10 Aug 2011

Getting To Know You: Dan Dannenberg

Getting to Know You

In this edition of the Vertical Measures Interview Series, I chat with graphic designer Dan Dannenberg about infographics, his multitude of jobs over the years and the time he was hit by an ASU professor in a crosswalk.

Michael Schwartz: What do you do here at Vertical Measures?

Dan Dannenberg: I am the in-house Graphic Designer, but I guess anyone could say that I specialize in information design (infographics) for VM. So basically if there is a project that needs to be graced by my design presence, then I make it happen.

Michael: How did you get into design?

Dan: I actually had to think about this a lot, because it was a slow gradual progression to where I am now, a full-time graphic designer. After I graduated high school (in which I took mostly all art classes) I wanted to continue learning about art, but I didn’t want to focus on just painting or drawing. So I came across a graphic design program at a community college and jumped on it because I thought it would be cool to do art on a computer. That was the real start for me into graphic design.

Two facts about this story: though I love graphic design, I didn’t care for the program’s curriculum at all, and there was one design class where there were a total of four guys named “Dan” in the class. One of those Dans was a “Daniel Berg,” and I am a “Daniel Dannenberg.” Thankfully we looked nothing alike.

Michael: As a one-man inforgraphic team, you’ve created lots of cool projects the last few months. I know you can’t get into specifics, but what kind of projects are you most proud of?

Dan: I am unable to mention certain client names, but I love the first one I did, yep, and the rest of them. I am proud of all of them for different reasons really. Some portray some very interesting information, and I dig that, but overall I have learned something from each project and that’s what I am really proud of. With being the in-house designer here at VM I am interested in being as diverse of a designer as possible. I want to wear multiple hats when it comes to style so we can show people that we are not some one-trick pony with our work and that we aim to please a wide, broad audience. Long story short, I am proud of the diversity that has come out in the work so far.

Dan DannenbergMichael: We talk about the importance of great content, not merely adequate content, all the time here at VM. How do you create infographics that people will be compelled to share and link to?

Dan: Creating an infographic depends 200 percent on the research. Sometimes topics are not that interesting so it can be extremely difficult to pull out information that is compelling, but that’s where the visual elements come into play to make this content pop, or to stand out. It’s always a challenge because it is the information, the data, that tells you how to design the projects. So every project is different, with its own bag of tricks. It just so happens that as I mentioned above, I want to be as diverse of a designer I can be, so I have more tricks in my Felix the Cat magic bag. Mad props, Felix.

Michael: I understand in a past life you used to be an artist. What kind of things did you draw?

Dan: What do you mean in a past life? If you’re asking if I am da Vinci reincarnated, you’re wrong. Mostly. No, I started off drawing cartoon characters like Bart Simpson (which was odd because my parents didn’t let me watch that show). It was the early ’90s so Bart was everywhere and if you can draw then every kid in class wants you to draw them a picture (a problem that stayed with me until my senior year of high school). I also drew comic book stuff like Spiderman, and also got into drawing animals.

Michael: What kind of odd jobs have you held over the years?

Dan: In chronological order:

I worked at a grocery store in Spanish Fort, Alabama, called “Delchamps,” and I was a cart boy, then bagger, then I straightened products down the aisles (called blockers), then dairy, seafood, and ended my two-year run there in the butcher shop. I then worked a summer on a farm picking corn where I still have scars across my hands from the burlap bags rubbing my skin off. Then I worked at a local catfish restaurant for two years as a dish washer, then a busboy, then a line cook, and then a waiter. Then I moved out to New Mexico to work with my older brother as a backpacking instructor for four months. Then went to school in Florida, worked at a recording studio for six months at the end of my two-year schooling adventures there, and then I moved back to New Mexico for backpacking again. Then I moved to Detroit for two years where I worked as an Audio/Visual technician for Pegasus Theatrical doing everything from concert set ups to high profile Bar Mitzvahs (a lot of cash in those!). I also worked for their sister company called Political Productions where I was an audio technician on the road with my El’ Presidente Bush for a northwest speaking tour. After that I moved to Utah for a couple of months and started working for Target. I’ve been at Target for eight years and I started as a cart boy, and became Team Leader over __Insert department here__ department. I still work there on the weekends ( L ). I also worked for ASU as a graphic designer, and now I work here at VM.  Long story, but you asked.

Michael: Has an ASU professor ever hit you in a crosswalk?

Dan: Yes, and I am glad they did! Coolest story ever. So there I was, being awesome and whatnot, following the rules of the road as a pedestrian and good Samaritan while crossing the street. And out of nowhere this lady in a car hit me as I was walking on the crosswalk. I rolled off her car onto the ground (denting the hood in doing so)! I got up in shock and stared the lady down. She waved sorry and drove off. This was at ASU Tempe campus by the way. I took her plate numbers down, and called the cops. I gave a great description, and didn’t want to press charges. It turns out she was a professor so the cops went by the next day to scare the fear into her. Very awesome.

Michael: What kind of things do you do when you’re not designing infographics?

Dan: I listen to a lot of music, but I mostly play with my kids.

Michael: As a father of three girls (one born just a few weeks ago), how do you handle being the only guy in your household?

Dan: I stay up late watching Rambo to build up my testosterone levels while eating beef jerky and lifting weights. No, it’s really not as bad as it sounds. I love my daughters and I am grateful to be their dad and I have a blast watching them grow and being able to goof off with them by building tents and driving their mother crazy!

Michael: What do you like about working here at VM?

Dan: I love the friendly, calm atmosphere. Everyone has being very welcoming and it seems just like a family here. I also enjoy being a part of a growing company with good people. You guys made me a VM believer, now you’ll never be able to get rid of me! Like a bad rash!