Washington's Top Power Couples
BY RACHEL STURTZ
These seven dynamic duos define what makes Washington great through their boundless creativity and a desire to leave the world a better place.
Jake & Pum Lefebure
Buttoned-up Washington may not seem like the natural place to headquarter Design Army, Jake and Pum Lefebure's award-winning design firm known for its out-of-the-box flair. But there's also no better place to stand out. And with their Tim Burton–meets–Leave It to Beaver aesthetic, meticulous execution, powerful connections, and commanding presence, it becomes clear why Jake and Pum stand alone.
The Lefebures met in 1996 at another design group, when he was a new designer and she was a talented intern; they were married five years later. When the dot-com bubble burst, the two started Design Army, finding their first client with a well-designed yard-sale flyer. They began locally, creating websites for architecture firms and designing corporate annual reports and charity invites. There was no need to advertise; word of mouth spread quickly, and as their roster of clients grew, so did their reach.
Design Army's clean and bold designs carry an equal amount of wit and whimsy, taking visual cues from vintage typography, high fashion, and pop culture, but always in a way that is strikingly original. They have livened up everything from theater posters to invitations to corporate logos, and they handle more than 400 projects a year, with a focus on branding (or rebranding, as the case may be). The Washington Ballet, The Hay-Adams, Disney, GE, and Verizon all have recruited the duo for their impactful concepts—for example, their recast Les Misérables poster and their award-winning book cover design for This is NPR.
Two years ago, the couple produced the Washington Ballet's 10-year commemorative book, Wonderland, filling it with ethereal scenes of an elaborate, lush fantasy world. The firm has also designed the University of Virginia Library annual report for several years, turning it into an award-winning work of modern art; each project earned a gold National ADDY Award, the American Advertising Federation's equivalent of an Oscar. (Design Army has won nearly 500 awards since hanging out a shingle.)
In the past 10 years, Jake and Pum have added 10 staff members to their business, brought in international clients, and gone further into photographic art direction, eschewing the use of stock photos and instead shooting what they want, resulting in truly custom-designed projects. Pum oversees the day-to-day creative tasks, including model casting, makeup and fashion direction, location scouting, and, in the end, the shoot, all with an eye toward the artistic vision of a Vogue photo spread.
In between all the hard work, the Lefebures find creative ways of fitting in their family: Their seven-year-old daughter, Sophie, hangs around photo shoots and tags along on vintage shopping trips for props. Pum calls her a creative in the making. "She's in second grade and already has a very complex eye for color," she says. "It's never pink or green—it's pastel pale pink or aqua green."
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIP DAWKINS
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.