BIO After graduating from UW-Madison in 2000, Matt Kemp became the first employee at Transport Media Network, where he was in charge of designing and coordinating the installation of what were essentially billboards on the sides of semis. Matt was also responsible for identifying untapped opportunity in the market by analyzing GPS data which showed where trucks were traveling against data on the most frequently-traveled freeways across the country. This would be Matt’s first foray into merging graphic design and business. After a few years, Matt would be hired as the Art Director / Graphics Manager for Unique Plastics, a manufacturing company that created packaging for the likes of Target, Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, and the Martha Stewart brand. Though the time spent at Unique Plastics afforded him unique insight into the manufacturing industry, Matt decided to leave and pursue an agency position. Matt worked at a few different ad agencies in the area, the last at which he served as Creative Director. There, he met Nick, who had been brought in to manage the agency’s digital efforts. Matt and Nick identified a gap in the market for an agency focusing specifically on digital marketing and website builds, so they recruited Matt’s brother, Mason, and together started The Digital Ring. Matt, a huge Cubs fan, is married to Liz, an interior designer, and together they have two adorable daughters: Macy and Maddie.
What makes you passionate about art and design?
It is the “end result” of all the hard work. Everyone wants to “see” what “it” is going to look like. It really is the fun part of the creative process!
Flashback to when you were ten years old, what did you want to be when you grew older?
If you have been to my office, you would know I wanted to be a Disney Animator. Around the age of ten, my dad bought our first family laptop and I would sit in my room and use “Paint” (just showed my age) to color one pixel at a time, then zoom out to see how it looked, zoom in to add another pixel, and another, and create Mickey and other Disney characters from the poster on my wall.
Side note: I also had fifteen other posters of Michael Jordan and was going to be a professional basketball player...but realistically speaking, we'll go with Disney Animator.
What's one of the biggest obstacles you've had to overcome in your professional life?
The year was 2004...I was an Art Director at an ad agency, I was getting married and we just built our house. The grass was long and wet, we still had netting down in the yard from seeding it. I was mowing said yard and the mower clogged with grass and netting. I reached into the mower and the blades spun back and cut off my middle and ring finger on my right (drawing) hand. My neighbor found it, we put it on ice and after 45 minutes waiting for the ambulance we were headed to the ER. They could not reattach the finger and I was devastated. Not knowing if was going to be able to draw, type, use a mouse, etc. ever again and I was not in a good place… did I mention I was getting married and just built a house? This is long enough… but it all worked out and my creative abilities are in good hands... get it?
How long have you been in the game?
They call me "Grandpa" in the office. I have seen the invention and demise of Flash. It is crazy what millennials think is "old".
What do you love most about The Digital Ring?
The people, the family. We have grown so much and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
What are three words that best describe you?
Dedicated. Creative. Honest.
Choose a movie title for the story of The Digital Ring...
Field of Dreams. Lame I know…but, it is true. Working with my brother and Nick feels like a dream (most of the time). If we build it, they will come…clients and employees.
What advice can you give to others who are interested in marketing and/or design?
It is not college! There are no hypothetical companies and you aren't creating plans/designs for a semester and then it all goes away. Real companies are the end results of other peoples' dreams and you need to connect and partner with those people just as if you were running the business yourself.