Jazz artists are invited to apply for one of our online workshops, JAZZ, focused exclusively on visuals for this kind of music.
Starting in Seattle in 2005, DK worked mostly with software developers and architects to create strong, consistent and solid messaging strategies for people who are very good at the creative process. We adapted our style over the years since to bring more and more people whose forte is improvisation into our circles, and have discovered how to design a specific space for allowing people to discover something new through play about their work, their message, and their personal story.
A lot of jazz is confusing for many people.
Especially for people who are new to it. It takes a lot of work to go through the whole, ‘This is what this is, and this is why it matters,’ speech, especially if articulating the esoteric isn’t your thing. (I can relate to this: improvisations and making things up as we go, serendipity and chance encounters, and looking for the magic moment on that great stage that is the jam is very much in synch with what we do here, at DK.)
If you play, you play. If you design, you design. We’re the designers who love to play with ideas, words, and patterns, and that’s why we are offering this special package for *just jazz* practitioners to sample our process and get clarity on the ‘who I am and why this matters’ questions, there is now our special online workshop offer, J A Z Z. It’s by invitation, through the application process. Existential queries ahead; if you like that sort of philosophical meander while also sending us samples to listen to and talk about the arc of the narrative of your body of works, then let’s do this. Let’s talk. Apply here.
TO TIE IN with Oulun juhlaviikot on seitsemän festivaalin (the summer festival in Oulu), DK will make a popup installation of zines, drawings, and cutouts. This is part of an international series, TheBook of Songs. DK draws to live music, especially jazz, in cities like New York, San Francisco, Bangkok, Tokyo, and Kuala Lumpur.
Meet the artists, get the zine, and catch the poetry. And jazz. Free with RSVP.
RSVP through this form, location details will be announced only through email to those who get in touch. See you in Oulu!
Is it April 30? Happy International Jazz Day. Many thanks to Herbie Hancock and the United Nations for making IJD. Thanks to this year’s organizers for including DK’s first Kuala Lumpur event, STAMMTISCH, in the International Jazz Day global events listings. To celebrate, we made you a kind of mix tape. A visual mix tape, out of the jazzy images we’ve made over the years here at Design Kompany.
S P A C E
J A Z Z
A G A L L E R Y
Music? Music can save us. We’re not musicians, but we love music, and I, personally, love the improvisational music that is J A Z Z. Sometimes I like to make word-poems, like ‘The Good Stuff,’ with my team (listen on SoundCloud), but I’m mostly an appreciator. I like to go to shows and draw jazz with pens, some of those pictures are below, and sometimes, I just like to cut-and-paste while the music is playing. Live. It’s neat. It’s fun. It’s a good conversation. And it’s getting even better. Every year we meet new people, new artists, and we grow to learn more about the ‘how’ and ‘howcome’ of making Art and also making S P A C E. For now, here we are.
And here you go. May I present…
The gallery, ‘J A Z Z.’
The A side
ART x THE JAM. It’s funny. I just went to a jazz club and met some pianists who played ‘free jazz’ and ‘bebop’ and that was exactly what I wanted to hear. It is hard to come by this kind of thing, here in Asia, and in the middle of a streak of long, beautiful, meandering conversation jams I found myself boarding a bus away from KL to process everything and just kinda thinking, ‘Huh. It’s all right, then. Do the thing you want to do. Make it happen for you.’ Advice I’ve been given before, in the 1990s. By, none other than someone who introduced me to the late-late night sets of live jazz, wouldyoubelieve. More about that to come, later, in S P A C E for the members who have been part of these internet and interconnective conversations for the last four years. (Thank you).
The B side
At No Black Tie Wednesday night in KL, I met Aya Setine and Don Gomes. Talked art. Design. Writing. Engineering. Chatted away with for a long series of minutes about everything, including the good Loston Harris, whose work I really love and wish more people knew about. (Check out his cover of ‘Shall we Dance?’)
At the show, I came over with my usual supplies for the ‘Book of Songs’ series, which is an impromptu set compiled from whatever falls to hand in the moments-just-before. This time, I had my pens, paper, indexcards, and a knife. For no reason, really. But a knife for paper-cutting. Just in case. Ball point pens, in this moment. And yeah. No clipboard this time. The ball point pen worked all right. (It didn’t leak. I have been in situations where it leaks, all over, embarrassing, but kinda fun, too, because yeah, like paint to canvas, pen to paper. Flying around. Getting into it. This is the jam.)
The whole thing.
