Tommy Perez: A Maker of Fun Stuff

The 11th annual Phoenix Design Week (PHXDW) is fast approaching and we’d be remiss if we didn’t highlight this year’s speakers — their works, quirks, and the many perks of their craft.

To kick off our speaker-series Q&A, meet Tommy Perez. Though he likely needs no introduction with this crowd, Tommy is a freelance multidisciplinary maker based in Southern California. His ability to work with unusual materials — bacon, wonton wrappers, produce, you name it — has enabled him to craft the diverse, colorful compositions he is known for.

His love of storytelling and collaboration has led to partnerships with clients such as 20th Century Fox, adidas, Benefit Cosmetics, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Ford Motor Company, Fossil, Marvel Entertainment, Nickelodeon, Sparkling Ice, Specialized Bicycles, Target, and Too Faced Cosmetics. But it’s his strong communication skills, quick wit and relentless creativity that makes him such a compelling choice as one of this year’s keynote speakers.

When he’s not making fun stuff, he enjoys skateboarding and root beer floats (can we get an amen?) — and that’s only the beginning. Read on for more on Tommy and his dynamic approach to design.

Tell us about a project or accomplishments from the past 10 years that had a major impact on your life or career.

I think the projects that have the most impact on me are self-initiated and passion projects. The biggest one being the idea to start creating paper kraft pieces outside of work as a way to fight burnout and stay creative. That silly little side quest eventually became what I am now known for, which is awesome and super crazy. Haha!

What is your favorite color, and why? Pantone numbers and Hex codes totally allowed.

I absolutely love color, and I try to bring that into my work as much as possible. Given that I work a lot with paper it seems fitting that my favorite color is from a paper company — Blu Raspberry from the Pop-Tone line by French Paper Co.

What keeps you going when you’re focused on a project? Is there a particular saying or song that gets you moving?

Honestly, it’s just the goal of reaching the end of the project and wanting to see the vision I had brought out into the real world. There have been many times when I get a little burnt out working on the same thing. When that happens, I try to step away for a sec, clear my head with something else — most of the time it’s skateboarding.

What’s your superpower, or one you wish you had?

I don’t think I have one. But I try to use my work as a power or a way to make people happy and smile. If you scroll by my work and pause and it makes you happy, then I’m doing a good job!

What design or career advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell myself so many things I’d lose my voice. Haha! But one of the biggest things would be to be open. Be open to different paths that your career can take and not be set on one direction. There are many things I feel I shut out earlier in my career because I didn’t think I’d be going down that path — and now they’re coming back full circle. Be open to others’ opinions and critiques; you don’t know everything. Reach out to people and make friends and connections earlier on. Things take time and remember that you’re exactly where you need to be at right now.

If you were given the opportunity to see into the future, what would you want to know?

That’s a tough one! I’m not entirely sure I’d want to ruin the surprise! The journey is almost always better than the end.

If you hadn’t ended up in the career you are in, what do you think you’d be doing?

I’d like to think I’d still be doing something creative. I’ve always had an interest and love for baking and the thought of being a pastry chef has come to mind a few times before!

If you’d like to learn more about Tommy and his far-out creations, he’s happy to tell you all about it at the Evolve Design Conference on October 12 and 13.

Story by Breanne Krager