Note: User Paradox was rebranded to The New Company in April of 2022
Taiyo: Tell me about your early years as a designer.
Dan: Okay so like I was saying before, it was pretty much just my interest [in] watching YT and seeing these designed elements like the thumbnails and the banners. And it was a dream for me to work with these people who I’d grown up watching.
Taiyo: How does your older work from say, 2015 to 2018, inspire the work you do today?
Dan: I think it inspires the fact that I still work primarily with YouTubers, but I still try to branch out in as many industries as I can. Like one of the [industries] we work in right now is the crypto scene, which also pays the best. YouTube is what started it, but now it’s a matter of just expanding [that].
Taiyo: I think a lot of what you’ve done in the past year is expanding outside of your work in design, but thinking back, what inspired you to become an apparel designer?
Dan: I’ve just always been into clothing. I sort of grew up buying Supreme and Jordans when I was younger, and from there I got into designer clothing and learning about custom garments. That was always something that was on my mind: making brands and helping people create their brands with my knowledge of clothing.
Taiyo: Do you think being able to have [full creative direction] has inspired you to work on your own brand, the Dalves hoodie?
Dan: The Dalves hoodie isn’t really a brand. That was sort of my attempt at making a garment from scratch. That was a turning point for me to be less into digital graphic design and more into creating garments.
Taiyo: I was listening to the podcast and you talked about how you had a lot of people on that project. Thinking about that and User Paradox, what do you think sets your design studio apart from the many other studios that exist?
Dan: I think what sets us apart is that there is no specific niche that we’re in. We try to tackle as many projects as we can in multiple industries and different types of design. Like I was just saying, we’re doing a 3D billboard. We’re doing 2-dimensional/3-dimensional work, merchandise, logos, branding; everything you can probably imagine. I really strive to be able to put together any project and have a team where we’re that diverse in the work we can create.
Taiyo: How do you think [managing a large group of creatives] has affected your career in design?
Dan: Well, luckily, I’m fortunate enough to have a team where now I’ve got project managers and it doesn’t all fall on me. There’s a little bit of a system to it where I can still separate myself from it and just be creative on my own time without, you know, always having that stress. Now there’s a little bit more of a structure to the company. I try to have everyone on, um, a very free contract. You know, everyone can do whatever they want outside. They’re all independent contractors, but to a lot of people in here, this is almost like their full-time job. They’re all still kids that just have creative ambitions.
Taiyo: Where did you get the idea to start a creative collective?
Dan: It started because I was in a situation where ironically… I’ll start by saying the reason why my whole contract thing is like, “everyone who works with me has freedom,” is because I was working with this one company where… Actually, nah, this is a little too on edge. I was gonna talk about Revolt. It’s a little too uh…
Taiyo: Do you still work with them or…
Dan: No, no, I left. They’re evil. I don’t like them. I dipped.
Taiyo: So that was what, a few months ago or something?
Dan: That was in October. I was in there for over a year.
Taiyo: I remember when they released their website…
Dan: I was in there. I was on their website.
Taiyo: Yeah, you were listed there as a garment designer I think.
Dan: Yeah, what happened there was and why I sort of learned about contracts more was because they had given me a completely free, independent contractor position. But ironically, off the record, it [was] as if it [was] a full-time job and they [didn’t] want me to take any projects outside, which is the wildest thing ever, and why I learned, we have to be so transparent about contracts. If you’re an independent contractor, you have all the freedom in the world to do whatever work for whatever other companies, so that’s what I was doing. The contract says I’m chilling, so I’m working with everyone; I don’t care. So that’s what was pissing them off. They wanted to lock me in as a full-time designer, but I was like, “ain’t no way.” They gave me told me what the full-time salary was, and I was like, “I’m already making triple that from freelancing, so there’s really no reason.” So, that’s when I realized: if I make a company, everyone [will] have so much freedom. The reason I even started the company in the first place, was, while I was working [at Revolt], I wanted to still capitalize on smaller projects. So it was a way for me to focus on the work with Revolt but still have a company where I can outsource smaller projects that I wouldn’t personally take.
Taiyo: So at Revolt, you weren’t getting paid on a per-project basis.
Dan: No, just monthly.
Taiyo: I know you’ve started branching out more towards crypto and other industries. Tell me a bit about what that process has been like?
Dan: You know, obviously, we bought Brainwashed, which is a pretty big brand. We bought that in October, I believe. We invested in, in the literal sense, pretty much just Brainwashed because then we figured the more important thing is not just buying into the company… Because you know, you can give someone money and they won’t even know what to do with it. They won’t know the manufacturers, what a good price for a sample is, all that. So I think [it’s] less about investing the traditional way, but investing our knowledge. So, [with] companies like Safeplace, I’m helping [Cameron Pagano] with manufacturers, learning how to tech-pack… I think that’s really the biggest issue: brands not knowing or having the proper resources. And for brands like Ccomfort, [Patrick CC] had the same issue. He has a vision for a brand but he just doesn’t have the resources. So that’s where we come in. We sample it for him, we know how to measure garments, we know how to size chart, we know how to make Shopify’s. Pretty much everything that distracts the owner’s creative vision. All these things that seem like an annoyance are where we come through.
