Interview with BASIC
BASIC is a design agency in sunny San Diego. Working with some of the world’s most loved brands, you’d be right in thinking that their studio is bursting with creative talent. So, this time, we decided to interview a whole bunch of them.
Steve Denekas: VP of Creative
Abdul Ovaice: CD, Mountain View
Danielle Higgins: Marketing Director
KC Desmond: Partnerships Lead
Erwin Hines: CD
What have been the major milestones in your career?
Steve: There have been clear milestones in my career, always guided by intuition and intention.
First as an apprentice, learning the industry, how it works, and what success looks like. Then as a maker, developing the skills I learned, and learning how to formulate a point of view. As an expert, I slowly made the skills second nature to the process. I learned how to push boundaries and achieve goals for our clients. As a partner, I developed the ability to see what the client needs to succeed, and deliver work that meets and exceeds their expectations. I also became more empathetic. As a facilitator, I realised that it wasn't about me any more, it was about everyone else. Success wasn't mine alone, it belonged to the team and the client. This is when I learned to push ideas into new spaces, and bring people together to open up and generate concepts. Finally, as a mentor, my focus was growth, both in my craft, and as a person. This milestone will never go away, it’s written into my DNA. Now, I’d like to jump into my role as a teacher, and encourage that growth for the internal team, as well as the new wave of creative humans coming into the industry.
Abdul: When I asked my mom, "Is it OK to follow your heart even though everyone around you says otherwise." She replied, "That's what you supposed to do."
Danielle: Selling my first company to take time off to start a family solo. Winning a client that we weren't expected to win. Seeing women take leadership roles in agencies. Throwing out my heels for tennis shoes.
KC: Jumping blindly from a safe, familiar (and also very unfulfilling) career, to a completely new and foreign industry. Finding my voice in the branding and digital world, and working alongside people who encourage growth.
Are you happy? Asked by Ciszak Dalmas
Steve: Happiness guides my day-to-day. I think it could better be described as positivity. I push myself to manage stress, look towards the future, and guide the team with emotion and energy.
Abdul: Happiness is a journey for me. I live by the motto, "A successful life is a succession of successful days." I'm just focusing on today.
Danielle: Happiness is an emotion or a feeling, not a permanent state. I cultivate space for it, but never chase it.
KC: Sometimes, very. But it's the other emotions that bring out the value of happiness. You have to feel those, too, in order to truly appreciate it.
In what ways do you challenge yourself?
1. How much of your day do you spend working?
Steve: There is never a moment where I'm not thinking, or dreaming about the business. I don't consider it work. I'm empowered by the environment and the folks that inject life into the process.
Abdul: I don't know. Most of it feels like play.
Erwin: I probably work 60% of my day.
Danielle: I feel lucky that much of what I do doesn't feel like work, because it’s so fun. I don't know if I'm ever not working. Some of my best stuff hits me in the shower.
KC: I’m always working on something: work, personal life. There’s always a project.
2. Where is your ideal work environment?
Steve: A vocal and energetic environment, one with focus and intentional disruption.
Abdul: Working with brilliant creatives.
Danielle: With people!
KC: Somewhere collaborative, and with a view!
3. What do you hope to get across with your work?
Steve: Wonder and utility.
Abdul: Something meaningful. Simple, yet poetic.
Erwin: I hope that my work can help break down barriers and bring people closer together.
Danielle: Thoughtfulness, detail.
KC: Empathy, clarity, solutions.
4. What inspires you?
NSteve: My wife, my guitars, my child, and good conversation.
Abdul: Discovering culture, people, and art.
Erwin: There are two levels of inspiration for me. One is more theory driven and the other is more craft driven. For theory, I am mostly inspired by the interconnectedness of culture. So when I’m watching a runway show and can see how it ties into the current political context, and then how that all ties into the rise of a specific subculture, I get really excited. And to be more cheesy, I do think inspiration can be found in anything as long as you are constantly filling your head with disparate things. It’s when something triggers those disparate things to find some common ground that a new idea is sparked.
Danielle: Adversity-unique challenges, artists.
KC: Emotion, whether in music, art, or interactions.
5. What's the secret to a successful day's work?
Steve: There is no secret. You will have good days and bad days, accept both and find time to reflect and learn.
Erwin: My day-to-day is always different, and often rather crazy. So, over time, I have realized that the secret to a good day for me is all in the routine. I have to start my day with mental calibration. I wake up, turn on some instrumental jazzy music, make a cup of coffee, read, and then journal. After that I feel energized and mentally uncluttered. Then, once I’m done with my work for the day, I like to hit the gym, which acts as a nice separator between work and personal life. Then, even if I do all of that, but don't get to spend some time with friends or loved ones, I still feel like my day was not successful, so I always try to make time post-workout for decompression with loved ones.
KC: Sleep! Kidding. Kind of ;)
6. Is there anything in your life that you can't live without?
Steve: I need a collaborator, someone to bounce ideas off of.
Abdul: A purpose and progress.
Erwin: I can’t live without social connections. Especially family and friends. If I go a full day without talking to people, I feel empty.
Danielle: A camera.
KC: Sunshine, it really makes everything seem better.
7. Is there anything about you that people might not know?
Steve: I'm a recording engineer.
Abdul: I'm a whirling dervish.
Erwin: At this point in my life, I’m an open book and really don’t hide things or interests from those I meet.
Danielle: I speak German.
KC: Probably not, I'm an open book.
8. What would be your dream project?
Steve: My career is a dream, I'm fortunate. Every project and new hire presents an opportunity to build something, connect and learn.
Abdul: Anything that creates massive change in the world.
Erwin: The type of project and client always shifts, but the one constant is the ability to learn something new. So my dream project is one that adds to the cultural narrative and challenges me to learn about a new topic, or group of people. I also love it when there is a challenge and the solution is not defined by the media, but the media is defined by the solution. This way of thinking opens doors to unique executions to everyday problems.
Danielle: A fashion travel documentary with an all-girl crew.
KC: Something in a foreign country where we get to work totally outside of our comfort zone.
9. What is the most time-consuming aspect of your work?
Abdul: Bootless meetings.
Erwin: The most time-consuming, and exciting, part of work is research and strategy.
KC: Choosing from the dozens of different ways we could approach a project..
10. What legacy would you like to leave behind?
Steve: Professionally: My love and passion for people, their future, and creating an environment that challenges conformity. Personally: A prolific body of work immortalised through musical storytelling.
Abdul: A group of creatives who changed the world for the better.
Erwin: I don’t really seek to have a name for myself, but I do hope that my work has a lasting impact on culture, and is a reflection of the community I work for.
Danielle: Social and political change through art.
KC: Help focus on the things that connect us, instead of our differences.