Designer Q&A: Dan Polyak on booty shorts, posters and his work as the Metro art director


If you’ve been to a show at Metro, chances are you’ve seen one of Dan Polyak’s creations. Heck, if you walked around Chicago there’s a chance you’ve seen one of his posters tacked to a telephone pole or his booty shorts on an adoring Cobra Starship fan. We recently interviewed the new Metro and Smartbar art director. Here’s what he had to say:

Doejo: Tell me more about the kind of work you do for Metro. What is your creative process? 
Dan: Well, as the Art Director, I am in control of everything graphic and web design for Metro and Smartbar — all the posters around the club, the club’s branding, our website, advertisement design and silkscreen poster curation, among a bunch of other odd jobs. My creative process is heavily music influenced.  I’ll usually check out a band or DJ’s most recent release and accompanying art to understand the sound/vibe they’re going for. From there I try to put my own spin on whatever style I feel is fit.

How did you get interested in graphic design? Has this been something you’ve always wanted to do?
Graphic design is something that sort of fell in my lap, but I’ve always had an interest in art and design. I toyed around in MSPaint [as a kid], then one year for Christmas my mom bought me PaintShop Pro (as I was very anti-Adobe) and I taught myself the program by playing around after school (ironically, I only use Adobe now). I started designing for fun early on in high school, creating band shirts and logos. I didn’t get really serious about design until I started at Columbia College, here in Chicago, when I got asked to lay out a book and create the accompanying cover for a local publisher. From there the freelance work started coming more consistently, making the career choice a more substantial one.


What’s a typical day of work at Metro like?
A typical day at Metro starts at 10 a.m. — I usually have weekly print ad deadlines, so I try to knock those out as soon as possible and then my day consists of anything from creating promo flyers for festivals to mocking up dedicated email blasts to designing a silkscreen poster for an upcoming event. My hands are on every visual we put out, so there’s always something fresh and new for me to work on.

Since a lot of your work involves music, what do you listen to to get the creative juices flowing?
For some reason rap and hip hop music really help me get into the zone when I’m starting a project… As of late that seems to consist of Azealia Banks, Chance The Rapper, Solange and Kendrick Lamar. Other than that, recently I’ve been very into Sky Ferreira, CHVRCHES, Flume and Washed Out.

What advice would you give other artists pursuing a career in graphic design?
My advice would be to really develop your own aesthetic that sets you apart and work your ass off to develop it. We live in a time where graphic designers are everywhere, connected to the world digitally, as is almost anyone that needs something designed for them. You aren’t just competing for work against designers in your city, but designers in your state, country and hell, even designers on other continents. Whether you work for free or intern somewhere, make sure you have those years outside of school where you can put out work that maybe isn’t your favorite, because those years are going to happen and those years are what will teach you taste and style, what you like and what you don’t. They’re necessary, I think any designer could and would agree with me on that.


What are some of your favorite pieces you’ve created and why?
I think one of my favorite pieces has to be a pair of ‘booty shorts’ I designed for a local design company. They wanted something clever that would make people look twice, so I think it was only natural to slap “CREATE DOUBLE TAKES” on the back of the shorts,  creating a double take and a boost of confidence. Another fun project I’ve been working on is a new website, Downwrite, which enables songwriters to create and sell custom music – it seems like such a necessity in this day and age, plus it is an awesome way to connect people to their favorite musicians. Lastly and most recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Chance The Rapper, designing silkscreen posters for his upcoming gigs, which is exciting as a fan of his music.

Click here to view more of Polyak’s work.


Filed in: Doejo