Make North – Daniel Holub
Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them how you got involved in graphic design and art?
Hey! I’m Daniel Holub, I run Make North, a graphic design studio creating artwork for the music industry.
I started Make North in June of 2014, after quitting my job at a corporate design studio. I hated my boss at the time, knowing I wanted to carve my own career in design.
I first started designing out of necessity for my band back in 2010, designing all our visuals and fell in love with the process. Creating something inspired by the lyrics I was writing and the music we were making felt like magic to me. It slowly built from that point onwards, learning, refining and exploring every opportunity I got.
Your slogan is “Art for your Sound”, what is your main motivation for working primarily with musicians and bands?
I adore music. Something really special happens when you combine visual art with sound. You’re enabling people to experience both art forms at a higher frequency, each enhancing the other to convey emotion or tell a story.
I love the idea that when you listen to a song, your brain triggers an image in your mind. Iconic imagery forms when you listen to that song you love, and if you get it right, you can capture people’s memories for a lifetime.
Can you describe the design process you go through to create a finished design for your clients?
I like to keep the process as simple as I can. I always start the process with two critical elements: ‘What’s the sound?’ and ‘What do these songs mean to you?’. Once I get a real feel for the what and the why, I then have a solid foundation on which to create.
I then engulf myself in the music, listening on repeat whilst I work and don’t let anything distract me from being in that world for a little while. If i’ve done my job, the band loves what i’ve created. Sometimes the bands have a clear vision in mind from the get go, which is great for me, it’s like being driven down a road and i’m just filling in the scenery.
The creative process is never easy, art needs room to breathe, but when you achieve a result everyone loves, it’s worth the work every time.
What software do you use to create your designs? Is there anything unusual that you think designers should make more use of?
I think i’m somewhat of an oddity when it comes to how I work. Everything I do is using a mouse and keyboard. I don’t use a Wacom tablet or stylus, in fact i’ve never used one. I’m completely self taught and never had the money to afford expensive gear, so I just figured out ways to achieve the result I wanted with what was available to me.. a lot of clicking and a lot of keyboard shortcuts haha
Software wise, i’m 100% Adobe. I first started using photoshop v3 and have grown with it.
Your album artwork features a diverse range of elements and textures, where do you get inspiration from?
One of the major things i’ve learnt so far is that inspiration is everywhere. It can be the way a vine crawls up a tree, the way light hits a puddle, or more often what I see when I look at clouds.. Genuinely so many ideas have come from clouds. I pay attention to those things as I always strive for realism in a lot of my work and you never know what you’ll see when you look up.
However I then contradict that when it comes to illustration. That’s where my love of comics comes through. Superheroes, pro wrestling and music made up my childhood. The comic book style is something that’s ingrained in me and all my illustration work is just an attempt at being a comic book artist and my album covers are an attempt at me designing movie posters basically.
Your merchandise design work is very bold and recognizable, how long did it take to develop your style?
I’ve never really considered myself to have a specific style, as I always love to adopt different styles or learn a new way to do something, but I recognise that a certain style is starting to form with my merch designs. Again it’s just an attempt at the comic book style I love. Using simplicity to achieve detail. I love breaking down seemingly complex imagery into simple shapes and using negative space to achieve the end result. I’m constantly looking at the world as a series of shapes – the world is made up of circles, squares and triangles, the beauty is in how you fit them together.
Which artists and designers have inspired you through the years?
Jack Kirby, Bruce Timm, Frank Miller and Alex Ross. They are my Mount Brushmore.. If you will.
You were recently nominated for best artwork at this years Heavy Music Awards, who was the artwork for and why do you think it was so successful?
This is a huge deal for me. The work should never be dictated by the desire for awards, but this nomination represents more than just the work for me. The nomination is for my artwork for Bullet For My Valentines latest album ‘Gravity’. Working for a band of that magnitude isn’t something I had experienced before and the legacy they’ve earned has afforded me this opportunity. I’ll forever be grateful for that chance. I wasn’t the only artist that was approached to work on a concept for them, so that validation of not only the work impressing them but to have the wider industry give me a nod with this nomination gives me strength in knowing perhaps i’m doing some work that is connecting with people. I can’t ask for more than that.
I’d like to think there’s a gentle beauty in the artwork, a mix of dark and vivid colour along with the universal symbolism of the wings that made it work, but honestly I don’t feel equipped to answer why, Bullets music did the heavy lifting, I just tried to create something I was proud of.
What are some of the other artworks you have done that have special significance to you?
There have been a few that I feel have been bench marks along the way.
The album cover for The Gospel Youth’s ‘Always Lose’ was a defining piece for me. It’s possibly the best album musically I’ve been lucky enough to work on. It’s one of those albums i’ll still be listening to when i’m a very old man and the fact I also happened to work on it is a surreal blessing. It was also released via Rise Records, which helped propel it further than I had experienced at the time, that felt incredible seeing it all over Warped Tour. It showed a lot of people the style I was capable of achieving and i’ll always remember that.
Another key release for me was Our Hollow, Our Home’s album ‘In Moment // In Memory’.
The guys approached me with a grand concept of 11x illustrated emblems to represent the tracks, all of which had such an intense personal meaning behind them. It really allowed me to define my illustrated style. The trust those guys have put in me is something i’ll be forever grateful for and has evolved over the years into working with them on all their visuals, something I take an immense amount of pride in.
Every piece I create, there’s a little piece of me in them. They are mine for a short time but their purpose is to be shared with the world. There’s so many projects that have constantly made me better, allowed me to explore a new style or showcase what i’m capable of.
What advice would you give to anybody looking to get started in band artwork and design?
My 2 biggest pieces of advice would be to love what you do, truly love both design and music. Both industries are tough, being a creative is tough, working with other creatives is tough, combining the two can be frustrating at times, full of self doubt. However, if you love what you do, that will carry you through and most days will be a pure joy. If you’re lucky enough to earn money from doing what you love, you’ve cracked the code.
I’m humbled every day knowing I could be stuck doing any manor of jobs that don’t fulfil my ambitions, i’ve had jobs like that and got fired from every single one of them. I got so lucky.
Secondly, learn your craft. Whatever style you want to work in, whatever genre or industry you want to be a part of, take time to learn the fundamentals of both art and business. I never really knew it until recently, but I was subconsciously choosing this path from a young age. From creating my own superheroes when i was a kid, to choosing art and business as my A-levels (in which I got an E grade in Art and a B grade in business). I then dropped out of Uni in my second year to focus on music, but at the time it all just felt like a split decision based on finding what made me happy. What enabled me to feel confident in doing this for a living is knowing the fundamentals, then letting my imagination take me the rest of the way.
How can our readers get in touch with you?
If any one reading this wants to ask me anything or work on a project together, i’d love to talk!
Feel free to reach out at: Info@make-north.com
Thank you P&K! This has been a pleasure!