Lessons in Harnessing Creativity from No Kings Collective

Posted May 23, 2017 by office

Creativity isn’t always the first quality that comes to mind when it comes to growing a successful business, but that’s exactly the edge Brandon Hill and Peter Chang had when they started No Kings Collective, a DC-based creative agency. While these talented artists harness the right sides of their brains on a daily basis, they offered tips for entrepreneurs and business owners who are notoriously left-brained. We were honored to feature these visionary artists at our Hindsight 20/20 speaker series for our first CREATIVITY-themed talk.

The artistic duo, known nationally for their bold approach to mural and large-scale art installations, performed a live painting at our K Street Launch Party in January 2017. Between their daily (and nightly) hustle as working artists, Brandon and Peter took the time to share their insights and lessons learned for our Hindsight 20/20 meetup. In case you missed it, read on for some of our learnings and favorite moments from their fireside chat with MakeOffices CMO, Shana Glenzer. A video of the full talk is also available here.

Create your own opportunities

One of the major lessons Brandon and Peter emphasized was that lack of opportunities should never be a setback, but rather a source of inspiration. Before No Kings Collective came to be, Brandon went out and talked to art galleries trying to get some exposure for his work.

After years of hustling, Brandon and Peter decided to take matters into their own hands. In 2009, the duo took advantage of the opportunities of commercial real estate in D.C. and started reaching out to developers and brokers for partnerships to transform unused space into an art gallery. They created their own pop-up gallery events that showcased their work, their friends’ work, and served food from emerging local chefs. These events brought people into a space they otherwise would not have been exposed to and fostered a community of emerging creatives.

Not everything is going to be glamorous

Eat. Sleep. Hustle. Repeat. That’s the No Kings Collective mantra, and for good reason. Social media usually only shows the glamorous side of things, but there’s a lot more that goes into running the creative agency and continuing to do the work they both love to do.    

While fine arts is still at the core of what No Kings Collective focuses on, a lot of their work centers around creative solutions for clients’ problems. One of the things they wish they knew in hindsight? Taxes.

Fake it ‘til you make it

The creative fields are notoriously difficult to break into, and Brandon and Peter didn’t shy away from discussing the challenges they faced during the course of their 12-year careers. They shared that 75% of what they learned about different materials, techniques and possibilities resulted from a client asking them to do something and figuring everything out on the spot. There was no formal training to prepare them, but rather a willingness to try something new, fail, try again, and succeed.    

“Non-creatives” are creative too

It’s natural to categorize yourself and others in the categories of “creative” or “non-creative,” but Peter and Brandon emphasize that the distinction is not so black and white. Everyone is a creative, and it’s just a matter of going outside of your comfort zone. Peter elaborated, “Challenge yourself with being uncomfortable. Challenge yourself to think differently.”

Peter emphasized that you would never know if you would be great at something if you’ve never tried. No one is perfect, and “everything is process and practice.”

Staying true to their roots

When asked why they decided to stay in D.C., Brandon and Peter stated their commitment to building a community in the district. According to Peter, “it was a perfect storm for us. With the development in the city, and the new trend of digital marketing and experiential art.” No Kings Collective murals were often the backdrops of local photoshoots and were frequently shared on social media, which contributed to their growth and brand awareness.

What’s next?

The artistic duo just finishing up the exterior signage and branding for Mason Dixie Biscuit Co., a drive thru and roadside kitchenette in D.C.