Kirby Stephens Design

30 Years at KSD

KSD carved pumpkins.

A few of the carved pumpkins at KSD on Halloween in previous years.

I'm a Halloween baby and over the years we've celebrated at KSD with costumes at work, pumpkin carving contests or masquerade parties. However, this year’s celebration holds more meaning.

During the last 30 days, the designers at the studio have shared memories and images of some of our favorite projects and people from the past 30 years; projects and people that have been essential to the formation and growth of KSD.

As the years have gone by I have been fortunate to learn a few lessons along the way.


One fun job we bid on AND WON was designing an interpretive brochure for Seattle's No. 3 tourism destination.

No. 1 The Space Needle. No. 2 Pike Place Market. No. 3? *Drumroll* The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Lake Washington Ship Canal. I know. I know. It doesn't sound like the No. 3 tourist attraction in Seattle, but with a name like Hiram, how could we go wrong?

The project is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. We interviewed their employees and the interpretive guides on site. We observed visitor traffic patterns and interviewed visitors. We conducted historical research and photographed all aspects of the unique attraction. 

The locks host visitors from all over the world.

The locks are a very busy place. Visitors from all over the world come just to witness the spectacle of the ships and boats rising and falling in the gravity fed lock system. The locks serve as a barrier between the salt water of Puget Sound and the freshwater of Lake Washington and the Port of Seattle.

Close up of salmon going through one of the stages of the fish ladder.

The fish ladder enables migrating salmon to safely navigate the man-made dam and high traffic shipping lanes.

LWSC botanical gardens.

The beautiful botanical gardens that support exotic flora from around the world, attract visitors and locals alike for a day in the park.

Kirby under the locks.

We even got to go where NO ONE gets to go — the underground bowels of the lock machinery.



A little closer to home, we completed a visitor's guide to adventure destinations in Southern and Eastern Kentucky. Vitally important to the success of our design for the project was the photography. While a few of the images were from other sources, the majority of the photography was created by William Cox, a designer and photographer on staff at KSD.

Tour SEKY visitor guidebook.

Several years ago the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen hired us to design a series of posters for their Spring and Fall Craft fairs. Again, using the photographic talents of William Cox and a local stained glass artist, Kathy King (also my dentist), we created the first Spring Fair poster design on the left. A year later, we relied on the talents of KSD designer and illustrator Bill Jones to create the Spring Fair poster on the right.

Kentucky Guild Posters.

To design, photograph, write, illustrate and produce many of our projects, it takes the talents of all five studio members — myself, William Cox, Kim Perkins, Bill Jones and Julie Nelson Harris — working together to get it right.



Many of our studio projects have involved developing logos that form the foundation of building our clients’ brands.

The symbol for Operation UNITE.

The symbol for Operation UNITE.

KBA logo.

Logo for the Kentucky Bar Association.

Madison County Schools identity.

Madison County Schools logo and brand mission.



It doesn't happen as often now, but for about the first five to ten years in business we would get two or three phone calls a week that went something like this:

WE ANSWER: "Hello, Kirby Stephens Design, How can I help you?"

ON THE PHONE: "Oh, yeah, hello. Yeah, I have the Kirby 2000 Model and it just ain't suckin' up the dust like it used to. Used to I could run over scraps of paper, dog hair, peas and carrots, even small rocks, but hell it just ain't vacuuming like it used to. Could I bring it in for repair today?"

WE RESPOND: "Umm, I'm sorry but you must have us confused with Kirby vacuums.”

ON THE PHONE: "All right then. When CAN I bring it in?"

Well, after the surprise of the first 50 or so calls and frustration of the next couple of hundred, we started wondering if it might not be a good idea to invite them down. From the frequency of the calls it seemed like the vacuum repair business might be quite profitable.

Yellow Page ad for Kirby Vacuums.



I grew up listening to The Beatles on the Apple Records label. It was a very well-known brand. But ask anyone today and they’ll tell you Apple is the brand that brings us iPhone, iPad and iTunes. Oh, and by the way, you can listen to the complete Beatles collection on iTunes if you wish!

Apple Records.

When I opened the studio for business 30 years ago, I didn't own a computer, FedEx was just emerging as an important business tool and the phone and fax machine were high tech! Today, it would be unthinkable for everyone in the studio NOT to have a computer and GPS on our phones have revolutionized our idea of the road map.

The Internet and wireless services continue to open access to many new possibilities and substantially speed communication. YouTube. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Keeping up can be a little overwhelming.

Yet, even in rural America we continue to adapt. To survive. To thrive.

KSD in the early 90s.

KSD in the early 90s.

KSD in 2016.

KSD in 2016.


KSD IS 30! We're sharing some of the work and memories that have shaped the direction of our studio. We've been involved with community leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, engineers, manufacturers, architects, writers and many others on exciting projects in Somerset, in Kentucky and beyond. Celebrate 30 with us! #KSDturns30

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1 comment

  • Comment Link john mcclorey Tuesday, 01 November 2016 13:26 posted by john mcclorey

    nice work - keep it up. You all look great!

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About Us

KSD is a results-oriented, full-service design, marketing and communication firm located in Somerset, Kentucky.

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  • KSD  Kinetic | Strategic | Design
    219 E. Mt. Vernon Street
    Somerset Kentucky 42501
  • 606 679-5634