Originally Written for AIGA Jacksonville – Our members often tell us design inspiration is one of the most important benefits in their AIGA membership, and this past Friday night was packed with just that. DKNG is one of the baddest studios out right now working with entertainment and music clients – industries that often times produce some of the freshest and most inspirational outcomes. AIGA Jacksonville was lucky enough to host DKNG founding partner Dan Kuhlken to kick off the 23rd Annual Student Portfolio Review. As a young professional exploding with talent, Dan was able to speak to both student and professional members in the audience alike. He spoke about what inspires him, the creative process, presentation and execution, criteria for selecting work, pricing, community management and much more. All subjects that are interesting and helpful to a designer of any age.
While the design work was extremely impressive and certainly provided for beautiful context, the discussion around how DKNG works, their processes, and ideology were extremely valuable. In the hectic world of deadline driven design it seems that some of the formalities of process can often be overlooked. Dan made clear how these important steps along with thoughtful feedback from trusted colleagues can lead to a more successful project as a whole. He emphasized how preliminary steps such as research, brainstorming, and refinement are necessary. Equally important are the presentation and execution. The DKNG brand of process is unique. They break up what they see as essential components into a predetermined portions that fit with nearly any type of project. These components focus on steps such as a proposal of an idea to the client, delegation of work within the studio, the heavy lifting of the tangible illustration and design elements and finally the art direction and completion of the project.
Outside of the hands-on creative approach to producing successful work, Dan also presented higher level design business information that is an important component to any studio. Through hard work and time, great work will continue to be produced over the development of a design career and/or business. The selection of work you take on can become more stringent due to increase in demand and the budgets that surround projects. This was really interesting information for designers with a passion and determination to create a long term place for themselves in the industry. He looked at the need to select work in a thoughtful manner and referenced a Venn diagram solution, where he would require 2 out of 3 criteria to rationalize taking on a project. Essentially it was broken down into 3 considerations: Portfolio, Budget, and Happiness. Would the project be good for the DKNG portfolio to enhance the prospect of future business? Is the project financially sound, having a solid budget that would be profitable to the studio? Will the work please the studio as opposed to being a morale buster? If the answer to at least 2 these question was a yes, then the project was qualified for consideration to bring in. In addition to selection of work, he also discussed advantages of project based versus hourly pricing and how to market to the modern, technically savvy online community.
AIGA Jacksonville provides many benefits, and in my opinion this event showcased all of the most important qualities that the group provides our creative community. The presentation was not only highly inspirational but more importantly educational – providing me with pointers and viewpoints I can apply to my studio and career immediately. Dan was a real class act, traveling all the way from Santa Monica to Jacksonville to share his work and insights into the design industry. Not only did he prepare an awesome presentation but was also generous enough to join the AIGA Jacksonville Board for a couple nights of casual fun, even attending the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra featuring Ben Folds!
Many thanks to Dan for coming out and becoming a friend to AIGA Jacksonville – it’s a weekend both student and professional members will not soon forget!