Meet a Mintie: Bumble Ink

You may know Bumble from their, literally out of this world Faraway Destination Wedding Invitation… or one of their other fantastically edgy invitation designs.

Or maybe you know them from the awesome, and I repeat awesome, cartoons Gavin created about entering the wedding challenge and working with his wife:

There’s a dynamic trio behind this impressive San Mateo, California-based company. Gavin is the designer and Diana is the business guru, who doubles as a design consultant, and their adorable baby must be the inspiration!

Bumble Ink family photo, with Bumble baby

At age nine, what did you both want to be?
Gavin: At age 9? hmm, at the time I was best friends with one of the smartest kids in my elementary school. Granted this was what, 4th grade? Anyways, he was smart. Point is, he told me he wanted to be an archaeologist, so naturally, I wanted to be one, too. I mean, how can you NOT like looking at dinosaurs all day? And besides, wasn’t Indiana Jones an archaeologist? He got to swing whips and stuff, too.

Diana: Hmmm.. age nine. I honestly don’t remember what I wanted to be at that age. I plead “mommy brain”! But growing up, I do remember wanting to be a pediatrician (my dolls were my best patients), a shop owner ( I liked playing “store”), and a teacher (I made my little sisters and brother my students.. They made my ‘job’ tough so I abandoned that idea quickly.)

When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
I was always making my mom draw comic book characters for me as a little kid (she’s a great self-taught illustrator). I knew growing up that I wanted to get into some kind of drawing or computer graphics, so I went into college at UCLA, graduating with a degree in computer science, thinking that it would help me become some sort of computer graphic artist. That side of computer graphics however, proved to be a bit too technical for my tastes. So I went into web development after college, during the whole dotcom boom. Web design happened to be all the rage at the time, and when I saw the work the designers were doing I really wanted to get into it. After I dabbled in it a bit, I fell in love with it.

How did you and Diana meet?
We met at UCLA, in an engineering class — I asked her to “study” with me. Really scintillating stuff, like circuits and currents. Pretty smooth, huh? Seriously though, we were in the same class, and we did actually study. We may not have done well, but we studied. Kind of..

Does Diana weigh in at all about the design or ever design herself?
All the time – i run pretty much everything by her – she’s my filter. We joke about it a lot– sometimes I call her the “Dreamcrusher,” but I have to admit, she’s right about 99% of the time. There are some greeting cards that luckily don’t see the light of day. She also champions a lot of stuff I’ve designed that weren’t my favorites, but ended up doing very well — so she knows our demographic really well. As to actually designing, no she doesn’t do that, but she has developed a trained eye for design after years and years of research and looking at things.

What is it like working with your spouse?
It’s great– she has a good business mind, is type A, and is highly organized. All of which are things that I am not. Therefore, I can concentrate on just design, while she runs the whole business, haha. We complement each other well, so I love it.

Do you have any formal design training?
Yes — while I worked as a web developer/web designer, I took night classes at UCLA in their certificate program for graphic design. After awhile though, I decided I needed a more formal/rigorous training regimen to build my skills as well as my confidence level. So I applied and got in to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, quit my job, then proceeded to get a BFA in Graphic Design there.

When/why did you decide to open Bumble Ink?
We both were tired of “working for the man.” A career in design can be especially draining. As the old phrase goes: “Everyone is a designer/art director/etc.” — since everyone has an opinion about things that they can see (unlike developers for example – not everyone can actually look at code and critique it). After sitting around at work with people constantly looking over your shoulder and “backseat designing” one too many times, I thought I’d had enough. After all, it’s hard to get work that you’re personally proud of published without the touch of marketing/advertising/or $$$$ concerns corrupting and ultimately destroying your original intent. Bumble ink was our way of being proud of our own work again.

So after we created some wedding invites for our friends (all cartoon based) and got comments about opening up our own business, we decided that this was a path to get out from under all the corporate politics, to try it out and do things “our way.”

