients to tell us all about themselves. We ask them who their competitors are. We ask them what they like and also what they dislike. It helps us to better know their mindset and more importantly their business. We research, sketch, collaborate, research, and sketch some more. By the time we are moving to digital there isn't many unwanted surprises.

Walk us through your typical weekend? I’m afraid I’m rather more dull than some of my peers. My fiancée Chelsea and I typically do our “weekend warrior” errands hang out with some of our friends. We’re not big on concerts but we do try to catch any seasonal attractions such as the farmers market, and more recently the Renaissance Fair. Like, they legitimately had a full-amour medieval fight club this year. It was insane (and awesome).

What is one thing you can't leave home without other than your phone? Usually chapstick. Dry lips aren’t very attractive.

From one maker to another what is your tip or advice? To have any modicum of progress I strongly feel it’s simply a war of attrition and time. I’ve labored greatly to get away from a complainers mentality, and though we all get by with a little help from our friends, I think the biggest thing that gets in our way is us. What little success I’ve had I attribute to simply trying to do good work, let it get seen, and try to do more good work. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 

They either know exactly what they want or they lean on us to brainstorm with them.

Who is someone you admire that others may know in the Des Moines area and why do admire them? I’ve come to admire a fair amount of our clients. I don’t have too many nightmare stories and I certainly do work for solid clients, but that work won’t win any competitions. Then I come across some who just seem to “get it.” They either know exactly what they want or they lean on us to brainstorm with them. We’re really good at that. 

So Zach Mannheimer would be one of those individuals. As a creative, I greatly support the efforts of the Des Moines Social Club and what they’ve been doing these past few years. I first worked with him and a few other DSM entrepreneurs on the Powered By Fries food truck. We all gelled so well and we got to make a great end-product. From there we collaborated on a few more projects for Social Club events, most recently doing all the branding and trophies for The Cloris Awards.

Another would be Carl Wertzberger who is the managing partner of Gilroy’s Kitchen + Pub + Patio. Just reading his initial 40+ page business proposal, he clearly had a passion for restaurants and had big dreams for Gilroy’s. We worked very closely with him to channel his grand ideas into something doable and pretty cool. He really agonized over his perception and it was refreshing that he trusted us to take the ball and run with it. Plus he paid us on time, which we really appreciate!

Name a few companies that would be or are on your bucket list for clients. Well as far as "pie in the sky" dream clients, I would say number one would be Disney. It's just such a versatile brand that pretty much owns the licenses to most of my childhood. Major retailers such as Target would be great as we would love to do more with packaging and displays. 

At the local level, I have a fair amount of hopeful partners. Anything craft beer, more food trucks/restaurants, or local events would be killer. They're just fun projects. More specifically we really enjoy events/promotional materials so I would love a shot at Adventureland (I'm a sucker for theme parks if you can't tell), the Iowa State Fair, Jolly Holiday Lights, the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, Iowa Events Center... the list goes on and on! I suppose that's what makes Des Moines so great huh?

Convince us to visit one of your favorite places in the Des Moines area. I feel like a lot of people mention restaurants. We’ve got an awesome array of food and drink options and it’s only getting better. I’m a wings guy and so if you haven’t yet, head over to GoodSons in Beaverdale. They have some of the best wings I’ve had in the midwest. 

If you could grant the Des Moines area one wish what would it be? Steak 'N Shake. For the love of all that’s holy, this former central Illinoisan wants one here very badly. It’s the only thing I miss outside of family. We’re getting a Five Guys and we now have multiple Chick Fil A’s (regardless of your politics, it’s damn good chicken), we need a Steak ’N Shake. Coalville has one and you can bet I stop by every time I drive through Iowa City.

Derek Jensen