Where are you now and what kind of work/projects are you currently working on?
I'm currently living out west in Portland, OR and work for Nike. Specifically, I work for the Jordan Brand in the Global Brand Design group. The primary function of my job is to concept and execute global marketing creative...typically for rad sneakers with NBA basketball players. This entails putting together a creative design concept, finding the right partners (photographer, 3D agency, typographer, fine artist, etc..), art directing a photoshoot or however the creative will come to life, and graphically designing the output. I'll also art direct how it shows up on digital, at retail and, typically, get to direct a little film. I also design the brand storytelling moments in Jordan retail locations around the world, packaging for launch sneakers, brand events and any other random thing that pops up and needs to look amazing. I really love this job because it allows me to wear a lot of different hats creatively, as well as creating work that people all over the world are inspired by.
How did SAIC prepare you for where you are today? What particular classes/projects/approaches to subjects influenced you?
I went into the MArch program sort of knowing that I didn't want to follow the typical path of an architect, but still thought it would be a well-rounded education and would prepare me for any design challenge I may be tasked with. My background was in sculpture, so I thought a design proficiency in the built world would give me some career opportunities...plus, I had always heard about all these amazing designers, artists and film makers that studied architecture and used it to forge their own path.
SAIC gave me a foundation in design thinking and process that has given me the confidence to believe I can design pretty much anything. I may have to learn some new tools, but my foundation for how I would approach the project remains constant. I always put the most focus on the main studio classes each year and took every opportunity to enroll in the portfolio admission classes (GFRY, the designed object class that shows during Milan Furniture Fair, etc..) These classes were really great for me to develop skills in working on large, complex, multi-faceted design challenges and develop strong working relationships with my colleagues. These skills are super important for pretty much every single project I've worked on since graduation. Plus, I had the opportunity to travel to Europe and Japan a few times each!
What career advice do you have for current students, looking at how you see your field evolving, what is critical for the future practitioner?
That's a tough one. Everybody has a different personality and way of working, but for me, these few things have really helped out.
a) Pick a lane and go for it. You can always change your mind...or have your mind changed for you later on. Being iterative is important, but make sure you're building on a strong idea and not just generating new ideas for the sake of having options. The last thing you want to happen is have somebody pick your bad idea that you don't believe in yourself.
b) Make lists of things to do...and do them! Also don't waste time. Big, complicated projects require you to push a bunch of different rocks up the hill every single day. If you start letting them fall, you'll never get anything over the finish line.
c) Don't say 'it's not possible'. Good ideas can come from anywhere and people will like to work with you if you always have a positive attitude and don't crap on their ideas or feedback.
d) Be accountable. Always answer your texts and emails and do what you said you would do. I've found that a successful project is often the result of good communication and people feeling like you're really invested in it's success...which often times leads them to be more invested in the success.
e) Stay up with the times and know what's trendy, but also know yourself. You want to be inspired by what's new, but not simply copy it.
With whom did you study at SAIC or who influenced you?
I had a lot of great teachers at SAIC. To name a few, I really enjoyed studying with Hennie Reynders, Helen Maria Nugent, Jim TerMeer, Anders Nereim, Thomas Kong, Thomas Aleman, Carl Ray Miller, Ben Nicholson, Linda Keane, Cindy Coleman, Tristan Sterk, Peter Exley, Paul Tebben, Mike Newman, and Dan Tornheim. All really solid people with different perspectives on design and life.
Daniel Whiteneck is a brand designer with expertise in art direction, graphic design, architectural design and retail design.