Darick Dang is a graphic designer, web developer, professional pianist, thinker, biologist, fashion enthusiast and music connoisseur.
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Darick’s ultimate dream is to put Portland on the map through design and bring his family and friends with him in the process. At the age of 12, he began building computers and setting up computer networks while tagging along with his cousin who was a network consultant. After building a computer that could handle the demanding system requirements of Photoshop at the time, he installed the application and what began as making desktop wallpapers turned into designing skins and themes for various applications and websites. At the age of 14, he was given the opportunity to work on his high school’s website and design posters for the school’s theater shows. Four years later, he attended Willamette University in Salem, Oregon and obtained a job as a graphic designer for the university’s design services group, WITS Production. During the summer breaks, he interned as a graphic designer at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and a creative/interactive design intern at Portland-based ad agency HMH. These experiences subsequently led to freelance gigs at TAOW Productions and Vanivo, LLC.
He recently graduated and now works for his alma mater as a web developer in the Marketing Communications department as well as fielding projects at his own independent creative group. On the weekends, you will find him playing piano at gigs, fishing the Columbia River or digging through crates in record shops searching for rare soul and funk records that he can sip his whiskey to at night.
His heroes are his parents, brother, entire family, Jeff Staple, Michael Bierut and anybody who made it from the bottom to the top.
What are you working on right now?
Oh man, what a question… I’ve been swamped.
Besides my 9-5 doing web development?
Well, lately I’ve been getting into designing for non-profit organizations. I think it’s unfortunate when a group can’t spread their good cause just because they can’t afford it.
Last year, I designed and launched the Sweat-Free WU Campaign as part of a class project which brought sweatshop awareness to Willamette University’s campus and petitioned for a sweatshop-free university store. It was quite an endeavor but very rewarding. The team I worked with and I were very satisfied with the results.
This year, I’m designing an identity and website for an organization called Homecourt Hoops. Their mission is to bring basketball to Ghana by hopefully building basketball courts there and overall creating more ways for basketball to be played in Ghana. Besides that, I’ve been developing a Portland-based women’s clothing boutique’s site, designing an identity for a stock market funding company, building fellow IdeaMensch member Cecilia Doan’s website and applying for graduate school.
3 Trends that excite you?
1) Rich User Interfaces – It’s good to see that people are paying more attention to making web sites beautiful and more user-friendly. Overall, sites are becoming less flat and looking more alive than they used to. More negative space is apparent and with the advancements in AJAX, there is less dependence on Flash. This development is critical in providing the user with an overall stimulating experience all wrapped up in a lightweight package.
2) Mobile Phone Interaction – Mobile phones are becoming integrated into everything in the world and it’s very exciting to see what the future holds as far as connecting mobile phones and web sites. Mobile phones provide an intangible amount of information right at your fingertips. No longer do we need to bring a mp3 player, grocery list or organizer with us anymore because many phones today have those features integrated in them already. However, dependency on these devices is rapidly increasing, especially in my life. I don’t know how long I’d survive without my iPhone.
3) Competition – While it may seem like a negative impact on business, competition is a very good thing. Each day, more and more designers are making great work. If it weren’t for the other 100,000 developers and designers out there, I wouldn’t be as inspired and motivated as I am right now. Though I’d still be grinding out projects at 100%, it’s competition that pushes me into overdrive. Like my old boss told me, “If you’re the best designer at where you’re working, you need to find a new job.”
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m fortunate to be blessed with a group of creative individuals I call friends. From music producers, creative directors, art directors, copywriters, clothing buyers, fashion boutique owners, graphic designers, I have all sorts of creatives I can tap into for a second opinion or have a drink and throw some ideas around with. Knowing the applications like the Creative Suite and web programming should be a given; common sense, really. You need to know how to use them and do work with them. Every designer should have this toolkit. It’s much like how the genetic code is. For example, the chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, and humans have 96% of our DNA sequence in common. The way our genes develop is why we are so different from chimpanzees even though we start with the same basic toolkit. I see this much like how designers approach a design problem. We all know how to make type play nice with a grid, we all know how to apply filters but why is it that you give two designers the same design problem and you end up with two different looking finished products? The process to get to the end is a critical aspect in developing ideas. The client will ultimately choose the product that meets their needs. Do they want a chimpanzee? Or do they want a human today? The hardest part is getting to the idea. Sometimes it’ll come to me while I’m walking to my car. Sometimes it’ll come to me when I’m watching a movie or doing laundry. But when it doesn’t come naturally, a second voice can be the key to opening the flood gates for ideas.
Right now I’m in the process of applying for graduate school. I’m planning in getting a MFA degree in graphic design. I visited and got to speak with faculty over at the Rhode Island School of Design and it was quite an amazing experience. Aside from RISD, I’m looking at Parsons, School of Visual Arts and Pratt.
If those plans don’t work out (or I change my mind), I plan on working at my current job as a web developer and trying to start my own creative group. I’ve been blessed to get a steady flow of projects despite the economic climate and I feel like I have the ability to establish lasting relationships with enough clients to manage a group of designers. I’ve been doing all this by myself so far but I can only design for so long in a day and having a team of designers would really give my brain some rest and possibly nourish more ideas. It’s my dream really, to become a creative director. I love design, I love advertising, I love working with a group of people who are brilliant and fun to be around. It’d give me a chance to hire my remarkably talented friends and we can all make the climb to the top together.
What’s your ideal day?
Walk us through day to night. Wake up at 8am, run a few miles, lift some weights, take a long, hot shower, eat a high protein breakfast/lunch, call up one of my best friends Allan and get my fishing pole, head down to the river and pull up some trophies, head home, call up a few of my friends over and grill up the fish we caught, head out to the Doug Fir Lounge and enjoy a good soul or funk show with a few double whiskeys neat, then bottlerocketing the rest of the night (bottlerocketing: you know where you start but who knows where you’ll end up).