Interview with Dylan Anderson graphic designer at April Skateboards

Interview with Dylan Anderson, graphic designer at April Skateboards

December 9, 2023

Dylan Anderson is an artist and illustrator from Atlanta, Georgia and has been the graphic designer at April Skateboards since 2021. We had the opportunity to talk with him to learn more about the aesthetic of the brand co-founded by Australian pro skater Shane O’Neill. Join us as we delve into Dylan’s creative process, his inspirations, and his art.
How did you start designing graphics for April?
I have been doing a lot of graphic work for bands and musicians, like album covers and artwork, because I have a background in music and music production and things of that nature. So that’s what came to me in the beginning of my career into digital art, putting it on the internet and making Instagram kind of my central hub where people could find me and commission my work. Then one day, just out of the blue, Shane O’Neill hit me up and he was like: “Hey, I really love your work, I would love to talk to you more in detail about your graphics and if you would be interested in creating some one-offs for us”. And over time, that formed a relationship, a good rapport with him, doing one-offs here and there. Then that eventually got me into the skateboard brand, as their graphic artist.
When was it?
I think it was around January 2021, I was doing some one-off graphics for them but then joined the company officially in March.
Interview with Dylan Anderson graphic designer at April Skateboards Graphics 1
Did Shane tell you why he chose you?
It’s interesting because from what I could glean from their past board graphics, they really loved the 80’s airbrush inspired look. They had artists like Keith Rankin and Patrick Savile. Shane really wanted the brand identity to be that 80’s airbrush style and I think that’s what he saw in my work since I really love that era of art work. I don’t actually do airbrushed artwork, with an actual airbrush, but he liked that representation of it through the digital artwork that I was doing. Since they were a relatively new company, they were trying to develop a brand identity and so we’ve been slowly figuring out that idea of what these graphics would look like. You know when you see a board and you’re like: “Oh that’s a Baker board” or “Oh that’s a Chocolate board”, they have a very unique style.
So you’re the art director? What is your position with April?
I don’t know if they’ve given me a clear indication. We get many ideas from the actual skateboarders themselves, sometimes it’s through Chris Middlebrook [April co-founder] or Shane, sometimes it’s just ideas that I come up with myself. I think we’re all kind of creative directors in our own way [laughs].
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Did you design boards before April?
No, so I’ve had to become acclimated to the skateboarding world itself because I had no prior experience in skateboards. I hardly knew anything about the skateboarding world and so this has become a really great challenge for me. Especially when it comes to the type of canvases I worked on, it’s a whole new challenge of how to fit graphics onto boards and make it look tasteful. It’s something that I’m still trying to master. It’s been very fascinating to see the body of artists who have been doing it, who have come before me and how they implement their graphics onto skateboards. So that’s definitely been something that I’m trying to become more accustomed to and thinking outside the box of a square that you would see on an album cover.
I believe it’s very interesting that you don’t really have a skateboard background because you’re not influenced by any skate company.
Yeah and that’s the fascinating part about it. They’ve been very accommodating and amazing, like showing me graphics they really vibe with and that they really love. I’ve been trying to study what works and what makes a good skateboard graphic.
Interview with Dylan Anderson graphic designer at April Skateboards Illustrations 1
Did you look for skate brands at first for inspiration or you kept doing what you were doing the best?
I definitely get a lot of influence looking at people like FA and Hockey and all these really great companies. I know there’s a clear difference between what the graphic looks like and then how you lay it out on the board, whether that’s horizontally or vertically. I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate my own style and lay it on the board in a very tasteful way, kind of how these other companies are implementing their work.
What level of freedom do you have designing April graphics?
Over the time spent working for them, I feel like they’ve been very open. They really let me explore the realms of creative freedom. I do like Shane’s more clean and more direct approach. I love when my clients are very direct with me, especially when it comes to commission work, because if what they want is very ambiguous, we could work on a graphic for months and nothing get done, but if they have a very central idea in mind, a very specific idea, it helps reach that idea quicker.
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Which skater is the most involved with their board graphics?
Ish Cepeda has great ideas, the ideas he sends to Chris are very imaginative, he’s definitely in the same wheelhouse that I am in. He loves space and space exploration and National Geographic and a lot of sci-fi themed inspired type work, it’s right up my alley. Guy Mariano, I love his passion for his graphics. He can talk your ear off for hours about what he would want in a graphic, but sometimes we’re trying to meet deadlines and it can work against us [laughs]. Ish and Guy’s ideas are very creative and I always love their passion and how specific they are about what they want as far as graphics go.
What is your relationship with the skaters of the team?
Unfortunately besides Chris and Shane, I haven’t really had a very good rapport. I’m sure that will come down the line but we don’t really talk to each other that much, mainly because I’m on the East Coast [of USA] and everybody lives on the West. Shane is kind of the middleman there and he tells me what ideas they have or if they like the graphic or not or if they’re resonating with it.
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I hope you’ll meet the team very soon and have a better connection.
Yeah, I’m hoping in the future that we can definitely have a better rapport with some of the skaters. I mean, they’re so prolific and super talented, I would love to pick their brain and know what interests them and what music they listen to when they skate. Because all that stuff is really informative of who they are and that gives me a good sense of what type of inspiration I can draw up for them.