POETRY. Quickly, a shout-out. Next day, after the jazz show, there was more conversation about /the art of art/ and related tangents and suchmuch. Continuing the jamming, as there was, for me, a feeling of ‘anything is possible.’ And a conversation on Thursday. That came organically and easily, and in real life, the blind date that DK had with the poet Saarah Choudhury; wow. Look her up, ladies and gentlemen and watch this space: @eastwest_nomad, on insta. So good to meet her. And we are going to do a Q&A soon, so watch out for that, in S P A C E. (Join us, see link below for how to become a member). All of these threads got me singing in the shower again. And also, they sent me straight back to the very beginnings of this creative-life story, and the early 1990s, a time when I started writing, drawing, making it up. It’s really funny: most of the things I do are not for commercial use now. I used to do that. Day job in newspapers; illustration art (not a lot. I never managed to be any good at commission-getting with that). Not a problem, though. I let it evolve, because I needed to see where it would go. Big warm hugs to Patti Rieser, too, who taught me the ‘jazz step’ to dance to, a little bit of a square, but nothing at all squarish.
JAZZ DAY. DK are excited today to participate in a world event that brings people together to improvise, and play. Celebrating jazz, and for DK, listening out for new jazz in Southeast Asia, specifically. We’re looking forward to seeing more new voices coming out strong from this part of the world, and hoping to also make more stages (formal and informal) for all of us to get out of our regular confined melodies and play a little more !*…. What is ‘!*’? It is this. A very particular quality of space, one in which everyone is participant.
A jazz violinist, MT, got us started on this, talking about gravity and stars and constellations, so vacuous and expansive.
And a pianist, TE, inspired more, and over the years, DK happened to stumble into clubs where I found trumpet players ES (with whom we conversed with in a short Q&A here) and HG, and others, and there have even been conversations resumed from decades-old threads that started in those United States, a place called Brooklyn. Thanks, photographer Yamini Nayar, and architect IK. More recently, I am jamming on these art esoterica notes with musicians MD and GL. Talking. At length. About why we make, why we make art, and why we make space for making. These are big topics! I can expand, another time, in S P A C E.
MEET US IN S P A C E. Two last notes! For how to be part of DK’s programmes, workshops, salons amd othet things we are making, sharing, doing, delivering, conversing about, and generally designing more and better S P A C E for. The jam. (There are a whole bunch of people to mention, as I think about the life and all the jazz I’ve gotten to know, bit by bit, over the years. Bebop. Free. Let me know where that’s going on, and I’m so there. With my pens, clipboard, and a bunch of paper.) See you in the up.
DK offer an 8-week online programme, JAZZ. It’s designed for jazz artists who want to be able to succinctly, genuinely, and meaningfully answer this question for new audiences.
First impressions count.
You only get 11 second to make that first impression, according to a friend in software sales.
And: ‘Oh. You like jazz? Jazz?… Jazz has a serious (design and) marketing problem.’
The problem with jazz today: ‘It’s hard to relate’
JAZZ MUSICIANS and jazz artists might have a great time making music, but when it comes to getting other people—fans—to see the value of it, that’s quite another skill set that takes more energy and work than many are prepared to do on their own. Hiring agents is one way, sure, but even then, you have to deal with them, and handle them, and that adds a layer of relationship management that is probably not ideal. Still, in a conversation salon with a gentleman who was in his 70s and worked in commercial photography all his life, we learned that if you don’t get an agent to market your work, for you, then you might as well give it up if you have aspirations to become ‘known.’
You do the work, make the art. Perhaps you’re aware of the commencement speech about this topic, ‘Make good art‘. But… is that enough? Artists and designers and musicians and architects and we smalltime business owners each struggle with this question. How much is enough? Where do I draw the line? Am I being true to the vision I set out to do?
But back to marketing. What if you could do it yourself, but do it in a way that really works?
That’s what we are investigating in the notes below. DK are searching the web and conversing with artists to get to know what works, what doesn’t work, and how to do this marketing stuff with real class in jazz, specifically. How do you keep it real?
What came back inspired this new 8-week only programme, JAZZ.
ART x DESIGN. Wherever we go and when we connect with our creative friends, we keep digging into this question, and others, like, ‘What do you do when you’re not sure what to do?’ Artists. Designers. Illustrators. Manga-ka. People who are doing and making, and sharing, and competing with the world of clickbait, short-form, and the elusive arena of quality, which is becoming very hard to define, very quickly, in light of the plethora of ‘lookatthisnow’ and ‘lookatme’ selfie-ism and related attention-seeking bits.
