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Beverly Kim

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August 28, 8:30am • • part of a series on Stress

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On the last day of the first month of 2014, Eric Siegel spoke to the Chicago creative community about Childhood. He is the founder and lead creative at a small sustainable and eco-friendly toy company, Tree Hopper Toys where he uses inspiration from his sons to guide his entrepreneurial decisions. He sees characteristics in them to mimic, and some to steer clear of but overall he preaches children should be inspiration to a burgeoning business.

"For kids, toys are the tools of the trade.”

Eagerness to learn

"Rid yourself of your pride, get on the phone and ask some honest questions.”

Eric learned the hard way that swallowing pride and simply admitting when you don’t know something is the best way to learn. Tree Hopper got its start selling to flash sale sites, and didn’t find out until after a few times around the merry-go-round that you can charge extra for shipping to the masses. Children have a knack for learning quickly. Sometimes little lessons like this one can be learned quicker if we approach them like our children do.


Best paired with a bit of recklessness, being fearless allows you to take the necessary risks in starting a business. While on a little hike, Eric learned how fearless his son could be, not afraid to run through the woods. For Tree Hopper Toys it meant going into a highly competitive market with almost no knowledge of how it’s ‘supposed’ to be.

"You have to turn off the crap in your head. Kids don’t have crap in their head."



Kids have a relentless pursuit of wacky fun times. Having playfulness in your projects is very important. Although Eric agrees that all things are needed in moderation, he prioritizes setting aside time to tinker, explore and keep the playfulness going.

While being part of the  toy industry does help reinforce his sense of playfulness, sometimes during the manufacturing process he finds it more challenging but even more important to remember how to keep the process enjoyable. As important as it is to be open to lessons from children, it is also important to recognize how a child reacts to a situation.

"The highest of highs, followed by the lowest of lows.”


Children seem to have the best of time, followed by the worst in a matter of minutes. Eric showed us a photo of his son playing in a pile of leaves. It resonated with everyone that he was having the best time of his life. Eric explained that in a matter of minutes something small could crush his entire world, like getting the blue cup instead of the red cup.

Similarly for Tree Hopper Toys, it’s world suddenly collapsed when the cardboard caps to their Match Stacks toy came back in a bland  green instead of the bright green they had ordered. A few PMS degrees off put them up against the wall with customer orders and their reputation on the line. He called his wife, took a deep breath, and worked it out with the manufacture. He had to realize that he had the power to find a resolution.

Acting childish

Overall, starting a business, especially a creative one, takes acts of fearlessness, playfulness and a hunger for learning. So much of which we can pull from looking at the children of the world. When you observe kids, you observe their flaws and their glories. These parallels in childhood and business are essential for beginning a creative project.

Keep an eye out for Eric at Toy Fair this year in New York and snag a fun toy at

Our friends at Grind, Chicago’s newest collaborative workspace and the host of January’s CreativeMornings, have just announced a limited time Founder’s Rate of only $300/mo. With 22’ high cathedral ceilings, a modern design, fast WiFi, and all the Intelligentsia coffee you can drink, Grind offers a frictionless and inspiring environment for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small companies to build stronger businesses. If you’re interested in learning more and joining the community, send an email to Heathyr to schedule a tour or grab a free day pass and stop by.

We’ll be kicking off 2014 with Eric Siegel from Tree Hopper Toys on Friday, January 31st from 8:30AM - 10:00AM.

Eric Siegel is the creator of Tree Hopper Toys, a tiny and local company who handcrafts a line of wooden toys that curious kids love. He knows kids work hard and explore everything—their creativity, environment, senses and strength—for them, toys are the tools of the trade. With that in mind, he designs safe toys that work alongside a child’s creativity and imagination.

His company started as a hobby 2 years ago in his garage and it’s grown into a full-time operation with a shop, employees and too many orders to count. Him and a handful of people design, cut, screenprint, and package their toys in a small shop on the outskirts of Chicago. You may have seen his wooden toys in shops around town like Haymaker, Lillstreet or the MCA. They’re currently being sold online and in retail stores covering 29 states and 4 countries. His toys have been featured on ABC7, Daily Candy and Inhabitat, among others.

Registration opens here on Monday, January 27th at 11:00AM.

Our theme for January is “Childhood” and we’re thrilled to have this event hosted and sponsored by our friends at Grind.

Hope to see you there!

We’ll be wrapping up 2013 with Linsey Burritt and Crystal Grover from INDO on on Friday, December 20th from 8:30AM - 10:00AM

INDO is a Chicago-based design and fabrications firm specializing in site-specific installations created with materials diverted from the waste and recycling streams. Co-creators Linsey Burritt and Crystal Grover blend sustainable practice, innovative design and thoughtful collaboration to produce interiors, window displays, art installations, objects and environments for a diverse range of clients, designers and venues. Linsey and Crystal’s talent is unprecedented, meticulous and brilliant and their work has been featured in places like the Chicago Tribune, Design Bureau, CS Interiors, Urban Outfitters, TimeOut, Forma and on ABC7 News. 

Our theme this month is “Make” and we’re thrilled to have this event hosted and sponsored by our friends at Threadless.

Registration opens here on Monday, December 16th at 11:00AM. Hope to see you there!


On Friday morning of Chicago Ideas Week, Max Temkin spoke about this month’s theme; “Play”. Max was a perfect speaker for this month, as he is known for his incredibly playful games such as Cards Against Humanity and Humans vs Zombies.

"Do whatever makes you happy, is total bullshit."
We can’t get what ought from what is.

