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Todd Kalhar 10 March 2008

Todd Kalhar

Interaction designer, runner, reader, baker and father of six

Todd Kalhar is a local dreamer who keeps himself busy doing interaction design and web development during the day, and juggling a family of eight (!) at night.

He lives in Tigard with his wife Margaret (who is NOT among the over 60 crowd, despite her old-fashioned name) and their six kids, who hail from three different countries.  He grew up in the Portland area, living as far east as Estacada, as far west as Forest Grove, and building memories everywhere in between.

As a father of six, Todd has learned to embrace the chaos and find new ways of brokering the peace among his warring tribes.  Since three of his children also have special needs, Todd has learned first-hand about raising kids with autism, ADHD and mental retardation.

 It doesn’t hurt that he, himself, is an adult with ADD.

Todd traveled extensively in Europe while in college, including time spent interning at the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria.  His experiences overseas helped him to complete a B.A. in Modern Languages and Psychology.

He has never outgrown his childhood love of role-playing games, comic books and works of science fiction or fantasy.  He secretly keeps his gaming dice in a desk drawer and a worn copy of the Marvel Super Heroes player handbook on his bookshelf.

Todd also has a fascination with tea and tea-based drinks, which often puts him in an awkward position among his coffee drinking cohorts.  He can usually work his way out of those situations, though, by making the peace with one of his delectable, home-made baked goods.

What are you up to?

Currently I’m trying to juggle multiple web design projects at the office, build my design portfolio through my work as a founding member of Fourio, sell t-shirt designs through Zubitee, and put together a business plan for a new watering hole in the Portland area (great location ideas welcome).

Aside from that, I’m making time to do everything I can for my kids and still get in a good amount of leisure reading whenever possible.  Rarely do I have trouble falling asleep at night.

What are you into?

Books. Baking. Tea. Running.  The order varies based on my mood.

My book addiction runs deep … I still have my original childhood Clackamas County library card number memorized, and I read more books as a child than most of my peers have read during their lifetimes.  I can’t seem to resist buying books that I could just as easily pick up at the library.  Despite all the technology, there’s still something captivating about a bound stack of printed pages.    

I also have an insatiable curiosity and am always interested in new things, especially new people.  I love to hear the stories that people have to tell.

Perhaps that’s what the design work, reading and curiosity all boil down to: I love stories.

As for running, I love trail running and this year will be my 7th time running in the Hood To Coast relay.  I’m also training for my first Portland Marathon in the fall.  I’ll have my eulogy ready for them to deliver after I cross the finish line.

What do you like most about Portland?

Spring and summertime.  The trees.  The proximity of Mt. Hood, the Oregon Coast and the wine country.  Coffee shops.  Running trails.  Powell’s City of Books.  The parks.

Portland has that mix of big town and small town all rolled into one.  It’s a rarity that I’ve never quite seen matched in all of my travels.

There is a funky blend of styles, tech and people here that cultivates the most amazing stuff.  And most amazing of all is the interest people have in sharing these gems with the community at large.

How did you become an interaction designer?

I’m a storyteller by nature, with an interest in how things work.  Marry the two and you get a darn good interaction designer.

My degree in languages and psychology really centered around perception, understanding and synthesis.  I’m fascinated by how people think and act.  So it became second nature to learn all about a subject, then turn around and translate it into terms that others could more easily understand.

I sold and trained people on software back in the DOS and early Windows days to put myself through college.  It didn’t take long to realize that people were intimidated by technology, yet eerily drawn to it as well.  

I’ve found a happy niche helping companies design their products to be more intuitive, understandable and engaging.

Six kids? What the heck were you thinking?

Never did I expect to have a big family.  I was certain of the 2.4 kids, white picket fence and two sedans in the driveway lifestyle.  Then after our two daughters were born, my wife and I decided to adopt.  At that point, there was no turning back.  

Our first son (born in S. Korea) needed a brother to chum around with, then, when bringing our second son home (born in Bangalore, India) we met another orphan boy (born in Mysore, India) who we fell in love with and eventually brought home, and then we were asked to adopt a little girl in California whose birth mother couldn’t keep her.  

All I can say is that once you hit three kids, you’re out of hands and outnumbered anyway, so why the heck not go completely insane?  There is NEVER a dull moment in my house.  

I expect there will be a Discovery channel documentary about us someday and I’ll be some senile old man with a gazillion kids running all over the place.  If nothing else, it increases my chances that at least one of them will be able to take care of me in my old age.

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