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Background facts


Please share a little background

industry info about you.


I am a graphic designer. I know this

graphic design industry has a lot of

puffery and titles. Everyone’s a

creative director, even when they’re

not. If you’re an art director, your title

says creative director. If you’re a

graphic designer, your title says

creative director. Everyone seems

to do puffery.


I’m a graphic designer and I think

that’s just the most accurate way to

describe me. I’m also a business owner,

and that’s probably more realistic.


How long have you worked in your industry?


Since ’97, so seventeen years, which is mind-boggling to me.



Dress code


How do you determine what you’re going to wear to work each day?


Very easy. I’ve already got my schedule planned for any given day.  I know what I’m doing tomorrow.  If I’m going to have client interaction I dress one way and if I’m not, I’m just dressed normal.


What’s your client dress code?


My client dress code is almost exactly the same as my regular dress code with a couple of very specific differences.  My regular dress code is just black tee shirts, jeans of some sort, and sneakers.  The difference is that if I’m going to go see a client, I make sure that I fix my hair as opposed to just throwing on a ball cap on, because I wear a lot of baseball caps. I own probably fifty or so. I really like ball caps. They go with sneakers, and it’s really easy to just throw on a cap, and walk out the door.


The main thing is that if I go see a client, I put on a jacket.  I have a closet full of sports jackets and I dress them up with pocket squares.  When you are wearing all black and then you throw a jacket on, it doesn’t matter that I’m wearing jeans and a tee shirt.  It instantly propels the look.  As a creative, we can usually get away with a lot more.  I don’t have to be in a suit, per se.  I never wear collared shirts or ties, but if I put a jacket on over this tee shirt, I look formal.


What are the typical brands you go to?




Do you have certain tee shirts you like?


Lots of Old Navy. They’re affordable, they’re easy, they’re simple.  For regular crew neck shirts and some v-necks, I really probably buy most of them at the Polo Outlet. I have a real affinity for Polo because a lot of my friends wear it.


When do you find the time to shop?


It’s a lot easier nowadays to simply shop online, especially being a guy. I know what my size is. I can buy anything online, and 99% of the time, it fits.


Lucky. What are your favorite sites to shop?



How did you find the brand?



Where do you shop for shoes?


Most of my shoes come from connections that I’ve made in the shoe industry. The reason for that is because it’s almost impossible for anyone to just go out and buy the hottest shoes from retail. They’re impossible to get.




What are your favorite sneaker brands?


It goes back and forth between Nike and Adidas.  For many years I only bought Adidas, and then I got mad at them and so for many years, I only bought Nike.  Right now, I happen to be wearing a pair of Nikes, but I have a pair of Adidas under the desk.  My favorite shoe of this year has been an Adidas, so that says something.


Why do you have extra shoes around your office?  In case these have a mishap or something?


I believe in recycling. If I’m wearing nice shoes, and I’m going to grab my bike and go to 7-Eleven, I don’t want to wear nice shoes on the bike, because that will tear them up. So I keep a pair of junky shoes. I also have a pair of shoes here that is just made for cycling, by Cinelli, the same brand as my bicycle. They partnered with DVS, a skate company. And there's yet another pair of shoes, my KDs.


Wait, in your office right now there’s four pairs of shoes?


Yes, plus a pair of slides, so five. You don’t even see those. If you were in my house, you wouldn’t miss them because there’s like 200. It’s literally a whole wall in one room, floor to ceiling, side to side.


Do you mix it up - how you wear them?


I’ve got more shoes than I can actually wear out. If I wear a pair of shoes twice in a year, I’m doing pretty good. I have some go to pairs that I wear more often, and then I have pairs that I never wear because they are reserved for special occasions; either because they’re too expensive, or too rare.


Suddenly I’m thinking of Michael Jordans and …


I have lots of Jordans. I’m a huge Michael Jordan fan. I think it’s the generation I come from. We all believe he can fly.  The thing about Jordans is that they have a tremendous demand, but they also have a tremendous volume.


For an average popular Jordan release, they might make 800,000 or a 1,000,000 of them. With that many out there, they only retail for a little under $200 and they’ll resell for $350 or so. I mean percentage-wise that’s a lot, but $350 is not exorbitant in the world of collectible shoes.


What’s on your wish list for this upcoming season’s work wardrobe?



What type of man bag do you carry every day and what’s inside?



Your wallet doesn’t go in your bag?



