Guests of the show know that before we do an interview, I always ask them what I call “the Oprah question.” But how do you ask the Oprah question to someone who works for Oprah? Turns out that when you’re Dave Hall, that’s a pretty easy task. As the VP of digital design for the Oprah Winfrey Network, Dave oversees a number of different design professionals from coast to coast to create interactive and eye-catching work for web and TV. Dave walked me through a typical day, including sharing how he works with his team and how they approach new projects. We also spent time talking about the possibilities and challenges for designing for television, and Dave shared information on his upcoming graphic novel project! Dave says that you don’t have to ask for permission to be successful, and his journey as a designer proves that!
Guests of the show know that before we do an interview, I always ask them what I call “the Oprah question.” But how do you ask the Oprah question to someone who works for Oprah? Turns out that when you’re Dave Hall, that’s a pretty easy task. As the VP of digital design for the Oprah Winfrey Network, Dave oversees a number of different design professionals from coast to coast to create interactive and eye-catching work for web and TV.
Dave walked me through a typical day, including sharing how he works with his team and how they approach new projects. We also spent time talking about the possibilities and challenges for designing for television, and Dave shared information on his upcoming graphic novel project! Dave says that you don’t have to ask for permission to be successful, and his journey as a designer proves that!
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Maurice: All right, so tell us who you are and what you do.
Dave Hall: Dave Hall. I am Vice-President of Digital Design for The Oprah Winfrey Network, or aka, OWN.
Maurice: OWN. What is a typical day like for you at OWN? I'm really curious about what it's like to work with such a dynamic and popular brand and network and everything?
Dave Hall: I mean, it's much like working anywhere else. I mean, I've worked for a few studios and they all kind of seem the same. The only difference here is that we have a presence on the East Coast. When I come in in the morning, the first thing that I have to do is I have to reach out to the East Coast 'cause it ... You guys are ahead of us and if something has happened, you're the first to know while I'm still just getting up. It's kind of figuring out what's going on, what things I have to deal with to start the day, and then kind of going through the email, what's happening with that if anything is pressing, and then just talk to my team. I do it kind of informally. I like just walking over and talking to people more than, "Oh man, we have have meeting at 10:00 and a meeting at 11:00 to go over this."
Dave Hall: I just ... as they're doing the work, they're doing the prototypes and stuff, I like just coming over and being a part of that organically, rather than it being this big check-in thing. We still do that stuff, but it's more on a daily basis, the team starts their work ... We use JIRA Ticketing System, so we've kind of worked together so long that I really don't have to assign work to people. Everyone knows what they're good at. Everyone knows the type of work that they want to grab and they just have at it. I basically just kind of look at, has anything been missed? Is there that one project that no one really wants to touch, it sat in the queue for three days and people are starting to wonder, is it done yet? I kind of manage that aspect of it while at the same time I still enjoy designing.
Dave Hall: So I still get my hands into it a little bit and my team will come in and like, "What are you doing, what are you doing, I was gonna ... No, I just wanted to do this one, please." I still do a little design. But I mean that's the basic thing. It's kinda back and forth with the designer art director, just talking, going over the projects, seeing if anything seemed missed. That's the fun part. The rest is just meetings.
Maurice: Now is your team all there, right in L.A.?
Dave Hall: Yes.
Dave Hall: As far as the design team, we're here in L.A., but we also have counterparts in New York that also do design so we work with various art departments in order to come up with stuff.
Maurice: What's the biggest challenge that you face with kind of working with a team like that?
Dave Hall: It's always kind of trying to ... I think part of my job is to be the liaison between the multiple art groups that are within the company because there's OWN, the network, and there's the digital department, and then there's also a department that also does all the print and the trailers and things like that, the TV spots, so that's an art department. Then there's an art department on the Discovery side, the parent company side. So mine is the kinda float between the groups and to create a system in which none of us are doing something that the other group doesn't know about.
Dave Hall: Like if the mark of the logo is changed, that we make sure that we apply that to the stuff that we're doing as well as make sure that the parent company knows what's going on. Like we just ... to try to keep a synergy between all the groups. That, I think, that's probably one of the challenges that we have. 'Cause some stuff comes in really fast, you know?
Dave Hall: We're like well we have to get this out, we have to get this out, but at the same time you don't want to just grab an asset produced artwork and then you could be using the wrong logo for the show because they actually changed it.
Maurice: Yeah, I would imagine, probably keeping that consistent tone is a big challenge as well.
Dave Hall: Yeah. But the more you talk, the more you kind of break down these walls because what happens is everyone kinda has a tendency to silo themself off, but the more you keep communicating, the more you keep talking, the more you keep trying to help people understand that you're not trying to take anything over. You just want us to work together. The easier it gets.
Maurice: Now you say that you still like to design, I guess, you know, trying to get your hands in there and get your hands dirty. What's your creative process like? How do you approach a new project?
Dave Hall: Well that ... that has changed recently so as a web department ... The difference between like an in-house art department and an agency or external agency, is that the external agencies change a lot faster than an internal group does. An internal group will have its tools that it always uses and that's just how we do things. Whereas the external agencies are always looking for the best way to do something, right? The fastest way to do it. So the industry had changed from using Photoshop primarily to do comps and everything, and they're starting to use Sketch and other programs.
