Tell us a little about yourself and your experience.
My name is Nick DePalo, and I’m a professional graphic designer. I design brand identities, apparel, album artwork, and a lot more for clothing companies, businesses, artists, musicians, and everyone in between. I've worked with clients such as Pratt & Whitney, The University of Maryland, Old Bay Seasoning, Pabst Brewing Company, National Bohemian, Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, In Flex We Trust, Thy Art Is Murder, and I Set My Friends On Fire.
What drove you to choose your career path?
I fell into design. I started out doing really amateurish album art and shirt designs for my band to cut corners and save some money when we were broke. Eventually other bands started asking me to design stuff for them, and it slowly and gradually grew into a career.
How did you go about getting your job? What kind of education and experience did you need?
I didn’t go to art school, and I barely went to college but I fucking love to learn. When I’m engrossed in a subject all I do is spend my time reading, listening, and learning anything I can about it. Over the last few years that subject for me has been design. The best thing about design is that there’s no rulebook. There’s no secret design formula. There’s a lot of tried and true methods and principles, but once you have a foundation and understand great design there’s really no wrong way to do anything.
What do you actually spend the majority of your time doing?
Moving pixels around until they look right.
What misconceptions do people often have about your job?
People think Photoshop is this magical app that once you put a picture in, you just press a few preset options and you’ll have this pristine finished product. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
What are your average work hours?
So I can lie and say I work 9-5 Monday - Friday, but to be honest I’ve been working 7 days a week for the last couple months. The hours vary depending on the day and the amount of commitments I have. The demand for my work has been really high lately and I’ve taken on a lot of big projects one after another. I’m really fortunate to be able to make art for a living.
What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
I’m still figuring out how to stop getting ahead of myself, and to show clients less developed ideas. I get really self concious about my ability to draw and sketch so I overcompensate by showing clients more developed ideas and cleaned up concepts. This often leads to more wasted time if the client requests I go back and change things. It’s a balance I’m still trying to find.
What do you do differently from your coworkers or peers in the same profession?
I don’t think I’m as ritualistic as other designers. I’m still trying to find different voices to express my art, so I’m open to different methods and styles. I try things out behind the scenes to try and mix things up, so my designs don’t stay stagnant.
Do you have any advice for people who need to enlist your services?
I will treat your company or clothing line or band or idea with seriousness and sincerity. All I expect from you is that you come to the table with a small level of seriousness and decisiveness. Nothing is worse than finding out halfway through a project, what you’ve commissioned me to do is a half-baked idea you’ve already changed your mind on. I’ve had clients re-name their company 9/10ths of the way through designing their brand identity. It’s a soul crushing feeling to have a client who is less serious about their passion then you are in helping them bring it to life.
What's the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?
Emails are the worst part of my job and there’s nothing I can do about it. Hopefully one day I’ll make it big and hire a personal assistant to answer them all.
What's the most enjoyable part of the job?
Discovering something new.
What kind of money can one expect to make at your job?
You can make as much as you can get away with charging. The world’s best designers can name their price. There’s no glass ceiling in design. Undercutting is an issue in the beginning, but eventually your work and your portfolio will grow past the point of those who just want to cannibalize one another with half assed $99 logos.
How do you move up in your field?
You work hard and don’t act like there isn’t something left to learn.
What advice would you give to those aspiring to join your profession?
If you love design, go for it. If you don’t love design, find something you do love. Life is too short to do something you hate for a living.