MOUTHWASH — An Offbeat Experiment
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Catching up with Carter Moore

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MOUTHWASH (MW) What have you been up to man? 

Carter Moore (CM) Just trying to work and enjoy life in Portland, really. 

MW You mentioned you’re on the road right now right? 

CM Yeah, we’re going camping tonight with my parents. They’re driving up from Idaho, so we’re gonna hang out with them. 

MW Nice! I’m actually heading to Big Sur next week for the first time.

CM Oh—for the first time? Dude, you’re going to love it.

MW Yeah man, I tried to go for the first time a couple years ago, but all those mud slides kept us from getting into the park.

CM Oh man. Make sure you bring bug repellent. There are a lot of ticks this time of year. 

MW Yeah? Good to note. I’ll take any other recommendations you’ve got for me as well. 

CM I wrote a post for Field Magazine about some of it a while back and there are good notes in there. There’s a lot of cool things over in that area. 

MW Speaking of your writing, I have been really enjoying the newsletter you put out. It’s called Good Shout, right? Not to mention all the other writings you’ve been doing for other blogs. It’s been great. 

CM Ah—thanks man. I’ve taken both time off and on doing it. Like, I haven’t sent a newsletter out in a little bit. But yeah, it’s all part of the growing process.

MW Right, right. Well, yeah, cool man. Really our reason for doing this…and you’re actually the first person to be featured on this—is to catch up with people who we’ve had conversations with in the past, whether it be on the podcast, magazine, or just collaborative work. You’re the  perfect person to feature because I think the last time we talked, probably about a year and a half ago, both of us have gone through a lot of change, which is kind of funny.

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CM I guess it really has been that long, which is kind of wild. It doesn’t feel like that long. 

MW I was actually listening back to the podcast we did and you were talking about how you had just moved to London and you were in your flat and—yeah, that was like a year and a half ago. So what are you doing now? 

CM Now I’m in Portland. I’m not working at Apple, which was my choice. Apple asked us to stay in London for another three years, and they kind of wanted a three year commitment in exchange for a work visa, which is understandable. We were on my wife’s student visa so we kind of needed to make a decision. I just don’t think we saw ourselves there for three years as much as I loved Apple, which I really did. I loved my team there a lot. Had it been another year, maybe two, I would have been pretty prime. But, uh, three was just a lot.

MW Now you’re in Portland, working where? 

CM I work at Instrument now, which is really fun. I’ve long admired Instrument and the work that they do—especially pushing brands forward digitally in their design. But also, they’re just good people. I’m pretty pumped to be there. It’s also my first agency experience—I’ve always been client-side up until now. So that’s new for me, but it’s fun to work across so many different projects and have input into so many different aspects of client’s workstreams. It’s nice to not have such a deep level of commitment all the way through to the end sometimes. At other times, I do miss that ability to be with the client from the beginning. 

MW Yeah, I feel like that’s something…I’ve always been on the agency side and I feel like there’s only a percentage of the project that I touch and then I don’t even know where it goes after it leaves my hands, which is interesting. I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to be on the brand side. Do you feel like you prefer one over the other? 

CM I have an appreciation for aspects of both. I miss really being able to hone in, from the brand side, what the long-term vision is and really being able to see it out in the wild. And sometimes, from the agency side, you do get that experience. Sometimes you want to be involved in all of that, but there’s a freedom in knowing that you can come in, be an expert on something then dip out, and not feel the pressure of it all being on your shoulders for success. 

MW I totally get that man. Going back to what you were talking about earlier…You’ve kind of moved around a lot recently. A few new jobs in different cities. One of the larger topics of conversation that we had on our podcast was this idea of community. You were at VSCO for nearly five years and investing in those people. I’m curious about what your thoughts are on community now, through the lens of transience. Does community get harder when you get older? Is it something you desire more often? 

CM That’s a good question. Community, from a work sense and life sense, are somewhat the same. We plan on being in Portland for quite a while, and it’s nice to see that we’ll be invested in it, naturally, over the course of a long period of time. Granted, so much can change. Five years ago, I never would have thought the trajectory would have gone the way it has. In London, we really invested in the people around us and I don’t think we realized how much of an impact they had on us until we left. I don’t know if settling down is something everyone wants. I have a hard time feeling like I can be fully invested everywhere—like, I told my wife that I really need a sense of permanence in my life. I feel like I’ve moved around so much geographically that the relationships are hard to maintain if you continue to uproot them. But I’m excited for this season of where we’re at—in this season of permanence, whatever that means.

MW Do you think, as far as what you’ve talked about already, you’ve found the things you desire in community in Portland already? 

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CM We’re discovering it. I heard a talk at our church in London, probably around the same time you and I talked on the podcast, on the subject of reliability and availability, and that really changed my opinion about how I approached relationships. Realizing that, when we were living in the Bay area, that I was neither available nor reliable toward other people. And that was kind of the culture that existed in the Bay, so we really fought for that in London, which is why we found such deep roots so quickly. But yeah, it’s been great so far. I have great co-workers and great friendships. We have a community through our church and a group that we host every week and those relationships are blooming into something really beautiful as well. That group has been great because it allows me to be around people who I wouldn’t have naturally found myself in the same context of—it’s been nice to spend time around people who aren’t in the same exact headspace that I’m always in. I find a lot of freedom in being able to talk to someone who is a student or a parent. It keeps me grounded. You find out that there’s more to life than creative campaigns, strategies, etc. 