Dave Hall: We, for a while, had been behind in that and now we've changed our process to start in Sketch rather than Photoshop. So to do a project now ... Say a project comes in, we have a meeting, we have a kick off, we know what the goals, the objectives are. We come in here, I like to start in pencil, on paper, to do something first. Just 'cause I feel like if you start on the computer, you kinda limit what you're gonna be able to do, because you're basing the ideas on what the tool is capable to do, what's easy to do in the tool, then what the design is. So we can like first start out with a quick sketch on paper and now our process is we begin building in Sketch, which is awesome. I mean I was scared to get into it and now I love it, you know.
Dave Hall: So then from Sketch then we can actually talk with the developers, show them what we're thinking about, share it, share it with them early on rather than having to hold tight to the PSDs. So now we can start to share stuff with them through Envision and then do prototypes after we're done.
Dave Hall: So I mean the process hasn't changed drastically. Like we still start kind of in pencil and then move to the computer. It's just the tool that we're using first now rather than it being Photoshopped, it's now Sketched.
Maurice: Now even with that sort of change, do you find it difficult to move between digital tools in that way? Because I know, like you said, Photoshop to Sketch is one thing, some people might go to Figma or a similar type of tool. How is that transition in terms of getting the rest of the team together on that workflow?
Dave Hall: It was pretty easy. I mean once we saw someone ... like we hired a freelancer. She came in and that's all she knew was Sketch, while we were still trying to put it together, trying to get an understanding of it. But she had already worked at a place that had the workflow pretty much laid out-
Dave Hall: So when we saw that it became so much easier just to say, "Well, you know what, why don't you show us how to do it, because clearly we ain't doing it right. Show us how to do it." Because it's supposed to be fun, it's supposed to be collaborative. So the team just kind of adopted it that way. Because then we had someone we could ask questions to, you know. Someone that wasn't scared of it and had already gone through the task of the transition. So it was pretty easy.
Maurice: And I would imagine for that person, also giving them a sense of autonomy, like they were really helping out the team instead of just coming to an already established workflow.
Dave Hall: Oh yeah, yeah. You become big dog on campus overnight. You answer questions however you want to answer them. If you don't feel like explaining something today, you say the program can't do that. But she was great, she was really great.
Maurice: So what's the biggest challenge for you right now with work, and how are you working on that challenge?
Dave Hall: I think the biggest challenge right now is trying to find a way, a new way, to reach our audience and not do stuff that everybody else has done. Like in the space for television when you're trying to taps for Roku app and all that. Like everything kinda after a while starts to look the same because the point of the user coming to your app, the point of the user coming to your site, if it's to view television, it's gonna be the same if they're coming to you, if they're coming to FOX, if they're coming TBS, whatever. So like trying to find a way, trying to find a new ... a flow, which really meets people needs in a way that we haven't done before.
Dave Hall: So like trying to research data, figure that out. Try to get a person to the content that they want the fastest in a way that makes it feel special to them. So I think that's one of the things. Like the prototypes and stuff that we're doing right now, we're trying to figure that stuff out.
Maurice: I feel like a few years ago, there was this ... maybe it came more out of the advertising industry, but there was this push for like second screen activities. Like things that would sort of sync your phone with the live broadcast of the show that kind of thing. I don't know how popular that was or if it's still even popular. I have a Sony Bravia, I'm not flexing, I got it on sale. But I got a Sony Bravia TV in the living room and it has this feature where you can put in a hashtag or something. So if you're watching a program, it will stream across tweets like at the lower third-
Dave Hall: Yeah.
Maurice: As you're watching the show, which is really interesting, but you have to do that for every show that you want to watch.
Dave Hall: Yeah, I like that type of interaction. More it's basically just hearing what other people are thinking about the show as it's happening, but at the same time for me, I don't want the user to do too much and end up missing the show. I like the idea of community, but I don't want to at the same ... at the risk of doing more things as far as a community kind of take you away from enjoying the show. 'Cause like ideas have come across of, "Oh, well you know what we can have people do this and this and click on items that people are wearing and we can say what it is and all, yeah, yeah ... now we're kind of removing people from the show narrative in order to now do something else which might not bring fruit, you know. Trying to find that happy medium between those that want to do something like that and those that don't. I don't know. I don't think I found anyone that does it perfect yet.
Dave Hall: I don't know if that exists, but I think that's something to ... it's something to look into, but what I don't want to have happen is I don't want to take away from the show, 'cause that's why people are tuning in in the first place. That's how we retain people is because of the quality and the narrative of the show.
Maurice: No, I totally agree with you there. I feel like ... and we're sort of straying a little bit from design here but I feel like some modern TV shows are doing too much to draw the viewer in before you've even like watched the first episode.
Dave Hall: Yeah.
Maurice: Actually, I've give you a prime example of this, and I do not mean to rag on this show, but it's been sitting on my spirit and I gotta say something about it.
Dave Hall: Release it.
Maurice: So the new Boomerang show that's on BET, have you seen it yet?
Dave Hall: I haven't seen it.
