Creative Director at High Tide

Danny
Miller

DannyMiller (Creative Director at High Tide)

Danny is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of multidisciplinary creative agency High Tide. He leads a wide range of projects across cultural and commercial sectors, from ground-up brand identities for startups to global design initiatives.

he/him • New York, United States • December 4, 2023

What led you into design?

For me, it started with my childhood and upbringing. My father was a painter and my grandfather was a sculptor. Art and creating art was always held in extremely high regard in my family. Growing up in a house covered with my father’s massive paintings on the wall, a vast library of art and art history books, as well as my grandfather’s sculptures surrounding us, observing my father constantly sketching in his sketchbook and working in his studio - this was the most supportive environment to enter into a creative life that I could imagine.

I began my career wanting to be a painter like my father as I didn’t think I would do anything else from as early as the age of 4. It wasn’t until I attended college at UCLA that I began to gain interest and experiment with other mediums – film and design among them. It felt like a new space and set of tools outside of the traditional arts that excited me. Without constantly comparing myself to my father and his achievements, I felt a new sense of creative freedom. From that point on I was largely self-taught as a designer. I was able to apply all the learnings from my painting schooling to design, so it was a rather smooth and seamless transition.

What does a typical day look like?

I split my work week between Manhattan (where our office is located in Flatiron) and the Catskills. The first half of the week I’m in the city, so a typical day begins around 6:30 am, where the first thing I like to do is step outside and get some sunshine, take my dog Alfie for a walk, and generally clear my head for a good 15-30 minutes before starting the work day. When I’m upstate the second half of the week, I get more quality bonding time with my wife and kids and my morning starts with helping them get their day started and off to school before starting my work day. I really do enjoy the balance of having the first half of my week being more fast-paced in the city and the tail end of the week being a bit more mellow upstate where I can focus on work that doesn’t require me to be with the team in person.

I also like to come into the office a bit early – before the entire team – to give me some undistracted time to catch up on emails, drink my morning coffee, and get a handle on the day/week ahead. The rest of the day varies day-to-day, but it’s usually filled with check-ins on current projects with the team, new business calls, financial and operational conversations with our Managing Director, and actual meetings and presentations for current and potential clients. In between all of this, I like to find time to get up and move, have chats with my team outside of work, and take walks outside to clear my head.

What's your workstation setup?

Where do you go to get inspired?

Leaving my desk, and going outside in nature is the quickest and easiest way for me to get inspired and let my thoughts percolate without the distractions of the world. In the Catskills, being in nature is easily accessible and abundant. When I’m in the city, I get inspired by my team – when they share new, interesting ideas, books and ephemera that is more current, tapping me more into the current cultural landscape given how much I tend to look at and admire things from the past.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

There isn’t a lot of current design that I’m very into, but I do love the work that’s been coming out from the people behind Brain Dead. They seem to be really living in their own world creating interesting work, which I admire. I also like the energy of it all; it has a maximalist and punk rock ethos behind it, which I enjoy.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

Warby Parker: This remains a moment of pride in High Tide’s history as it was one of our first end-to-end projects and it’s a prime example of the work we always strive to create, which is work that stands the test of time. We created the foundational brand identity for Warby as well as the initial art direction, packaging, campaign, and debut website. If you look at the brand now it really has been using the same foundational system we created back in 2008 and still manages to feel fresh and new more than a decade later.

Symbol: A more recent example of a project I’m extremely proud of. What I love about Symbol is that the brand is so bold and confident, yet also extremely nuanced and subtle. It also looks like nothing else in its category. We took inspiration from so many different art movements and eras, from mid-century modernism to 80s electronic companies to more recent industrial design movements, yet we combined all this to create something that feels completely new and unique.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

I think the biggest challenge is to steer clear of chasing any trends, because work can become quickly dated when it’s attached to a trend and we strive to create work that is timeless and only becomes stronger as time goes on. The internet is a big part of what creates this homogeneity, where everything is so accessible and people begin repeating whatever feels familiar and popular. On the other hand, you have to strike a balance because you can’t just look to the past. You have to be aware of what’s going on in the current landscape and create something that feels fresh and unexpected – something that stands out rather than fits in.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Failure is a hugely important part of the process to becoming a better creative. Always be a student – never think you have it all figured out because the moment you do, your work will begin to suffer. Treat every day as a learning opportunity. Stay curious. I would recommend setting goals for yourself so you have actionable benchmarks you are working towards achieving, making sure to write down those goals so they don’t just live in your head.

I would also stress the importance of having a mentor that you can look up to. I’ve always surrounded myself with mentors throughout my career and that has helped me far more than any design schooling could have. Make work to the best of your ability, don’t make work being concerned with what other people will think. Lastly, find inspiration from somewhere beyond the internet!

Anything you want to promote or plug?

High Tide Rise & Shine Mug - We created these wonderful limited edition mugs, handmade in Japan from milk glass, with collaborative illustration work by friend of the studio Jiro Bevis.

High Tide How to Live on Love - Our riso-printed publication on vintage erotic pulp romance novel lettering spanning 1945-1985, in collaboration with Elisabeth Goodspeed.

High Tide Sound System - Our monthly mixtape series where we handpick musicians and creatives to create playlists and pair them with artists who create album cover artwork based on their listening experience of the playlist.