Cool Cat: Sarah Hallacher

August 27, 2015

As a special segment of our blog, we’re featuring people from our community that have galvanized us on our path as a small business, as activists, as artists, and as engaged humans. These inspiring folks are doing super cool things. The feature is called “Cool Cat”, because each and every one of them has made us excited and want to be better at what we’re doing.

Cats, Patterns, Speech Bubbles and Bright Colors. That’s a simplified description of the MMT packaging. Our co-founder, Jeff, is responsible for the quirky animal drawings on all of our labels. Often the drawings are lifted directly from miscellaneous papers that he’s doodled on. They’re unfussy and irreverent- they’re little jokes and stories that we tell in the studio- we don’t belabor them, so they have a lighthearted, whimsical spirit.

A few years ago, we started working with Sarah Hallacher on our branding and packaging design. We first approached her to create our logo. We were skeptical about working with someone else, and I told her that. Jeff and I are art school grads, we had been collaborating with one another for a while, and we prided ourselves on designing the packaging ourselves. However, we knew that we needed someone else in the mix to help bring our packaging and our brand to another level.

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Sarah looked at a bunch of Jeff’s drawings and came up with the speech bubble logo design. The font inside is actually a cleaned up version of Jeff’s drawn letters. We were blown away- not only was the logo PERFECT, but it was as if Sarah had taken what we would do and had just done it… better.

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Shortly after, we decided to change our packaging from hand printed paper labels to those colorful ones you see today. As a collector of vintage fabrics and lover of wall paper, I imagined a patterned theme for each collection in our line. Sarah was on board and we developed the patterns and the branding together. Our process is pretty basic, we chat about different ideas, one of us sends the other a rough drawing, the other polishes it up a bit and adds a few more ideas. We go back and forth like that until it’s right. I think this is atypical for a client/designer relationship- but it’s what works for MMT.

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Aside from being my design soul mate, Sarah is an interactive designer. Don’t know what that is? Read our gchat interview below to find out:

SH: Hi

TP: Hello. Okay, ready?

SH: Yep!

TP: Soundtrack for the morning:

SH: I’ve been feeling Grimes lately, so I started a spotify playlist. There’s Hooverphonic, Phantogram, tuneyards, etc.

TP: I’ve only listened to Phantogram in that list

SH: You’d love tuneyards. It’s great sweaty summer dance music.

TP: Ha. Playlist for evening?

SH: Talking Heads. And honestly, a lot of Kanye. I know that’s not unwind music.

TP: Which Kanye?Talking heads isn’t unwind music either!

SH: I’ve been revisiting My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. That album is kind of a masterpiece. Up All Night by Talking Heads is one of my favorites. I guess I’ve got a theme going here.

TP: Favorite healthy snack and favorite unhealthy snack? Can’t think of a healthy snack? :)

SH: Celery hearts. I could eat celery hearts for years and never get sick of them. Just plain too. No hummus.

TP: Mmmm, celery is such an under appreciated veg. So fragrant!

SH: I don’t really snack. When I want something bad it’ll be a whole meal. Like a huge burger from Shake Shack. AND cheese fries. And maybe a milkshake.

TP: I love milkshakes and fries.

SH: Should we not tell your customers that I’m a carnivore?

TP: We’ll convert you eventually. You’re so ahead with technology, that when they come out with that lab meat you’ll probably be the first one with it in your freezer. Artisan chem burgers.

SH: It’s true. I mean have you seen soilent green? The future is now.

TP: Ok… Woods or Ocean?

SH: No. Pass. Don’t make me choose. If I had to define the best day of my life, it was a day spent hiking in Muir Woods and an evening running around nude on the beach. I want to live in the limbo between the two.

TP: Yes, my thoughts exactly. A year ago I would have said Ocean, but since we discovered the Catskills- I’m all about the upstate woods. Cats or Birds?

SH: Birds. They seem to have some kind of agenda– some secret world we can’t be a part of.

TP: There’s a team of crows in this field that we pass on our way to the studio. Like 60 crows. I have no idea why they’re there but they are all chilling in the trees chatting. I know what you mean- it’s like a convention or something.

SH: It’s a murder!

TP:  :) Scented or Unscented?

SH: Scented, but it has to be subtle. I’m definitely a lavender lady.

TP: Oh wow! I didn’t know that! Sweet or Savory?

SH: Savory. I never hesitate on this one.

TP: Ok, now let’s get serious. What do you do?

SH: Right now I’m teaching web design & front-end development through General Assembly. It’s an online class, so my students are all over the world. The job is kind of fascinating. It’s all held via webcam. 

Last week I was meeting with one of my students, and her boyfriend brought her a puppy during our call. I witnessed the whole thing. I wish I had a screenshot of that moment.

TP: Can you talk about what you went to school for? I feel like it’s related to the fascination that you’re talking about.

SH: It totally is. I went to grad school at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. ITP is known as the center for the recently possible. They foster a lot of experimentation with new technology– even misusing or breaking it– in the name of art, or in the name of discovering what it means to be a human surrounded by so much tech. While I was there became really interested in the latter: what it means to exist online and also in real life. Where does one end and the other begin? I’m fascinated with that place of intersection.

TP: I’m so in love with the work that you do that addresses this stuff. It’s truly getting at the heart of that intersection. Night Tweets!

SH: Night Tweets was such a wild project. I lost so much sleep while making it! I probably should’ve hired a test subject.

TP: Cause the tweet notifications were waking you? Or you were staying up working so much?

SH: Ha, both. I kept waking up to see if my code was running properly, or if the sleep tracker device had disconnected. When I did sleep, I dreamed about tweeting. It was very meta.

TP: Wow. It makes sense that even as the developer you would have interactions with the work that brought it to another place. Even if that was tertiary. What started you doing what you do?

SH: I took a design course after college and learned that you can design with code. It blew me away, so I started teaching myself HTML and CSS. Learning to code opened up a whole new world for me.

TP: What keeps you doing what you do?

SH: Being able to connect with other people. I’ve been so fortunate to work with and around so many talented artists, designers, developers, musicians, and teachers. Another project I created during an artist residency is User Experience of a Heartbreak. I was trying to capture the nuances in user interface design, specifically during the moments where algorithms don’t consider our feelings. I got messages from people all over the world with these crazy stories and how much they related to my project. It was so wonderful to make those connections.

TP: I hear so many people from our generation (the one that grew up without social media) lament our lessening personal and physical interactions. You’re not doing much graphic design anymore right?

SH: You’re my only print design client! All of my other work has moved to the digital realm. Web design, interaction design, digital art projects, and anything in between.

TP: Why do you continue working with us?

SH: Knowing the amount of care that goes into making MMT products– I can’t imagine a better company and process to be a part of. Our relationship of client/designer has evolved into a collaborative partnership, which is so much more rewarding than most gigs.

For more of Sarah’s work, check out her website.




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