Do you keep all the decks you design?
Yes! April has been very gracious, sending me all the decks that I’ve created for them and the merchandise, because I also do their clothing as well. So I’ve been very fortunate that I get to keep all the decks, I have some of them hung up on my wall even though I don’t skateboard myself and I don’t have any trucks on them [laughs]. There are some that I really cherish and that I’m very proud of.
Interview with Dylan Anderson graphic designer at April Skateboards Favorite Board Graphic
Interview with Dylan Anderson graphic designer at April Skateboards Favorite Board Graphic Photo
“The artist Jon Baken did this graphic for Sci-Fi Fantasy and it blew my mind. It’s the best graphic I’ve ever seen. I don’t know why that graphic spoke to me in the way it did, but Jon did something that really inspired me. He keeps doing great things for Jerry’s [Hsu] company, with a very forward thinking type of graphics. He’s doing a lot of great graphics that I feel nobody else is doing and I respect his work so much. It’s very subtle, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, it doesn’t have to be crazy or fill up the whole thing with nonsense. It’s just a very simple style graphic of a translucent motorcycle in a field and to me there’s something so beautiful about that. I don’t know if it is assigned to a skateboarder on the Sci-Fi Fantasy team but I love that graphic and it’s something that inspires me still today.”
I believe that even non-skaters can relate to good graphics on a skateboard.
That’s a great point, they become another piece of canvas and that’s what I love about them. It’s another unique canvas that I can hang up on my wall and I even have decks from other companies that I really love and that help me feel more inspired.
What’s your favorite skate brand?
I really love Sci-Fi Fantasy and FA. I really love their graphics, they’re very inspirational.
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What’s the favorite board graphic you designed?
That’s a great question…
The first one? The Ish Cepeda board.
You know, it’s kind of like with anything, you have something you’ve done in the past and you always think your most current work is better. I know it’s not like that all the time but I was a little bit harder on myself during those first graphics. Like that first year of graphics, I felt like I could have done a little bit better but I was still learning a lot. I feel now I’ve come into a better understanding of what my graphics are in the scope of the skateboarding world. My favorite one, as of now, would probably have to be the Guy Mariano graphic I did of the hummingbird, I loved putting that piece together. Or the newer Ish Cepeda graphic, the geographic one with him around all the deer in the nature scene. I really loved doing that one, it took some time but it was a really great challenge.
Interview with Dylan Anderson graphic designer at April Skateboards Quote 3
Most of the decks you designed are vertical, do you prefer it that way or is it something Shane asked for?
That’s funny you say that, my mind wants to take things and stretch them out the other way because that’s what I’m used to, so having graphics going down the board has been the most challenging part to me. That’s what I’ve had to become accustomed to because I think Shane really likes his graphics that way but he has been trying to push me into being a little bit more experimental and maybe doing graphics horizontally. It’s just that a lot of those ideas at this time haven’t really been implemented that way yet.
So what makes a good skate graphic?
I want one that speaks to me or that really inspires me. But what makes me feel like I’ve done my job and makes me walk away happy from a project is if I really nail down what the pro skaters want and if they’re happy with it and sticking with it. I think that’s what’s most important to me, that I get something for them that encapsulates them and makes them feel like they’re very proud to ride that board. At the end of the day that means the most to me.
Interview with Dylan Anderson graphic designer at April Skateboards Illustrations 2
Do you use your art to convey a message or is it just purely aesthetic?
It’s purely aesthetic. I feel like my work is very apolitical, I never really try to say anything. I know some of my pieces outside of April can be very melancholic, I like the feeling of uneasiness but there’s a beauty in it. Whether it’s a liminal space or an empty space that makes you feel you’ve been there. You would never have been there because it exists in a fantasy world but somehow it feels familiar at the same time, I really love to capture that otherworldly type of feeling. I love that ambiguity, I try not to be super heavy handed with being symbolic. At the end of the day, I just want people to love my work. Once you release something out into the world it becomes theirs at that point, it’s not yours anymore.
When I look at your square graphics, I feel like every graphic could be a cover for a Pink Floyd album. Are you a fan of the band?
That’s awesome, I love that! I have a more nostalgic value to Pink Floyd mainly because my father listened to them and when I was growing up as a kid, he would have me listen to many of the Pink Floyd albums. He had a vinyl collection and going through all these different graphics and just looking at them, you could almost be transported even without the music. I personally think Pink Floyd is amazing, they’re bigger than life right [laughs].
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So what are you working on for April right now?
I’m working on a good amount of graphics. Dashawn Jordan just joined the April team, so I’m working on some new graphics for him and for Yuto and for some of the other pros. Then, for the Nike Dunk collab, we are releasing a board that I did of the shoe. So basically working on some new ideas for clothing and apparel and that side of the range, dipping my toes into many things obviously. I’m really excited for all of it and I can’t wait for people to see what we roll out. I remember someone saying: “Oh these are April graphics”, it feels good to be able to have a familiar and signifying type of style.
That’s the best I can wish for you and for the brand, I mean, what a team, there are some pretty heavy skaters!
It’s nuts! I feel like they have the A-team. It’s kind of wild that Shane has been able to gather the heavy hitters. They’re all super phenomenal athletes, it’s incredible.
Check out more of Dylan Anderson’s designs on instagram.