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How peanut M&Ms led to a DAAP love story

Their repartee is sharp and witty. They finish each other’s sentences. Kelly Kolar, DAAP ’86,  and David Eyman, DAAP ’90, knew something was special the moment their eyes locked when students in the University of Cincinnati's top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.  

“I was a senior selling candy bars to finance our senior show,” Kelly recalls. “My friend Diane Gregg, DAAP ’86, suggested we check out the sophomores. So, we dragged our candy over to where they hung out, and then I saw David. I was speechless.”

She sold her only two packages of peanut M&Ms to the handsome newcomer. “Then I found my classmates, traded all my candy for peanut M&Ms and returned to find David.”  Little did she know that the feeling was mutual.

“It was a ploy to get her to come back to see me,” he confesses. “In all truthfulness, I’m not all that crazy about peanut M&Ms.”

The two became fast friends. They flirted for a month. “Then I just happened to move into her apartment building,” David laughs. “But we had to keep it casual. She had her sights on moving to the West Coast. I was thinking about the East Coast. How could this work?”

David assisted Kelly (and her team) with her senior project win of the design competition for the Cincinnati Bicentennial. Their synergy lent a unique, creative touch to her thesis. It was so well-crafted that the city hired her to implement the plan as the design director. The pair haven’t been apart since.

Some couples would leave their love story at that, at the beginning. But for David and Kelly, their lives continue to revolve around DAAP — their friends, their professions, their off-the-charts creativity and their zeal for turning everything into a heart-felt, all-out fun experience.

“We’re that fun DAAP couple that people like to be with,” David quips. And he may not be too far off the mark. When the two are in the same room with you, it’s impossible to know where the conversation may go. When asked what they received most from DAAP, they trade lightening-speed remarks back and forth and within 30 seconds (yes, 30 seconds) they develop an acrostic for what DAAP means to them.

“The D is definitely for Daring," Kelly begins. "The program taught us to always give ourselves permission in life to be bold, to take that next step unafraid, to keep asking why. To go for it." 

David throws out the next one. “A is for Ambiguity. If there’s anything we got from DAAP, it’s that wading through ambiguity is actually a good thing. You ultimately find understanding and guidance if you have trust — that you’re equipped to traverse through unfamiliar, confusing territory. DAAP people know how to find creative solutions when things aren’t clear.”

The second A is the easiest for the two: Audrey and Adam, their children. Audrey, a junior at DAAP, represents how all-encompassing DAAP can be for a family. She has co-oped in Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta with a stint in Italy. Her career choice has brought the family full circle. But don’t rule out Adam. Although their son is a successful investment banker in New York City and not “in the family business,” his parents taught him how to think out of the box. “It has made him an asset to his firm,” says his proud mom. “Plus, we get to visit New York City four times a year and take in the museums, architecture and shows.”

The other A — Audrey — was actually the impetus for Kelly’s firm, Kolar Design, to further their experiential design trajectory with empathy-based design. “Audrey was saved twice by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital,” says Kelly. “Children’s became a place where we could ultimately work on design that caters to the tense, distraught, unnerved parents whose lives can be made a bit easier with the right ambience, good signage, comforting respite areas, soothing colors in the branded décor and much more. Because we had been there, we had a deeper understanding for parents’ experiences.”

As for the P, Kelly is the first to blurt out Playful. “You have to learn that life needs to be full of play. It’s the root of happiness. Maybe that’s why our guests threw peanut M&Ms instead of rice at our wedding.”

“And of course we give each other peanut M&Ms for our anniversary every year,” chimes in David. “And I would like to add another P to our DAAP takeaways: Possibility. DAAP taught us to accept more. To not say ‘no,’ but say ‘yes’ to more opportunities. Because you never know what possibilities will unfold along the journey.”

Kelly and David at one of the many local events they attend

Kelly and David at one of the many local events they attend.

Kelly and David call themselves soulmates. They ran companies both together and apart. Kelly’s company is celebrating its 30th anniversary. They have been married 29 years. Along the way, David, who studied industrial design at DAAP, has occasionally lent his entrepreneurial spirit to Kelly’s business. He’s an inventor with a dozen patents and 13 product licenses to his name, and studied creativity and change leadership at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY Buffalo State.

“Yes, I was a college student when my son was a college student,” he says. “We don’t exactly do things the typical way.”

As both instructor and director of innovation at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, David also lectures. Among the five titles he manages at Miami, he teaches about 250 students a year, instilling in them entrepreneurial and creative thinking. His creative consulting work with businesses and local communities has led to social change and creative visioning programs.

“Most of our lives revolve around DAAP,” they say in enthusiastic unison until you can’t tell who is saying what. “We have relationships with faculty and alumni. We call them ‘funships.’ We both have taught at DAAP and founded a scholarship. Now we keep tabs on the Kolar Studio there.”

Employees from Kolar Design are course instructors at the Studio, providing real-life experiences to the students. The firm has also taken DAAP co-ops for almost 30 years (four this semester).

What more would students want from a company whose hallmark is graphic design and naturally morphed into a “mini DAAP,” as Kelly calls it, by offering services in branded interiors? “We create spaces that reflect the company’s brands and souls,” Kelly explains. “Now we have expanded that into data-driven design metrics. How do you measure an individual’s satisfaction with the environment they occupy? What is the impact the space has on peoples’ lives?

“Now that we’ve told our story, maybe we should also celebrate the anniversary of when we met,” suggests Kelly.

“Yeah, and we can make it a week-long celebration,” David responds.

“Wow, that would be fun,” she answers. “We could give each other peanut M&Ms like we do on our anniversary. And maybe have a soulmate day that leads into Valentine’s Day… .”

And that sparks yet another creative conversation between the two lovebirds who have not been able to keep their eyes and thoughts off each other since the day they met at DAAP on a cold January day in 1986.