Under The Hood… Dan Newman
DA and Adobe have partnered up our live online event series Under the Hood, the next instalment is fast approaching on Thursday the 2nd of July.
We spoke to the presenters to learn more about their design career, process, the project they will be sharing and their hopes for the future of Aotearoa design.
Today we hear from Dan Newman, Creative Director, Springload
With thanks to our event partners Adobe.
Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, what your background is, and how you first got started in the industry?
Kia ora. Hello. I’m Dan. I currently live in Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington and I’m a Creative Director at Springload. We’re a team of 70-ish (plus a dog or two) who work with clients like ACC, DIA, Klim Type Foundry, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and NZ On Air.
I first started out creating websites for clothing made from merino sheep and interactives for museums with colossal squids while at Flightless in Wellington. I then spent several years living and working in London where I designed skeuomorphic mobile and tablet applications. In 2012 I returned home and joined Xero, where I led the design of xero.com, Xerocon, and all things brand.
Right back at the beginning I ran a little design company, while studying for my Masters Degree in Computer Graphic Design from the Whanganui School of Design.
When I’m not working, I’m most likely taking photos, walking my fantastic floof, Ada, or perpetually weeding my garden.
What does a typical day as Creative Director at Springload involve?
At the moment things aren’t particularly typical! Normally it would be a mix of meetings about current projects, reviewing designs, pitching for new projects, repeat. In between that, there’s loads of team lunches and outings, 1-1s with the team, and plenty of pats with the office dogs.
What insight can you give us to your design process?
It’s changed a lot recently as the team has started using Figma. It’s way more collaborative and hands on regardless of your experience or discipline. Through lockdown it really helped us all to keep in touch with the team and projects.
What project will you be presenting in Under the Hood?
What was the most challenging part of the project and what lessons did you draw from it?
There were a few, but the complexity of selling licences for fonts at scale still stands out. We spent a lot of time looking at different type foundries and trying to improve how people can browse, play with, and buy fonts.
The main lesson was “a thing well made” (the Klim Type Foundry foundational ethos) is very hard to do on the Internet. There were so many moments where our approach and design direction pushed browsers to the limit.
Was there an ‘Aha!’ moment in the project when things clicked and feel into place?
When we enabled the underlying grid and everything finally lined up. We knew we were getting somewhere and the hours and hours of refinement had been worth it.
NB: Inspecting the browser console reveals an homage to Josef Müller-Brockmann’s book Grid Systems in Graphic Design. Press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+g to display the grid of the site, and on type specimen pages you can toggle page colour by the icon in the navigation or with Ctrl+Alt+Shift+t. Experimenting with these commands results in recreating the book cover if you can find the right specimen and theme…
What have you been working on recently?
My own site. It last got updated around 5 years ago! Hopefully it’ll be live soon…
2020 has thrown us some curveballs, how have Springload adapted?
I’m incredibly proud of how the team responded and supported each other through such a stressful and challenging time. We already had several people working remotely, as well as clients based outside Wellington, so our tools, processes, and systems thankfully worked without too much disruption. We were also fortunate to be kept busy with a lot of work, but now we all probably need a break and time to reflect on the impact of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests.
Outside of work hours what creative projects and/or hobbies are you involved with?
I’ve been designing posters ‘just for fun’ since seeing Erik Brandt’s project Ficciones Typografika at Semi Permanent.
During lockdown I started posting old photos shot on my Panasonic Lumix GF1 from 2010 till today on photos.danserif.com.
What do you hope for the future of design in New Zealand?
A more diverse, sustainable, and culturally considerate Aotearoa.
And finally, what areas of your work or personal development are you hoping to explore further?
Front-end development. Building the internet has become overly complex and I want to start writing simpler HTML & CSS again.
12.30pm – 1.30pm
Online Zoom Webinar
Each designer will share the brief, how they approached it, talk us through that internal feedback loop – This is too hard! It’s not working! Why did I decide to be a designer?! – and out to the other side to client love and project success. All of these insights in a quick conversational ten-minute talk with screen sharing.
Lisa Loosemore, Senior Designer, Culture and Theory
Dan Newman, Creative Director, Springload
Elliot Stansfield, Senior Designer, South