We had the good fortune of connecting with Aric Dohm and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aric, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I feel I’ve always been a creative, it just took me a while to figure out that I can actually make a living doing it.
In high school, I used to doodle my favorite logos and quotes all over my notebooks into these collages, there was actually, and I’m not joking, more ink on the outside of my notebooks than the inside. I was a dreamer….and hated the left side of my brain. I never grasped math, science or any of the other classes that made you memorize formulas and equations, I definitely gravitated towards the right side of the brain and took the few art classes my high school had to offer in Watertown, South Dakota. I just loved to draw.
After trying to make it big in skateboarding and snowboarding, which I never really did, I started bartending and during one of my shifts, I had this idea to start my own skateboarding company, because if I can’t make it as a professional skateboarder, then the only other way I thought I could get into the skate industry was to run a company. I sketched the logo on a bar napkin, took it home, refined it, and Hades Skateboards was born. I started drawing all the graphics and realized that I needed to figure out how to get them printed on a board, you can’t just send the companies a drawing, they tend to frown on that, they need to have digital images. So my friend Randall Hazeltine helped me out with the vector work and I was enamored with how he did that. I immediately signed up for classes at Lake Tahoe Community College to learn how to use the Adobe Creative Suite including Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. From there I started doing all the graphics for the boards and apparel, ad layouts for magazines and myspace, yup…I said Myspace, flyers for competitions and promotional items, website graphics, etc. Pretty much taught myself the business of design, just by doing it. People really liked the company, it was dark and gritty, with a name like Hades, you kinda have to be. Sales were great and most stores I went into soliciting my line of skateboards were happy to carry them. In the first 3 years, I was in over 50 stores all over Northern California and Nevada, and thanks to one of my team riders, Dick Dilley, we got into a few shops in Alaska. Things were going good and the company was showing growth until 2011 when the economy kinda went into the dumps. Skate shops tightened their budgets a bit and started filtering out the small companies in favor of the larger, more well known brands, because their decks didn’t stay on the skate racks as long as the small companies. I get it, simple economics. I gave it my best for the next 2 years and simply just wasn’t making any money and pouring my soul into it….time to move on.
After Hades, I went back to bartending, it was familiar and I needed to make money, but I was never really happy doing that. I wanted to design cool stuff for cool people. I wanted to help other people make their companies work and create first impressions through design. So, I started asking all the business owners I knew if they needed any apparel designs, logos, signage, etc. and to my surprise, it worked. So I started doing design work for friends by day, and worked at Whiskey Dicks Saloon at night.
Now I want to talk to you about a great man, Iain Sievwright, the owner of MacDuffs Pub in South Lake Tahoe. Iain and I had been friends for quite some time and I had been doing designs for his Pub’s apparel and other marketing items for a while. After one of the projects, he asked me who to make the check out too. I used the line, “My best friends call me cash”, and he replied, “Aric, you do great work and I want you to start your own design business, I’m going to write this check out to whatever you decide to call it, so you have to go get a business account, and launch your design career.” Being put on the spot like that rarely produces the best business names, so Cutting Edge Design was born….what a freakin’ terrible name, but there it was, I opened up a checking account and launched my design career. I ran with that name until about 2020 and finally made the change to Dohm Design Company. Felt a little more personal and not so dull and cliche.
I’m happy to say I haven’t had to work in the service industry now for a little over 6 years, and hopefully never have to do it again, so if any of you are reading this, and made it this far, hit me up for any and all of your design needs and we’ll see if were a good fit moving forward. I love helping people create the face of their business, that’s why I do this!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I think one of the things that sets me apart from some other designers is my dedication to each and every project. Whether you are a small business startup, a mid-size company with several locations, or Apple or Coca Cola. I will treat your project with the same attention to detail and enthusiasm because this is your life, your business and your project. If I don’t feel that I can do the project to the best of my ability, I will help you find someone who can. I have a great network of people that I work with and I just know that we will find someone to get your project done to your satisfaction. I can’t do it all, no one can, each designer has a style, much like a tattoo artist, and I want to make sure you have the right person to do the right job.
I got to where I am with a lot of hard work, it definitely was not easy. When I moved to Encinitas from Lake Tahoe, I did continue working with clients up there, but I needed to get a new client base also. So I literally walked from Cardiff to the north side of Leucadia, knocking on every business door seeing if there was something I could do to help them with their design needs. I made a map of all the design and printing businesses and drove around all over North County San Diego asking if they needed any help. I met one of my best friends and skate partners, Matt Hicks at MH Custom Printing, doing that and we work on projects together to this day. If you put in the work, you will reap the benefits. In anything in life, you get out of it, what you put into it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There are so many great places in San Diego, that’s why I live here. It’s definitely not a cheap place to live…I guess it’s called the sunshine tax, but for now, I’m still willing to pay it. Where I would take people usually depends on who’s visiting. But everyone who comes to visit are here for two things, at least in my opinion, the beach and tacos! Some of the best beaches to take people too in San Diego are the Oceanside pier, La Jolla tide pools, Coronado by the Hotel Del for the white sand beaches, and of course Belmont Park down in Mission Bay. Lots of stuff to do and see, and great people watching. Then it’s off to grab some tacos! I recently discovered Agave Birria off of the 5 and Leucadia Boulevard and it blew me away, in my opinion, these are the best tacos hands down, no competition. It’s located right next to the Chevron. Other taco spots include The Taco Stand in Encinitas on the 101 and La Puerta in the heart of downtown San Diego. If you skate and your coming to visit, some of my favorite skateparks include Poods Park in Encinitas, Linda Vista Skatepark, and Prince Park here in Oceanside. So many great things to do and see here in San Diego…it’s all about San Diego!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are several people that I would like to thank that have helped me get to where I am today, almost too many to list, so I’ll do my best. First and foremost I’d like to that God for giving me the talent and all these opportunities while guiding me on this path. My parents for always believing in me and encouraging me to do this…it just took a little time. Sorry Mom & Dad, I owe this all to you. I’d like to thank my friend Austin Bradford at “In Your Face Signs & Tees” for his guidance while learning how this design game works and his tutelage. Iain Sievwright for forcing me to start a company or I couldn’t cash his check. I’d also like to thank Christin Dohm for her encouragement, faith in me and patience as I launched my company. I would also like to thank all of the people that have invited me into their inner circle and trusted me to work on their projects, without them, none of this would have been possible. Those who start as clients become my friends. I have had the pleasure of meeting so many great people along the way, and I look forward to meeting many more.