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Meet Nathan Goldman and Dan Kuhlken of DKNG in Culver City

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nathan Goldman and Dan Kuhlken.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Our career all started by creating gig posters for the Troubadour in West Hollywood. We knew someone that worked there and found out that they were looking for a gig poster artist. We both agreed that the coolest job possible would be to create concert posters for a living and it seemed that we had the skill sets between the two of us to pull it off. Nathan was trained as a graphic designer, while Dan was fluent in fine art and illustration. From what we could tell, gig posters, at least the good ones, required both creative approaches. So we submitted a set of three gig posters for upcoming shows at the venue as sort of a cold call or extra large business cards. Long story short, The Troubadour hired us to create posters for them for nearly 3 years. We were both still in college at the time and our so called business began to grow when other venues and artists reached out to us inquiring about more gig poster work. Gig posters led to creating posters for television, film, and numerous corporations. Every project we created seemed to lead us to the next opportunity and our career grew fairly organically that way.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s been nearly 12 years since we created our first Troubadour posters and if you look at all those years from a distance, it’s easy to say things went smoothly. However, every year came with brand new obstacles and each time, we had to make hard decisions on which direction to take our company. The earlier years were probably the most difficult. We didn’t depend on design income as much when we were both college students, since we saw our gig poster work as more of a luxurious hobby. Push came to shove when Dan decided that the only real job he wanted was to continue creating artwork under DKNG. This meant that he would have to commit his time fully and face the stark reality that making art for a living isn’t very forgiving when it comes to paying the bills. Nathan on the other hand had a very fulfilling and stable job working as the art director for the USC Design Studio. This meant that his time was limited and helping grow the DKNG business had to be a second priority. It was years until Nathan officially committed to working for DKNG full-time and the years prior had to have been some of our greatest struggles as both friends and business partners. But everything happens for a reason. While Dan was sharpening his skills as an illustrator, he was also forced to learn a lot about business…the hard way: trip and fall, figure out what went wrong, get back up and try again. During these years, Nathan learned the ins and outs of running a design firm with the benefits of expert training and time. When Nathan took on the business roles of DKNG, the studio found stability and it’s been smooth sailing (for the most part) since then.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with DKNG – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
If you had to break it down into two words, we tend to say we specialize in design+illustration. There are many artists out there that made a name for themselves as a painter or illustrator. But ask them to create a gig poster, which requires both fine art and design and you’ll find that there is a clear attention to detail on only the fine art aspect of the final piece. Graphic designers struggle with the same issue. Conversely, they can kern customized type, are experts at using the golden ratio, and can even make a couple shapes look like works of art. But we believe that combining skillful illustration through the filter of measured and mathematical design can create something very unique. We’re proud that both of us have very different skillsets and quite frankly, are very different people. If it wasn’t for that contrast, our company wouldn’t grow. We challenge each other creatively, professionally and spiritually and it’s that measured conflict that allows us to flourish.

What role has luck (good luck or bad luck) played in your life and business?
We believe that success is a combination of hard work and luck. We also believe that luck can be manufactured. It takes a certain amount of blind confidence to believe you will be successful. Without that minor degree of arrogance, simple obstacles can easily stop a person from taking risks or pushing forward. With enough hard work, we find that we can create our own luck. We make art because we like to and we will do whatever it takes to keep that enjoyment in our lives. Our friend, Tad Carpenter perhaps said it best, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Contact Info:

  • Website: dkngstudios.com
  • Instagram: @dkngstudios
  • Facebook: @dkngstudios
  • Twitter: @dkngstudios

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