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Nathaniel Howe: Branding the Shark Tank

By   /   August 10, 2011  /   13 Comments

Shark Tank design boards

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 Howe, 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 Howe 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.

NBA Finals on ABCConanAMC RebrandA 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?

Shark Tank design boardShark Tank design boardThe 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
creative approach.

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 Howe 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 Howe on Twitter. And of course if you’re looking for an experienced Creative Director or motion graphics expert for your next project, check out Nathaniel Howe’s online portfolio.

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About the author

Owner

Andrew, a Chicago-based web professional and entrepreneur, has owned and operated InTheSharkTank since 2011. Some of his favorite past Shark Tank business pitches include UniKey, Lollacup, Daisy Cakes, and Pork Barrel BBQ. When he's not busy running the website or live-tweeting, Andrew actively pursues disappointment by following the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls. Google+

13 Comments

  1. Jen in 323 says:

    Wow that guy has got some mad skillz. Hey any word on season 3 casting? My brother-in-law applied and he’s going nuts, hasn’t heard anything yet.

    Jen

  2. sandy begg says:

    Brilliant design

  3. Rob Tuttle says:

    Cool interview, I wish I could hire Nathaniel to do my business cards :)

  4. There were roughly 800 video entrants for season 3. Roughly 130 of those entrants were or will be called to present to the Sharks. Roughly half of those, 65 or so, will actually make it on tv. But all 130 get to work deals with the Sharks.

    They contacted and filmed about half of the 130 selected in late July. They have contacted the other half for filming in September.

    I think what’s frustrating to me is that at the end of June I was told to rush rush rush and get my video in. So I spent multiple sleepless nights putting together my video. Which is fine, but the quality could have been better with more time. Then I “same day” shipped my video to casting. That cost me about $200. All of this would be fine if I haven’t been hearing from a myriad of folks that they were being contacted to send in videos as late as the end of July. So, I could have spent more time making my video and could have spent less money shipping it. The time issue being the bigger frustration, as it looks as though we have not been selected and it’s possible that our video quality held us back.

    Oh well. Shark Tank isn’t essential to our success, but I will say there are no bigger fans of the show and we were sure looking forward to pitching Hail Guardian to the Sharks. The product is highly relevant to over 100M automobile owners in the USA and over 500M worldwide. It is possible we are stuck with more electronic turkey basters, broccoli wads and kid vomit bags. It’s a head scratcher at best. Guess they think such things sell commercials, but what they don’t understand is it is people like us that watch the show and cringe at all the broccoli wads and pray for something of substance and relevance to walk through the doors.

    Viewership may have peaked in season 2 if they don’t start getting more substance and relevance into the show. Can’t believe Mark Cuban would let his brand and time be a part of a pure puppet show. Cuban will eventually speak up. As for the others, fame and appearance paychecks may be enough.

  5. I’ve been waiting since last Thursday for my order. The sender has voided the UPS tracking number created for this shipment. UPS does not have possession of this shipment. Then Chef sends email saying upgraded to overnight, that was Friday night, thought Saturday, but still no shrimp burgers. Several emails later and on Sunday I get this:

    Patrick,

    I sorry for the confusion with your order. Order# 79 was sent to another address by error. We have taken the liberty to upgrade your shipping to overnight for Tuesday AM delivery. We apologize dearly.and I’m sure you will enjoy your burgers. Thank you for having interest in our products, we will make sure in the future this never happens again.

    Chef.

    Buyer Beware – SHARP TANK – Knew!

  6. This is the latest example of what Shark Tank passed up with us:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/hailguardian?feature=mhee#p/a/u/0/jsHntoOMdhk

    $20B with a “B” market in the US alone. Just 1% capture rate equals $200M.

    Patent Pending. Epic relevance.

    Peace, all.

  7. Andrew says:

    Hi Pat,

    This is not a support site for CBS Foods, and your comment doesn’t fit into this thread. However, I approved it for a reason. And that reason is, just from what you described it’s apparent to me that Chef Big Shake is providing you with great service, probably unbeknownst to you. I highly doubt after paying for overnight shipping that Chef is making any money from your order. His company is probably losing money. He described the gap in service and is making it right. Not sure what more you can ask for in the case of what sounds to be an honest mistake.

    Yes, it stinks that you have to wait a few extra days for your order, but put this in perspective. You’re ordering shrimp burgers over the Internet, and they’re arriving via overnight shipping. Who could have imagined that 5/10/20 years ago? It’s amazing. Take heart, and if you feel like it, let us know how the burgers turn out.

    This is a funny diversion to an otherwise great thread about Nathaniel’s great design work. Thanks for all the comments, keep ‘em coming!

    Andrew
    Principle/Content Director
    InTheSharkTank.com

  8. Mark Rushford says:

    Hail Guardian,
    How many of your products have you sold so far? And did you end up getting on Shark Tank? Because I found one of your videos that say you’re a season 3 participant. Congratulations! Looking forward to season 3 and best of luck getting a deal!

    –Mark
    Frustrated Inventor

  9. By participant, I mean video entrant. I’m not on the show, yet.

    As far as how many products I’ve sold so far, the answer is in talks with a handful of companies across the US to license our tech/design. They’ll be the ones to sell it. Too capital intensive to be a manufacturer myself.

    Don’t be frustrated, brother, people like you and I just need to keep pushing on. If this was easy, anybody could do it. But!, the payoff can be huge. Focus on the next step and not how far the end goal might be. I’m saying this to myself everyday. Make progress everyday, somehow, someway.

  10. Why was the show changed from ‘Dragon’s Den’ (Canada, U.K.) to ‘Shark Tank’ in the U.S.?

  11. Different profit center Mr. Feigin.

  12. Here is the latest from Hail Guardian, including Time Lapse Video:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/hailguardian?feature=mhee#p/a/u/0/jBEoKAttRfA

  13. I really enjoy watching The Shark Tank. Thank you to the group for all your kindness and for helping people dreams come true.
    http://www.ingridsartworks.com

    Happy Thanks Giving to you and your families.

    Kind Regards
    Ingrid Wilson

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