Devon Kinch is the designer/author of a new series of books premiering with, Pretty Penny Sets Up Shop (Random House), that teaches young girls (and boys) the value of money. It began as her thesis for the School of Visual Arts MFA Designer as Author program and in only two years since her graduation has evolved into a series of books, website (The Pretty Penny Gazette) and products, conceived, written and illustrated by Ms. Kinch. I asked her what she hopes will be the outcome of this entrepreneurial work.
What was your personal impetus for conceiving Pretty Penny?
In my early twenties I got into some trouble with credit cards. In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t a huge debt, but given my age and income at the time, it was a lot for me to shoulder. I payed it off the old-fashioned way – I got a second job. It took a long time to chip away at the debt.
So the book was a response to your own issues?
A popular piece of advice that makes the rounds in the MFA Design program is to draw from your personal experience for thesis. I knew I wanted to help others avoid the same mistakes I had made with my personal finances. So that’s where it all started.
How easy or difficult was it to come up with the title?
I had a few names in the running before I landed on Pretty Penny, but none that were any good. I came across it while reading an article as part of my research and it jumped from the page. The problem was I didn’t think the name would be available. I was shocked (and I think everyone else was too) when it turned out the last “Pretty Penny” trademark had died in 1977. It was meant to be!
What kind of research did you do to get your raw material?
I spent a lot of time reading children’s books. It was important that I got a sense of what was out there and see what was popular with kids. The hours spent in bookstores helped me pinpoint the age group and reading level for Pretty Penny. It was only then that I could start writing the book. I devoured articles, websites, and books on personal finance and how to educate children about money (I think I also read every Suze Orman book ever published. She is after all the queen of finance). I consulted with early childhood education specialists to see if the curriculum I designed would be effective. I also spoke with designers, book illustrators, teachers, friends, and family.
Is this just for girls?
The book series is for girls and boys. Although Penny is the star of the series there are several boy characters that will make regular appearances. And, of course, there is Iggy. Iggy is Penny’s pet pig and best friend who also happens to be a bit of a troublemaker. When I read the book to children under eight years old – boys loved Iggy.
Are you Ms. Penny?
This has been a popular question! I didn’t intentionally model Penny after myself, but I guess there are a few similarities. We both wear a lot of black, share a passion for self-driven projects, and both have rather large craniums.
See Devon Kinch talk about Pretty Penny here.