Chicago’s creative community jammed into the GE Garage’s maker space and was invited to play with all of their 3D printers and tools. His talk began with an intimate clip of Steve Jobs explaining how you should do what you love. This is great advice, but as we find out, Max asks us not to be sophists. He argues that sophists apply ideas to satisfy themselves, while we should be virtuous and design by our values. 

"I don’t know why we are are here, but I’m pretty sure it’s not in order to enjoy ourselves."

- Ludwig Wittgenstein

Max believes that it is up to us to figure out what our values and beliefs are. He spoke on how famous philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle spent their life’s pursuit to figure out what drives personal happiness. He shared Aristotle’s great metaphor for finding the good life like the archer who is more likely to hit his mark if he has a target to aim for. His visit to NASA’s JPL reminded him of this archer. With missions that will outlive all of it’s creators, they had to instill their values for the benefit of something larger.

Playing in public is a political act. 

"Confusion is the beginning of knowledge"

- Socrates

Max and his team found that during games like Humans vs Zombies, people were doing much more than just playing a chaotic game. Many college student players claim that these games were the highlight of that time helped them find their values. “Values came out that really surprised us.”

Share vision.

Max began a Kickstarter Office Hours project after being successfully funded during the Cards Against Humanity campaign. He stated he began doing Google Hangouts and giving advice to people simply because, “it was something I believed in. As a community of makers, we need to create products that are built of our values.”

"Sell good values."

Independance. Honesty. Hardwork.

When asked what’s next for Max, he replied “I’m going to continue to help people, push people into doing what they love. I’m trying to figure how to scale that and help more people.”


We can’t wait to see his next endeavor. Max loves philosophy and games. Discuss how games have played a role in your world view @MaxTemkinand keep an eye out for his next project on his website.


One big observation when looking at Amazon’s best selling games, most of them are Cards Agains Humanity. We could only think of one person to speak about this month’s topic and his name is Max Temkin. Known for his addicting, fun, and free games like Humans vs. Zombies and Cards Against Humanity. Max is going to talk to us about how he infuses Play into his work.

Max has been a big part of our local community and the design community at large. Many of you have played his games, backed his kickstarter, or seen a gaggle of college kids running from zombies but you may not know Max is a humble Box Salesman by trade.

 A humble Box Salesman by trade.

Max is originally from our Burbs. He educated himself in Baltimore with a brief time back in Chicago to help elect a president. After returning to our windy city in 2010, he saw Jim Coudal’s 2011 CreativeMornings talk and decided to take on his own projects as if they were clients. 

We are honored to have him speak and if you have ever played Cards Against Humanity before, come with your favorite game story to share.

Follow Max @MaxTemkin, we will see you Friday!


At the September Chicago CreativeMornings gathering The Leo Burnett Dept. of Design ( LBDoD ) was gracious enough to brew up some coffee, bring in some bagels, and loan out it’s spacious meeting space so we could all hear Will Miller speak about Connect

imageIt’s Official: Department of Design from Leo Burnett Worldwide on Vimeo.

We all think of the Mad Men offices when we think of Advertising Agencies, but what LBDoD does it a tad differently. They are producing award winning design in somewhere you may not expect; a whopping seven pieces recently added to the STA Chicago Design Archive!


Just like the creative places we all hail from, they search for inspiration and frequently look to the local Chicago community for the spark. Chicago is, as they say, a beautiful city with rich design roots and the perfect backdrop for collaboration. 

“There is [ in Chicago ] a serious passion for craft that we all deeply respect.” - Alisa Wolfson, LBDoD

One of their original goals was to give an opportunity to designers to work for an iconic Chicago advertising agency. There is a spirit and drive from the LBDoD team to create sustainable, purposeful and beautiful work for the world and being big can be really, really fun. Now about 25 creatives strong, they aim to produce top quality design work and put themselves back into the community whenever possible.


They are deeply rooted in our community. For the first six months of 2013, they were the agency of record for the AIGA. They helped them shape the AIGA’s presence within the city and create their “year in review”. Individual members of the LBDoD also take type workshops, host gallery events through Chicago Art Department, The Post Family and LAMPO. They have even had a few folks participate in Typeforce 4 ( A project Will talked about ).  The LBDoD also sponsors the Chicago Design Museum

We can’t wait to have Leo Burnett Department of Design host another CreativeMornings. Until then, socialize with them on Facebook and bug them to start a LBDoD twitter. 


On Friday September 27th the CreativeMornings community gathered at the Leo Burnett Department of Design, coffee and bagels in hand, to hear what Will Miller had to say about this months topic, Connect.

Will is a creative director and designer at Firebelly Design and we asked him to share how he connects his work with his passions.

“Connect. Working with hands, team, and life.”


Working with your hands; a natural way of making. Designing for top notch exhibitions such as Type Force require lots of exploring. Will gave us a glimpse behind the scenes of the 2013 poster design. “These things can happen quick, feel like exploration and tend to be tactile.” He and his team cut holes into their backdrop and photographed hands holding the letters that spelled the title of the show.


Working as a team; moments for larger collaboration.  Showcasing Camp Firebelly, Will demonstrated how working in collaborative teams is how great design is made. Every year Firebelly gathers a hand full of apprentices that collaborate on a project to make the world a little better. Will showed how they teamed up with the You Are Beautiful campaign to create a street installation that brings the individuals together to form a powerful message.


Working within your life; making personally important work. No presentation is complete without images of cute furry animals. Will shared his and his wife Erin’s passion of fostering at risk dogs. He showed off dozens of the little guys, including Lucida and Creature. Erin went on to start Aura Natural Pet and Will designed the brand. They both make sure their passions stay at the forefront of their work. View more of Will’s work at his website.

Engage in a deep discussion about the name of Will and his wife’s next foster-dog or meet up for a typographic run @q_type.