Coffee with Preston Haʻo

Change-maker: Preston Haʻo

Instagram/Twitter Handle: @thatshao

Age: 26

Hometown: ʻAiea, Hawaiʻi

Education: Kamehameha High School – Kapālama; B.S. in Sociology with Minor in Business from University of Oregon

Current Position: Designer + Production Coordinator for Fitted Hawaii

Coffee of Choice: Cold Brew, Extra Shot of Aloha. Hold the straw.


What does a day in your life look like? 
It depends.  I have quite a few random days where it’s definitely not the usual.  Average day I guess…  Wake up before 5, make a cup of coffee, hele (“go”) to the gym if I’m up for it, see what’s current in the news, pop culture, music, which by the way is all from Instagram or Twitter pretty much all while making breakfast, or just head straight to Zippy’s right before grind time at the Fitted “War-house.” After that, if the sun is still out possibly squeeze in a beach session.  When night approaches it’s either time being spent on Netflix and/or YouTube until an idea sparks and I end up journalling or writing in my Notes app on my iPhone.

What is your favorite thing about working at Fitted? 
It’s constantly evolving every single day.  There’s something new to do and learn ranging from all sorts of things whether it’s about Hawaiian studies, design tips and tricks, origins of logos, streetwear trends, stocks, jiu-jitsu, electricity, Japanese wood-joining, environmental issues, the food business, shipping container homes, 90’s hip-hop trivia, the list goes on.  (Wow!)  It’s funny to mention all these random things but it’s true!  It really is a privilege to be able to talk about all these things and learn while “working.”  Being surrounded by a small but solid team really helps me enjoy doing what I do and grow as a person in general on so many levels.  (That is so awesome!)

What is your favorite design you have worked on? 
Through Fitted the opportunities to create are endless. Whether it’s just a hat, a t-shirt graphic, our cut and sew pieces with our own specs, collaborations, we’re designing and creating every day.  From the time that I’ve been a part of the team there’s a lot of projects that I’m pretty pumped to be a part of.  From Harley-Davidson to Hawaiian Airlines, hands down favorite though… Zippy’s.  I mean come on.  (Of course!  Your favorite.)  It’s one of the most iconic restaurants in Hawaiʻi!  Not to mention my experiences and memories being tied with them while growing up added to the love that was put in.  For those that don’t know – it started when we were asked to make product for their 50th anniversary and it was a huge success.  Fun fact: Zippy’s was named by the Higa Brothers and based of the idea of “zip codes” that were becoming a thing at the time.  Partial of our product we took those elements and previous assets that Zippy’s had and we made something of it.  And of course the food!  If you search on Google you’ll see what I’m talking about.  (Find it here.) We wanted to do so much more but either way with such a huge accomplishment of that we were later asked to come back and do more work with them.  Be on the look out.  Definitely got some things cooking.

What do you think makes a good design? 
There’s different aspects in design but essentially good design just makes sense.  It communicates something effectively and efficiently.  It solves a problem and highlights and fulfills the importance of a function while also applying a phenomenal aesthetic.  Take a look around.  Everything was specifically thought of and created with design.  Your phone, this plastic cup, the layout of this coffee shop.  Look at how the straws, napkins, cream and milk are away from the counter where you pick up your drinks.  It provides you additional customization to your beverage but it’s also so that while adding in the extras, it’s not completely crowded near the counter once the drink is done being made and is picked up.  I’d also like to point out and mention that just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.  That’s a Black Panther quote by the way.  I just re-watched part of that movie this morning.

Why should there be a story behind every design? 
Story is important for sure but it would be more fitting to say it must have a “purpose” behind it.  So for example, with product there needs to be a reason why to make such a thing in the first place.  Do we need it?  What’s the overall impact?  Reasons to make a product could range from something intangible like it sparks an idea for the user or something physical like how we need shoes to protect our feet.  If you have no answers to those questions, go back to the drawing board.