Maurice: So, Lena Waithe and Halle Berry are the executive produce ... they spin off to the popular '92 movie from the Hudlin brothers, Boomerang. The series is also called Boomerang and it sort of follows the quote, unquote, black millennial ... I don't know why I'm saying that, I'm a black millennial, but you know what I mean, like it follows that struggle of working and living and all this sort of stuff, but it's like the kids of Marcus and Jacqueline and Angela, right? And I don't know how to feel about the show. I've seen four episodes, I'm pretty sure there'll be more out by the time this episode airs, but I've seen four episodes so far and I'm like, I don't know what to think about it yet.
Maurice: And I think part of it ... one is because I feel like thematically there are so many similar types of shows that have come out that they all congeal into this like vibe of sorts, like Insecure, Atlanta, Boomerang all fall in that same vibey, television experience in a away.
Maurice: But also like with BET they were doing all these like behind the scenes videos and all this sort of stuff and it's like, look can I just watch the show to see if I even like these people before I even want to know all this other stuff. Like it feels like there's too much digital being thrown at me before I've even watched the show, because then I watch the show and I was like, "First of all I feel like they shouldn't have named it Boomerang," because I was like, "This aint like the movie."
Dave Hall: Yeah.
Maurice: But aside from that it just felt a little ... it felt forced in that way like, you gotta like because maybe because of this particular property they are banking sort of the cultural cache of Boomerang, but I've seen other shows do this too, you know, where before the show even comes out there's behind the scenes videos and interviews and things, and it's like, can I just watch the show.
Dave Hall: Yeah.
Maurice: And go into it fresh without all of this other stuff. I don't know if that ... I feel like that's a recent trend that has come about largely ... I don't know if I want to say largely because of this, but ... I feel like television really started to branch into social right around the time that Scandal came out.
Dave Hall: Oh yeah.
Maurice: 'Cause like Scandal came out then that's when people started tweeting along with the show and then the show leaned into that by adding hashtags and playing it up in advertising, and so it all kind of organically worked together and then of course other shows tried to follow suit and do that same sort of thing too.
Dave Hall: Well it's kinda too on the back of what is it ... Mystery Science Theater.
Maurice: Oh, oh wow, you're taking it way back, okay.
Dave Hall: Right, where it's like, okay I'm watching something but wouldn't it be cool to watch something and get extra information, whether it's comic relief or whatever, like isn't that kinda cool. I watch TV and one of my favorite shows, and I'm not ashamed of it, is Dr. Pol. Oh man, I love that show, but like they'll always ... they'll have these episodes in which they throw in these lower thirds and it's like added information, added information, and they'll make a sound, time that ... like to cue you that this information has popped up on the screen. Not that you can't see it, it's right there, but the sound and everything takes me out of enjoying the show. But they're trying ... it just seems like ... I keep going back to Mystery Science Theater, where it's like, "Oh no, but you're not alone." We're adding this information to help you enjoy the show even more. I'm like, "I'm not feeling that, I just ..." Just create good content and I'll get there.
Dave Hall: Now there's been one thing that I thought was a real good example of ... it's not like a second screen experience like we were talking about, but it's interactive television. Then that was the Netflix, what's the name ... Bandersnatch.
Maurice: Oh, Bandersnatch.
Dave Hall: I thought that was an amazing way to tie in an interactive component to a story. Because it wasn't just like those books where you choose the path. 'Cause that's what I thought it would be, but actually the story itself started to evolve in which the individual that was making the path choices was now part of the story. So I'm like, "Oh man, they've kind of broke the plane on this whereas I'm still ... I'm not just a user making some path choices, I'm actually now part of the story. I'm in there. He's talking to me." I thought that was trippy and I want to see more things like that or figure out more ways in which the viewer can become part of the narrative.
Dave Hall: I thought that was a really good example of how you could do something like that. I'm sure it cost them a grip to do, but I actually loved it.
Maurice: I need to see if I can talk to someone from Netflix over there about that because I'm curious about that too because they had all those different like divergent story lines and everything. That's a big undertaking.
Maurice: And not only just an undertaking in terms of the narrative structure, but also how do you technically do that across all of the different sorts of platforms that Netflix runs on.
Dave Hall: Yeah.
Maurice: Like Netflix probably runs on my microwave at this point. You can get it on every device in your home, but yet you still have that same kind of function now to be able to pick and choose like that.
Dave Hall: And everybody has the same experience when ... like around the office and people are talking about it. "Did you do it, did you do it, did you do it." And everyone pretty much had the same experience. Now whether they liked it or not is a whole 'nother issue, but the fact that they all had the same experience I think is a huge accomplishment.
Maurice: Let's talk about that then. Let's lean into that thing about designing for television. So not only you lead the TV everywhere design effort, that's not just IOS and Android, but it's Roku, it's Chromecast, it's Fire TV, you know these new kind of streaming set top box kind of platforms. Talk to me about that project. Like what's different about designing for those types of interfaces?
Dave Hall: I don't think there's too much difference like once you start getting into some of the systems like Roku and some of the others because they already have a preset system. So you're designing assets for those preset systems. The only difference that comes in is like ... here's one of the things that we end up dealing with from time to time is basically how do you properly communicate a show to someone. You know what I mean? Do you always have to have the logo? Well marketing is always going to push that you should have a logo.