IN SEATTLE in the 2000s, DK were in the business of designing brand identity. Sharpening focus, and getting people to see what it was they truly wanted to communicate. That involved deep introspection, of course. Reflective questioning. In the end, most of our clients were those in the creative fields (architects, designers, and software developers). It got interesting. It started to be about the question, ‘Why do we even make stuff?’ and sometimes more obscure and existentialist than that, ‘What am I doing with my life?’
Now, I believe, personally, from those experiences, that a big part of the reason why it’s hard to get people to see you as an artist of a particular kind (successful? Is that the word?) is because it’s hard to clarify the ‘what I’m great at’ question to yourself. I mean, communicating that in a way that people can relate to and they can see how this is going to make their life better, in some way. If you’re an artist, have you honestly asked yourself this: ‘What am I great at?’ Have you clearly narrowed it down to just one thing? When we walked through our old brand identity design process for a friend who makes electronic jazz music, he told us that the process ‘really helps me break this down.’ That was a good indicator that sometimes just talking it out and getting feedback and clarity through the process (the design process, let’s say), can get you out of the old frameworks where everything is a possibility and niching doesn’t seem possible… yet. Talking. Clarifying. Niching. These are the words of marketers, aren’t they?
In his article, ‘Marketing Jazz and the Public Perception,’ at AllAboutJazz.com, Chuck Anderson writes, ‘I have some thoughts on the marketing of jazz musicians and audiences. Though it’s easy to blame the media (and they deserve some of the blame), I think the biggest problem lies squarely on the shoulders of jazz musicians and the jazz community… This community has never promoted or marketed its art and craft at the level or with the same intensity as other musical idioms… jazz… must be marketed with consistency and enthusiasm. It needs to recognize the role of fans in the success of any artist. The musicians have to do their part in promoting and marketing their art and craft… There is too often a distance and certain type of elitism that prevents audiences from getting “close.” This distance does not help spread the “good word” about jazz… The jazz musician and the jazz industry will, like any other business, have to invest in the services that are necessary to build a fan base and achieve worldwide exposure for their music, products and services. Read the article here.
Is jazz’ problem that people can’t connect?
Or something else?
What about ‘engaging with fans?’
This thread, started by jazz guitarist Henry Robinett, parses that query. Shows the difficulty in adjusting to the ways in which jazz musicians promote themselves and find new audiences. Is social media a great thing? Or is it a pain in the neck? What about the people who are ‘making it?’ What are they doing that’s so great, and are they really making it fiscally, or just in the eyes of their social media stats-watchers? I’m totally guilty of this myself; I met a pianist I thought was great and his big-deal promoter but when I went to twitter I saw he had not-that-many-as-I-thought fans. At the time I was on twitter a ton and was ‘growing my audience,’ but now, I’ve deleted it because… who cares? I’m interested in directly engaging, one conversation at a time… Maybe that’s slower… but I’m old school that way. I care about quality connection, that’s why I’m at DK. I care about art. Relationships are art. Music that’s great is great conversation, and that, too, is art. But I’m getting off topic, aren’t I? Check out that thread… it’s on a community forum about where the music is going and how to market it.
‘Hard to relate to.’
I’m sure you’ve heard some of these things, too, before? If yes, let’s keep talking, because I think we’re hitting on something.
What jazz has that’s interesting to business: Creativity, flexibility and innovation
Maybe we’re not the first ones, though. Check out this abstract from a researcher:
This paper applies the metaphor of jazz improvisation to strategic marketing planning, making specific reference to Piercy and Morgan’s (1994) marketing planning model. Jazz metaphors have become increasingly prevalent in management studies, but as yet there is no specific reference to their use in marketing planning literature. The aim is to fill this gap by showing how the techniques of improvisation around a structural core can be applied to marketing planning models. Current models are too structurally rigid, and we outline steps to a more flexible approach. We invoke two models – ‘jazzers’ and ‘readers’ – and aim to show that ‘jazzers’ will yield greater success through greater levels of creativity, flexibility and innovation; elements that are essential to the success of strategic marketing planning. After characterising the models of jazzers and readers, we will apply them directly to Piercy and Morgan’s model of strategic marketing planning. —‘Jazz and marketing planning.’ That’s the title. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? Anyway, it’s by Noel Dennis & Michael Macaulay Read the abstract
Gain clarity and fine-tune the message with DK’s online workshop, JAZZ.
Jazz inspires business. Cool.
But what can jazz learn from business?
