Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring an in-depth look at communicators in the mid-Atlantic.  In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Karl David “KD” Cantarella. Photography for the series is by Cade Martinwardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.

KD, please provide us a bio and your current title.

I’m an Irish-Italian New Yorker who kissed the mythical Blarney Stone on the Emerald Isle, giving me the “gift of the gab,” so you can imagine I love a good chat. By chat I mean a passionate discussion of ideas, of course! I didn’t take the most direct route to creative. After studying pre-med for a bit at NYU, I made the surprising discovery I loved design and advertising. It should have been more apparent as my dorm room was covered with photos cut from Interview magazine and collected hand-drawn music flyers from the likes of Rob Zombie (he was a graphic designer, you know!). Eventually I decided to get my BFA at The School of Visual Arts then, later, fueled by love of film and working in cable, I received a certificate degree in digital filmmaking at New York Film Academy. Over the years I’ve worked on a number of entertainment, tech and lifestyle brands. I started my career in the uniquely creative environment of MTV Networks, which always kept me interested in youth culture and music. From there I started my own small agency, E2, mainly focused on web/digital and then onto Showtime Networks, to develop branding and marketing. There I was fortunate to work with world-renowned photographers and movie stars! Next I headed down to the DC area as Creative Director for Discovery Networks – what a great experience, working on Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Travel Channel and more. Back up to the New York area to work in the digital world of AT&T in marketing and app design. Then – surprise! – again back down to DC for Marriott International working in the creative and content studio as Associate Creative Director. Recently, I accepted a new position at Booz Allen Hamilton as Creative Director in Marketing and Communications, leading a group in creative development, branding, and content. I couldn’t be more excited!

Are you involved in any other organizations?

Over the years I’ve always been a member of a number of professional creative organizations like Art Director’s Club, AIGA, etc.

What are the things you are most proud of?

It’s difficult to choose, but some of the standout moments were art directing shoots. At Showtime, it was amazing pitching ideas to the likes of Jeremy Irons, Luke Perry and Holly Hunter. At Discovery I had unique moments shooting, including directing Tommy Lee and Ludacris together – they were so into it! More recently at Marriott we shot some spots with comedian Grace Helbig. Also I’m very proud of a recent Marriott Rewards Megabonus campaign – photographed by awesome DC-local Cade Martin. And I’m proud of the Marriott Rewards Member Rates campaign (videos created by another great local group – ImageFactory DC).

Who are your personal role models?

Tough one! The Hagakure (Book of the Samurai) suggests if you can’t find a suitable role model, to make one up in your imagination. At the moment, mine is a cross between Captain Picard, Mohammad Ali and David Bowie. It keeps changing!

Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?

Years ago, my father gave me some simple but great professional advice. “Do what makes you happy,” he said. He knew if you did that, you’d be very motivated. I loved design and advertising so that’s what I put all my effort into.

What professional advice do you have for others?

 I’d say it’s good to listen to advice, but really your career is up to you. No one can motivate you more than yourself. Find what you’re passionate about and go for it. What’s great about the creative industry is the many aspects – you can dig into photography, writing, color theory, UI, and so much more.

What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?

That’s a loaded question because music is such a big deal for me. I love everything from classical to heavy metal. What’s on my music mind recently? I’m reading Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil, which chronicles punk rock through such bands as Iggy and the Stooges, Johnny Thunders, and the Ramones. It’s a crazy oral history.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

These days I don’t have a favorite restaurant, probably because my family is spoiled. My mother-in-law is a French chef – her specialty is pastry – so we’re treated to amazing meals very often!

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

I’m married to another creative – my wife, Nicole Cantarella, is also a creative director. We try not to talk shop too much but we have such different POVs on creative, it keeps it fresh. Also I play guitar, I love soccer, and I enjoy writing as much as art directing. Lastly, I have a penchant for 60’s sci-fi – heady stuff.



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