We had the good fortune of connecting with Troy Farmer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Troy, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
The way we think about work-life balance has most definitely evolved over the past 14 years that we’ve run raven + crow studio. When we first started out, it was a ton of late nights as we strove to prove ourselves…mainly TO ourselves, but also to the early big clients who took a chance on a scrappy upstart back in our early Brooklyn days. We’re both perfectionists when it comes to our work—if we don’t think our work has reached this ideal we have in mind, it’s not in either of our natures to let it go until we feel like it’s reached that ideal, and, especially when you’re both business partners and partners in life, it’d hard not to have that bleed into your “off” hours, which just adds a whole new level of guilt/negativity—did we choose a work lifestyle that’s going to kill our relationship, you know? Then, years back, we heard this psychologist talk on some WNYC show (we listen to a LOT of NPR), maybe Brian Lehrer, and she talked about the myth of work-life balance. How that mode of thinking was bound to result in imbalance, in fact, because, inevitably work is part of your life, and just like every other part of your life, it has its ups and it has its down; its positive aspects and its negative aspects. So instead of essentially treating one part of your life as “bad” and to be minimized (work) and the other as “good” and to be maximized (everything outside of work), it was more useful and healthy to just try to maximize the positive in your life, be it personal or professional. That chance public radio encounter changed the way we think about work and that stands to this day, especially now that we have a wonderfully active toddler in our lives. I’m not saying we don’t get stressed about work-related things or non-work-related things in our lives—we definitely do—but it shifted our perspective significantly. Like, we’re not surgeons and most of the time things aren’t truly an emergency and would almost always benefit from stepping back out of a high-stress situation and trying to gain some calm perspective. That whole mindset has helped Zen us out about life a bit. It’s short, you know? Let’s enjoy it.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
raven + crow studio is a Brooklyn-born, Los-Angeles-based creative agency that specializes in not being jerks. Also, brand development, design for print + screens, and general marketing for a bunch of non-profits, small businesses, and other groups + people we like. Was it easy to start the business? Hell no! But as someone really smart likely said at some point, nothing worth doing is easy. Except maybe taking naps. And eating vegan tacos. Alright, strike that. But if it was easy to start our business, maybe it wouldn’t have been important enough to hold on to in those lean, hard times when we really needed to rely on the strengths we each brought to our partnership. I think the thing that sets us apart is that realized early on that we couldn’t adopt the ‘grow or die’ myth in business. We didn’t want to have a giant office space with interns and a CFO and big, faceless corporate accounts, we wanted to do the work ourselves, making sure we as individuals were actually interacted with the people that ran these small businesses and larger businesses and international non-profits and UN agencies whose work and missions we wanted to help further with our work. We don’t and have never wanted to lose that humanity and lack of “corporate-ness” in our business. It’s personal for us and we like that.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Jeez, this is a tough one to answer right now. I’m honestly worried that I’m going to jinx the businesses I want to mention here by saying their name and they won’t exist “post-pandemic”. It’s SO hard for small businesses right now, especially when a lot of us who want to support those businesses aren’t comfortable doing so from a health perspective. But we are beginning to venture out a bit more slowly now that we’re starting to (seemingly) understand the state of things and how this virus works a little better. So maybe we’ll talk about the businesses we actively are trying to safely support right now, most of which we’d take said friend to in better times. First place we supported was our friend Minh’s place, porridge + puffs (porridgeandpuffs.com / @porridgeandpuffs ), which is a wildly creative restaurant that serves—among other things—inventive rice porridges. Next in the food realm is Kismet (kismetla.com / @kismetlosangeles ), a wonderful place near us in Los Feliz that serves delicious Mediterranean inspired fare. Then we recently shot the moon and got basically everything on the menu from our friends at Word of Mouth (wordofmouthtruck.com / @wordofmouthtruck ), which usually serves their excellent vegan comfort food out of their brightly painted food truck but are currently doing pick-up orders from their North Hollywood commissary. Finally, we’re planning very soon to support some other favorites—Night + Market Song, who makes the best Thai food in LA (nightmarketsong.com / @ntmrkt ); Hinterhof, the vegan German beer garden in Highland Park (who just added a ton of outdoor seating) (hinterhofla.com / @hinterhof_la ); and Burgerlords in Chinatown + Highland Park, who makes the best vegan burgers in town and recently made the move to go wholly vegan with their menu (burgerlords.com / @burgerlords ). Then in the non-food realm, we’ve been making a point to order curb-side from two of our favorite area shops—Individual Medley (individualmedleystore.com / @individualmedleystore ) and Bell Jar (shop-belljar.com / @shop_belljar ).
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Our shout-out’s entrenched in these turbulent-yet-hopeful times and goes out to The People’s City Council, an actions-oriented coalition of social and climate justice organizations here in Los Angeles (peoplescitycouncil-la.com). We hooked up with them and created a design to benefit their salient work to fight to defend the most vulnerable populations in our city, create a health-centric people-first budget, and defund the f*cking police, which is what the line of shirts + totes spoke most directly to. We paired up with the NYC-based print shop Neighborhood Spot which focuses on fund-raising for small businesses and social justice non-profits to print them up and raised over $2K for PCC. You can still find a few overs at neighborhood-spot.com.
Feature photo: Anything But Gray Events; all other photos: raven + crow studio