FOUNDER OF DAZZLE
What is your day-to-day like?
During my day-to-day I try my best to avoid a repetitive routine yet maintain some structure.
I left my fulltime job five and a half years ago to start Dazzle. One of the reasons I left is because I don’t love having a nine-to-five job. It just becomes so repetitive. I mean I’m the type of person that has to change what I eat for breakfast every single day.
I wanted Dazzle to be as loose as possible, so every day I tackle projects and deal with my daily agenda in a different way. But I do have some overall structure in my creative process.
What is your creative process like?
I’m kind of a lone wolf just because I usually work by myself. When I have somebody working with me, like an intern or consultant, their opinion and perspective is very valuable. I’m always showing them stuff and getting their feedback.
Your work has so much energy in it, and it makes people smile when they look at it. How do you consistently deliver that energy to your work?
Last year, I felt like I lost my purpose. I had a moment where I really questioned things because the anti-Asian hate crimes were so aggressive. I kept asking myself “What am I doing here?” and “What can I do to help people?”
I wanted to help in a way where I could use my personal skills & talent. I had this moment where I realized that if I can make people happy, put a little smile on their face, or just give them a boost of energy through my work then I’m happy about that.
I also used to post something new on Instagram every day and always generate content. I realized that if I’m not happy what I make won’t be happy either. Now I prioritize my mental health to make sure that I’m in the right mindset to create.
Dazzle has awesome merch. How did you come up with it?
I started DAZZLE SUPPLY when the studio had zero clients. It was literally me, an intern, and a project manager.
I decided I’m going to put my savings into this project and do it for myself because I always have trouble finding outfits that I want to wear. I’m a pattern and color lover.
How did you get involved in The Storefront Arts Recovery in Time Square?
I’ve been in New York for 12 years now, and ever since the pandemic, I felt like my New Yorker card got finally activated for some strange reason. I participated in a group project organized by Time Square Arts, Poster House, and PRINT Magazine called Combat COVID. Two of my ideas were chosen and that kickstarted my ongoing partnership with Time Square Arts.
During the rise of anti-Asian hate, they approached me to do some work. There was an empty building (20 Times Square) they wanted to transform. The guy who owns the building wanted a design that was 3D and spatial. I looked at the façade of the building and imagined a face. I see faces everywhere I go like every faucet looks like a face.
I presented multiple ideas, but the idea they loved was my wildcard, crazy idea. It was Lady Liberty on the front of the building. Honestly, I was a bit insecure about the idea because it was kind of out there. The curator Jean (shoutout to Jean!) said if you don’t do this now, I don’t think you’ll get another chance to transform a building into Lady Liberty. I was sold.
Ultimately, this led to an even bigger idea called New York Loves You. I feel like we always say I love New York, and this was a way to express that New York loves you back. We designed six animations with Classic NYC experiences for billboards in Times Square.
Everyone has ideas but what is your advice to execute?
Number 1: Have a place to write down your ideas.
Number 2: Act on those ideas immediately.
Number 3: Make sure you see the idea through.
Sometimes you have an idea and you sketch it out, but its half-assed. If you think of something, try to do it as soon as possible and then make sure you finish it. You know, once the time has passed, you’re not as likely to do it.
What’s the best advice you never received?
I actually think about this all the time, and it’s that graphic design is not that important. Nobody ever said this to me, and my industry is notoriously very proud of itself.
I had a pretty bad health scare a few years back. As a young person, I’d never felt the idea of death before. After that experience, I thought maybe I shouldn’t take what I do so seriously because nobody is going to live or die from a bad logo or ugly Instagram post.
This mindset actually improved my attitude, approach to Dazzle, and online presence. I’m sort of like the cheerleader/comedian in the graphic design industry. I’m not a design legend, and I don’t take myself too seriously. I have fun when I work, and I like working with people who are the same way.
When you finish a successful installation or project what’s your go-to spot to celebrate?
Okay, I have two.
My favorite place in NYC are the parks along the river like Domino Park or a low key park in my neighborhood. My friends and I will go there to celebrate after I wrap up a project.
For restaurants, I go to Wei. It’s this Chinese restaurant at the bottom floor of my old apartment, and it’s my default celebration place. I know everyone who works there, and they know what I like to eat and drink.
Tim Stiefler & Javier Bidezabal
Originally Unusual was called Gush and positioned as a comedy ad agency. What made you realize the need to pivot?
Our services were changing. We weren’t just doing comedy; we were doing a lot of brand work. We also recognized that comedy isn’t always the solution, and we wanted to be able to come up with the best solution for any given client.
It became obvious that being a comedy ad agency was restrictive and not an accurate reflection of the work we were doing.
How do you stand out from other marketing agencies?
Tim: Most agencies sound exactly the same. I mean we’re saying the same thing that other agencies are saying but we’re trying to say it in a more proactive, cool way.
Javier: We can go really far with our creativity, and we try to be creative in everything we do including outreach.
Note: Unusual mailed out actual potatoes to 90 different decision makers at companies they wanted to work with. They put QR codes on every potato that took the recipients to this link.
Do you have to sell your vision to a client?
Typically, when smaller businesses hire us, we have more creative freedom because there isn’t an internal marketing team.
Of course, we still have to sell our vision, but smaller businesses are willing to take risks because they need to do more to stand out among the competition.
Bigger clients and names have more people weighing in on stuff. You’re dealing with more egos and marketing teams that have strong opinions. Bigger organizations are more risk averse, so it requires a lot more selling.
What is your dream time to be a creative?
The Mad Men Era. And absolutely not for the misogyny or shitty behavior but for the scotch and glamour. Ad budgets were huge back then, but now they’re being cut and the industry is struggling. There’s a lot of penny pinching going on right now.
Tim: I started in this industry eight years ago, and I can even see the difference.
Javier: You could tell how well an ad company was doing by the quality of the Christmas party.
Tim: My first year working, there was a huge Christmas party. The company rented an incredible venue for the entire night. By my final year, the Christmas party was just pretzel bites and boxed wine in the cafeteria.
How do you avoid becoming emotionally attached to your work?
Tim: Don’t avoid it, in my opinion. The more emotionally attached you are to your work, the more you care and the better it’s gonna be. It’s not a smart way to go about it, but the best people are the ones who are very invested in what they do.
Javier: It’s a balance for me. I mean you want to survive in this world. In the beginning, you have a huge emotional attachment to every idea. And then you realize some ideas die and others succeed, but you learn how the process works. You have to find that balance about being passionate.
Founder of Talmor
How are your clients embracing NFTS and Web 3?
Oh man, I think I’m quite behind the curve on that front. There has been quite a bit of talk and brainstorming with clients about hopping on the NFT bandwagon, but still nothing concrete has been carried out on our end.
What questions do you always ask to understand your clients?
There is a series of questions I usually go through that surround goals and expectations for the project and brand in general, and I try to lean heavily into questions and conversations that aim to extract the personality traits of the brand to be.
Your merch is very cool. Why did you decide to create it?
Hey thanks 🙂 hmm I guess it was a pretty superficial driver for starting the shop, basically I wanted to make cool merch so the studio would seem cool.
Does social media and following other brands/artists fuel your creativity or distract you?
A bit of both sadly. It’s my way of staying updated on what’s going on with contemporary visual culture, design, etc, but also is a huge time suck and a palpable source of anxiety. I hate it.
When you finish a successful project what’s your go-to spot to celebrate?
I haven’t been in the same country as my team for almost two years now…When we were synched geographically, we used to go out for drinks and a bite near our studio. Some of the places that come to mind are Diner and Achilles Heel in Brooklyn.