Stride Stories: How one man launched his design career after his Seinfeld emojis went viral

Stride: Kevin, can you tell us a bit about what you do?

Kevin: I do contracted emoji design, graphic design, and photography. I’m a trained designer, but all my other roles have spawned from things I like doing, and recently they all began to converge.

Stride: Before you were an independent worker, what were you doing?

Kevin: I worked in corporate advertising, in graphic design... that’s where I found my passion. But after awhile, I started feeling unfulfilled with my corporate work, so I would come home and spend time on personal design projects. My commitment to self-education really enabled my transition out of the corporate environment, the goal for many designers.

Stride: Was there a big moment that allowed you to escape corporate?

Kevin: This really crazy opportunity came up with a social media person who does hilarious Seinfeld jokes. He messaged me on Twitter, totally out of the blue. I re-tweeted him pretty often, so I guess he noticed that and saw I was a designer in my profile. He asked if I knew anyone who could do emojis for Seinfeld. I was so shocked that he contacted me that I was like, “I can do this, I will figure it out, I will do it.” And so I just sat in my office the whole weekend making these emojis. I think he expected me to make the four main characters, but I came back the next week and told him, “Ok, so I made 20 emojis.” We showcased it on his site and someone contacted us about making an app and it really took off; I guess you could say it went viral.

I happened to meet Jerry Seinfeld at a Porsche event in California last fall. He was aware of the emojis and said they were really great — it was spectacularly surreal, and something I’ll never forget! This led to a lot of opportunities to do other emoji things… that one job changed my life, for sure.

Stride: That is such a cool story. I’m curious, when you got that job, were you still working full time?

Kevin: Yeah I was, and I worked full time for another 6 months. The jobs didn’t come pouring in, but I had some other side work and so I thought Ok, now is the time to do it, to go out on my own. Skipping ahead 6 months, someone at Saturday Night Live had seen those Seinfeld emojis, and they thought emojis would be a creative way to celebrate the 40th-anniversary of SNL. Their digital marketing team reached out and asked if I would be interested in creating the artwork for the app they were making. They gave me the go-ahead a week before my last day (of work) and it worked out perfectly.

Stride: When did you know you were ready to support yourself with your interests?

Kevin: I’ve been thinking about independent work since graduating college, and I’ve been working my way up and gaining experience… it’s been about an eight year process. I wasn’t ready to be out on my own until the last year or so – I finally felt I had the training, and a big opportunity (the SNL job) came my way, so I ran with it.

Stride: You have been self-employed for just over a year. Do you see yourself doing this for the rest of your career?

Kevin: Definitely, in some form. My original goal was just to make it on my own and sustain myself, and now that I’m doing that, I realized, “Oh, I should probably have a five-­year plan.” So I’ve been planning where I want to be, and making steps to have alternative revenue streams. It’s all a journey, and you’re never done.

Stride: Do you have any tips for people who are starting out on their own?

Kevin: My line of work might be unique, because I was able to go in with low overhead expenses. If it’s possible to keep your upfront costs down, that will take pressure off you and give you some breathing room as you get your business off the ground. Resist advertising or spending money to market yourself — instead, get the word out by joining local professional organizations, where you can make more meaningful connections. If business is slow, that’s a really good time to be working on your website, updating social media profiles, and doing other tasks that don’t cost anything. If I have a slow week, then I am going to photograph some work to showcase, plan personal projects which may gain exposure, add content to my site, and reach out to people.

Stride: Thanks so much for sharing information about your career. We are excited to have you as a Stride member! What has been the best part about your Stride experience?

Kevin: The sign-up process was really smooth. I had looked at a few other health insurance marketplaces and they were not helpful interfaces. Stride was so helpful, and I like how it recommended a plan for me – it seemed really specific to me, that really spoke to me. I’m happy with my plan and feel really comfortable if I need to use it. The support I’ve received from the member experience team has been great.

Stride: Last question, what is your biggest health concern for America?

Kevin: I think eating right and taking care of yourself is considered almost a luxury by many people today. Personally, I often get too busy, and allow busyness to justify sitting in front of a desk all day and not getting up for an hour to exercise, or prepare a decent meal. I’m not the only one. We all need to make a better effort to live healthier, or it may place an unprecedented burden on our healthcare system as our generation gets older.