With a unique style and approach that is emblematic of a new generation of graphic designers, Duane King has been developing design solutions for top brands for over a decade. King joined Focus2, a Dallas-based brand development group, in 1998 where his innovative approach to analyzing and solving creative challenges achieved notable results. In 2005, he went on to found BBDK with Bob Borden. King’s technical knowledge and passion for “wondering why” gives his work an originality that has been recognized by Graphis, The 100 Show, I.D. Magazine, Communications Arts, Print and HOW Magazine. Among his clients: MoMA, Bloomingdale’s, Luigi Bormioli, Nambé, Orrefors, Kosta Boda, Neiman Marcus, Herman Miller, Northrop Grumman, Activision, Sega, id Software and FootAction USA.
Duane is the founder of Thinking for a Living™ an ever-growing platform dedicated to the concept of open source design education.
-WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
I was born in San Antonio, Texas and raised in a small town in the Hill Country. How small? Small enough that I was a member of the Future Farmers of America and raised chickens at one point.
-WHAT DOES YOUR WORK CONSIST OF?
I can’t take credit for this list, but it is spot on for me. Design is 70% dealing with people, 3% the idea, 2% selling the idea, 2% the brief, 2% being pig headed, 1% printing, 3% eye for detail, .6% invoices, 2% coffee, .7% tracking, .1% warm glow, .6% panic, 1% 4am, .6% staring, .2% checking, 1% letting go, .8% keeping hold, .7% estimates, .3% checking, .4% proofs, .1% colour, .9% understanding, .4% marketing, 1% checking, .8% beach ball, .5% mice, .3% keynotes, .4% persuasion, .2% bragging, .5% smiling, 2% knowing when to stop.
-HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I got into graphic design out of an innocent love for logos and typography. I didn’t even know the proper terms for those two items as I began working at a silkscreening shop where I was charged with creating artwork for anyone who walked in the door. The pressure taught me to think on my feet. Then, as I learned to set type on a photosetter, I began to observe the subtleties of each character. “You mean an O is not just a circle?” I was hooked. The addiction led me to learn that there was an industry called ‘graphic design’ and from there, to a career pursuing the craft.
-WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
Meeting and sharing ideas with people from all over the world. Collaborations with people from a wide variety of skill sets serve to expand my views of what’s possible. Whether designers, programmers, motion graphics artists, illustrators, copywriters or photographers, the result will be a mix of cultural, economic, and creative energy that can offer true originality while testing assumptions of how things are done.
-WHAT IS THE WORST THING ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
Distractions. There never seems to be enough time.
-IF YOU WEREN’T DESIGNING, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
Painting, drawing, snowboarding or possibly just staring at the sky.
-WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
The complexity of simplicity and the art of possibility.
-WHERE DOES CREATIVITY COME FROM?
Creativity comes from both the need to express ourselves and to communicate with others. We’re all born with it, but some of us unlearn this ability as we grow older.
-WHO’S WORK DO YOU LOOK UP TO? (Either currently or in the past)
Whew! There are so many who inspire me, it’s hard to create a short list. In fact, I’ve been so poor at short lists that I had to create my blog, Thinking for a Living, to deal with the masses of information that I catalog. Nonetheless, some of my primary influences from the past are Alan Fletcher, Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Herb Lubalin, Ed Benguiat, Deiter Rams, Charley Harper, Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi, Josef Müller-Brockmann, Otl Aicher, Jean Michel-Basquiat, Cy Twombly and Philip Guston. Current influences are MadeThought, Sanna Annukka, Christoph Niemann, M/M Paris, SEA, Build, Non-Format, Browns, Frank Chimero, Stefan Sagmeister, The Chase, Craig Oldham, Wim Crouwel and Massimo Vignelli.
-WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR YOUR INDUSTRY?
It’s hard to say. The one thing that is sure is that change is in the air. In fact, we started our studio precisely to respond to these changes. It seemed to me that large agencies and studios are not sustainable business models for the future. The tools and resources that they used to have exclusive access to are now available to all. Top that off with a flat earth and you have a new connectivity that we are all still in the process of absorbing. To address this change, I feel that small decentralized groups of like-minded specialists are the logical progression for our still young industry. We can work in a truly seamless fashion via email, collaborative software and instant messaging across multiple time zones. Collaboration is a great way to produce highly original work – and besides, it’s simply fun.
-WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU NEXT?
Thinking for a Living is evolving. We are in the process of establishing a network of topic specific design sites with a focus on education and resources. Our first, The Grid System, was established by Antonio Carusone of AisleOne to provide an educational resource about designing grid systems and documenting their typographic applications. Our second planned site will be complimentary to The Grid System and aims to provide a well-rounded, concise overview of typographic theory, history and practice. Shortly, Type 101. We have also recently launched The Practice Sessions, a discussion and workshop at the National Student Show & Conference.
-WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR FIELD ASPIRING TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
Focus on ideas. Techniques are easy to learn. Stay curious and be passionate. These qualities are the only things that will get you though the good times and the bad.
-ONE DEFINING MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR.
Taking the leap to start BBDK with Bob Borden. Nothing is as rewarding as realizing a dream. I couldn’t have chosen a better person to work with and I am having the time of my life.
-WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
At this very moment, a personal favorite. Little Dragon – Twice. Next track up is FourTet – Hands.