Our Culture

What We’re Doing: The Importance of Creative Outlets

Why is it that a breakthrough idea is more likely to come to you in the shower than while sitting around the conference room table? There’s real science behind it, but here’s the simple answer: We do our best thinking when we’re relaxed.

Much of this relaxation comes from the things we choose to do in our free time. Photography, painting, playing music — taking the time to enjoy our hobbies enables us to free our minds, exercise our creativity, and make room for those “Eureka” moments.

Related: Our hobbies aren’t the only place we find inspiration. Check out some of our favorite podcasts.

Here’s how our D Custom team draws office inspirations from the outlets that keep their wheels turning after hours.

What Keeps Our Creators Creating


Paris Dahlstrom — Digital Media Strategist

Creative Outlet: Food photography

Where it started: I’ve always loved photography, but this summer I bumped it up a notch and created a food-focused Instagram account called “I’ll Take The …”.

What I love: I try to show the meals I get in a realistic way that maintains the integrity of the dish and restaurant. Since a lot of the time I’m ordering based on visual appeal, I often try things I wouldn’t normally order, so it’s been a culinary adventure as well.

How it impacts: I work all day with social media accounts, consistently combing through to answer questions and engage with audiences across social platforms. Having some freedom in my own social media life is a nice change of pace. I started “I’ll Take The …” to visually represent meals from around Dallas (and beyond, when I travel). It’s a real and relatively easy way to both ramp up my photography game and satiate my social media cravings.


Josh McCullough — Junior Graphic Designer

Creative Outlet: Creating art

Where it started: I’ve been making artwork in a wide range of mediums (painting, cartoons, graphics, and more) since I was a kid. I enrolled in art school starting in middle school, so it came to the forefront of my education in my formative years.   

What I love: I used to do a lot of representative, realistic, and observational pieces, but lately my work has become more minimalist. I like giving the viewer the ability to interpret each work for themselves and extract the meaning they want.

How it impacts: When you go to an art school, every piece of your work is ripped apart and critiqued. It teaches you to become both a better artist and a better critic. Taking feedback requires a certain level of detachment from your creations — you can still be passionate about what you’re doing, but you have to understand that every person has a unique perspective, and that’s OK. It’s the same thing in the office. I often have to rework designs for a client, and I can’t take it to heart when someone disagrees with my design perspective; instead, it’s about meeting them in the middle and using the skills I have to help them bring their ideas to life.


Grace La Montagne — Editorial Intern

Creative Outlet: Fashion

Where it started: I’ve had a love for fashion since I could pick out my own outfits.

What I love: Growing up attending private Catholic school meant a wardrobe full of school uniforms — which made dressing up all the more precious.

How it impacts: My fashion identity is rooted in imagination and open-mindedness, but it’s also about taking a discerning eye to each piece I choose to curate a wardrobe that truly reflects me. Pairing my silk pajama top with distressed denim? Sure. Track pants to the office? When done well, OK. All of the overalls? Yes, please. Creativity is about being flexible and willing to try things, which is the same approach I take with my writing. But you also have to know when to kill your darlings. Like every piece in my closet, every word on a page is precious. The more carefully you choose them, the better your message will come across.


Kylie Valigura — Art Director 

Creative Outlet: Folk music

Where it started: A Craigslist post. I wanted to start a folk band and Krystle answered. We’ve been performing together as Penny & Dime for about a year.

What I love: From creating the lyrics to the harmonies in our music, it’s an extremely collaborative process. Being a part of this duo has pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me a more confident person in my own life, especially in a team setting like the office.

How it impacts: I listen to music almost constantly when I’m designing. I’ve always thought art and music complement one another nicely, and that’s become even more evident with my band. And my design skills have come in handy — I designed our logo and album art, which was great because it gave me the opportunity to flex some muscles that don’t always get used when working with clients.


Veronica Buehnerkemper — Operations Manager

Creative Outlet: Dancing

Where it started: I’ve danced ever since I was 2 years old.

What I love: I grew up doing ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and tap, but today, my favorite thing is two-stepping.

How it impacts: To dance well, you have to clear everything from your mind and focus on each specific move. Forms like ballet in particular require incredible concentration and deliberate movement; hip-hop, though more fluid, requires you to focus on the beat of the music. With two-stepping, your main focus is on your partner — a good partner is key. As a woman, I don’t lead the dance, so if I’m stuck with a mediocre partner, I end up trying to simultaneously lead and follow (which is impossible). It speaks to the importance of good teamwork, which is a huge part of all of our jobs at the agency. Whether you’re leading or following, to get good results, we have to constantly be focused and in tune with each another. 


Brian Kendall — Managing Editor

Creative Outlet: Music

Where it started: I picked up guitar on a whim about ten years ago.

What I love: I recently started playing at open mic nights around Dallas, which has pushed me to write more and hone my performance skills.

How it impacts: Music has definitely informed my career as a writer. When I create a new song, I start with the melody and then move on to lyrics. Sometimes I’ll have an idea for how I want to structure the song, which will often end up sounding forced and insincere. Music, as with writing, needs to be left to unfold into what it’s supposed to be. It’s helped me make my words more streamlined and intentional. It’s also allowed me to be a more tolerant and insightful person toward others — everyone’s craft is an insight into deeper parts of who they are.

Want to learn more about what we love? Check out everything from books we’re reading to our favorite e-newsletters on our blog