On the third episode of Squaretalk, we chatted with Dylon York, ex-creative director of Corkcicle and now co-founder of Poolboy studio. Dylon shared his experience leading product collaborations with Disney, Karim Rashid, Rifle Paper Co, the secrets behind getting things done, as well as how to find a visual identity for your brand.
[02:38] – Background, first gigs and transitioning a hobby into a profession
Being in a band, surfing and going to the beach as the background for Dylon’s beginnings, he landed a job at Yamaha where he expanded his skillset into video editing and color correction, during the expansion of the concept of video content for their artists. Having a technical understanding of photography from his band ventures lent credence to his developing career, which eventually led him to Corkcicle.
[07:34] – Turning to e-commerce and the woes of starting out
Him and a few friends dabbled in apparel, but were quickly hit by the harsh realizations of inventory, logistics, building websites and shooting the photography which added to the ever expanding skillset to solve tricky technical difficulties. The biggest takeway from that experience was – never do things by yourself, always have a team to help you problem solve quickly and efficiently.
[09:40] – The Corkcicle effect – how growth was facilitated
Coming into Corkcicle during a significant milestone, the company was enjoying the fruits of natural growth where the consumer was loving the product and discovering it, but the focus quickly turned to investing into e-commerce.
[12:08] – First design / art direction project and how to choose a direction
The biggest lesson that was learned was properly asking the question “why”: Why are we doing this, what’s the purpose and what’s the goal. The baseline for any production or art direction is having a clear answer to all of those questions.
[13:29] – Approach to lifestyle imagery in comparison to catalogue and product photos
Showcasing the product was a lot of fun. Relishing in the colors, the textures and the purpose – it drove a lot of the success. It took a long time to define the different types of content. The company was growing, the products were scaling and the offering was getting bigger. Every 6 months, the company reinvented itself according to the direction it was developing.
[15:00] – How to find collaborators and align visions & processes
Some of it is personal relationships – being at trade shows, going to license events, but more importantly, loving design. When you actively search, thinkers are bound to collide to create beautiful things. You cannot apply a cookie cutter template to a vision, every relationship has its idiosyncrasies, and so will the design, and so will the vision.
[16:55] – What it’s like collaborating with Disney
For one, there was a lot of leeway in creative decision-making. On the other hand, understanding that the audience is extremely picky, removed some of that leeway. Star Wars fans know every single detail, so if you get a detail wrong – you are never going to live that down. It is safe to say, the product team had its work cut out for it. They are the first line of defense for procuring ideas and developing thought processes that other teams later develop into full-fledged (and most importantly, beautiful) creations. Corkcicle was known for its fast pace, but with a huge production like that, it was important to learn to slow down and dial in all the planning and accept all the frameworks that Disney had put on the project.
[19:12] – Corkcicle’s consistency secrets and the process of creating style guides
Keep it simple. When developing relationships, just like the one between Dylon and Squareshot, it is vital to set up a baseline on which that relationship will be built on. When an order is placed, you know exactly what you are going to get, and there is beauty in that. If you know your brand and you know why you are doing what you are doing, and just stick to that message, you are bound to win.
[20:45] – What to put attention into when creating hero shots
Years of experience claim – less is more. Let the color speak for itself, let the product speak for itself. There is no magic answer, but if you know your brand – lean into it and own it. Do not try to be like someone else’s brand. Make sure you partner with people that can translate that.
[22:18] – Why leave Corkcicle during its exponential growth?
The smallness is endearing, and it feels like – when you are entering a small organization, it is easier to get a lot done efficiently, but when the company scales, that efficiency seems to fade. The entrepreneurial aspect is endearing, and the concept of “Don’t tell me what you’re going to do, just do it, and if issues arise – fix it.”
[26:09] – Learning to take the most out of past experiences and implementing them
All experiences lead into honing into a certain perspective and being a well-rounded member of a team. You would think there would be a huge perspective shift between working for someone and working for yourself, but you end up being too busy to relish it, but rather it becomes a residual sense of relief.
[30:33] – Marrying photography and design
Anything that is tangible, you need to show it. There needs to be content of some sort to accompany it. That is where the marriage lies, and if you’re creating consumer package goods in boxing with branding touch points, you need a photo of it. It really benefits the customers. If something exciting is on its way, it is important to be able to quickly release it into the world.
[31:55] – First customer experience and the challenges to overcome
Poolboy is in data gathering mode. They know what they are offering, they know what they want to do and what they are doing. Everything is set up to succeed and was agreed upon before launching – quoting and proposals, templates, rate sheet etc. Each project is different and needs an individual touch, but everything that can be systemized, is.
[34:10] – How do you price creativity?
Having trust, and trusting the person you are working with, to create something excellent. There are a lot of logistical aspects that have very clear price points, and once everything is in place, it becomes time to step back and look at the project globally and identify the smaller elements, which comes with experience. There is no magic answer to pricing creativity, the answer lies in estimating the worth and the output of cooperation.
[39:10] – Increasing the chances of delivering exactly what the customer wants
Every individual element needs to be addressed in a pre-production meeting, ranging from the style, specific emotions that need to be evoked, colors, materials, lighting etc.
[40:12] – General advice for a brand to find its visual identity
You need to know why you are doing it. What is your perspective on the product you are creating? Just because you can do something, does not mean you should. If you have a vision, and you are passionate about it, you should know why and that should translate through your products and base your brand on that.
[41:12] – Authenticity of content – balancing investment into the idea and the production
Sometimes, the concept just lands flat. An idea that was put out with very little funding can really hit it off and put pressure on higher production concepts. It is important to be authentic, but also producing aspirational, fun and beautiful images. To add to that, coming into a production without a solid idea is just a waste of time and resources. “Sometimes it’s just gotta be raw like a podcast in my home office.”
[43:27] – “Done is better than perfect”
Sometimes you just have to get the content out, and get better the next time. There was a poster on the walls of Facebook headquarters with that quote on it, and it was hard to identify with it until much later in Dylon’s career. It has some truth to it. A lot of creative people struggle with holding themselves back until they reach perfection, but perfection will not come until you have a refined toolbelt to work with.
[46:47] – Raw and authentic content vs. high production content
How do you create high end content now if there is a world where people can just spend less and get more out of it. When you see things that are cutting corners, or it is a cheap reiteration of an idea that has already been done a hundred times on Instagram – people see that. Every type of content has its own audience, so there is an argument to be made that you have to be present everywhere, but the dilemma comes in the form of a question – who can do that? Is that even reasonable when you don’t have a specialization?
[49:52] – Spreading yourself too thin and trying to please everyone just won’t work
Size matters, sometimes you can pour more into content and hit different markets but for the most part – you have to understand yourself, your brand and know what to lean into and focus your efforts into specializing in a type of content that will serve your brand the most good.
[53:00] – Breaking industry stereotypes
A lot of cheap services for creative content have been popping up. Just keep in mind, you get what you pay for. High value creative content that is specific to your brand needs investment. Yes, you may get a hit with a low-budget, raw advertisement – but that may not apply to every brand and may not serve as a long term solution.
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