If you’ve watched an episode of Shark Tank in the last two years, chances are you’ve seen the handiwork of Nathaniel Howe without ever realizing it. Nathaniel, a talented LA-based motion graphics designer, created the design boards that anchor many of the show’s intro/outro teasers and clip sequences. In addition to Shark Tank, if you’ve tuned in to the NBA Finals or shows like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Louis and American Pickers (to name a few) you’ve already been well-introduced. Recently we caught up with Nathaniel and asked him about his unique role, process, and interests.
1. For an average viewer (including myself) that lacks knowledge of what your process looks like, how would you describe what you do on a daily basis?
Hi Andrew, thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
My day job is to create artwork that conveys a clients communication goals in an unique way. As a Creative Director my role is to develop the aesthetic tone and strategic positioning of a multimedia campaign and to ensure quality from pre-production through execution.
My work is primarily based in film and television, being freelance I work with a diverse set of clients ranging from Madonna music videos, Men In Black 3 special effects, all the way to title design and promo graphics for Shark Tank.
2. What’s the purpose of a “design board”?
A large portion of my day to day work is to create still pictures called styleframes or storyboards. These still pictures are used to convey the visual language of a campaign and guarantee everybody likes the artistic direction before the more time consuming and expensive process of animation begins.
A styleframe will define a visual language (what do the graphics and typography look like, what style photography is used and why, what’s the tone and mood, what are the main colors, how does the look of the graphics connect with marketing goals and target audience etc).
When ABC approached us to brand Shark Tank we began by learning about the show, the target audience, and the brand qualities of ABC as a channel. We then took what we learned and started creating multiple
sets of styleframes to give ABC creative choices as to how they wanted their show represented. Once everybody agreed on a show logo and a style was selected we began animating the motion graphics that you see on-air to this day.
3. In a typical episode of Shark Tank, images of sharks swimming above Manhattan skyscrapers are shown just before the start of the show as well as immediately before new segments. What can you tell us about the genesis of this idea?
The sharks circling the skyscrapers was a visual motif I came up with during the early style development for Shark Tank and it was one of the first things ABC really responded to. I began by thinking about
the raw qualities of cut-throat, tense business negotiations. I thought about the way the investors would fight for a deal and turn on each-other, doing whatever it would take once there was blood in the water.
I wanted to create a striking image that would juxtapose the world of business and the metaphorical similarities of a school blood-thirsty sharks ready to strike. The animation team did a great job blending
animated sharks and footage of real sharks to create the final composite used during the title sequence.
4. What can you tell us about your role in creating design boards for Shark Tank?
I had an amazing team of artists and producers working on Shark Tank with me and it was an absolute pleasure to brand the show. It is always more fun when you actually enjoy the show you are working
on, I remember watching the early pilot episodes of Shark Tank and getting really into it. To this day I still set my DVR to record every episode.
Shark Tank has gone beyond the initial entertainment value of negotiations to a rich and eclectic show that conveys many different emotions. Shark Tank has truly developed into something that changes lives and rewards hardworking entrepreneurs and I am proud to have worked on it.
5. Television post-production like the production itself appears to be a very collaborative environment. Does that hold true with your work in general, and specifically on Shark Tank?
Absolutely. I am fortunate enough to work with some of the best artists and producers in the world and through collaboration we ensure our clients receive a well-rounded diverse style exploration and
On Shark Tank we would sit and watch the pilot episode together and discuss how the show made us feel, what imagery or adjectives it brought to mind, what colors it invoked etc. All of this collaborative
dialogue was extremely important to the creative process.
6. Based on your portfolio, you routinely work with iconic brands and television properties. Is it daunting to put a new spin on an established brand? After working with both existing and new brands, do you enjoy one challenge over the other?
The freedom of working with a new brand is liberating and exciting, however the visual power and thrill of dropping in a Coke or Nike logo into your design feels nice also! I honestly don’t prefer one over the
other, I just want a project that gets my team and I fired up and passionate, I want my clients to feel passionate and to be excited about how we can push the brand. Sometimes you need to push a brand or
style too far, then let it get dialed back into a zone where everybody from the corporate suits, to the sponsors feel comfortable. I try and push a little past the edge because we can always bring it down a
notch, it’s better to turn heads too far then to not move them at all.
7. In addition to wrangling motion graphics and brands on a daily basis, your Twitter profile mentions that you trade stocks and commodities on the side. What sparked your interest in investing? What keeps you interested when it comes to investing?
My father is a professional trader, so that is part of what sparked my interest. Growing up I was captivated by film, cinematography and art, I wanted nothing to do with math or finance but one day about 5 years ago I woke up and wondered if I could be a successful trader. To be honest, I thought trading would be easy, so I decided to give it a chance. I quickly learned that trading is an incredibly difficult
and complex art with it’s own rules and nuances.
My first big winners showed me the potential to generate wealth, my first big losers taught me to be humble and respect the market. I primarily day-trade futures contracts, and swing trade securities in
the equity market. I have enormous respect for the difficulty, focus, patience and discipline it takes to be a successful and consistently profitable trader. Trading is a lot like golf, it’s “you vs yourself”
I really enjoy the challenge of trying to master myself and the art of trading it is a nice change of pace from the design world.
8. For all your fellow entrepreneurs (and Shark Tank fans), is there an entrepreneurial tip or piece of advice that you’d like to share?
“If you want something, make yourself ready to receive it.”
Develop an burning passion to create the life and business you desire, spend time everyday to reaffirm and realign yourself with those goals. Look for win-win situations in business, that is the only way to
create sustainable success and grow a loyal client/employee base. Treat people well, protect your reputation and pursue your dreams with unrelenting effort and determination.
Make sure to laugh along the way.
Thanks again for taking the time to speak with me, and a special
thanks to our whole team involved with Shark Tank!
Our thanks to Nathaniel for the great insight into his creative process, and also the encouragement and advice! We encourage all Shark Tank fans and entrepreneurs to follow Nathaniel on Twitter. And of course if you’re looking for an experienced Creative Director or motion graphics expert for your next project, check out his online portfolio.