What is something that you wear or do that instills more confidence on the days when you’re tired or don’t quite feel like yourself?


Having sort of a uniform makes it easier to get dressed, but the really difficult part has been standing in front of my wall of shoes, and deciding which pair I am going to wear. If I wear the wrong pair, I know it halfway through the day, and I feel terrible.  If I wear the right pair, I feel right. It’s a shoe thing. People that don’t understand shoes, will never understand what I just said.


What’s the most important part of your grooming routine that you feel helps you complete your look?


It’s styling my hair. It’s so easy for me to just throw a baseball cap on, but if I know I’m going to meet clients, I absolutely fix my hair. That really is a huge difference maker in visual appearance; ball cap versus fixed hair.


How many pair of eye glasses do you have, and what are your brands?







What does your typical day look like?


I don't roll in until 9:30am, because I'm here until 9:30pm on most days. I work long hours. I spend my whole day answering emails, answering phone calls, making phone calls, and generally providing client service. Networking, finding new business, whatever it is. I spend all day until three or four o'clock doing that; then I have to start designing.


Depending on what I had allocated to do that day, I could be here until seven o'clock. I could be here until nine o'clock. I'm far too often here until midnight. That's a typical day. First half is client service. Second half is design.


How do you manage with those kind of hours? Is all of your food here, because I didn't hear anything about eating at any moment during these long hours?


There are a lot of times I eat all my meals here. I typically have

or something. I always eat lunch and usually dinner. I bring my food

or I go get it.


One of the great things about having a bicycle here is just being

able to jump on it and go grab lunch real quick and come back.

There's a grocery store a half-mile down the street, or Jimmy's

Italian Market is just down the street.


Tell me about your eat-in situation.


I have a little kitchen corner that has a microwave, a tiny little fridge

with drinks, some mustard plus, maybe the most important thing in

carbohydrate-free, gluten-free, cholesterol-free, "guilt free, so I can

load up a salad"). It's surprisingly good. Then, I have a coffee grinder,

and beans, with my coffee pot.


What kind of beverage begins your day?


I have maybe the world's greatest coffee maker. It's called the

Clever coffee maker. It's manual, but I like manual things. Coffee.

That's how I start my day.


You mentioned them earlier, what's your flavor of Clif Bar?


There's very few that I dislike. They got one now that's apricot. It's

fantastic. My favorite is the white macadamia. That's the one I can't

stop eating. It's like cake.


What essentials do you take with you to meetings?



Let's discuss the strategy/method behind your Moleskine notebook and what you do with your notes.


I've been using them for years. I like the small size because when I'm in a client meeting, I tend to think in small chunks. Each page is a chunk. I don't feel bad turning a page if it only has a few lines of scribble on it. When I have a larger piece of paper, I feel like I have to use more. I can digest it in small chunks in a small book.


When I sit down to actually work on that project, I go back and just refer to the notes. I don't take them out, and organize, or type them up, or anything. They live in that book. When the project is done, it doesn't go along with it, it just stays in the book. When the book is full, it goes on the shelf. I have almost never had to refer to any old notebooks. I think if I had to, I might come up with a different system, but no one ever says, "What did we talk about in this meeting. Let's go back and look." Doesn't really happen.


Do you also use specific notebooks for your sketches?



What is this cube?



Then how do you handle job related stress?


There are two answers to that. The easy one is drink, but that's the joke. The real answer is that I try to do things that don't let me think. If I'm stressed out while sitting here, having a creative roadblock, I stop working because I'm not getting anywhere anyways. So I grab a bike and ride. Normally go ride for a mile or two - not far. When you're riding a bicycle on the streets, what you're trying to do is stay uptight and not die. Your brain is completely occupied by riding the bicycle. You can't think about work. I'm not stressing over a logo design as I'm riding down the street. Then when I get back, my brain has been wiped clean, and really, I find myself far more creative.


What are some of your office pet peeves?


I think the biggest pet peeve is when a neighbor in my office building, is out and their phone just rings off the hook, because I can hear it. Don't you have voicemail? Why is it ringing thirteen, fourteen, eighteen times? What's going on? So strange.


Do you have a favorite song/artist that you listen to on your way to or during work?


I don't really listen to music in the car driving much, but I listen to a lot of music sitting here working. In college, the professor had us do this exercise where we did art with certain music playing. Then he would change the music to something, a completely different style, and draw the same thing, but how would the music affect you. I learned pretty early on that the type of music that I listen to greatly impacts the type of work I can accomplish.


