Today we’d like to introduce you to Danielle Nichole Morgan.
Danielle, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve always naturally been a creative and curious person. As a toddler, I was crawling around in my mom’s closet rearranging her shoes by color. Growing up, I explored fine art, architecture, interior design, and music to do something creative in my career. In high school, I stumbled upon the graphic design by a happy accident—I thought I was signing up for a photography class, turns out it was a Photoshop class. At first, I hated it, then everything clicked and I decided that I wanted to be a graphic designer. I graduated high school with a handful of freelance design clients, but it was still important to me to get a college degree.
College was a crazy time for me, but unfortunately, not in the party sense. On top of being a competitive snowboarder and freelancing as a designer, I was taking a full course load at Brigham Young University in Utah, completed three internships (Y&R in New York, Quiksilver in Southern California, and Ancestry.com in Utah), and went on a Global Marketing study abroad around the world. We traveled to New York City, Geneva, Paris, London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo in just over a month. We met with top executives from the Olympics, Coca-Cola, Disney, Marriott, and Nestle, to name a few. It was an eye-opening, life changing trip in the best way possible that I’m still paying for—gotta love those student loans.
When I graduated college in 2010, the economy wasn’t doing so well. Ad agencies were laying people off and trying to find a job fresh out of school was challenging. For the next few years, I continued freelancing and working in-house with brands and agencies, designing for global brands such as Crate & Barrel, Verizon, and Redbox.
In 2014, I had to take a step back from my career for a bit to focus on my health. During this time, I started to explore other creative jobs. I directed music videos, worked on Hollywood film sets as a production designer/art director, and dabbled in photography.
A year later, in 2015, I decided that it was now or never to move to Los Angeles to start my design studio, a dream I had had since I was 18. With $1,000 to my name, I packed up my car and cat and we moved to LA. The beginnings of DNM Design Studio were anything but glamorous.
I slept on my friend’s couch for a couple of weeks until I landed my first official DNM client, which helped me move into my own place. I was working out of my home office on one of the loudest streets in town and scraping by financially—one night I actually split a chicken breast with my cat because I was so broke. My drive and vision kept pushing me to get more work and learn the ins and outs of running a business.
My hard work quickly began to pay off as our client list and team started to grow. We moved into our first office in West Hollywood at the Pacific Design Center in 2018, where I founded my second business Past Present Future, a lifestyle apparel brand focused on mental health. Then in 2019 we moved into our second office in Hollywood.
Has it been a smooth road?
My journey has been a wild ride. I could write books about all the struggles I’ve been through, but I’ll keep it short and sweet for you. As a freelancer, I had a lot of challenges finding decent-paying projects, dealing with difficult clients, and just trying to get paid—I had to take a couple of clients to court. But it was all part of the learning process. It get’s easier to spot those red flags and avoid situations like this all together now.
Looking back on the past five years, since starting DNM Design Studio, one of the biggest struggles for me has been learning the art of business as an introverted, creative person. Selling an agency versus selling yourself as a freelancer is a very different game. Sales and numbers don’t come naturally to me, but I’ve taken this on as an opportunity to learn to become a better entrepreneur. I’ve also surrounded myself with smart people who are the ying to my yang.
Career challenges aside, not enough people talk about their personal struggles on the road to success, which we all have to some degree. A very personal struggle of mine inspired my second business, Past Present Future. I’m an abuse survivor. I spent my 20s battling severe depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I grew up around addiction and lost friends to suicide. Coming out the other side, these experiences drive me to help end the stigma of mental health so that people get help and aren’t suffering alone in silence.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
My first business DNM Design Studio is an independent brand consulting and creative studio in Hollywood. We are so excited to be celebrating five years this summer! So surreal. As a studio, we are proud to be part of the 0.1% of creative agencies that are female-founded. We like to empower and support other women, as well as, freelance creatives of all genders.
We pride ourselves in our client and partner relationships along with producing well-thought out, high-quality work. We work with a lot of clients in entertainment, music, fashion, beauty, cannabis, and health and wellness.
We do much more than just design pretty things. We partner with our clients to build businesses and brands that customers connect with and love on a deep emotional level. Some of our creative services include brand/creative strategy, websites, logos, packaging, merchandise, photo/video shoots, event activations, and content creation.
My second business, Past Present Future, which started as a passion project, is a lifestyle apparel brand focused on mental health and wellness and giving back to mental health communities.
We believe that through community and conversation, we can help change the stigma of mental health. We feature inspiring stories from survivors and thrivers. Last year, we launched the Artist Collection in which we collaborate with musicians to share their mental health journey through pieces we design together.
We always donate 10% of every purchase to mental health communities. Feeling good inside and out is important to us, so we also use eco-friendly inks and are moving towards sustainable apparel.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I absolutely love Los Angeles. It’s home to me now. It’s such a weird and wild place, but awesome all at the same time. I love being around so many inspiring and driven people. I like the competitive landscape. It’s a total mental game and takes a lot of perseverance to succeed here. I also love the food in LA. Since moving here, I’ve turned into a foodie, so when I’m not working, I like to go explore new restaurants, cafes, and bars. The thing I like the least about LA would have to be the homeless situation. Having my office in Hollywood and living around the area, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see. I can’t speak much about it because I don’t know the details, but I do hope we can find a good solution soon to help these people.
- DNM: Brand consulting and creative projects starting at $5,000
- Address: 6404 Hollywood Blvd, Suite 201
Los Angeles, CA 90028
- Website: dnmdesignstudio.com / ppf-shop.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
- Instagram: @daniellenicholemorgan / @dnmdesignstudio / @pastpresentfutureshop
Seth Meriwether, Danielle Nichole Morgan