Today we’d like to introduce you to Keith Knueven.
Hi Keith, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I grew up the son of a dairy farmer and nurse in a rural, flat “Friday Night Lights” village of northwest Ohio. One of six kids (yes, Catholic). My interest in art and music wasn’t the norm. During high school, my parents allowed me to attend an early college program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Here, I was introduced to “Communication Arts”. Using type and image as a medium was very interesting to me. After SAIC, I studied design at the University of Cincinnati’s school of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. An internship in Santa Monica led me to my first full-time job and living in Southern California. That was 1996, 25 years ago.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Growing up gay in a conservative area was a challenge. The angst of not knowing who I was or which little box I fit into was hard. Then, in my 20s and living in LA, I realized there was no box. There was a whole world to explore and discover, with beautiful people from all walks of life. What an incredible experience it has been. Today I’m thankful for having a supportive family all these years. I have a renewed appreciation for where I’m from. As importantly, I recognize my coming out experience was easy in comparison to others. But you don’t feel that when you are in the midst of a struggle or challenge.
More of the moment, the impact that Covid has had on our business, the artists we work with and know, friends and loved ones has really changed us in both good and bad ways. As a collective, we’ve done what we can to keep our team working, engaged, and inspired. I’ve also been helping my family back in Ohio open a small market and ice cream shop. It’s been a sweet (literally and figuratively) escape to be able to design labels, signage, marketing strategies and a website for them. I mean, who doesn’t like ice cream, cheese and butter?
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Keith & Co. is an LA-based strategy and design studio with a second location in Pittsburgh. There’s variety to the work we create. Sometimes it’s a logo or larger brand identity system, a brochure or an exhibition catalog, a website, sign program or a larger combination of those things. Other times we’re brought in for brainpower—to think about the how-tos or what-ifs.
Our deep love for LA is reflected in the people and organizations we collaborate with. They are the heart and soul of our city and culture—museums, performing arts centers, neighborhoods, educators, technologists, artists, doctors, authors, transportation experts. Our daily conversations range from technological innovations to HIV-prevention and treatment for at-risk youth to historical preservation.
The Keith & Co. crew is a talented and passionate bunch, each person having their own strengths—photography, illustration, typography, writing, thinking. We try to align projects that give everyone space to flex their creative potential and expertise and focus on the things we care about.
A couple of project examples: our “Go Little Tokyo” campaign—a collaboration with Community Arts Resources (CARS), the Little Tokyo community, and Metro—was created to help mitigate the construction impact of Metro’s Regional Connector. We “painted” the neighborhood with fun and vibrant graphics that celebrated the neighborhood’s history.
We worked with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’s Young Adult Medicine program to build a campaign for HIV prevention and treatment for young adults, ages 12 to 24 in at-risk areas. The challenges some of these young adults face make my previously noted coming out experience a walk in the park.
Our work can be intense or fun and sometimes both. It’s meaningful and impactful.
Portrait by Dave Lauridsen (https://www.davelauridsen.com/overview/thumbs). All other image credits: Keith & Co.