How to set goals, be clear about identity, make a commitment to a strategy, outline a program for communicating that vision. And yeah. Making sales.
If you are struggling with communicating your music and your style visually, DK can help. We’ve done a couple of really fun projects in the jazz scene: a drawing for a CD that came straight out of the notebook of a live-drawing session at a show in Copenhagen, for example, and a collaboration, ‘Math + Jazz,’ just ahead of a show of one of the mathematician-cum-pianists, who co-hosted with DK a small salon in the Elephant Bar at Raffles Royale in Phnom Penh. That was cool. Some pics:
Curious what people have said about working with DK?
Check out what our (mostly brand identity design) clients have said, here.
SCHEDULE. This online workshop is 8 weeks.
WHAT HAPPENS. Here’s how it works. Each week you’ll get an email with a thought-provoking conversation-starter. You’ll dialogue with DK and work through some of the ‘why do I do this?’ and ‘who wants to know?’ questions that anyone in marketing will ask you to think about. But with an additional component: a visual sketch of a single, unifying concept. The foundation for your brand. What does it look like? How does it ‘sing?’ These are questions designers like to ask their clients in early conversations during what’s called ‘the creative brief questionnaire.’ We’re going to go about it in online format, over 8 weeks. What you’ll get is a 5-word focus on the things your music does for people, and what makes it yours, uniquely, too.
WHAT YOU GET. Walk away with a clear picture of the ‘who I am’ and ‘why this matters’ questions. You’ll go through DK’s ‘focus’ programme, and we’ll work with you through an interactive conversation over 8 weeks to write your ‘brand statement’. That’s the deliverable.
FEES. This online programme is a flat, onetime fee.. Note: this does not include design, only dialogues and exchanges that lead to the ‘brand statement.’ This is a special sample-size programme that we offer so you can succinctly and memorably answer the question, ‘What’s your music like?’
Request more info
Use the form below to connect with us, sharing a link to your websites. More to follow, from there.
Join DK and jazzy guests at this conversation salon. Our theme is ‘The Prospect of Beauty’. Discover the parlor games ‘Art of Not Knowing’ and ‘Excerpts of Note,’ as shared in similar small scale salons in clubs in Tokyo, London, New York and Hanoi. RSVP requested. Tickets just $10p at the door, inclusive of materials, and exclusive of drinks. A concert follows, which is arranged separately by the venue. Advance bookings only. Book here.
IT’S NOT QUITE A CHAPBOOK, nor a novella, but rather a curation of some of the most intriguing people we’ve met in the last two decades. A curated collection of poetry and line art drawings. Some images are photographs of collages.
WHAT IT IS. It’s not quite a chapbook, nor a novella, but rather a curation of some of the most intriguing people we’ve met in the last two decades. A curated collection of poetry and line art drawings. Some images are photographs of collages. Visuals were mostly made on the spot, live to music. Mostly jazz. Paired with poems, collages, most of the time done right there, on the spot. The Book of Songs is 8 poems and one short story. Each is inspired by someone pretty darn amazing, and there are links in the back to some of their sites. It’s also a dedication: this book is for the memory of Soknea Teang.
SPECIAL OFFER. Get a free track from the Norwegian free jazz band Gunslinging Bird Quartet when you order the Book of Songs. Pretty cool song, ‘If Your Mother Was a Hamster,’ comes with your order.
A Q&A WITH ERLING SKORPEN, a jazz artist, on what makes something intriguing. ‘When you listen to a concert, and you notice that the musicians are really into what they’re doing. When you can feel the energy in the room, and there exists a special atmosphere there. That’s the feeling that best describes intrigue for us.’
IN DENMARK I got to hear a pretty neat collection of intriguing bands at a weird and fascinating spot in Copenhagen called Mandags Klubben 5e. (More about them, another time—so fun.)
But for today I want to share an interview with someone intriguing I met, whose upcoming album is another thing I’d like to share about in a future post as it has a connection to one of our own pieces of work, The Book of Songs, in an abstract, tangential sort of way. Abstract and tangential, now that I think about it, is exactly what was awesome about being there on that day last autumn.
Let me expand.
Loved the sound of a young group called Gunslinging Bird Quartet, and started drawing in ball point pen and off the page—two new things for me, at the same time. I later asked trumpeter Erling Skorpen about the style of music he and his bandmates play, and why. Free jazz.
DK: Cool show, can you tell me about your band?
EK: Through years of playing and exploring different types of music, we all found a common interest in this type of jazz music. It’s merely a process—we might part ways with this aesthetic in one year or ten years. This is the music we all love, and which inspires us right now.
