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Today, our world is drastically different than the one we knew just a few months ago. Working and learning from home means ushering in new ways of demonstrating our creativity—and communicating. As chair of both the advertising and graphic design departments at SCAD, I am focused on preparing our students for top-level creative careers. At SCAD, we emphasize the importance of connecting with an audience. I believe we’re uniquely prepared for addressing this moment and an unforeseen future.

I caught up with two of our incredible alumni regarding their work and the world as it is today. José Reyes (B.F.A., graphic design, 1995) is the founder of Metaleap Creative, a design company focused on storytelling. Dinesh Dave (B.F.A., graphic design, 2012) is working on connecting people and creating memories as a product designer at Facebook. Get to know them.

Hello to you both and thanks for taking the time to chat with me during such an unfamiliar time when so many of us have had to completely alter our way of working and living. How has your workflow been affected by the pandemic? Do you see changes in your industry because of the current situation you feel will be everlasting and are actually excited about?

José: In the initial months of working from home, it was very quiet. As an agency, we leaned in with our existing clients, checking in and making ourselves available in any way we could. In some cases, we also suggested that we use the slower time to test new ideas or initiatives and tackle projects that no one had time to focus on before. Later in the summer, new business inquiries began to slowly resume. Because we’re a small and agile team, pivoting and innovating within our space has energized us and opened up new opportunities, but like us, many existing and new clients are facing time horizons that no one can discern.
 
Dinesh: Honesty, it’s improved. I have been very fortunate to work at a company where working from home is encouraged and the workflow has been in place for years. We have already created the tools and practices to get the job done in regards to productivity and flow. However, we have absolutely felt the shift by completely working from home. I think we are seven months into this and overall, it’s going pretty smoothly, however it’s been harder than ever to communicate with teammates and cross-functional partners. That small-moment-in-the-hallways-right-after-the-meeting magic does not quite happen as normal.
I am excited about the open prospects of where you can live. Having the ability to choose where you can do the job and live happily—some people really want, or need that option. Reaching new talent from almost anywhere can unlock a whole new level of thinking and diversity. Imagine cultivating creative ideas from teammates all over the world. I think that is something really interesting to look forward to.

How have you both seen issues surrounding diversity and inclusivity affect your work teams and client relationships this year? Do you feel that systemic change is happening and will be effective?

Dinesh: Change only happens when people speak up, band together and communicate to leadership on the issues, and how we can work together in creating that awareness and getting people in the right places to make that happen. It’s incredibly political obviously—but I’m so thankful to work with teammates, managers, and leadership who strive for the same thing and will always make that number one priority for everyone at all levels of the company. And as long as we keep talking about what needs to happen, and applying that awareness within the creative work we do, as well as speak up for the freelancers and creatives who don’t have those voices, I think we will always continue to work for change in this space.

José: Like all of you, I am a compilation of many things. Some of which I chose, others I did not. As a Latinx business owner, I can tell you that this has not affected our work or clients and how they operate in any truly discernable way beyond what the culture, and in particular “white” culture expects. But I am not surprised. Why? Because our culture has no redemptive framework for dealing honestly with the breadth and magnitude of this issue. There is no framework to “repair” what has been broken and a culture that views most of life through the lens of quickly moving through difficult issues to get back to whatever normal looks like puts everyone at a tremendous disadvantage. There simply is no way to triage the embedded effects of 400 years of evil on our souls. It is too early to tell, but in general, our culture likes to move past pain as quickly as possible, when true healing often requires sitting in the pain much longer than we are willing to.

What are the key differences you see in the industry between when you graduated from SCAD and how the industry is now?

José: The art of crafting cultural goods is still relatively the same, but there are three distinct ways in which those goods are being made that have evolved—technology, practice, and expectation. Technology is fairly self explanatory but essential in how creators make, think and have had to evolve to meet the demands of a quickly changing landscape. Technology has allowed for greater creativity in all of the arts. Practice is all about innovation in thinking, strategy, process and systems. The way in which we lead creative projects, are able to assemble teams with diverse backgrounds that can influence and tell stories have changed profoundly. Expectation is an area in which we have taken some steps back because this is about speed of creation, availability of resources and time. The time allotted for teams to make something spectacular has been greatly compressed and the pressure on people and creatives to meet ever impossible deadlines has put a burden on creatives that can hinder the creative process.

Dinesh: I mean everything has just exploded—As a designer you can do almost anything you want. You can touch and influence any part of the industry that you choose. I started out as a designer, but I have the opportunity to create in film, animation, machine learning, AR and so much more. I think before, everything was more structured, there was a chain of command so to speak that made it more difficult to give your creative opinion or voice. Now, I would say there is more opportunity and access.

How does your SCAD experience continue to influence or inform your professional life?

Dinesh: It’s all been my foundation. SCAD really taught me the structure and discipline for design. Every time I evaluate a design project, I look through all the details and try to find the meaning behind everything. Why, why, why, why? My professor Henry Kim drilled that question into me. Everything has to have a reason. That also references my day-to-day life too. I have a small passion for interior design and enjoy the details of putting things together at home, from plants, to furniture, color and space. It all comes together and the next thing you know, you have transformed into your own design language and brand! :)

José: Through new and lasting relationships and, as I get a little older, trust. Over the years SCAD’s name as a trusted source for studying the arts has gained acclaim and at times, created an impression on others that I have something of value to add or say.