If it's the middle of the afternoon and I've got to get started on my day, I will probably listen to something very aggressive. Maybe Nine Inch Nails. If I have to get in a creative mode, I can't listen to something aggressive. Creativity needs the music to fall back further. I find myself listening to a lot of softer things or a lot of soundtracks.


Thinking of go-to soundtracks, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross did the soundtrack to a couple of movies. One of them was The Social Network Soundtrack, which they won an Academy Award for. The other one was the American version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Soundtrack. It's way longer than the movie, they made so much music. The first and last song have vocals, but the rest of it's just three hours of quiet, brooding, atmospheric vocals. I can really get a lot of creative work done to that.


If I really needed to be aggressive, I'm putting on Kanye's Yeezus.




Desk drawer


How would you describe your office space?


It's based on the way that I learned to be a graphic designer in school. No one in their right mind should be using twenty-five- or thirty-year-old drafting tables as their computer desk, but here I am. They're gigantic, and they're ginormous. It means I have to buy stools instead of chairs. I like to spread out and I draw a lot. I have this dual setup specifically to work the way I work, which is that I have a drawing/cutting area, and a work/computer area.  Imagine if you had a big country farmhouse and everything centered around your kitchen table - this is my kitchen table space.


It's so neatly organized, though.


In all of the agencies and in-house departments where I had worked, I never had a desk setup the way I really wanted. When I started my own business, I could do anything I wanted. I thought about how I work, and how I could set up this work space to do that. I actually reverted right back to college with drafting tables and drawing spaces. I'm surprised I don't have a waxer sitting here.


What is your favorite office supply and why?



Is it a lot?


It’s a $50 tape dispenser and I had to have it.  Being

a designer, I am always swayed by excellent design,

so ... it's a one-handed tape dispenser. It looks like a

1940s microphone to me.


What is a work tool, and it could be an app or

hardware or software, that is a must have for you

at work?



Tell me about your bike frame that acts like a piece

of art in here.


I did a website for Raleigh bicycles and they gave me a bike frame of my choice, a Raleigh Macaframa. It's a San Francisco style track bike made for the street - that west coast San Francisco style of bicycle. Most importantly, it's white, and they did that for a reason because in San Francisco, people cover their bikes with stickers, or markers, or paint or whatever. It's a blank canvas. So what I am going to do is buy some black enamel paint and I'm going to paint things I like on there. It will be sloppy, but intentionally so.


Where did you get your storage from?



How do you prioritize/manage your email inbox?


I used to have this system where emails came in, and I would either react to them or I'd file them. I think that was a normal way of what people did, right? I drug them into folders, and I deleted everything else away. But, I don't do that anymore. The reason is because of Google.







What is your secret to achieving your daily objectives?


I have two things that I do: I have a cork board with note cards for every project; then I have a to-do list. It seems so antiquated in this day and age to be doing things on pen and paper, but I prefer working in an analog method. I have a 4 x 5 notecard for every project. I prioritize them on the board between "high priority," "low priority," "on proof," or "finished." I move the cards and pins around. If a project changes status, I literally move the card around the board.



How do you organize and maintain your to do list?


I purposely don't put it in order. I used to do that. I would write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. I got to where I was just spending all day making my lists. I said, "Screw that. I'm just going to write things down as they come to me or as I need to. I'm smart enough to be able to bounce around the list." My to-do lists have a dozen things on them at most on a given day. I can figure out what the most important priority is, or what can I handle in the next fifteen minutes. I don't reorganize it.


Do you make a new list for each day or do you use the same list?


I almost always make a new list for the new day, unless it's one of those rare days that I only get a couple things done, and I have to leave. I used to date each one at the top, but I don't do that anymore, just in case. I'm also smart enough to know what day it is, so I don't need the date. The to-do list is only for me to be able to keep myself in the minutiae of what it is I need to accomplish. No one else on earth cares about this list.


How do you manage your calendar?


Honestly, if it wasn't for the fact that people send me meeting calendar request things out of their Outlook or whatever, I wouldn't even use a calendar. My life and my schedule aren't so complex that I have calendar problems. It all goes in my to-do list. If it ever grows to the certain point where I have to have an active calendar, I don't know what I'm going to do ... hire an assistant.


What are all of the Post-it notes on your window about?


