Checking in with Studio DAD

Studio DAD is a portland-based creative studio that, in their own words, “exists to find joy in the mundane, excitement in the unexpected and hope in the moment.” Founded by Tess Donohoe and Peter Dean, Studio DAD offers a range of services including design, writing, illustration, music, motion, and Creative Therapy™.

We had a chance to check in with them over email and find out about what they are working on lately—including the launch of a brand new website. You can also find more of their work on instagram @studiodad.

Design for TOC by Studio DAD.

What are you up to in your practice today?

I don’t think it’s a revelation to say that this year has been f-ed up. We started the year with a good idea of what we’d be working on and where we wanted to take the studio. A pandemic and a long-overdue social movement later, we feel lucky to be still going. We’ve seen a lot of colleagues and friends struggle, so we’ve tried to support our fellow creative people as much as we can. And we’ve just been trying to keep the business alive and keep moving forward as a studio. We’re just glad to still be in it and still be working with great people who share our beliefs.

What’s most exciting about working in Portland?

Big town talent, small town charm™. There’s a seemingly endless community of talented creative people here. We’re always finding new people and, more often than not, we share a common connection. That doesn’t seem mathematically possible—always new people to meet and work with, but somehow everyone knows everyone else. Seeing how everyone in the Portland creative community has reacted to 2020, and how much people have supported each other, has reaffirmed our faith in humanity.

What advice might you offer to the PDX design community and particularly those who are changing or looking to grow their careers?

As anyone who’s ever worked as a freelancer or who’s started their own thing can tell you, it almost always feels like you’re mid-crisis. Not enough work, too much work, fear of the future, fear of failure, fear of the wrong kind of success—the list goes on. These emotions are pretty similar to what one feels making a big change in their career, and it really all boils down to uncertainty. 

What we’ve found running Studio DAD is that the best cure for uncertainty is to remember why you’re doing this in the first place. It’s because somewhere, at some point in your life, you decided to listen to your own creative intuition. You took a leap of faith in yourself. You have to keep making those leaps throughout your career. Every time you do, you’re reinvesting in your own creative well. You’re reassuring yourself that all the uncertainty is just a mind trick. Get away from it by experimenting. Keep busy with projects and work that excites you, not just stuff that pays the bills. Because there will be a time, and it happens to all of us, where you probably won’t be able to pay the bills. If you can soldier on, keep making things and keep your faith in yourself, even as it seems the world is crumbling around us, you’ll see the tough times through. 

AND, you live in one of the friendliest most supportive cities on Earth (at least with regards to the creative industry)! Reach out, people want to know each other and help each other out. If all else fails, you can always leave us a voicemail at 888-DAD-4338. Tell us what you’re going through. It’ll get the uncertainty off your chest and let you get back to working on something amazing.

About Brandon Waybright

Brandon Waybright is a designer and educator. He serves as Content Director for AIGA Portland and is the Chair of the Department of Art & Design at George Fox University. His primary work includes branding and UI/UX design. His podcast, Full Bleed, focuses on stories and conversations that explore the under-represented and overlooked in design practice and is findable on platforms everywhere.
@_supercommon_ | Website |

By Brandon Waybright
Published August 31, 2020
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