Why do you think branding is so important? 
Branding to me embodies the whole concept of identity. Seriously, without identity who are you?  You take away your own culture, your ideas, your opinions, your experiences, your theories, your philosophy – who would you be?  You see a swoosh on a shirt and you immediately recognize who and what it stands for.  You can even go further in the sense that a consumer of a brand feels a part of that “family” and stands by that ethos that they offer and present.

Shifting topics a little… What is your favorite social media platform to use? 
It’s a toss up between Instagram and Twitter for sure.  Instagram because, of course, the visuals.  For example, when someone talks to me about food, that is the first place I look to see what’s poppin’.  I enjoy seeing what’s out there to appreciate.  I also use it to see what my friends and acquaintances are up to.  With twitter, it’s majority dealing with news.  It’s so fast paced and thank goodness they still have their tweets in chronological order unlike Instagram.  (YES!  The new Instagram algorithm drives me crazy.)  With Twitter, it’s so raw too, if that makes sense.  You don’t need to add filters or edit something – it’s words.  You either leave it or delete it.  Also, how cool is it that at this very second I could write something completely random and someone who cares enough that lives in Japan or somewhere far can see it.  I could tweet about a seahorse the size of an actual horse and they instantly have that picture in their head from where I’m sitting.  No need of pictures – just words and the viewer’s imagination.  There’s some witty and hilarious people out there too.

I have to ask… Why do you archive all of your Instagram posts?  (You’ll find an empty Instagram account when you search @thatshao.)
Ahhhhh…  I knew this question was coming.  I don’t know – I guess I’m weird like that.  It’s funny I’ve been asked that recently too in my direct messages which is actually kind of encouraged.  There’s a few reasons and I don’t expect people to understand really but one of them with regards of posting and sharing is I simply use it as a quick and easy tool to keep some solid and authentic memories.  Aside from the Instagram Stories, at the end of the day the posts are ultimately for me.  Photos wiped off clean on my phone? It’s okay it’s somewhere.  Also feel that if people truly care about what I do they’d see it for sure, check it out, and remember a post.  If others really want to know me, they’ll make an effort to talk or text and see what’s on my mind rather than just looking at a picture and double tapping.  If not, we’ll all survive.  It’s not the end of the world.  Pretty intriguing that I still have followers.  (Intriguing that you still grow in followers too!  I love and appreciate that concept.  It brings back the personal connections that social media can sometimes take away.)

Do you think it’s important for people to have an Instagram account to grow their own personal brand?  How important is it to have an aesthetically pleasing feed versus having meaningful content? 
With Instagram yes and no.  And it’s all dependent on what you want out of it too.  Look at Kanye with YEEZY and Kim with her beauty products and what not.  Two highly influential people with brands.  One thrives on constantly posting and promoting their lifestyle, body image, and products which are edited and mapped out in a aesthetic pleasing fashion.  The other currently has probably less than 5 posts that make zero sense with no context.  Can you guess which one is which?  Regardless they’re both doing very well and people know about their brand.

What are your favorite accounts to follow on Instagram? 
Oh man… (He laughs.)  Honestly just go to my account and look who I’m following.  All of them!  (Clever way to get people to visit your social media accounts! *Wink, wink.)

You’re very active on Twitter.  How do you utilize the platform? 
Various ways.  In regards of consumption the main one is finding out anything that’s new.  And I mean anything from current events to “dank” memes.  In regards of sharing, I’m the opposite of Instagram in that I tweet kind of frequently and say what’s on my mind freely.  If you don’t know about my Twitter, I’d say you’ll see a lot of randomness and passionate madness.  Side note – it’s hard being funny and “professional” if you want to be taken seriously at the same time on that platform.

What are your favorite accounts to follow on Twitter? 
Again, go to my account and look who I’m following.  All of them.  You can really get to know a person by simply looking at who they follow…  And their “likes” too.   (That is very true!  Not only that, your account is recommended to others who follow accounts that you follow and interact with often.  The accounts you follow can be a great tool to utilize on both Twitter and Instagram.)