Those are all post-HOW notes; things that were falling out of my brain that were very, very, very important to me. The really important one is when I got back, and I thought about what my work was; the thought in my head was, "I am better than this. I'm better than the work I'm producing." I think that's why we go to design conferences, to be inspired like that.


What is your method for networking?


Being an extrovert, I have no problem walking up to anybody and putting my face in theirs. I think the key to networking is to say "Hi," and then shut up. Let them talk, because you're there to gather information in the first place. They're the ones that are generally wanting to talk anyways. Really, my secret to networking: don't be afraid.


What advice have you received in your professional life that has really stuck with you?


At this last HOW conference, a speaker, Peleg Top, put up a slide and it said, "No one hires you for what you can do. They hire you for who you are."


There are a thousand designers in Dallas. A client can go to any one of a thousand people. Why do they go to me, or why do they go to someone else? It really is about who you are, the relationship you have with them, the networking that you've done, and the way you present yourself. It really is about your positioning more than the actual work of what you do.


What inspires you about your work?





Daily commute


What is your daily commute to work like? Do you bike to work?


If I'm going to commute [bike] to work, I'm doing it for enjoyment purposes, but it takes too long. I'm not that far away, but it's still a forty-minute ride. Then I'm drenched in sweat when I get here. I only do it when it's extremely nice weather, like cool, so two weeks in the spring and two weeks in the fall. I have to be doing it when I know I don't have any client interaction or I'm not monumentally busy. It's pretty specialized as to when I can commute to work. I only live six miles away, but with the route on the bike about eight miles.


What is your vehicle? And what color is it?


I have many cars, but I just bought a silver 1991 BMW E30 318is. It's in incredible condition, especially for a 24 year-old car. Absolute blast to drive. I also have a 1990 BMW E30 325is and a 1996 BMW E36 318 convertible. My wife has a new four-door BMW 330.


Which one's your favorite?


Right now, I have to say my new silver 1991 E30. It's light and powerful for it's size – manual transmission of course. I don't drive far enough for it to matter. I'm driving six miles by car. It's just barely getting it going.






What do you do during your downtime that refreshes yourself?


I don't have a lot of downtime. That's the first thing. I work a dozen-plus hours a day, and I do that six, sometimes seven days a week. Sometimes I go a month without a day off. That's the nature of small business. I watch very, very little television, maybe an hour a week. If I need to decompress, I will grab a cigar, a single malt Scotch, go sit on the porch, and do try not to think.


How do you stay familiar with all of the important names in your industry, (like the creatives you named earlier)?



Honestly, the HOW conference throws everyone at you. I don't really follow too many design websites. I hate being influenced by design for design's sake, because when someone puts a logo, a website, or some design of some sort online - we judge them, as does all the anonymous Internet. We're missing the important part, which is the creative brief: "How does this design fit the problem." I hate looking at design websites just because you're only getting a small aspect of the whole project.


How did your parents influence your career?


When I was in high school, and I said, "I'm going to study art in college," they didn't say no. That's not something most people want their kids to say. Most people say, "Go be a business major," or something practical. Being a graphic designer meant my parents didn't actually understand what I did until I was working in the magazine industry. I said, "Look, here's what I do," then they got it.


Do you have any hobbies?


Single malt Scotch is a huge one. Is drinking a hobby? Sure. I don't drink to get drunk. I'm drinking one glass at a time, and I really enjoy the nuances, and subtleties of flavor from different regions. It's very much like drinking wine, and how wine drinkers appreciate all of those things, but in a spirit instead.


Sneakers, of course. Is it a hobby? I've got a couple hundred pairs, so probably.


Bicycles. I have seven complete bicycles, but I also have a couple of others in various states of completion.


BMWs. We have 4 now, and three are old 90's models, so they take a lot of work to maintain.


And I'm a huge barbecue aficionado (among many things). I can't cook it, but I'm a snob about the barbecue I eat.



The second room of Duane's office space includes additional work spaces, the printer area, his bike, and a kitchen with a mini-fridge and microwave.

Just a few examples of Duane's extensive and amazing sneaker collection.

Duane's office is located beside a major Dallas interstate, close to Downtown Dallas, with high-end shops and terrific restaurants nearby.

Duane spends the majority of his day managing communications and networking with clients. The design work typically begins in the afternoon and continues into the later evening hours.

"I work a dozen-plus hours a day, and I do that six, sometimes seven days a week. Sometimes I go a month without a day off. That's the nature of small business."

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