Taiyo: So, you guys own Brainwashed. Do you guys work pretty closely with designing some of the garments?
Dan: So Brainwashed… We sort of own 30% of a [lot] of brands. All of [the] clients that we’re engineering the garments for and doing the websites for, where we’re really taking the lead executing the drop, we’ll be getting 30% of [the] profits per drop. And then for NFT companies…
Taiyo: Is there anything you’d like to say about NFT companies? Because I know you and you guys at User Paradox are working a lot with them now.
Dan: For NFT companies, for instance, Timepiece Ape, which is a pretty huge project, we have 1% equity, and that’s a company that’s [expected] to do five million off the rip. Obviously, merch drops aren’t as… I’d say that’s one of the biggest projects in terms of actually getting paid because that’s like a $50,000 payout.
Taiyo: You also talked about Genie on the podcast…
Dan: So, for that project, we’re actually doing their merch. It’s a crypto client, but we’re doing merch for them. But, it’s more like merch that’s sold, but given, as a gift, to investors. So it's a little bit more confusing where we come in, where we get paid because typically the profits go to us. So that’s like a little bit more tricky…
Taiyo: I know you guys are doing designs for these crypto companies but do you think you’ll, in say, the next year, expand more into that industry?
Dan: Yeah. I already really enjoy it. I have a [lot] of other projects that are like… I think Timepiece is the biggest one we are currently really involved in. Everyone’s getting [a] whitelist on it because we’re a part of it, and I’m getting a free one. Stuff like that. There’s another one called the Red Zone Zoo, which is a Solana Project, which also I’m gonna be involved with a little bit behind the scenes. There [are] a few other ones where… I want to do the same sort of [things]—equity, billboards, stuff like that.
Taiyo: Thinking big picture, what do you think your twelve-year-old self would think about what you’re doing right now?
Dan: He would be like, blown away. He would be my biggest fan, easily. I think [at] twelve I was already designing on Photoshop. I would definitely be impressed.
Taiyo: I think it’s pretty crazy thinking about the timeline. From 2015 to 2019 you were essentially just doing social media graphics. I think I remember seeing your website when I started designing and it still had headers. What do you think is the next step for you as a designer?
Dan: Right now, I just want to focus on growing the company. From there, just be a part of a lot more startup projects where I’m sort of the backbone to it, putting it all together. People who have visions [for] brands can come to me and work it out, and I’ll bring it to life. I just want to be able to put any project together for clients. And grow my team too. I want to always surround myself with the best of the best. Do you know what I mean?
Taiyo: Yeah. Thinking about the Dalves Hoodie, do you think you’ll ever turn that into a full-fledged brand?
Dan: I think later down the line, but the way that it is now is me making garments for fun when I feel like it.
Taiyo: I just have some extra questions that are less related to that. I know you’re taking a gap year. Where are you gonna attend?
Dan: It’s this design school in L.A. called ArtCenter. It’s like, um… I don’t even know too much about it, but I just saw Joe Perez went there, and I’m a big fan of his. And I’m honestly just trying to be in L.A. I saw something with the stats like… #1 Graphic Design program in California, so I was like, alright, that’s pretty cool. I’ll go there.
Taiyo: I know a lot of designers have very strong opinions on formal education for design…
Dan: I don’t think it's necessary, but I’m just going there for fun. I’m going there for the location, and I want to be able to live on my own. You could easily do without it, but I’m sort of just doing it for the fun of it, to put it simply.
Taiyo: Do you have any other inspirations other than [Joe Perez]?
Dan: Joe Perez, Ryder Ripps, Kanye West, and Demna Gvasalia.
Taiyo: Are you just hoping to get a ton of stuff done before you move to L.A?
Dan: Yeah, but in L.A. Just as much stuff, if not more, will get done in L.A. Do you know what I mean?
Taiyo: So you’re totally fine with moving across the country?
Taiyo: I wasn’t sure if you had lots of control of projects before [the Dalves Hoodie]. How do you think you’ve been able to be in control of a lot of the projects that you’ve done?
Dan: A lot of the projects where I don’t have much control, I don’t even bother taking control. If a client has a certain vision, I just stick to it. I don’t try to impose my own standards on the project, at least when it comes to commercial work, unless they’re hiring me as a creative director.
Taiyo: And do you think that’s happened more recently?
Dan: Yeah, because I just see designers that I know always switching up new styles [for] every client project, and that inspires me when I see designers who bend their backs stylistically. That’s really interesting to see. Always pushing their own style.
Taiyo: Do you have anyone that you particularly want to work with?
Dan: Kanye, for sure.
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