Where are you from? How long have you lived here in Santa Barbara, and what drew you to the area?
Leo: I was born in a small seaside town called Makarska in Croatia. It’s eerily similar to Santa Barbara, just smaller; islands out front, mountains behind the town, good people. Coming into year 20 here in Santa Barbara, I laugh at how my path was driven purely by chance and luck. I saw a beautiful aerial—pre-drone—photo of UCSB [University of California, Santa Barbara] with the splendor of the Pacific, framed with the Channel Islands and Santa Ynez mountain range, and felt, “Hey, this would be a great place to hang for a bit.”
Taiana: I was born in Beachwood Canyon in Los Angeles, then move to Santa Barbara with my family when I was 10. My parents took a drive up the coast one weekend a couple decades ago and on a whim decided to move here. I left from time to time but always came back to this magical land.
Leo, you were a pretty accomplished tennis player, right? How did you first get into surfing?
Leo: Yes, my other life has been exposed. Tennis was my thing for the first half of my life—and still is. It wasn’t until I gave up the competitive side of it that I met some friends who surfed and took me out. Thank goodness they were those who appreciated the old craft of boards and introduced me to the rich history that surfing has. It was much more deep-rooted to them than just the act of surfing—that has always stuck with me.
What about graphic design—how did you take an interest in that as a profession?
Leo: Yikes, I don’t really remember; I was always doodling as a kid, but gave it up during my high school and college years. It wasn’t until I graduated and was traveling for tennis tournaments that I picked it up again. A friend saw stuff I was doing and asked me to design them a logo, which I nervously did. It took me forever; I must have given him 18 initial directions for a couple hundred bucks. After that project, I started doing more small identity stuff for other people purely by word of mouth. Pretty quickly though, I realized I had to step up my game and get serious, and really figure out the design language I wanted to speak, as more established companies were reaching out. It truly was a chance transition into this “profession,” and I’ve been loving the ride working with a constantly changing, diverse set of clients—moms and pops, and companies that keep things bright and positive.