Dave Hall: Marketing is always gonna push that you should have a logo, you know? Anywhere that you have the show playing, if you have a video player and you're playing the haves and have-nots, well you should have a logo on top of the player because what if someone comes in from somewhere else and they don't know what they're watching? You have to have these discussions and say, "Well maybe you don't need the logo. Maybe you could just use system text. It would be easier to update instead of having to drop logos in things like that." I think those are the issues that we go back and forth with more.
Dave Hall: It's like when is brand enough? How much can you scale back a brand and still have people aware of what it is they're looking at? You know? But I mean, a lot of the systems, Apple TV, all these other devices and systems in which you can watch television, they have their stuff pretty well mapped out, but the issue that we can run into is okay well now you're cropping how many images to how many sizes?
Dave Hall: For delivery, you know? And is there even an asset that can be placed in these systems to work well? Like another issue that we deal with is when the network first launched, we weren't shooting in 4K. And now with everyone and their mom having a 4K TV set, the assets that are being requested by these other companies, they want the largest possible assets for anything. Like, okay, you have a show? This show was done when? Yeah, that's fine. We need it 4000 by 4000. It never existed 4000 by 4000. So what do you do? So that's one of the things we're going through now, because you can't even go back to the original tape and pull a 4000. So we have a good relationship with our archivist to try to find assets that we need for some of this. But I think for us, that is probably the biggest hiccup. It's not that it's on multiple systems, but trying to provide artwork that's going to represent the show in its best light, best quality.
Dave Hall: Even when something is older and we might not have that asset.
Maurice: Interesting. Because I would imagine unlike say, if you're doing it for a browser where you can serve up different assets based on viewpoint queries and stuff like that, it's a lot different. You just have to make the physical assets.
Dave Hall: Yeah.
Maurice: All of them in all these different iterations.
Dave Hall: Yeah.
Maurice: For these different types of environments, essentially.
Dave Hall: Yeah. So the more platforms you add, you're adding more and more crops and sizes to the point where it gets a little difficult to manage at times.
Maurice: Yeah. Is VR something that y'all are looking at? Virtual reality, augmented reality, stuff like that? Or is that a little too far beyond the pale for TV?
Dave Hall: For us and our demographic, we haven't looked into anything like that yet. But I mean, I just went to this place called Dreamscape I think it is, and got my first taste of it. Like really, really good taste of it, not the PlayStation VR taste of it.
Dave Hall: And man, I was blown away. Now I don't know if there's space for us to do anything with VR, but I do think there could be something along the roads of AR for us that might work a little bit better. But we'll have to see what becomes of something like that, but I could see that probably working a little bit better where maybe you're walking down the street or something on a show that's filmed in LA and it could start popping up, "Oh, this is where so and so shops, this is where on the show whatever is filmed." You know? We could do stuff like that, I could see that working.
Maurice: Yeah. I wonder if we're gonna start seeing things like that around the Olympics.
Dave Hall: Oh, man.
Maurice: When I think about TV and tech, particularly in these types of really not just time sensitive but also like having to deal with a lot of information, I always look at the Olympics every few years to see how they handle it. I don't want to say it's necessarily great because they have to deal with NBC, but that's a whole other issue, but I feel like just in terms of how they put together all the different experiences across video and mobile and television and especially across different time zones. That's a big undertaking.
Dave Hall: That I think is probably gonna be one of the most fun design projects to be on, right? Because by the time the Olympics reach us, like 5G is gonna be pretty well, have a pretty good foothold in Los Angeles I would imagine, right? And with zero latency between devices? The types of interaction and stuff that you'll be able to do is gonna be insane.
Dave Hall: You know, like how are we gonna put all that together when people can watch events from pretty much any device anywhere live? That's one of the things that excites me the most about design. I was talking to a friend of mine about 5G and like what kind of interfaces will we have to do now? Where everything's connected? I don't know. How do you have everything but make it feel like you're still in control? I think that's gonna be a really, really fun thing to do, especially wrapped around the Olympics. Man! Ah, dude.
Maurice: That's gonna be a big challenge. I really am interested to see how that all is gonna work. I feel like when it does happen, it's gonna come out of Japan first. Like Japan will figure out how they're gonna get it done and then NBC will try to rip it off in some sort of way, but I'm curious to see what it will all look like at the end, because I know the 2016 Olympics were in Brazil, so Brazil's like an hour ahead of us I think in the Eastern time zone. So I'd seen a lot of the streaming and things was pretty good, it wasn't too bad. And then of course before that it was in London, so it wasn't too bad there. In Japan, that's a totally different time zone and like you said, with 5G and 4K and all these advanced devices and things like that, I'm just curious to see how it's all gonna shake out.
Dave Hall: Or what do you do for traffic? Like what can you do with traffic and all the influx of people coming into the city? How do you get people from event to event knowing that there still has to be a core group of people that are still going to work and doing their regular stuff, you know? I mean, it's wide open for what that can be. It's really exciting to me.
Maurice: Yeah. Who or what keeps you motivated and inspired these days?
