The Illustrative Storyteller
Could you tell us a bit about your core skills and relevant expertise?
Danny Jose: What I do for a living is visualizing. That’s what I consider my core service to be; providing relevant imagery. The entity looking for this service could be an individual, a food brand, or a tech startup. My work involves looking closely at the brand and understanding what it is trying to achieve through these visuals, as I try and weave a story into it.
Could you describe your primary illustration style? What do you specialize in?
Danny Jose: I’d like to think of myself as an ‘illustration supermarket’ because I have different illustration styles to offer. Through understanding the requirements of the client, and taking into account other factors like time, budget, etc I recommend one of my styles to them.
Tell us about your process when creating illustrations. How do you approach concept development?
Danny Jose: A lot of the homework involves getting to know the client and the brand better. Conversations lead to questions, questions lead to insights and insights lead to doodles and thumbnails.
Through these conversations I try to understand a bit of history about the company, and where it wants to head in the future. I also try to understand what clients think my service would do for them. Is it functional, are they just purely aesthetic, will this image leave an imprint in the viewer’s mind about the brand, etc?
My personal work is usually me goofing around. It helps me tell stories and explore visuals that I can’t necessarily tell or explore with client work. Personal explorations sometimes turn into projects and that helps gain some traction on portfolio platforms. It also helps me warm up and stay in touch with the craft when I don’t have client work
With clients from a wide range of industries, which projects stand out for you the most from your career?
Danny Jose: The first one would be a few illustrations that I did for the catalog of a paint manufacturer called Nippon. This was the first time I did something independently for an agency as a freelancer. This is also the first time I got to work on very stylized illustrations commercially, and the style has stuck with me ever since.
Another one would be a project that I just wrapped up; a dozen illustrations for a design think tank called Obvious Ventures that helps startups in India develop and scale apps. I particularly liked it because the founders were closely involved with me in defining the style of the illustrations and had a flair for storytelling. It is easier for me when clients know exactly what they want.
How do you develop work when catering to a project outside your signature style?
Danny Jose: I like the brief enough, I adapt. Since I have a variety of styles to offer, I don’t mind doing something outside my signature style. It is more about what’s suitable for the project than it is about my expression of the brief.
Your personal projects usually have a very unique or quirky narrative. What do you try and explore when developing them?
Danny Jose: My personal work is usually me goofing around. It helps me tell stories and explore visuals that I can’t necessarily tell or explore with client work. Personal explorations sometimes turn into projects and that helps gain some traction on portfolio platforms. It also helps me warm up and stay in touch with the craft when I don’t have client work.
Talk to us about Danny’s Garage and the petrolhead subculture.
Danny: I’ve been an automobile enthusiast since childhood. I enjoy reading, writing, and talking about them as much as I love drawing them. Although I don’t understand them much from an engineering viewpoint, I enjoy them from an aesthetic sense. Although a car is just material to most people, I consider them alive. Danny’s Garage is a series of artworks where I explore cars and their nature of being.
Are there any other areas outside of illustration that you’re exploring creatively?
Danny Jose: I have been dipping my toes in 3d design tools. I’m very new to it and it already is giving me new perspectives on solving creative problems. I feel it is much closer to photography than sketching or painting. You virtually have an entire studio setup on your computer. Eventually, this would be an addition to the ‘illustration supermarket’ I mentioned earlier.
With illustrations increasingly becoming a part of brand identity and campaigns, what do clients/brands typically search for and how do you cater to those needs?
Danny Jose: Well, the creative needs differ from client to client. That’s a variable.
Something I find constant across all clients is their search for someone accountable, and someone who understands the brief. Oftentimes brands and freelancers engage with each other without entirely knowing what they’re getting into. When I agree to work with someone, I make sure I’m accountable, I make sure they know what they’re getting into, and make them feel comfortable and rest assured that their work will be taken care of. This avoids conflict and they’ll often come back to you for more work.
You’re dropped into an infinity garage that defies the laws of logic. You can build, drive, or invent 3 automobiles from any point in history (or the future). What do you do?
Danny Jose: First, I’d want to drive with Dwight Schrute in his Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. The car almost plays a character throughout the series.
Second, my first job ever was that of a car salesman at a Mercedes Benz dealership and I got to drive almost every model they sold at the time. I’d like to keep the C 63 AMG for myself, thank you very much.
And third, I currently own an Interceptor 650 which is the most beautiful machine I’ve ever been on. I have been tinkering with it for a while, swapping out parts and moving things around. Motorcycle maintenance is a craft in itself.
What are your thoughts on diversity, inclusion, and representation within the pop culture art space? Do you think an artist has the responsibility to influence social causes?
Danny Jose: I do believe it is important to celebrate and represent people from all backgrounds. It drives home the point that we ought to work with each other shoulder to shoulder for our own sake and it also sends a message to the viewers about the kind of company or brand we strive to build.
But can this influence in pop culture change the minds of policymakers? Can art or tag lines help change the minds of leaders, the police, and lawmakers, and how they treat us? These are deeper questions beyond art’s scope that I’m not capable of answering.