How do you feel about user generated content?  
It’s an interesting topic for sure.  I mean there’s trade offs too, right?  It’s like back in the days of high school on Tumblr – it’s essentially the idea of “promo 4 promo.”  It’s beneficial to both sides.  But now with big dog corporate companies into the picture, it can get a little tricky especially with money involved and the legality of things.  It’s such a new and also quickly changing and developing subject.  Laws are in the works to be enforced yet even more problems and situations are happening.  Ethics play an essential role on the topic.  If you’re really interested and want to dive further into it with social media marketing and business I highly suggest reading some of Erik Qualman’s stuff.  Look him up.  In a perfect world it’s great with this idea of sharing but in reality there’s precaution that needs to be taken especially in this day and age when you bring intellectual property into the picture.

How do you feel about intellectual property?  Is everything that goes out onto the internet a free for all?  Should brands be able to utilize user generated content for their own profit?  There’s grey area in this for sure.
For companies or brands to implement user generated content for profit I think it all boils down to ethics and communication.  No, I don’t think that it’s free for all.  However, with companies reaching out and asking for permission and giving credit, it’s one small step in the right direction.  It’s like when you go on Twitter and you see a video someone posted with the full on perspective of the inside scoop of a top story breaking news event, news outlets will reach out and ask permission for the content.  Another example – say a landscape photographer promotes their work and all of a sudden it’s on a centralized travel page getting views, even more so!  Intellectual property is so important!  Ideas have tremendous value!  And in many cases monetary value!  I highly suggest to take a look at one of the Fitted projects that we did with selected outstanding kids at Ānuenue School.  Prime case of the power of intellectual property.

You have always been an inspiration.  You’re always creating, always positive, and always enjoying life.  What motivates you? 
Oh man…  There’s a lot of things really.  Being an underdog of situations, having something to prove.  Finding solutions and solving a legit problem.  There’s a lot.  Ultimately I’d say the biggest thing that motivates me is having the opportunity to learn something each and every day.

Who inspires you?
“Who?”  Gosh so many!  Family.  The entire team at Fitted.  I have a few special friends.  Even some people I follow on social media that I’ve never met inspire me.  Individuals in the music industry from Kanye West to Action Bronson.  Ronnie Fieg, one of my favorite designers in the apparel and footwear world – dude’s got phenomenal taste and is a master of understanding what branding is.  He knows the importance of design and product.  Who else… Elon Musk!  Edwin Catmull.  Phil Knight.  Aaron Draplin.  There’s so many!  (I love Aaron Draplin’s work!  The king of logo design.)

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever received? 
Again, another with so many possible answers.  I could go philosophical and be deep about pursuing passions or finding balance and control of situations, but I guess ultimately the greatest piece of advice I’ve heard is simply just be a good person.  It’s such a basic thing to say, but seriously.  It applies to everyone.  At the end of the day all actions, karma, guidance, and things of that sort circles around the idea of having good ʻano – good character.  Being a good human.  A human-being.

What issues are you passionate about? 
I’m particularly interested and passionate about any type of Hawaiʻi-based issues.  Such things that deal with the environment, politics, business, homelessness, cultural identity, intellectual property.  I’m interested and intrigued with it all.  As a Hawaiian it’s important to set good examples and provide solutions and solve problems in relation to it all.  Passion triggers a lot of emotions and it’s important to be in the loop of it all and use those emotions for the betterment of our community and people.  Gotta move forward!

What change do you want to see in your community? 
Well, back to what I was saying earlier, one of the things on the top of my list in regards of that is seeing more problem-solvers rather than complainers.  I get it, it’s natural to complain at times but oh man.  It’s pretty funny how now I’m complaining about complaining but that’s one thing that gets to me a lot of times.  People grumble about politics or certain issues but don’t make an effort and provide zero solutions of the problem at hand.  I’d say instead of investing time of coming up with a heated disagreement statement and put-down, that energy could be used to provide some solutions.  I understand that everyone doesn’t need to agree on everything all the time but it’s essential for us to be innovators for us to move forward.  More good designers.  More good artists.  More good creators.  We need more change-makers!  And in order to be a change-maker it consists of doing something!  If not, change your attitude.


Where did we have coffee?  Kona Coffee Purveyors at Waikiki’s International Marketplace.  If you need a kick in your day with some strong coffee, I recommend checking this place out.