Dave Hall: I have a friend Laci Jordan who's blowing up doing her illustration stuff. She inspires me. I find a lot of my inspiration now from dribble. I'm working on a graphic novel right now and I'm falling back into my illustration background. So I've been going back into some of the people that inspired me when I was back in college. Like Wayne Tebow, loved his stuff. Or Ralph McQuarrie, a Star Wars concept artist. Things like that, I draw it from anywhere I can. Stephen King, Ridley Scott, just in storytelling. I try to pull from everywhere, but it varies. It depends on what you're interested in right now, and then you start finding people that inspire you for the moment. But it's constantly changing.
Maurice: Nice. We actually had Laci on the show.
Dave Hall: Oh really?
Maurice: Couple years back.
Dave Hall: She's dope, dude!
Maurice: Yeah, that's the homie. Yeah, Laci's from Alabama like I am. Well she's from Huntsville, I'm from Selma. But both from Alabama. When we did the interview, it's funny, I'll tell you the story. I probably have told this story on the show before, but her and I did that interview I think three times. So the first time we did the interview, I believe it was her birthday. She was just turning 27 or 28 or something like that. And I could tell she was nervous and kind of all over the place and her and I, we stopped the interview and we just kind of had a conversation, just talked. And I think I was telling her because she was mentioning it was around her birthday, and I was like, "Oh. It's about to pop off for you right now."
Dave Hall: Right?
Maurice: Right after 27, I was talking about the whole Saturn Return and all that sort of stuff. I'm like, "It's about to pop off for you in a huge way I just hope that you're ready for." She was like, "Yeah, yeah. That's cool." And so the second time we tried to record, we just had technical difficulties and we couldn't do it. And then we ended up doing the third time and that's the episode that's went out. But man, since that interview, and I'm not saying that this happened because the interview, I don't give myself that much credit, but certainly since then I see her stuff everywhere.
Dave Hall: Right? Everywhere man.
Maurice: Everywhere I see her illustration work. I'm like, "What? You in Vogue? You're in the New York Times?" I see it everywhere!
Dave Hall: Is that Nike that you just did something for?
Maurice: Right? She's killing it. She is killing the game. I am awed by her, seriously.
Dave Hall: I guess the thing that's inspiring about her for me is I met her with a group of people from AIGA, and we hit it off after our first meeting and it's always weird. We met for lunch. We met for drinks after work or something and it was so cool because you could tell. Like people hear the title, you know?
Dave Hall: And I forget that it has a presence of its own outside of me, so I can tell she was kind of nervous and stuff like that. And we started talking and she started loosening up, and we just started vibing like girl. Because she was saying, "You know I didn't go to school for this, whatever whatever. I was trained to do this, and I know my heart has this passion to do whatever." And the way she was talking about it, I'm like, "Well there's no way you can't be successful. It's not possible."
Dave Hall: Like your passion for it is like an arrowhead. Nothing can stop it because of your passion. And she just took it to the next level and she was enjoying the job that she had, enjoying the people, and she's like, "You know, imma just go for it. Imma just go for it." And she went all in, and it's paying. It's paying that she went all in for it, and I love that because it's something like my boss here told me one time about myself. He's like, "You need to stop being a person that's asking for permission for success." And I could see it in how she was doing her thing.
Dave Hall: And I feel like that's what, she's gonna be like, "Dave, you mentioned me in an interview." Like yeah. But I love that she embodied what he's told me. Like you don't have to ask for permission to be successful. Just go be successful. You know?
Dave Hall: No one can tell you you can't. And she did that and I love stories like that, because it inspires me to do the stuff that hangs on my back burner that I haven't been doing. It's tough, especially for a designer. I had an argument last week. Well, it's not an argument. It was a heavy discussion.
Dave Hall: With a writer, and they'd been wanting to do something for a long time and we've talked about it for a long time, for years, right? And like you know what, you need to just do it. Stop putting things in your way to not do what you believe you should do. Because I do that. I notice that about myself, and my wife catches me all the time because it'll be like, "Oh no, I really want to do this one thing but I need that new trash can Mac, you know? In order to do this thing because it's gonna be a lot of processor power and all that." And then you get that trash can Mac and you're like, okay. I got that but I really need the software to do this and then once I get that, and you'll just keep coming up with excuses not to do the thing that you are supposed to do. And you can spend a lifetime doing that.
Dave Hall: And it's like, you gotta find a way to cut it off and just say, "You know what? Imma do it." And that's why I'm doing this graphic novel idea I've had for a long time. And my wife, I guess she got tired of me talking about it. She's like, "You just have to go do it. Stop being scared." I think that's what it is too. It's a lot of fear. So your inspiration stories come from people that you know they're scared.
Dave Hall: And they've conquered their fear and they've moved forward and they've done well with it.
Maurice: Can you talk a little bit about your graphic novel? I mean you don't have to give away the whole thing but I'm curious to learn more about it.
Dave Hall: So what I'm putting together right now, is it Jordan Peele? Has really opened the minds to people that black people don't just have to be a character in a scary movie that gets killed, but we can actually be the villain. We can actually be the heavy, we can be anything. And I absolutely love that, right? So I'm a big fan of the Twilight Zone simply because Rod Sterling found a way to communicate to people in ways they didn't know he was communicating to them. Like he took situations that were going on during the times and flipped it in a way that he could tell you about yourself and you not know he was telling you about yourself. And I feel like there's so many stories that can be told like that within the black community about things that we do, we understand, things that we take for granted, how we interact with people that they might not know, and we might not know why we do them. So it's kind of a mix of horror and drama, that is basically what it is.
