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How This Millennial Illustrator Got to Work with Nike and Converse

It’s not just social media and emails

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D'ana Nunez, aka COVL, inside her Brooklyn, NY studio / Sarah Jacobs/ONE37pm

D'ana Nunez, aka COVL (which stands for Craft Onward Versatility Lifestyle), is a storyteller. Her childlike imagination paired with her incredible talent for illustration and art direction has landed her clients such as Instagram, Puma, Foot Locker and Red Bull.

 

At just 29 years old, COVL has built her freelance business from the ground up. Taking important lessons from her past full-time jobs, she has achieved success through the idea that if a project doesn’t scare her, then she shouldn’t be doing it.

This month she'll launch a line of summer products, taking her illustrations from the digital world into the physical. COVL’s “Summer Starter Pack” will include phone cases, towels, workout clothes and tote bags. The products, all adorned with her signature colors of poppy red and bright pink, communicate her work's main goal: “to bring warmth into your life.”    

 

ONE37pm talked to Nunez about how she’s landed major clients (hint: it’s not just about social media and emails), what the jump from full-time to freelance was like and how millennials are carving their own career paths in a way that no generation has done before.

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COVL's studio space in Brooklyn, NY / Sarah Jacobs/ONE37pm

What was your career like before freelancing?

 

D’ana Nunez: I did a lot of [full-time] agency work, and I was the creative director of one. When I had those corporate jobs, I always had a takeaway of what I did and did not want, as far as leadership goes. No matter the structure you have as a company, if your leader doesn't have empathy or compassion or a sense of acknowledgment of other people's well-being, you can't expect that structure to last.

 

Doing side gigs while working in the corporate world allowed me to create a workflow that I wanted to abide by for myself when I was ready.

What was the deciding moment of when you knew you could go freelance?

 

Nunez: Freelance is scary and it is daunting. But I've always affiliated fear and failure with the notion of doing what I'm supposed to be doing. If I didn't feel fear, and if I did not fail at something that I love doing, then is that really hustle? Is that really my craft? Is that something that I want to live for?     

 

Freelancers are writing a narrative that no one has written before. More than ever, millennials want to work for themselves and create their own career paths and not go by the book. We're working and becoming a part of this narrative that has never been written before and that only boils down to what works best for you.

 

Before going freelance I asked myself, “What does leadership look like to you? What does a good, healthy, creative workflow look like to you? How do you want to communicate with your clients? What makes you special?”

If I didn't feel fear...then is that really hustle?

- D’ana Nunez

How did you get the job with Instagram to create its Desert Chill event and performance space at this year’s Coachella?

 

Nunez: My fairy godmother, Fadia Kader, works at Instagram doing music partnerships. Over the years we've kept in touch, building this relationship. Before Instagram, Fadia and I worked together creating limited-edition Frida Kahlo pins for her personal brand.

 

When the opportunity [for the Coachella space] came about, she just thought that no one else could fulfill that role as I could.

Was that your first time working on a massive 3-D space like that?

 

Nunez: Red Bull was my first one. Last year I worked on Swetboxx, where I did all the creative direction for it and an art installation within the party. That was pretty immense as well. The experience taught me a lot. At that time, I was handling all the assets—it was just a one-woman band at that time.

 

For Instagram, [I worked with] their own production and creative team, and I led in the art direction of it all.

When did you decide to build out your own team and hire a manager?

 

Nunez: When shit got real. For the longest time, my fiance and I were handling all of the negotiating, all of the licensing and all of the design work. [Doing all] that begins to deteriorate your creative process. Instead of being 100 percent creative, it was more like 50/50, and that wasn't right.

 

I knew how to handle my business by then. I knew how to tell my manager a workflow that worked really well for me.

 

Our relationship is very organic. It was about finding someone I can vibe with, and also someone who wants it just as bad as I do. I want to be able to see you at eye level at any time—not behind me and not in front of me. It has to be equal all the time.

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How did you get your jobs with Nike and Converse?

 

Nunez: Relationships. This is something my manager has been teaching me a lot. Your relationships have to go outside of the office and outside of email.

 

The way I got the Nike opportunity was that my manager was having dinner with their team, [just to see] how they were doing. Then the conversation of what [they were working on] came up, and she was like, ‘Wait, I have an artist who can be perfect for this project,’ and within 24 hours I was looking at the brief and I was agreeing to the terms.

 

The reason why I've been getting these opportunities is, yes, my artwork is solid and I feel really confident about what I do, but also those people trust me as an individual.

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