The Brothers: Zack and Kyle Johnson, Carmichael Lynch

There is a ton of overlap in terms of what we’re interested in, our tastes, senses of humor, and the way we think.

Kyle Johnson
Senior Art Director Carmichael Lynch

Tell us about you how you met and how long you’ve worked together?

Z: We first met when my mother brought me home from the hospital. I was probably screaming.

K: We met professionally at MHVCCP in San Francisco. Zack needed an art director. So I said, hey, this could work. And it has, so far, for four years. No, we don’t live together. Yes, our mother is very proud of us.


How would you describe the relationship between you two? In what ways has the dynamic changed since you first began working together?

We’re a well-oiled fraternal machine. There is a ton of overlap in terms of what we’re interested in, our tastes, senses of humor, and the way we think. And, of course, we share DNA, so there’s this brotherly wavelength we’re tuned to along with 30 years of weird reference points that only we could understand. For example, we both know exactly what it means to say a room should look and feel like Aunt Carol’s guest bedroom (the one with the dolls).

How has our dynamic changed? We’ve always argued, but now we argue about work.


Tell us about the first campaign you’ve worked on as a duo.

The first campaign was branding and launching a car sharing service in the Bay Area called GIG Car Share. We named it, designed the logo, gave it a voice and created all the launch advertising. It was a big undertaking, and we learned two pretty important things. The first being that we can flow in and out of each other’s roles if needed. Kyle’s an art director who can write and Zack is a writer who can art direct. The second is that we can trust each other when both of us aren’t available. During production, we each had to direct different shoots happening at the same time, without any input from one another.


Do you have a favorite campaign you’ve worked on together? What makes it special? 

Earlier this year, we launched a campaign called “Choose to Choose Go” for the gasoline brand Conoco. As a brand, Conoco’s mission is to get people to “Choose Go”—meaning, get off the couch and into the world. We made three wonderfully weird spots which are big departure for a giant corporate oil brand. But we have a great relationship with the client and they like how we’re pushing them to do the kind of strangeness that we do.


What has been the hardest part of working together? How do you resolve creative conflicts?

There isn’t really anything hard about working together. Being brothers that are as close as we are helps us be transparent without hurting each other’s feelings. If I think the headline is dumb, I’ll say that’s dumb. If Zack thinks the drop shadow is too heavy, he’ll say that it sucks. This helps us get all the bullshit out of the way, and makes the work better, faster.

We also give each other wedgies daily.


Is there any advice you’d give to young creatives looking for a partner, or a duo just getting their start?

Don’t be afraid to be honest. The strongest teams can weave in and out of both roles, so don’t think just because you’ve logged an extra 3,000 hours on photoshop you don’t have to listen when your writer has a suggestion. Chemistry is ultimately crucial, too. The best teams are friends, and if you’re lucky, your sibling.


Do you have a dream account that you haven’t had the opportunity to work on yet?

K: Maybe like a nut brand or tourism. Something where we can bring the smart and unexpected.