What tools, techniques, and mindsets do you find absolutely essential?
I like to have ideas rendered in some way before I go to the computer – I use a sketchbook, napkin, anything to work up some possibilities (drawings, layout, type) before spinning them out on the computer. It’s never a great drawing — just a quick guideline for what I’m looking to create in terms of layout, or something I will use to trace, then embellish if it’s an illustration. For example, type blocks like headlines would be represented as thick lines, with body copy as thinner lines, and so on. It definitely saves me lots of time.

Do you have a favorite font?
I don’t really have a favorite, but i do tend to use some more than others — I try not to get too married to one because then I’ll try to force it into a design that it was never meant for. If I had to pick a couple though, I like Univers and TradeGothic for their versatility (thicknesses, forms).

What are the easiest and the most difficult aspects of the design process for you?
Easiest I believe is refining an idea on the computer — by this point I know what look and layout I want, and the detail and embellishments I put in the execution phase are just pure fun. I like seeing a piece slowly develop into what you had envisioned.

The most difficult part is coming up with the idea in the first place. Sketching things out can be a pain, and often involves endless spinning if nothing is jumping out at me.

How many iterations does it take for a design to become final?
Yeesh, I think it all boils down to how much time I have. I usually do at least 3 variations to start, choose one of them and then start showing people. If there is feedback, i can revert back to the other two variations if I need to for more ideas or a different implementation, or I can simply rule out the feedback if I’ve already explored it. This can go on until the feedback is all good/i’m satisfied, or until time runs out!

How do you come up with such different stuff?! What I like best about all of your designs is they are so different from anything else on the market and different from one another!
Thanks! Inspiration is always around — it can come from the most unlikely places. If something catches my eye, I’ll always try to incorporate the same feeling somewhere.

What was your wedding invitation like?

I was fresh out of design school, so i wanted this elaborate looking thing — and I of course took it like a school project and wanted to use all these crazy custom sizes and folds, etc. I thought it would be ok in terms of level of effort, but in the end it turned out that all of this customization resulted in a bit too much manual labor (i.e. 150+ times (for each guest), for each piece), but that’s another story altogether. I had conceived of our characters back in school when I was doing an assignment to create my own business card/identity, so I felt we could use these characters here as well.

Did you have any other paper products in your wedding?
I did — much to the dismay of some family members, who had to help me assemble them the day before the wedding (hee hee). Well, they mostly did the favors/place setting indicators, while I x-acto’d all of the custom sized programs/menu cards/etc (since i didn’t trust anyone else to cut straight lines – i am anal like that). (show pics)

Any other fun designed elements in your wedding that you want to mention?
I really enjoyed making the save the dates– although they were quite a pain to cut (of course, i chose a custom size again — I’ll never learn). We also created a custom sleeve for the 3 inserts, complete with a half moon die cut. Everything featured our characters, and they all told a little story from piece to piece. Also, our favor box doubled as a food selection indicator (fishie, beefie, veggie…) as well as a table number indicator. We really wanted a classy and modern look, but also wanted it to be fun.

Favorite design tool?
I still cling to my Photoshop….Illustrator has transformed my look quite a bit, and I love the tiny file sizes that vector art creates — but I still feel most at home in photoshop. It’s too bad print materials create such huge files, though. I really have to get better about incorporating InDesign into the work flow. I also use a mouse for all my drawing — for some strange reason i had the notion back in college that learning to draw really quick and precise with the mouse instead of a wacom pen or other tool would help in some way. I’m sure it hasn’t. The only plus has been being able to bring a laptop and draw anywhere, or just being able to jump on any station and be able to draw normally. Those use cases are pretty far and few-between, though. Those Cintiqs are looking really nice right about now.

How did you come up with the idea for Block Print Waves?

I wouldn’t have thought about a wood block print for a wedding invitation!

"The Great Wave" by Hokusai Katsushika

I’ve always been a fan of Japanese block prints — in particular, “The Great Wave” by Hokusai Katsushika was the one that was most influential, as we had this art on coasters at my parent’s home growing up. I just love their look and texture, and the ideas that they invoke: high quality craftsmanship, and museum worthy art. I’ve always wanted to incorporate that look somewhere, and thought that it would work really well as an invitation. Updating it to work with modern media was the difficult part, and the Minted community really helped me to refine it into something I was proud of.