Left: Sojourners is an organization and publication founded in 1971 to advocate for peace and social justice in the United States. In the decades since, Sojourners and its community remain ever-passionate about spiritual renewal, publishing content on social justice, life and peace, and environmental stewardship. Metaleap Creative’s redesign for Sojourners magazine looks raw and revolutionary, reminiscent of the magazine’s grassroots origins. Mike McQuade, Cover illustration.  Right: Since 2013, Metaleap Creative has led the branding and packaging design for Fulton & Roark, a men’s grooming company based out of North Carolina. Their philosophy? “If it doesn't smell great, we're not interested.” Yep.
 

José, as traditional print media continues to take a downturn, your work at Metaleap on print publications like Peer and Howler is impressive and successful. What do you feel print is able to deliver that the digital experience cannot?

José: It’s hard not to sound like a dinosaur here, but the qualities that make print so antiquated yet endearing are exactly what makes it so important for companies to invest in now. Magazines have been knocking on death’s door for over forty years, and yet, Facebook, Mailchimp, AirBnB and others—all tech-based companies, have a print component to them in the form of a magazine. This is not by accident. They understand that we need a break from a screen. To take time to slow down and use our minds and imaginations in other ways. To tell their stories in ways that are comfortable, tactile, beautiful and engaging. Print can never replace digital, and digital can never replace print.

You have also worked on luxury brands. How do you see notions of luxury and consumerism changing in the future as we grapple with issues like climate change?

José: What a question! There will always be a need for luxury brands and it will be the smart and innovative companies who believe that it is incumbent upon them to steward their resources and the planets’ in order to leave a lasting legacy for us all. When they are able to do that exceptionally, their innovations can be applied elsewhere and we all win.

Left: Facebook Birthdays in AR. “Our little black ops squad built a fun little AR Birthday experience that you can use to view your birthday wishes from the day after your birthday. Tap to drop the gift box, watch the surprise unfold and catch.” Dinesh Dave was part of the creative team for this design project. Right: Undefeated.com global website. Undefeated (UNDFTD) is a premium sneaker boutique based in Los Angeles, California; founded by James Bond and Eddie Cruz. Global website redesign in collaboration with Please Respect Our Neighbors and Undefeated. Dinesh Dave/Kendall Henderson, design/creative direction.
 

Dinesh, What’s the most recent piece of hardware you purchased, and how are you using it?

Dinesh: I actually just picked up the new Oculus Quest 2—I’m a really big believer in virtual reality being the next step in the computing era. The Quest 2 is an untethered experience requiring no cables to experience virtual reality and it’s really mind blowing. The tech right now is more centered on the gaming world, which admittedly, I love playing. However, I get excited about the possibilities of what a social experience could look and feel like within virtual reality. Continuing to experiment, play, and embracing the technology usually helps me to understand it better so I can think of creative ideas that could help benefit connecting communities together.

Dinesh, on your website you refer to yourself as a “professional dreamer.” What sort of dreams have you been having lately? Is there a dream design that you hope to make with Facebook or individually you see in your immediate future creating?

Dinesh: Yeah! I really enjoy thinking about the things that look cool, and figure out how I can be a part of that. Recently it’s been with film, virtual reality and AR. Over the years I’ve been doing small bits of film with my iPhone and now graduated to a real film camera and taking on film jobs for freelance! At Facebook there is lots of opportunity for growth and Facebook has amazing ways to partner and connect with teams especially by having a huge AR/VR division. I think there is so much opportunity to work on anything I want! ca

 

José Reyes earned his BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and founded Metaleap Creative shortly there after in 2002. He was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Turkey, Utah, New Mexico and Florida. Currently, you can hear José on the Closer & Closer Crash Course Podcast discussing running a design firm and working with illustrators. He also served as a co-chair for the 2020 Society of Publication Designers PUB 55 Awards and was a recent guest on the Creative Rising podcast. He has also spoken at the Q Conference, the 2018 SCAD Commencement Ceremony (alongside Oprah Winfrey), Auburn University, the City and Regional Magazine Association Conference, HOW Design Live, the University of Georgia, and other venues about beauty, inspiration, and Metaleap’s core values of creativity and relationship. He has also served as a judge for the Society of Publication Design, Communication Arts, the Gamma Awards, and Folio magazine.

Dinesh Dave holds a Graphic Design BFA from SCAD (The Savannah College of Art and Design) Atlanta and graduated in 2012. Dinesh is currently a Product Designer at Facebook in San Francisco, California. Prior to joining Facebook, Dinesh was at Apple, launching the worlds best products on dot com and AKQA and Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Oregon where he designed delightful ads in all kinds of different mediums such as print, web, film, motion and interactive experiences for a range of clients like Levis, Oreo, Coca-Cola and Nike. Originally from London, England, he whisked off to the US at the age of 18 to pursue the American dream.

Duke Greenhill is the chair of the graphic design & visual experience, and advertising & branding departments at SCAD. Before recognizing his calling as an educator, Duke worked as a producer and writer on Hollywood and independent films, then for Interpublic Group and R/GA on accounts for MasterCard, Tiffany & Co., L’Oreal, Nike, and others. He then founded Greenhill Partners, a marketing, communications, and consultancy that boasted clients like The Government of Monaco, Swarovski, Red Bull, and two U.S. presidential election campaigns.He’s written about design, creativity, storytelling, leadership and luxury marketing for Fast Company, the Harvard Business Review, AIGA, AdAge, Graphic Design USA, The Telegraph, The Wall Street Journal and more. His work is cited in over half a million industry and academic publications. He has won most major design and advertising awards including RedDot, Clio, One Show, David Ogilvy Awards, Effies, ADDYs, Tellys and a student Academy Award nomination.

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