Dan Derham | 5 Minutes With

Highlighting UK creatives during the lockdown, this week we spend 5 minutes with 24 year old motion graphics designer Dan Derham. Working from home, Dan shares his quarantine routine refreshingly optimistic take on how the creative industry will thrive and come back fighting after the pandemic with a renewed sense of creativity.

Read on as we talk to Dan about his Y2K influence, and favourite design projects, DJing and lockdown life.

Hey Dan, so how and when did you first discover you were interested in graphic design? 

I suppose my first proper realisation was my work experience when I was 15 where I worked at De la Rue where I was fortunate to work under Steven Pond who was as senior designer at the time. As a company they are responsible for designing the British banknotes and more than a 1/3 of the world banknotes. After designing my own Beatles bank note during my time there this was the real lightning moment where I realised that I hadn’t felt so content before and I didn’t want to do anything else. I suppose before this realisation my love for design was always there as a small kid I used to play Need for Speed on Ps2 and I’d only ever care about playing around + making the cars look cool and unlocking the special graphic decals to then layer up on the side, the driving part I just left to my brother as I was never fussed! I loved the idea that I was designing something for him to go and drive in. 

You mentioned you are inspired by the Y2k era of design, are there any particular artists from the 2000’s that have influenced your work?

Yes definitely! Again I feel my young days gaming really shaped my outlook and visual identity that I’m communicating today. I used to play loads of dreamcast which a lot of the games are your typical y2k aesthetic, I love the nostalgic elements of it it reminds me of a younger more innocent time, maybe I’ve romanticised it too much but nonetheless I feel this is an element that continues today in Y2k based design being so successful. Maybe because people love to live in the past haha. 

One of my prized possessions which continues to inspire me still is a book called ‘’noise 3.5’ (Which is an analytical experimental graphic science book in their own words) It’s by a the design studio Attik back in the late 90’s early 00’s and they present loads of crazy futuristic.sci-fi graphics, some client based and some just purely experimental and it has been my holy grail since I first saw it back in the library in my uni in my first year! It really defines the y2k movement of the time.

Designer republic as well, who designed total wipeout back in the day have been fundamental for me as well, as I’m sure many others designers as well.

There’s no way I can’t mention all of the late 90/s rave art which must of been groundbreaking at the time and still stands the test of time. Amazing timeless art that emotes that ethereal feeling of rave/dance culture, something I try to continue in my own work.

Outside of graphic design, what inspires you to create?

Music is an integral part of my life and I’ve always been fascinated in the relationship in how it is translated visually and can conjure up images/narratives/environments in the minds eye. I wrote my uni dissertation on this and how in a club settings live visuals that respond to the music can intuitively help to immerse the audience further into the night. The music can actually heighten your emotional reaction to the music and in this way they kind of create a kind of feedback loop into one another. 

Outside of music I’m inspired by creativity in it’s core and it’s seemingly limitless boundaries and how experiences can influence and spark ideas from nowhere. It may sound cliche but I’ve always been inspired by nature and in particular the sky, I love the forms of the clouds and how much they can change. My favourite time of day are the twilight hours where it’s not quite morning but it’s not night and the wonderful light that is emitted at this time. There’s just something about this time that has always sparked ideas in my head, and I’ve tried to recreate using various physical sky generators in C4D.

What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on so far?

Kind of hard for me to pick one haha. 
Although it’s on pause at the moment the initial visual research and ideation work I created for Friendly Fires really felt like a good combination of what visually makes me tick. 

Or maybe the Quest 808 motion graphics video that really gives off that Y2K feel that I love so much. I also really enjoyed creating the visual identity for the Jaded ‘ Psycho’  collection, and allowed me to explore a darker side to my work. The spike barbed wire, dark colour treatment and overall demeanour was really fun to make.

I’ve been very lucky to of been able to turn this my passions into a job, so I can work on stuff that really resonates with me and hopefully with others as well.

Conceptually I actually would fall back to my Final major project in my 3rd year which looked at the information overload in society that we are experiencing right now. Technology + man is a theme that’s always really interested/concerned me and I’ve explored in my work.

You’ve worked on some fantastic music collaborations, which music artist would you love to work with next?

This is a hard one for me I’d love to get the to create some live visuals for a festival stage/club / touring band, I’ve had some experience in the past with this but would would be amazing to do this again and to help emphasise the mood/feel of the music with the visuals. 

I’d really like to design for a festival/party that I and help to construct a visual identity from ideation all the way through to seeing the work in the flesh. And seeing it come to life though the various online and offline ephemera. 

I’m open to any musical collaborations that inspire me really, as long as I can conceptually get on board with the music and what it’s trying to convey. 

We noticed you’re a DJ too! What sort of music do you play?

I’m inspired by the vibrant nightlife of London. My favourite party to go to would probably have to be Spaced, or Creatures or something at fold. Festival wise Houghton is heaven on earth to me.

I love the music that these two collectives play and you’d find at Houghton. This is what influences me in my music selection. Otherworldly atmospheres, deep baselines, minimal , house , techno , breaks and everything in between. I love to dig for old vinyls and have spent many a Saturday doing that since moving to London. I love the fact that a record made in the 90’s can light up a dance floor just like a brand new record can today. I love fusing the old and the new and I guess it’s something I have always done with my design work also. Anything that can transport people somewhere else when they listen to it, similarly to my own experiences at these parties. 

I’m currently hard at work creating a new party for London with my friends some of which are amazing dj’s and have experience running their own nights. For when this is all over, I’m calling it ‘old world blues’ and the visual identity is going to be centered around sci-fi human androids looking back at their old life on earth, with elements of Y2k style I love so much but with a futuristic modern design touch. I think the name works well now given the current times, and people longing back to what life was like before this all of this covid-19 mayhem.

What are your thoughts on the effect the UK lockdown will have on the creative industries?

I’m quite an optimistic guy so generally feel that this is a time for people to take a step back and to reflect on what really excites them and ignites that passion within themselves, and to come back fighting with a renewed sense of creativity. But obviously everyone is different and people respond different ways to situations and the pressure to create in this time can be toxic as well. But hopefully as a community it will act as a refresher and shift peoples mindset and people will come back having made some really good work or ready to create it. I’m also really excited to see some of the music that comes out of this time! It’s unprecedented times and I do feel that this helps to break up peoples standard thought patterns.

Tell us about your daily quarantine routine?

I’m still working from home for Depop as a motion graphics designer 9-6. But I like to get up early and try to do some Headspace meditation, this really helps to ground me and calm my mind and set me up to attack the day in the best way! Followed crucially by a coffee of course.
At lunch I sit on my balcony and try to soak up some vitamin D, and do some light exercise and stretch and I tend to slouch on my desk so need to properly stretch out my back! It’s hard now especially as my housemates are all on furlough.
I’ve found cooking has been an escape for me in these times and living in quarantine. Nothing a hearty meal can’t fix…

What was the last exhibition you saw?

Nam Jun Paik at the Tate. Really exciting and experimental approaches to early video synthesiser art.

Last book you read or podcast you listened to?

The last book I read was ‘homo deus’ A brief history of tomorrow by Yuval Noah-Harari. Which was an insightful look into the future and what might happen to the human race as technology reaches a godlike intelligence, and comparisons of society now and in tomorrows world.

What’s the first thing you’ll be doing when the lockdown is over?

Going to party with my friends!! Hopefully throwing our own party! And definitely lot’s of time exploring national parks and getting back to nature 😀

Follow Dan on Instagram


Interview: Genea Bailey