Dan Beltran February 2018
After a 2 month break, 'Those Who Design' is back and for our first interview of 2018 we have taken a small step into the world of Graphic Design and a giant leap across the pond to Seattle. Spaceman Creative Studio's Andy Green spent some time talking soccer, Seattle & 'The Designers League' with the very talented Dan Beltran. Sit back and enjoy...
Dan, thanks so much for talking to us today. This is ‘Those Who Designs’ first interview in the world of graphic design / branding / identity which is exciting, as well as our first overseas interview, all the way from Seattle, Washington. Apart from being the birthplace of Starbucks and of course the Space Needle, what else should we know?
Hey Andy, it's my pleasure. For a start in Seattle, it doesn’t actually rain as much as people think! For the most part it’s super cloudy, but the rain gives the city a bad rap. Also the term “Seattle” is derived from a native chief of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes, the entire region has retained a lot of that native heritage which I think it stellar.
Wow that is interesting, I had no idea that's where the name came from. We're used to rain so I don't think that would put me off visiting! Did you grown up in Washington State?
No, I was born and raised in the Bay Area, California (about forty minutes East of San Francisco). Seattle became my home after I went to school. I moved up here to be closer to my girlfriend after graduation and then decided to stay.
Quite a change then, California is certainly not known for the rain! We did a bit of digging and found out that you studied PR at Gonzaga University, was design something you moved into after or were you always artistic from a young age?
Design was something I more or less fell in to throughout my time at college, as a hobby. More of an obsession really and the moment I found out that people would actually pay me to do this I was hooked. I never up to that point considered myself creative but I suppose looking back you could say that there were hints of it here and there.
I suppose like many careers, people often just fall into it. That said, the kind of work you have produced definitely needs a big deal of natural talent too! You are now working for Seattle Sounders FC which must be a cool gig. My knowledge of the MLS is pretty limited but I believe the Sounders are currently sitting just below the Portland Timbers at the top of the MLS West Conference. Are you a keen soccer fan?
More or less. I enjoy competition at its core – and my goal is to translate that aura of rivalry into the stuff that I design. It’s a beautiful game in more ways than one.
Certainly is and the level of quality in the MLS has surged over recent years. Do you have an English team you follow?
Ok, I won't hold that against you! Working for the Sounders must expose you to some great opportunities design wise? We saw that you have worked with Xbox for instance?
I could never dream of even half the opportunities that have arisen throughout my time with the club. Through the Sounders I’ve had the opportunity to work with Microsoft, XBOX, Adidas, the MLS itself, the NBA, etc the list goes on. Hard work and consistency gets noticed.
Incredible, some designers could work a lifetime and not be involved in such a list of brands. What are your main challenges as a designer working for such a public brand?
Being in a public position is an entirely different ballgame and you really have to take that in to consideration as you go about designing. Understanding the causality behind each of the design decisions you make and ensuring that everything you put out is representative of the club is key. There is no room for errors when it comes to representing a multi-national public facing entity.
I can imagine. Working for small brands and start up companies has it's own challenges but when designing in any industry where your work will be scrutinised by thousands of people is a serious business be it graphics, branding, product design, interiors or architecture. What’s your favourite thing to work on for the Sounders?
It’s tough to pin down any one thing. If I had to choose I’d definitely say themed jersey/kit launches that the club puts out. Being able to be a part of the art direction from photo-shoots to editing to finished product, and then seeing and hearing the player and club reactions to such is unparalleled.
That must be great. I'm not sure what it's like in the States but in the UK there's always such a big deal surrounding the launch of a new national or international kit.
Ok, so let’s talk TDL - 'The Designers League' is an online community with over 10,000 members from all parts of the world with different skill levels, ages and sexes. What is your history with TDL and why do you think it works so well and is so popular?
I first came in to contact with TDL back in 2015 I believe, then was brought on as admin in early 2016. I think what makes TDL special is the community aspect we drive within the group itself. You get a real sense of a designer “family” – and I like to think that everyone is there to support everyone. In addition, we don’t exactly sugar coat much, which is an aspect I personally adore about the league. Sometimes the most growth comes from how hard-hitting it can be.
I agree, as a member myself I like the honesty that comes when the community ask for feedback or advice. The other great thing is when you are stuck on an aspect of design, within minutes a solution can be offered up. With this kind of exposure to a world of multicultural designers, do you see differences in design from multiple countries? Is there any country you think is emerging or producing work on a different level?
Entirely. I wouldn’t generalize the differences on a country to country basis per say, but moreso of the individual. Obviously design is entirely intimate and subjective, and I love to see people representing portions of themselves in the work that they put out.
Very true, it's both objective and subjective which means you get a hugely diverse collection of work, it's certainly a great group to be part of.
So as part of TDL, you take on a responsibility to help educate or guide designers of all different walks of life who are just starting out in their schooling or work life. What advice would you give them?
Don’t do it for a pay check, do it because you love it. And then do it for a pay check. Find a way to merge your passion with your profession. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
Great advice. I think we are lucky to be working in an industry where you can use your passions to fulfil your potential, the design world is fantastic for that.
With the digital age very firmly upon us and tech seeping into every aspect of our personal and social life, how do you see the next fews years developing?
I’m big in to tech, I think information is the new gold. With such an immediate and expansive accessibility to information, it will be interesting to see how that informs design and branding decisions in the future. That being said I don’t think you can ever truly and fully replace human intuition.
I agree. Tech is making it easy to contact people from all over the world at the drop of a hat and also changing the way the workplace functions but human intuition and interaction is so important still. Speaking of tech, you have recently been working on the branding for Pacific Hyperloop, part of the Virgin Hyperloop One project. What has that been like? Must be a fantastic project to be involved with?
The Hyperloop project was certainly a fun one to be involved in. My contact at Nike reached out and asked if I would be interested in the collaboration and it was one I certainly could not have passed up. The team there is awesome and they are working very hard in making what was once considered a pipe dream in to a life enhancing reality.
Fantastic, what an exciting project to keep and eye on!
Ok, now for the bit everyone is waiting for. Stuck in a lift with Dan, enemies for life or BFF’s forever, let’s find out….
Espresso or Latte? Espresso - 0/10
Soccer or American Football? Soccer - 1/10
Thoughts on Gherkins? Had to Google what that was. If it is in fact a pickle, then I like pickles - 2/10
Old or knew Formula 1 branding? New - 3/10
Going out or staying in? Depends on the mood. Usually the latter, sometimes the former - 4/10
Which is the better logo - Nike tick or Apple’s apple? I enjoy what Nike represents more than what Apple represents. However, I don’t necessarily enjoy one logo over the other - 5/10
Do you like quiche? Can’t eat potatoes so no - 6/10
Films or books? Books - 6/10
Architecture - Carlson & Graham’s Space Needle or Museum of Pop Culture by Frank Gehry? The MoPop. It’s so gaudy that I actually really enjoy it - 7/10
Favourite Graphic Designer? Me. Not in a cocky way, but in like a “I really believe in myself” way. I also couldn’t name more than five to ten designers off the top of my head – weird I know - 8/10
So 8/10 - A fan of soccer and pickles but doesn't eat quiche, it looks like Dan is our new BFF...
Thank you so much for your time Dan....
To see more of Dan's fantastic work visit - www.designwithdan.com
To find out more about 'The Designers League' visit - www.facebook.com/groups/thedesignersleague
Or visit www.thedesignersleague.co