Dan Kuhlken and Nathan Goldman hail from sunny California (San Francisco and L.A. respectively). Together this dynamic duo makes up DKNG. Their work is instantly recognizable in the design world and their output is staggering. Their work has inspired and even stumped the most experienced of poster illustrators. Looking for a solid example? Take a look at the magic they made happen with their Grand Canyon National Park poster. That's only four colors at work. Kind of nuts, right? We recently had a chance to catch up with Nathan to talk shop and learn a little more about DKNG's process.
Tell us about where the DKNG story begins.
DKNG’s collaboration began in high school when Dan and I played in a band together. We started designing our own album artwork, flyers, and posters. Years later when we were both in college in Los Angeles, we had the opportunity to design a few concert posters for the Troubadour. They liked our work and we went on to create dozens of posters for them. After various other jobs, we both eventually came on board as full time DKNG employees and we just celebrated our 10 year anniversary as a company.
What is it about screen printed posters that gets you stoked?
We spend so much time on our computers, it’s nice to work in a very analog medium. We got started printing our own posters by hand, and it was always a welcome activity to be able to see our designs come to life as we printed them. We also love the fact that no two screen prints are the same, and the fact that the process includes some natural variation makes it feel much more like a craft than other more industrial forms of printing.
The National Parks have such a rich history of posters and so many have iconic landmarks, they really lend themselves well to being showcased in a larger than life way.Can you talk about any sources of inspiration for your Grand Canyon print?
When thinking about the Grand Canyon, we knew we wanted to convey the vastness of the park while also showing a perspective that hadn’t been seen on every souvenir postcard. We were inspired by all the fun activities that are available in the park and decided that a sole kayaker would be a good way to give a sense of scale to the print.
What's your favorite National Park?
Dan and I have only really been to a handful of National Parks. I know Dan likes Yellowstone because of the hot springs and geysers, which are pretty unique to that park. However, he has a new appreciation for The Grand Canyon, especially having the experience of flying over the park on a commercial flight. It’s just so breathtakingly huge.
What makes National Parks equally as rad as posters?
The National Parks have such a rich history of posters and so many have iconic landmarks, they really lend themselves well to being showcased in a larger than life way, since so many have features that feel dreamlike, or like they might exist in a fantasy world.
What's one tip you'd offer for working in illustrator?
I would say the most unique and helpful tool we used when creating this print was Opacity Masks. There’s a lot of texture going on in every color and this tool came in hand when needing to fade textures from being fully opaque to semi transparent using gradients. Over all it helped make the ambiance of the print feel more painterly and less like a vector collage.
How about a tip on running a small design business?
It’s easy to get pigeonholed into being the guys that do a certain kind of work, so we like to mix it up and use our business to pursue several different types of projects. We always recommend that designers put forth the type of work that they’d like to be hired for, rather than the type of work you’ve done in the past, which will likely lead to more of the same.
What's next for DKNG?
Our own art print series, The Explorers Club, will debut a new series of prints in the coming months. We’re also hitting the road and speaking at the Creative Works Conference in Memphis and Adobe Max in San Diego, so come on out to one of our talks if you’d like to learn more! All the dates are at dkngstudios.com/events
Keep up with Nathan and Dan via their website and instagram
You can purchase DKNG's Grand Canyon poster in the shop