About:

Please share a summary of yourself and your career "in a nutshell" to help introduce you to the community.

Daniel Arenas is a Colombian born and NY based generalist designer. He is also a Freelance Design Director and Founder of Sunday Morning NY.

In The Beginning:

1. Can you remember who or what gave you the idea to begin a career in design?

I cannot pin down the exact moment, but when I was a teenager, I was in a metal band and took care of the graphics: skulls, blood and all that good death metal type that nobody can really read, that played an important roll.

2. What was the first website you were involved in designing and / or developing and how well did it go?

Some of the CSSDA readers had not even been born when we did a band page on Geocities (probably 1997), and then a couple of years after I started playing with flash and did a super "flashy" portfolio. People are really hard on Flash nowadays, but at the time it felt like a truly liberating technology.

3. How would you describe your career thus far? Is it all going to plan or is there no plan?

I've been doing this for around 12 years, and have been on different roles: As an agency employee, as a studio owner and now as a freelancer. Instead of having an A to B plan, I keep a list of things that I would like to achieve, and be flexible about it. Saying no and not doing what I don't like to do is a good plan too.

4. What career advice would you give to yourself if you could send yourself a "temporal text" 5-10 years into the past?

Aim as high as you can, even if it sounds like a moonshot. You have nothing to lose, take big risks but be humble. I started working in NY after sending a couple of hundred CV's from Colombia, and finally got an interview for an internship... I decided to take the risk, and the payoff was good.

Favorite Things:

1. What are your favorite aspects about working in design?

The fact that you learn a lot from different fields, that gives you a true connection with people. Also the fact that we, as designers, have the tools to create any type of content (books, videos, a startup and so on) and put out it there in the world. That's a unique advantage. We own the means of production of content, which is like owning a printing press in the fifteen century.

2. If you could pick only one favorite project from your experience thus far, which would it be and why?

I think the most fulfilling project was building the identity of an NGO in Haiti, that at a point became one of the most recognizable brands in the country and a symbol of hope.

3. What would be your favorite trend in web design and development from the last 5 years?

I think Typekit and CSS advances have been crucial for the web we are experiencing now. More than trends, what I really like is that in the past five years we've seen a transition from a limited set of things that a designer could do with HTML to a full level of control, especially typographically. Parallax, flat design, etc etc are just trends. For me a successful project is the one that mixes the best of technology, from javascript to APIs, video capabilities and so on with interesting design and UX choices.

4. Are there any favorite trends you would like to see more of in 2016?

I like to work in branding, print, editorial and digital. For me it's all design, each field has its own limitations, but at the end of the day design. In that sense, I would like to see websites treated more like books or editorial projects, where there's a great mix of design exploration, legibility, narrative, a good pacing and a strong sense of identity.

Life Hacks:

1. Did you always want to work in the creative industries or did you consider any other career options?

Design has always been my only plan.

2. Do you have a good work and life balance or is it a work in progress? Any tips?

As a freelancer it's really hard sometimes. It's all about consistency. I try (and often fail) to develop a routine that works for me. I feel I work better and more productive when I leave the house and surround myself with people, which at the end gives me more time to spend doing the things I like with the people I love.

3. What advice would you give to younger professionals wanting to find success in design?

I've never met a good designer that doesn't read a lot! If you can read a bit of design theory, nonfiction and art critique it can help you expand your knowledge and therefore be more effective, critical, methodological and creative. Some of my favorites are:

  • Conversations with students by Paul Rand
  • Thoughts on design by Paul Rand
  • Statement and Counter statement by Experimental Jetset
  • How to be a Designer Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy
  • Anything from the 99U series!
  • Relational Aesthetics by Nicolas Bourriaud
  • Tibor Kalman, Perverse Optimist
  • The Medium is the message by Marshall Mcluhan

4. If you had all the money you would ever need, what would you do with your life?

I would probably focus in non client projects, would have an editorial project, would help NGO's and explore the boundaries of design and art in galleries and public spaces while traveling a lot.

Projects:

1. What type of projects and what industries do you prefer to work in?

I think regardless of the industry I like clients that are determined, have clear goals and trust in what good design can bring to the project. I'm at my best when my clients let me do what I'm being paid for and take a back seat. I also like brands that are not cool or coveted by other designers and then make them interesting and effective.

2. What memorable challenges or highlights have you experienced from the projects you have worked on?

Probably the most memorable have been the past 7 months, in which I've been able to travel a lot while freelancing, I visited 12 countries total! This dynamic takes a lot of trust from your clients and commitment from your side, but once you understand that you can work from literally anywhere, suddenly the world becomes way more interesting.

3. What are your, or your company's, greatest strengths?

Lateral thinking, a multidisciplinary approach and a truly multicultural background. When I used to have my previous studio (It's All Good NYC), me and my partner learned to do everything, from production to client presentation, and that helped a lot, but the most important one: I'm never an asshole with my colleagues.

4. What is the latest project you worked on or what are you working on right now?

I'm super proud of a project we finished last year in collaboration with my friends of La Moutique.
A book design for David Byrne's project named Contemporary Color. A short deadline and lots of passion. We got awarded the Type Directors Club.

Book Photography and portrait by Catalina Kulczar

Thank you for sharing an insight into your world. Any last words?

Ken Garland sums it in a better way: check it out here.

Daniel is the founder of Sunday Morning NY and a freelance Art director. He likes to create brand worlds that can live in and out of the screen.