Maurice: Yeah. No, that sounds interesting.
Dave Hall: But I just, it's a bunch of connected stories too.
Maurice: Oh, nice. I like those.
Dave Hall: So it's a neighborhood like Inglewood or something like that. Well, it is Inglewood because that's where I grew up. [inaudible 00:36:16] it's like Inglewood. But like a bunch of stories and you can start connecting the different pieces from different areas to create this wholistic view of society, but in a different way.
Maurice: Speaking of Jordan Peele, did you see he has a new YouTube series out called Weird City?
Dave Hall: No.
Maurice: Yeah, so he has a series. He co-wrote it with Charlie Sanders. It's on YouTube's premium platform or YouTube Red, whatever they call it. I forget. One of the two. The paid platform. But he has, it's a six episode series called Weird City, and it's sort of like a satirical Black Mirror kind of thing.
Dave Hall: Yeah.
Maurice: Where it takes place in the not too far off future and it's this city where people live either above the line or below the line. The line being poverty I'm assuming, but people below the line, it's sort of like the inner city. And then above the line is like super futuristic technological. And so he tells these six stories through these six episodes that kind of crosses between what it's like being below the line, above the line.
Dave Hall: I gotta check it out.
Maurice: It's really good. I actually just finished it up. Yeah, I just finished it up yesterday. The first episode should be free on YouTube and then the others you have to have the paid thing. But it was really good. Because they're all interconnected once you get to about the third or fourth episode, you're like, "Oh, these are all one narrative thing." Because it's all taking place in the same cityscape I guess, and so some of the things they're talking about links between episodes. It's really good. It's really good.
Dave Hall: The things that he's doing, I was talking with someone yesterday and I was telling them. I could tell that they were not feeling what I was saying, like I was saying something that was boring them but still I said it. But the poster work for Us, I love it dude. I absolutely love it. I love the deep, I love the deep colors.
Dave Hall: I love just seeing the expression on the actors' faces. It's so freakin' rich. Even the logo, it feels like it's two different fonts laid on top of each other, like a duality type of situation going on. I haven't seen the movie but it's like—
Dave Hall: It's so awesome to see this and this is black actors, a narrative that I can understand and see people like me in it, and it's not about slavery and it's not a biopic. Right? Like this is just us being able to do another type of story and do it in high fashion. I love it. So my wife is a mystery writer.
Dave Hall: So she kills people for a living.
Dave Hall: And we always talk about well why is it that every movie that we make has to be the best thing ever? Like has to make so much money or whatever, but yet, others get to make bad movie, bad movie. But they get to have the wealth of their life put out there. Some good, some great, some bad. But for us, we have these slivers of things that we can talk about because we're experts about these things when in actuality, they're so many stories that we could tell which everyone can relate to. I read Stephen King but I'm not from Maine.
Dave Hall: You know what I mean? What I feel he's doing—
Dave Hall: You know what I mean? Like, what I feel he's doing is he's opening that door up and saying, "You know what? We can tell our stories, and you can still relate to them. Welcome to the picnic. Come on in and enjoy." But we don't have to tell a story the way you tell it, to have you still enjoy it because the human experience is one that's varied.
Dave Hall: I just love the fact that people are now being more accepting of enjoying the human experience by different types of narrators. Like, Octavia Spencer is doing a movie where she's this crazy woman that could be killing kids. That's freaking awesome, dude.
Maurice: Oh yeah, I saw the trailers for Ma. I saw that. That looks so good.
Dave Hall: Yeah, it's like well you know, we can kill kids too. Why do they have to be the ones that can just kill kids? We can get in that one. I like that because that just opens up the door to us being able to play everything. We don't have to just be that black president that's in the Sci-Fi movie. We can be the crazy person too. Don't limit us. I love that, and I'm glad people are opening their minds up and being able to see people of color playing a more broader spectrum of roles.
Maurice: I agree. I used to call, and I still call it this sometimes, that media from people of color tends to have the burden of excellence.
Dave Hall: Exactly.
Maurice: Like it has to be a history lesson. It has to be exceptional. Like it can't just exist on its own merit, or be telling a different story that doesn't have to deal with exceptionalism in some sort of way. That stifles the types of stories that can be told. It honestly stifles who can even tell those stories. Ava can't direct everything. Mariah [Krueger 00:42:03] can't direct everything. It would be great if they could, but the fact now ... Like you said, the field has opened up a lot more where you can have Issa Rae doing things. You can have the folks at Black & Sexy doing things and stuff like that, where they're telling all these different stories: Jordan Peele, et cetera. And, it's not just about the talented tenth kind of a-
Dave Hall: I love seeing-
Dave Hall: Issa Rae's stuff out there. The more stories I hear talking with my wife ... So a black author writes a book, and what ends up happening is your book goes in the "black section" of Barnes & Noble. You wrote fiction, but where do I find the book? "Oh, well it's February, so you want to look in the African American Section on the side to find the book." It's like, no, no, no we write stories for everybody. Just because the main character happens to not look like you, doesn't mean that the experience isn't something that another person can't read and relate to. But we've been put in this box of, "Oh, no, no, no. It's for black people." It's really not, because if that was the case we wouldn't get to see tons of these stories that are out there right now.
