an interview with David Deal, sitting looking intently at camera

There are countless people today with great ideas for products and services that have the potential to change the world. But in such a saturated marketplace, entrepreneurs are constantly facing the challenge of catching the right people’s attention. This makes quality brand marketing more important than ever. 

If you have an idea but aren’t sure where to start when it comes to showing that idea to the world, it can be difficult to get off the ground. Developing a brand to broadcast your idea can seem overwhelming. It’s helpful to partner with people you can trust and rely on to communicate your unique message. 

One such professional, David Deal, is one of the principals and Art Directors at Deal Design. In this interview, he talks about some of the intricacies of bringing products to market, his fascinating history and journey to where he is today, and the continued growth and change of the design and marketing industry. 


What first attracted you to the world of graphic design?

I was always good at art, and I always knew I wanted to be an artist. But in elementary and middle school, I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t really know what the world of art was like, and it wasn’t until I actually went to college at Florida State University that I discovered what graphic design was. It was a field you could go into that made all of these things like advertising on television and product packaging in grocery stores and magazines. My eyes opened up to how much graphic design is all around the world. I realized, ‘Wait, I could be an artist, but I could make a living too? That’s for me.’ That really appealed to my desire to not starve.

What led you to start Deal Design, and how did you do it?

Well, [my wife] Nancy and I met in design school at Laguna College of Art and Design, and we were married right after I graduated. Then, when the ‘dot-com’ industry went ‘dot-bomb,’ which happened right around 2000, all of the funding for these internet companies evaporated like crazy. The company I worked for went under too because it lost its funding. 

It was a terrible time to find a job as a creative because everybody who was in the creative field supporting a lot of these information-technology companies was out looking for jobs, and there weren’t any. The company I was working for had prepaid for our office, so we had it for another three months. We also had computer equipment they were just going to give us, and that was our start. We just did it, and month after month, we didn’t know how we were going to pay the bills and make the mortgage payment; somehow it just happened every month, barely. And it started growing slowly from there. So, we really started it out of desperation and necessity.

How has Deal Design changed since its beginning in 1999?

I think we’ve changed as the digital revolution has changed. Some things in our industry haven’t changed much at all. For example, product packaging is still a big part of our business and a lot of the reason companies find us — they have a new product they’re trying to bring to market, they know they need a package, and that ends up being the [starting] place for them to go out and find an agency to help.

Then, once those people find us, we also realize, well, you need branding for your product and packaging design, a website, and digital marketing. Our services have grown as digital marketing has grown. [It has become] a much more primary avenue for companies to promote their products versus how it used to be 20 years ago when your products were in a store, or you were advertising in magazines or using direct mail to try to sell your products. The internet revolution, web, and social have really changed a lot, so our services have kind of fluxed with it. 

There’s been almost a dying off of the art of printing that’s been happening with the digital revolution. There’s a lot of art and craft in printing that schools aren’t teaching the newer generation of designers. We end up teaching our people when they come in about spot color and special effects and how to set up jobs to go to print for offset lithography.

When we started, it was when the Macintosh computer was first entering the marketplace. The first Mac Classic just came to our college, and we had to schedule time to use it. Since then, everything has gone [to] computer. We learned the old-fashioned ways of doing things, and now we’ve come along with the new digital generation too. So, it’s nice seeing both sides.

What is your favorite part about operating your own design agency?

It’s being able to create and nurture a brand from the ground up. People will come to us with a great product idea that serves a purpose [or] solves a problem, and then [we] wrap a brand around it and create its visual look, the messaging, and how it’s going to communicate what it does to the people they’re trying to sell it to. 

In the beginning, it’s all foggy and hard to visualize. It’s difficult for our clients, too, because they don’t have a brand yet to see and feel good about [at that stage]. It’s almost like planting a seed and watering it; it sprouts and grows, and then it blooms and blossoms and creates fruit, which is the point of selling. That’s the most exciting part. [I love] the excitement in our clients when they see it all come together and come to life, and it’s working, and it’s selling, and now they feel like a real company.

It's funny how when the brand comes to life, everything finally seems real, and before then, it seems like you're faking it

What do you think attracts businesses to your agency?

We have been told that some of the things that make us unique are that clients get direct access to us as the principals, and we’re providing all the work that comes through the agency. We’re not a high-volume agency where we’re just shoving work into the machine and you get a low, junior-level person who’s doing it all who doesn’t have a lot of experience. Everybody on our team is highly qualified and very talented, and our direct supervision is on everything that goes through. We’re personally interacting with our clients, so I think they really value that there’s a lot of experience behind all the work to develop their brand or product. 

We also have a lot of understanding of all the different kinds of manufacturing and printing processes as well as digital marketing, so we understand the whole lifecycle of creating, developing, manufacturing, and marketing a product. So, it’s not like we’re just good at doing one thing. A lot of times we can help point them in the right direction to solve other problems or fill in gaps they haven’t solved for yet in manufacturing, just because we have done it all.

Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of?

Yes. When I was working for a company called Air Media in 1997, the whole world was still sold on the idea of going online for information, while we were saying ‘go wireless’. The internet was starting up, everyone was connecting through modems, and you were having to pay per minute for access to the internet. 

[At] this company I was helping to start up, Air Media, we re-engineered Motorola’s flex chipset that was in brand new digital phones. These data networks were paging networks that received paging signals. We decided we could push a lot more information through them. We could push news feeds and stock updates and alerts that you had an email waiting for you through these wireless networks. They were broadcast right to your desktop device or to your wireless phone, which was becoming data capable. This way, you wouldn’t have to go online to know this stuff; it would come to you.

This was a really cool idea, and we won Software Product of the Year in PC Magazine. We were winning all these awards. In order to do that though, we had to develop this kind of gateway, so the data networks that used to just push out a phone number to pagers could push out a lot more data in chunks. We had to create this thing we called a Short Messaging Service. We were awarded the patent, and then we shortened the name to “SMS,” the infancy of texting. And the user interface for our product, AirMedia Live looked a lot like Apps do today. 

What are your hopes for the future of Deal Design?

I’m hoping that we can grow to be more of a bridge [between] digital and traditional marketing. There are terms out there now — some people call it omnichannel marketing or multi-channel marketing — and I think that is really the future of things. While digital takes the lead, at some point in time, there’s a physical connection that has to happen. You need to get something in the mail, or there’s going be some way you customize the experience for each person based on how they shop and what they’re interested in. So, it’s how to bridge all of this together, and it’s how to communicate and orchestrate it all — [that] really is the future of where marketing, branding, and manufacturing are going to end up. 


 

Partnering with qualified leaders and creative minds could be the next step in transforming your idea into a reality. Contact us to find out how Deal Design can help create and market your unique brand.

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