Native New Jersey resident, Dust La Rock, is defining his career by not following tradition: design college, intern, intern again, work a nominal position and retire. Rock is defining his career by grinding contacts and pursuing opportunity – every opportunity. â€œI worked my way up through Ecko, eventually, into the art department,â€ says Rock, adding Ecko was a training ground that made a positive impact â€“ Rockâ€™s troubled youth may have derailed the Rock people know, today â€“ on his career by learning from PK, Grotesk, Doze Green and Mike Thompson, among others, too.
Today, Rock is one-third of the raising record label, Foolâ€™s Gold, a label his friends A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs created. When heâ€™s not assuming the art director position at Foolâ€™s Gold, Rock is designing websites and print materials for clients like Roxy Cottontail, MTV and various magazines from Beautiful Decay to Missbehave.
â€œAnybody can start a brand by printing a couple T-shirts and emailing one of the various blogs.â€
Format: You collaborated with Bijules NYC to make a jewelry piece called Sympathy for the Devil. How was the experience?
DLR: The name of the necklace is La Feuille d’Absinthe which literally translates to â€˜the Absinthe leaf.â€™ It is based on the design of one of the most popular absinthe spoons of the past and can be used in the preparation of absinthe.
Jules and I had discussed working on a project together for awhile so I brought the idea of the absinthe spoon necklace to the table, designed it, and we produced it together. She’s quite a character, truly focused on her various business ventures whilst remembering to enjoy life, which is what made this collaborative project so fun and the result so unique.
We also recruited Dave 1 from Chromeo â€“ A-Trak’s big brother â€“ and Angel Clouthier, a multi-cultural savant, to do the photo shoot at my loft-studio and that was a blast. You’ll notice on the website there’s a roll call including bios on everyone mentioned above, my web programmer Greg and Adam Amengual who took all the beautiful photographs you see on the site.
Sympathy for the Devil is an ongoing project which will eventually serve as a online retail outlet for various original products by myself and friends. I designed the current site specifically for the promotion of the necklace and plan on a redesign and brand launch in the first quarter of 2008.
Format: Where did you go to school for design?
DLR: I didnÂ¹t go to school.
Format: How did you learn design?
DLR: I got into some trouble shortly after graduating from high school and was fortunate enough to get a job at a well known and respected clothing company. I had taken commercial and graphic arts classes in high school and had always been artistically inclined growing up, so I worked my way up through Ecko, eventually, into the art department and had the opportunity to learn from some really amazing designers such as Cody Hudson, Grotesk, PK, artists like Doze Green, Mike Thompson, Rob-O and many others. After six years at this company I decided it was time to leave and continue my growth elsewhere. I worked at a couple different places in both print and product design, decided it was time to work for myself as a freelance artist and have never looked back.
Format: You do a lot of works for friends. Is it a good thing to mix personal and business relationships?
DLR: It goes both ways: working with friends and associates allows you to grow as an individual and a professional but there are always differences in opinion and unfortunately once in awhile that leads to a strained relationship. I have a couple different groups of friends which I regard as family, we have a mutual personal and professional respect for each other and that translates into our business practices. All that aside, it’s really a matter of knowing when to hold them and when to fold them.
Format: You do album artwork. Do you have a lot of creative restraints by record labels when you’re creating artwork?
DLR: It really depends on the level of input by musician and their respective label. When I first started doing freelance outside of my day job I worked with a number of notable UK drum-n-bass producers and DJs and was given the freedom to do my own thing. Working with the Orb and Transit Kings, I received a fair amount of input and direction from the members of the band while the major label was simply a vehicle for promotion and distribution.
I currently function as art director for Fool’s Gold Records with A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs and am also a partner in the company so it allows me to see both sides of the business and creative process. It’s truly a blessing and a curse; while I’ve established a strong graphic aesthetic for the label I still need to make sure my partners and the artists are happy with my output and, ultimately, I have no one but myself to blame if shit gets fucked up.
Format: Please explain your involvement with Syintific skateboard company.
DLR: My business partner Adam Gianotti started the company out of his basement in New Jersey. We both worked for the aforementioned clothing company at one point and I overheard him speaking to someone about needing to get some boards and tee designs. I approached him, and four to five years later I’m now part-owner and art director.
Format: Do you skateboard?
DLR: BMX. Ride or die.
Format: A lot of designers are linked parallel to the streetwear industry, whether they want to be or not. What is your opinion on streetwear?
DLR: I think the current manifestation of streetwear is a direct result of consumer’s dissatisfaction with the urban and mainstream markets. It’s also an interesting study in trend, marketing and consumerism. It’s great to see companies like Stussy, Fuct and Supreme still flourishing after many years in the game and a lot of the mid to smaller companies continuing to come out with great designs and product.
My only real issue with the streetwear market is the lack of quality control, but I suppose this extends to all forms of industry. Anybody can start a brand by printing a couple T-shirts and emailing one of the various blogs. Ultimately, I think it’s the consumersâ€™ job to: one, be informed and, two, exercise restraint in their purchases and the brands they support.
Format: When you’re doing a website, you have to catch a personÂ¹s eye and have them stay at that website. How do you achieve this?
DLR: When I start a web project I meet with the client to discuss their needs, the site’s functionality and the overall design. Usually I’m approached to lend my specific graphic touch but ultimately the client and, or the site’s subject matter should be what is drawing a viewer to a website, my visual aesthetic is just the proverbial icing on the cake.
Format: Looking at A-Trakâ€™s site, there is nothing that says Iâ€™m a DJ; visually, it reveals more about his character.
DLR: There’s really no point in stating the obvious, he’s an animal, what can I say?
Format: What are some bad website design characteristics?
DLR: Blogs aside, I’m not a fan of vertically scrolling sites. I feel as if I’m missing something if I can’t see a pages full content all at once. They work well when the site design is on point but just not my preferred cup of tea. Pop-up windows are also annoying but due to client preferences I’ve been guilty of using them in the past.
More Info: http://www.dustlarock.com/