MW Yeah, it’s good to be able to have the capacity to turn off work, even at my stage. Being in Los Angeles, around friends who are still single, young, and all of that. Sometimes it feels like there is a lack of a shift in paradigm around the topic of conversation. There’s a part of me that desires that, and wants to ability to turn it off. For now, it’s great. There’s no other time to work hard. But I definitely envy that on days where I just don’t feel like talking about photography and design. 

CM I’m 29, and as I approach 30, I’ve been asking myself this question of, “Who am I becoming by what I’m doing?” And, you know, that’s allowed me to step back and say I’m going to pause on newsletters, writing, and extracurriculars. I’m going to take a second and think about whether or not I want to be a father, if I want to have a successful career, be a better husband, if I want to hold true to faith, my family values. What are the things I’m doing now that reinforce those values? Honestly I’m trying to start the self-editing and curating process of getting rid of the things that don’t support those goals. It’s been a good exercise over the last six months—really since we finished our walk across Spain. I think that had a big impact on me. 

MW Do you think something like walking across Spain allowed you to just take a moment and have that break-through? 

CM The walk helped me realize that there’s a lot of really important things in life that don’t necessarily look like what I’ve defined as important. 

MW Hm.

CM It was honestly just a great opportunity to find some clarity and success in that clarity. I mean, there’s a lot of ambiguity in the clarity, if that makes sense. 

MW Hahaha.

CM Man, I think I just realized that there’s a lot more to life than eating out every day, and you know? Going to the next major art show, or seeing the next film, or watching the next big cultural thing on Netflix. And I still find myself looping back into those habits. In the world we find ourselves in, those are the common themes that unite people. But perhaps there’s more that can unite people than the newest binge show to watch, or the newest film to go see. Although, man, I really do love films and shows. 

MW I actually had a moment last year where I was thinking about all of that. I was kind of in the midst of meeting a ton of people. I noticed a recurring pattern of conversation. It’s interesting that the level of conversations always hit the same subjects. Where do you like to eat? What do you like to do—what’s your favorite show? There’s a level of exhaustion in that conversation. 

CM Yeah, super exhausting.

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MW It’s really cool that you were able to experience that walk and have the clarity that came with it. I think that’s something we’re all looking for to some extent. One more question for you…This is something I’ve been realizing over the past three years or so. Every year, my interests drastically change—and maybe that’s just me, but something I thought I was super into a year ago no longer matters to me that much now. Maybe my thoughts are racing faster than I can harness them, which can be both good and bad. But I’m curious—for you, what is something you’re really interested in learning more about in this season of life? 

CM I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of various interests that have permeated throughout my life, whether it be photography, writing, or just general communication. But typically, most of my interests don’t deviate far from those things. Right now, I think, I’m really curious in understanding how—man, I’m trying to articulate this, and maybe this is why I’m so fascinated by it. But mostly, how the next generation of people are going to be like. Part of it is due to work, and this is something I think about a lot. Are the things we are doing today is going to be the same things that are going to reach the same people tomorrow? Habits, consumerism, psychology. I’m really trying to figure out the best way to communicate and reach people where they’re at and not necessarily going about it in the way I’m most comfortable doing. So that means a different style of visual communication. Is there a way to combine beautiful aspects of what has been with revitalized ideas of what can be? And that’s not to say that we should progress for the sake of progressing, but trying to be really understanding of where people are currently at. 

MW Cool, yeah—

CM Sorry, a bit of a complicated answer.

MW No, no, no! I’m just sitting here taking it all in. I always enjoy these conversations with you. Something you said about becoming a better communicator—I was reading an article, a conversation, a lot like the one we’re having right now. Do you ever just read something and can just tell that this person is spending hours in books by how advanced their vernacular is? Practicing the art of communication is something that I think we should all be better at as artists. I’m jealous of people that can share a feeling or an idea so effortlessly.

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CM Yeah man, tons of reading will do the trick. I’m trying to become more intentional in how I read. Not just hopping around 3-minute Medium articles to a NY Times article I see on Twitter. I’ve found myself to be printing off physical articles that I see online, instead of reading them online. I digest better when it’s in my hand. Also practicing solitude and silence. A lot of research shows that breakthrough and clarity comes through in moments when you escape from the noise around you. I’ve been walking a lot. I know that’s weird. But trying to understand the context of where I live. I feel like you can sum it all up to exercise in general, but walking, running, and cycling have all been so good for me. Things that take up time. You just think better when you can escape from all the normal life things. So yeah, reading intentionally, exercising when I can. I’m not trying to be a health and wellness person, but I know those things have helped me. Even deleting social media apps from my phone has been so helpful for me. I feel like I’m not chained to the social media beast that I once was—I read a book by Cal Newport called Digital Minimalism.

MW I love Cal Newport. 

CM It was really healthy for me. 

MW I wish we could chat for the rest of the day, but I’m sure we’ll catch up again soon. And, sidenote, maybe one day we’ll finally meet in person. 

CM Haha, one day man!

Catching Up with Carter Moore

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