DK: What makes you happy?
EK: When we are playing music and it really works out. Drinking coffee. Pleasant surprises.
DK: How do you define intrigue?
EK: When you listen to a concert, and you notice that the musicians are really into what they’re doing. When you can feel the energy in the room, and there exists a special atmosphere there. That’s the feeling that best describes intrigue for us.
DK: How do you define quality?
EK: When music is honest and it connects with the audience. When you really hear that these people mean what they do.
MEMBERS OF the band are: Trym Daniel Rødvik – alto saxophone; Erling Skorpen – trumpet; Alex Riris – double bass; Amund Nordstrøm – drums & percussion.
IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE, as Erling says and which is exactly why I enjoyed being there. Mainstream can get in the way of real connection, in my opinion. When you bumble into the unexpected and find intrigue, there is something *! that happens.
It’s delight these days, I’m convinced, that makes up the aesthetic of a new kind of ‘beautiful.’ And when I say ‘delight’ I don’t mean some user interface or an app. I mean, real life. What is the role of music in society? What is the role of poetry, of design? To make artfulness, I think. To meander, to open hearts.
But what’s your take? Comments welcome. —DK
This post originally appeared in the INTIMACY sequence of our eZine, S. P. A. C. E.
THERE IS SOME WEIRD CHRISTMAS JAZZ going on lately in my internet radio streams. This is irritating.
I’m into internet radio; a long time ago it used to be TODAY FM from out of Ireland, because, well, I like that station. Nowadays it’s jazz stuff from Denmark, since I was just there sussing things out. Tokyo in the 1990s. Other places, in the middle, for similar musical investigations, though I couldn’t have called them such, it was just hanging out back then, but most clearly the one I recall for its energy was Small’s. In New York. Cycling ‘cross the Brooklyn Bridge late late late after a show there or elsewhere, maybe not a show, maybe it was the nightclub scene. (Limelight. Yeah. Yeah.)
We never really change
ANYWAY, way back then and suddenly very recently once more, I’m on a new search. Open ears, conscious of the importance of sensing as you go, and going, and looking, listening and learning. (The work at DK in the last few years has been all about making space for people to also get lost in the uncertainty, which is of course rather esoteric but many people like to talk about Heidegger and the Nothing and I think that they are the kinds of folks who, perhaps, might be inclined to want to hear a little more. So it goes, that you find your 0.02% of the world population, if you’re lucky, that ‘get’ you and you ‘get’ them. More about that in a second, when you hit the moment of intrigue.)
Listening and learning
PEOPLE I CONNECT WITH and I share this: we’ve been looking for some new inputs.
To come back to the world of music, I’m going to many places, and lots of clubs small and smaller to see what I can hear. Many times it’s a whiff, that’s just how it is, but every so often you discover something really incredible or run into true intrigue. It happens when it happens and there’s nothing you can really say or do to create the moments of, ‘Hey, wow. This is cool.’ I used to call it ‘the a-ha,’ because that’s what designers like to talk about.
‘Yeah! That! Thatthatthatthatthat!’
It’s like this could be their whole conversation.
Boxes and edges
YOU GET INTO a box, which is in and of itself a huge amount of fussing and overcoming of inertia of the variety that you can ask me to pontificate about, if you meet me in some whiskey bar sometime. (Or if you read S. P. A. C. E.)
You see the edges a little but then you get to working out more of the details of the dimensions and the textures and you see the limitations. Yet we all have to have frameworks to make sense of things, or to let go of the pressing urgency to ‘make sense of things,’ altogether.
Play space, in the box, leads to opening of dimensions that are sentient and close, and these are the ones that make us human. Yes, human. It used to be unfashionable to talk about our humanness, but now, with the obvious limitations on what turning ourselves into machines (workworkwork) can do to our health or distract us from looking closely within to hear our own hearts, the songs there!, and discover a purpose, well. We all know how that story is going.
REAL ARTISTS are doing stuff. They don’t have to go around posting things on Medium. They just know. And so, with the heart open and the eyes wide, I looked in the corners and upon the stages to find the songs that felt right, that made me feel good. It’s a collection. And it’s gonna be called, uh…. what should it be called? Oh, right. It’s the Book of Songs. ‘Cause it’s here at the edges where things mix and come into color that the magic of the moment comes alive. Isn’t art about connection? Conversation? Discovery and making it up as we go, tripping and learning and then, a-ha!? I am writing. I am going to write the best bits into the Book of Songs. —AS