How did you come up with City Scape Union?

I love how you kept the colors somewhat muted against such a dynamic design.
We attended a few weddings in New York and San Francisco, and loved them. We’re city people, and loved the way those weddings showcased the views of those city scapes, through rooftop ceremonies and panoramic window views during the receptions. It just didn’t feel as if there was anything out there that evoked that same feeling for us, so we created one.

What was your favorite Minted design challenge and why?
We loved the Minted Wedding challenge because we felt wedding invitations is what defined you guys as a company! The rules were also very specific, and the voting process was unprecedented in that all 3 designs submitted needed to place in the top tier in order to win. It also forced everyone to really think through their ideas, and self-edit to only 3 designs. Loved the concept, and it was really fun to participate in!

What designers do you really admire? Do you have a favorite graphic designer? Fashion designer? Furniture designer?

Haley Johnson work from Communication arts design annual

I really love the work of Haley Johnson – she designed a lot of Blue Q’s products as well as some other stuff. She designs with a sense of humor, and it all looks so high-end. Somehow you can always tell it’s her work, but it all looks different as well. Love how she works and thinks!

What advice would you give a new designer?
1. Don’t get too married to a design — you may think it’s the greatest thing (and you should), but always consider how others will look at it, and how it can be better (it always can be improved). It’s good practice to make several sketches and variations of your design to consider the possibilities, even if you think you’ve ‘got it’ after one try. This way, you’ll know you did your due diligence, and can back up your final direction with some solid explorations.

2. If you’re going to put your design out there in the world, then be able to take critique, because people will be looking at it, and they will have an opinion. Do not take critique personally – it is not a comment or a remark on your skills or your intelligence (although some of my professors at Art Center have severely tested this theory!), but ways that your piece could be improved or explored. Take every comment with a grain of salt; Learn to distinguish constructive and helpful critiques from “personal preference” remarks, and act on them accordingly.

3.Umm. have fun? Design is supposed to be fun 🙂

From Singapore-based Monster Gallery's Etsy collection

What piece of art would you most like to own?
The aforementioned japanese block print ” The Great Wave” is one, for aesthetic and sentimental reasons. There are also a lot of Japanese anime art combined with traditional means that I’d love to hang up as well (like the print shown here from this etsy owner). It is a childhood dream of mine to have that kind of stuff wallpaper one of our rooms. I don’t think Diana knows of this yet. This idea will probably be quickly shot down, now that i think about it.

LOL. We would love to hear what she says when she reads this! Thanks for taking the time Gavin and we look forward to seeing what Bumble submits next.

Find more of Natasha on her blog.

  1. Jessica

    great post and funny too! your work is so charming & adorable!

  2. Amy E

    Great interview! Baby bumble is sooooooo cute!!!! I admire your illustration style and humor. How great it must be to spend time with your family at work!

  3. stacey day

    great interview! you have a lovely family and such a thoughtfulness to your unique designs. thanks for sharing!

  4. alston

    that cartoon has me laughing out loud! thanks for sharing — it’s great to get a glimpse behind the scenes of your beautiful work.


    What a fantastic interview! Your illustrations are so lively, humorous, and eye-catching. So great to get to know you a bit better.

  6. Yolanda

    Awesome work, congrats on your success… and what a beautiful family photo 🙂

  7. Gavin

    thank you all for the kind comments!

  8. Sydney

    You guys are an awesome pair . . . and Amy is right, Baby Bumble is adorable!

  9. Sandra Pons

    Great interview. This family should be on a Minted holiday photo card!

  10. sharon/crimsonlane

    It was so nice reading about you & your beautiful family! Im a fan!

  11. Maria Estigoy

    Bumble Ink rocks! Enjoyed reading this interview and getting to know you both. I think I want a tattoo of a woodblock print wave too!