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Q&A with Dave Waite

Creative director at Zookeeper

Hi, I’m Dave Waite. I run Zookeeper, a strategic creative agency here in Los Angeles. Since 1999, we’ve helped companies like NBC, Nike and Disney brand themselves better. We partner with TV networks, film companies, ad agencies, brands and businesses, large and small. Before that, I worked for Nike and ESPN.

What inspired you to become a designer?

I started in the business in the late 1990s when I was a creative writer at Nike for their retail design department, working on NikeTowns openings in London, Berlin, Denver, Honolulu and Miami. We created in-store displays that married athlete’s stories to specific products – it was a terrific introduction to storytelling, working side-by-side with some of the top designers on the planet. A lot of design sensibility rubbed off through osmosis.

I decided to go off on my own in 1999, figuring I’d freelance for a few weeks and then get a copywriting job at an agency. And here we are 16 years later…

After 9/11 and the dot-com implosion, I thought it would be a good idea to learn some additional skills and started taking a number of design classes at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland. We started designing logos and websites in the mid-2000s, and things snowballed from there. I’m a voracious reader of design books and even taught myself how to code over the years. These days I focus on creative direction and new business development.

What design software do you use?

Is this a trick question? With Adobe’s monopoly on the industry, hard not to pay your monthly CC fees! LOL. We use Premiere Pro, After Effects, Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign, among others. Dusty from our office is constantly experimenting with new technologies and trying programs, keeping us up to date. Technology is morphing quicker than ever. You must keep learning and evolving with everything you do.

© Dave Waite

What is your ideal work environment?

The top of a castle turret in the Austrian Alps outside of Innsbruck with a hockey rink and a brewery downstairs, a la Strange Brew!

We’re here in LA, on the top floor (there are only two) with windows facing out on Sunset Boulevard. We’ve got some exposed brick, open rafters with wood beams and refinished wood floors. When we found the space a couple of years ago, it felt like it had good creative bones. We like high desks that you can stand at as you and have an open work environment.

Where does your design inspiration come from?

Everywhere! I traveled to Europe for 5 weeks last summer, Thailand in the fall and then Cuba in December. Inspiration is everywhere you look. We have an extensive library of design books and subscribe to all of the prominent design magazines. We also get inspiration from the motion graphics in the latest TV and films.

Inspiration works in different ways for different people. Whatever works for you, it’s ultra-important in our business to keep the well constantly replenished.

Who is the person you admire most?

This is an impossible question. One of my relatives will be offended no matter who I say. I procrastinated filling these questions out for like 6 months because I kept getting hung up on this question. So I’m going to punt on this one. Or call in a lifeline. Or something.