Dave Hall: I get to see the full bandwidth, the full spectrum of what it is to be white. I want you to see what the full spectrum of what it is to be black, because it's vast. They just haven't allowed you to tell the stories that make it vast. They haven't backed them, but it really is. I grew up in Englewood, but I was bussed out to school in Torrance every day. I was a black kid that was in a predominately white school, and that's my story. My story is people are people. The hardest thing for me was when I was then transferred after 10 years at the white school, and I went from an all white school to a predominately all black school. Now, I have to figure out where do I fit in. Usually, it's the other way around of, "Where do I fit in white society," but here, it's "Where do I fit in black society?"
Dave Hall: Come to find out, just be you. People will accept you either way. That fear of, "Am I going to say the right things? Do I act hood enough?" or whatever, that's the stuff in your head. What's your story? Are you being authentic? Are you trying to be like me, or is this you? People just want authentic people.
Maurice: I'm curious, with that shift, when did you know that design is something that you really wanted to do? Was it that shift from going to that all-white environment to this all-black environment?
Dave Hall: I think the first time I knew that I wanted to do design was my first trip to ... you know, they do these college trips before you go to college, and they try to woo you with the nice T-shirt and bumper sticker and all that kind of stuff. I went to La [Sierra 00:45:42], and they had a ... this is really going to date me, but it's all good. They had a Mac2FX, I believe. On that, they were rending a chessboard with a glass sphere. I think they were using [Strata 00:46:06] 3D I think. Long time ago. I saw that, and I was like, "I want to do that. However I can do it, I want to somehow be in the realm of where this is something I work with on a creative side, not on an engineering side."
Dave Hall: Fortunately for me, my grandmother was a seamstress. My grandfather was a tailor and a janitor. They were always into drawing, and art, and sculpture. But, they didn't do it as a professional career, but I mean making clothes and stuff like that is a creative expression. My grandmother was also a caterer. So putting together fruit bowls is a creative expression. When I told my mom I was going to take up art as a college major, I didn't get the pushback that a lot of people I hear, a lot of minorities I hear, get. It wasn't as foreign to my parents. I think in some ways they were just glad that I wanted to get a degree.
Dave Hall: At the same time, they weren't pushing me into the basic, "Be a doctor. Be a nurse. Be a business person." They thought that I could find my path, if this is what I wanted to do, because I think because of my grandparents doing these creative things with their hands already it wasn't foreign. That's just what I wanted to do, but I do remember watching that computer render and they were like, "Oh yeah, it's going to be rendering for about three weeks." I'm like, "Oh my God, that's so amazing." But I wanted to be a part of that, and I guess that officially began my journey into wanting to do this as a career.
Dave Hall: The interesting thing though is the school that I chose, they didn't have a computer department that was merged with the art department. Photoshop was new on the scene. Free Hand was ... what, [inaudible 00:48:20] DOS Free Hand-
Maurice: I remember. I remember Free Hand.
Dave Hall: And Adobe Illustrator, all that stuff was just starting to come out. So the art department at that time hadn't created a curriculum. What I ended up doing is I went to the computer lab and I asked the guy at the computer lab could a get a job as a lab assistant. He's like, "Well what's your major?" Like, "I'm an art major." And he laughed. He's like, "Usually these jobs are for our computer majors. We try to save them for our computer majors. But I'll do this for you, you take an Intro to Infosystems class, and if can get an A in the class I'll give you a job." I got an A in the class, and that then gave me access to Free Hand, Illustrator, Hyper Card, all of the programs that were in the lab that I could play with while the other art majors were still doing it the traditional Ruby Red and all that type of stuff. I was allowed to do my stuff on the computer. I think that's what helped give me a leg up into the transition into digital.
Maurice: Now you've worked in both traditional media and digital media as a designer. What do you see as the next trend on the horizon that designers need to know about?
Dave Hall: The whole 3D printing stuff really fascinates me. I did a talk at Cal State Northridge, and the students had a little area where they could sell the work that they had done. They had a lot of these really cool pens, you know stick on pens that you can put on your clothes, that they designed. I guess you send them out and have the metalwork done, and I'm like, "Wow, that's really cool because this looks really, really professional."
Dave Hall: And an art student did it, and now if 3D printing can get cheaper in people's homes, like an Epson printer, that's going to allow a designer, a creative, to be able to make a physical product of one of their art pieces and sell it without having to go through any other agency or anything. If I think it, I can create it. And I can then use the Internet to put it on the market. I feel that's going to be really big because the power of creating stuff is kind of in the hands of what materials you have. If I want to create a vase, I have to go to a place where I can do ceramics in order to make a vase, and then to sell that vase. Here, I can create something and then mass produce it from my home.
Maurice: What advice would you give to somebody that wants to follow in your footsteps. Like, people that are listening to this interview, they can clearly tell you've got a passion for this. They want to do what you're doing. What advice would you give them?
