New York City is a hub that houses fashion creatives of all kinds. Nick DePalo, graphic designer and founder of Empirical Designs is among the few known fashion creatives on Staten Island due to his artwork and music talent. When not touring with his band Backslashes and Bad Ideas, he can be found in the lab designing graphics for the likes of In Flex We Trust, YouTube star Joey Salads, Legendary Apparel, and more.
Jonathan Mckinnon: You create logos, brand identities, album art, and more, but what was your inspiration for designing apparel?
Nick DePalo: My inspiration behind apparel design is to find the medium between designing something anyone can wear and trying to provide a fresh spin on stale ideas. A lot of designers fall into the trap of doing what’s trendy for the moment, and just pumping out the same 10 cliches for 50 different clients. I try to bring a different perspective and provide solutions that make sense for each client and not just take an idea that sells well and slap their name on it. I also try to keep all of my designs unisex by staying out of the traditional color palettes of men's and women's clothing.
Describe your evolution as a graphic designer from when you first started in 2012 to now.
In 2012, I honestly had no concept of what graphic design was. That probably should be embarrassing to admit as a professional designer, but I totally stumbled into it. I’m self taught, and I’m still learning new techniques every day. It’s hard to overstate how far I’ve grown as a designer, because I started with nothing. I began by making album covers and shirt designs for my band - Backslashes & Bad Ideas, so we’d have merch to sell on the road when we went on tour. People dug my work, and asked me to make stuff for their own bands, and eventually it just kept growing. There’s no delineation between when it was a hobby I took on to cut corners and save money for my band, and when it became a fruitful career choice. I don’t want to make it seem like a success story and now I can relax and live happily ever after. I’ve still got a long way to go to get where I’d like to be. I’m still finding my voice as an artist and I’m still grinding it out every day.
Back in 2012, what software did you use to design apparel for your band Backslashes & Bad Ideas?
I used a website called PicMonkey to create our first EP cover. I had no idea what I was doing, and at that point I had yet to use Photoshop. But after I really identified my interest in design I began to read up on software, and made the shift to Photoshop and Illustrator which I’ve used for everything since. Shouts out to PicMonkey for making this all possible!
Take me through your apparel design process.
Typically when I’m contacted to design apparel, I’ll have a series of questions for the client and request some visual references to get a feel of what they’re going for. If the client is pretty set on a specific idea, I’ll get straight to work on it and try my best nail the design elements while also giving them some options to work with so they can have input in the creative process. If the client doesn’t know what they want, I’ll develop concepts for them and just continuously revise the artwork until we have a finished product they’re happy with.
What types of clothing brands have you designed for?
Are there any decent thrift/ consignment stores on Staten Island?
We have some Goodwill and Salvation Army stores here in Staten Island, and the surrounding area. I’m only a ferry ride away from Manhattan, which is a mecca for anyone in the fashion world. To be frank, I dress pretty modestly.
What apparel design projects are you currently working on?
I have a bunch of apparel designs in the works. One that should be launching fairly soon is for a band called The Parallel from Toronto, Canada. I also did some designs for National Bohemian Brewing (Natty Boh) around the upcoming Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. Unfortunately, I have to keep my other projects under wraps until they launch, but I’m really stoked to share them once they’re off the ground.
An explorer of men's fashion with inquisitive eyes, born and raised in Lakeview, Long Island. My inspiration comes from nature, city streets and the world wide web. Catch me in a local thrift/consignment store near you.
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