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Cutting catchphrases and print ads don’t do the trick anymore (Don Draper would be very mad, indeed). No, today's consumer is so wary and sharp; some brands are almost required to hire software developers with design sense and visual strategists with coding skills to help convey its brand message. “Creative technologists,” some call these new multidisciplinary Mad Men, and Emmett Shine is one of the best.
Co-founder and president of Gin Lane Media — as well as the owner of LOLA New York clothing and a professional photographer — Shine has partnered with labels you love (Saturdays NYC, Adidas, Everlane, Opening Ceremony, etc.) to develop visual languages and tech strategies. You may covet these companies' chic clothes, but Shine and his digitally savvy Gin Lane co-workers are part of why you know those brands.
We met up with the clever, and rather cute Shine at his sharp, stylish offices (just down the street from Refinery29's HQ) to discuss how he wound up a leader in this new, bold field, his design suggestions for proper professional dressing, and why a T-shirt and jeans make up his perfect business suit.
“Moving into the digital design space has been a natural progression for me. As a teenager, I co-founded a clothing company, LOLA New York, with my childhood friends. In college, I did freelance graphic design and photography to supplement my income. With the economic downturn in 2008, brands’ budgets shifted toward digital design and photography, and I had the experience. Working with them, I realized I could help these brands, artists, and companies I cared for help solve problems, build innovative solutions, and better promote themselves. Right now, we're doing a fair amount of multi-touch, gesture-based, interactive installations — really exciting work.”
“I hate how typical offices feel — they don’t stimulate creativity or originality. We’ve worked to foster those needs with our office. It’s a full-floor space in a newer building on Bowery with a private elevator and outdoor patio. Actually, it was a residential apartment (there’s even a shower in the office). It's very relaxing and sunny — way more comfortable and creative than a typical office. We’ve got a constant flow of new art by people we know, water, plants, dogs, and salvaged wood. It’s a great way to counter a very digital, tech-focused job. If you’re spending a lot of hours in your place of work, you'd better love it, right?”
“Both the design and digital industries have an independent streak to them. It allows for a lot of creative and personal expression in what you wear. If you’re designing or architecting a visual language for a brand, they like to see you put thought into all aspects of your visual communication. Also, people, like us, have to be able to talk through our work with clients, using a simple visual language. Our designs highlight the content of those we work with, not overwhelm it, so I think dressing for me is the same.”
“Personally, I grew up in the skateboarding, art, and photography worlds — all emphasize simplicity. Consequently, I tend toward simple, good, sustainable, American looks. Vans, blue jeans, and a white T-shirt will get me through all the situations a day can present — though, I've developed an appreciation for outerwear and nice button-down dress shirts. Honestly, I’ll go to a downtown studio, a midtown global headquarters, or an overseas videoconference dressed the same way. I may not dress up, but I always dress well.”
“Don't overcomplicate things. Try to know where your products come from and the backstory of the brand. You’re a walking billboard, so it’s important to understand what you’re presenting and how that reflects on you. Make or wear your own stuff, too. Remember, good design should be hard to date. It should have worked 40 years ago and should still work 40 years from now.”
Levi's 511 Skinny Commuter Jeans, $88, available at Levi.com.
Photographed by Maia Harms, Hair by Bryan Feiss, Makeup by Tiffany Patton.