Dave Hall: I think the first I'd tell the kids that I mentor is you have to get the language of the starving artist out of your head. You have to just get the language out of your head first because it handcuffs you. The next thing is, it's something that I've been also working with, the David Hall is always under construction so I'm continuing to work and make it a better product. Part of that also is you must not ask for permission to be successful, and at the same time stop putting obstacles in your way.
Dave Hall: If you believe you can be an artist, if you love art, if you have a passion for it, you need to go after it. You need to study what other people have done to be successful. Get books, read books, especially now with all the videos that are available of how you can learn ... I just took a class on Frank [Geary 00:52:36], just to kind of learn something new. I watched a masterclass on him, and man it just opened my mind to different ways of how people approach the creative space. They're really not even expensive. U [Demi 00:52:54] has tons of classes for like $10.00.
Dave Hall: If you love drawing, take tons of drawing classes. Figure out how you can turn that into a job. Be nice to people, because careers are based on relationships. I got this job here at OWN because of a relationship that I had, a friendship that I had with a person from a previous job. LA and New York, all these places, everything is interconnected. Be a good listener when people are talking to you. Treat people good. Know that you can do whatever you want to do.
Dave Hall: If I could redo anything, I would tell myself early on not to limit how big my dreams were for the field because what then happens when you accomplish those goals? You kind of get stagnant, so you dream big. Accomplish that goal. As you're getting close to accomplishing that goal, you have to set another one so that you're constantly climbing. I'd also say be best your best and worst critic. If you design something, you should look at it with an eye of perfection.
Dave Hall: One of my friends, we went to school together. I've known him all my life. He is a really great guy, an artist. He got into a car accident, and he became a quadriplegic. He has control over his ... what is it? I think his deltoids. Well, he can use the muscles around his rotator cuff, those muscles, he uses that in order to move his arms. He got into art, and he paints. So he paints and he'd send me his illustrations that he would do.
Dave Hall: Other people look at the fact that he's a quadriplegic, and they see that he does a circle and they're like, "Oh my God, look he did a circle. This is so awesome. This is so great." And it's like, "No, dude that's not great. I know what you're capable of." And he pushed himself, and pushed himself and now he does beautiful portraits using Pro Create on the iPad. I look at him now and it's just they're gorgeous.
Dave Hall: It's like you have to align yourself with people that expect the best from you, because if you just stick with people that accept mediocrity, then that's what you begin to accept from yourself. When he does something he's like, "Dave, what do you think of this? What do you think of this?" And I'm like, "Oh man, it's gorgeous. It's gorgeous, but I think her eye is a little off." "Oh yeah, I'm working on that. I'm working on that."
Dave Hall: I think in many ways, in illustration I think just being able to turn objects with light and shade, he surpassed me, but it's because he expects the best of himself and then surrounds himself with people that don't just tell him what he wants to hear. That's the same with us. The same with any designer. You want to be in the pack with those that are doing. Those are the ones you want to run with. Don't be happy with people that are just, "Oh yeah, everything's great." It's not.
Dave Hall: My team will come in here all the time. I've gotten used to it. I've gotten my designer tough skin back, but they'll come in here and they're like, "Dave, that color sucks." Like, "Damn, really?" "Yeah, yeah. That's not right. That's not right. You should look at other colors." And I have to learn to hear it and then be able to evaluate what they're saying, and then be okay with changing it. It's hard. It's hard, but that's the journey.
Maurice: Where do you see yourself in the next five years? What kind of work do you want to be doing?
Dave Hall: That's a good one. I've got to say that Dreamscape thing really blew me away. That really, really blew me away because in an instant, for one second I was in one room and then a second later I was on another world. It felt like that, and I could walk around it and interact with things, and touch things. I'd like to get my hands into that type of storytelling, that type of create-an-interface. I just find it really, really fascinating.
Dave Hall: It makes so much so accessible, especially you could even take it to be like say you do something in the inner city and you have an inexpensive VR room. Kids that will never see Paris ... well, not never see Paris, but not be able to see Paris because of economic issues, you could take them and show them the Eiffel Tower and they could ride the elevator, and open their mind to what's out there waiting for them. I think that's an awesome thing, make such a big world smaller. I'd like to get into stuff like that, make technology more accessible for everybody, make the world more accessible for everybody, actually.
Maurice: Just to kind of wrap things up here, Dave, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work online?
Dave Hall: They can go to my website, dwhdesigns.net. Or on Twitter ... well Twitter, I don't really talk too much about design on Twitter. I get kind of political, but that's @dhdesigns. Those are my main outlets.
Maurice: All right, sounds good. Well David Hall, I want to thank you so much for coming on this show and for one, sharing your story, but two, you gave such great advice throughout all of this. I think anyone, regardless of the level that they're at in their design career can get something from this that I hope can kind of help them out.
Maurice: I think what I just normally got was sort of the overarching thing, is that design is something that is not just for one specific type of person. There is no one type of way to really come into this industry. I suddenly think that your story and really the work that you're doing right now is a testament to that, that you can find and carve out your path for success in this industry no matter where you're at.
Maurice: Thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.
Dave Hall: No, thanks for the opportunity. I look forward to seeing you the next time you're in LA, man.