We had the good fortune of connecting with Dan Blessing and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dan, what do you attribute your success to?
There are a few factors I believe are in play here that I attribute to the success of my business and brand.
First is that I love what I do. Art has always been a part of my life. Since I was young, creative juices were running through my veins and when I wasn’t eating or watching cartoons, I was creating something, whether that was spending hours building LEGOs or putting my imagination to paper. I was fortunate that I had parents who supported these talents, and wanted me to pursue them as I got older. By the time I got to High School, I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer. 12+ years working in the industry and I thoroughly enjoy the process of creating logos & brand identities and always looking to improve.
Second, I try and make myself as visible as I can. It begins with a brand & identity that’s consistent, purposeful and clear in message (I’ve realized you don’t have to over think this, just talk as yourself. You don’t need to sound like a corporate robot). From there it was getting a website up that eventually moved up the google search ladder and built up a social presence (For me its: Instagram, Twitter, Behance, dribbble, LinkedIn & even trying Tik Tok). I have gotten work inquiries from all of these platforms over the years. I started Design Shark® as a side hustle in 2012 and I’ve gone full-time with it since 2020. Keeping all these platforms up to date by sharing work, thoughts and process videos have been instrumental in the success on being able to do what I love for a living. This hasn’t come easy and honestly still working on how to keep it up. I’ve also gained invaluable friendships in the design community that have given me people I can trust to bounce ideas off and vice versa.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Over the years, I’ve developed a style that can be described as bold, simple yet dynamic that particularly benefits the logo & identity work in the sports industry that I work with a lot. I love working with thick lines that is contrasted by negative white space to create depth and dynamism. This allows the logo to efficiently work as one color without sacrificing detail while allowing color to enhance the design, rather than having to use it as a crutch.
Even with an artistic background and drawing a lot as a child, designing didn’t really come easy. Looking back to my first logos around 2009, they were pretty poor compared to the more refined stage now. It was a long road of continuous practice not just using the tools in illustrator but learning proper color theory, how to implement white space, shapes and other design fundamentals. Even today, I’m still practicing to improve by taking on passion project challenges which includes more challenging subjects and type creation. There’s no secret sauce, it’s just motivating yourself and practicing. Which, by the way isn’t always easy, but when you have that drive and you’re willing to implement what you’ve learned, it gets easier after you see progress. I’ve finally gotten to the point where vectoring a sketch with the pen tool is very therapeutic.
For the story behind my brand:
I’ve had a fascination with sharks for as long as I can remember, about as long as I’ve been drawing actually. It was only fitting to create my visual identity by incorporating these majestic animals into my brand. On a more technical level, Merriam-Webster defines shark as: “one who excels greatly especially in a particular field”. Beyond that, I believe sharks to be swimming metaphors of great design: Sharks have been icons of the ocean for over 65 million years, which renders them timeless. They have done this by being functional in their environment, versatile and adaptive. Sounds like traits of a well designed logo to me!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I was born and raised in Philadelphia and most of the areas I would love to show around is the bustling food scene! But since we can’t just eat all day, Philly is also one of the most historically rich areas in the United States and offers the most passionate sporting fan base. We’d def start our day with a delicious breakfast (or brunch if you’re not a morning person) at one of the many fantastic spots in the city. For the sake of having to choose one, We’d go to one of the 4 locations of Green Eggs which has a great (yet filling) menu. I personally recommend the chicken and half waffle Benedict which includes a hollandaise sauce infused with hot sauce and maple syrup. There are of course healthier options. Next take a walk to Independence Hall to see where the first continental congress took place, walk past where the liberty bell was being kept and finally walk around the Constitution center. So many good dinner spots, but the Mexican restaurant Xochitl is a great place start as you can choose what you want to put in your house made guac, a slew of margaritas to choose from and delicious tacos or enchiladas for the main course, whatever you fancy! This is honestly just a fraction what what there is to do, but for the sake of the article, wanted to give a taste of what Philly has to offer.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Its cliche but definitely the support and encouragement of my parents to follow my talents and helping me enroll into an art centered high school (High School for the Creative and Performing Arts) where I fell in love with graphic design.
Jen and Amy Hood of Hoodzpah have also been very influential when it came to launching my business full-time. Their book turned course “Freelance, And Business, And Stuff” is a phenomenal detailed step by step guide on starting your creative business. Their accessibility and willingness to answer questions shows that Hoodzpah isn’t just one of the best design agencies in the business, they are extremely kind and lovely people to know. “They are good people” as the saying goes!
Speaking of good people, I’ve gained a really solid support group and friend base in the design community who are extremely talented. I not only trust these guys with feedback on my design work, but are just fantastic people to chat with on a regular basis. I want to shout out Kyle Van Cleave (Wild Giant Studio), Crew Kinser (Studio Crew) and Dylan Winters (DWDC) and thank them for their continuous support.