DAL & BEN
Advertising creatives, and founders of art project-turned-business: Hateboards.
I meet Dal and Ben on a rainy Saturday near the Southbank skatepark.
They’re both creatives in top London advertising agencies. Ben has awards from both Creative Circle and D&AD and Dal has just finished a Ted talk. He created a campaign called ‘Trash Isles’: an official application for the mass of floating plastic in the sea to be registered as an official country. The campaign reached ½ billion people.
They also both love side projects.
Together they are the creators of Hateboards.
Hateboards are skateboards that allow you to grind down the face of the people you hate as you skate. Beautifully illustrated caricatures of figures like Farage, Trump and Kanye West adorn the underside of the boards. The more you skate, the more you destroy them. They’ve been featured in Vice, Design Week and Campaign, and can be bought in 15 stores U.K.wide.
I caught up with them on why side projects matter, how to grow them, and why they shouldn’t always be commercial.
How did Hateboards develop?
Ben: “It started as an art project, an art piece.
The idea was that you could use the faces of controversial people, and then grind em down. I went ‘what do you think of the idea?’ Dal went, ‘That’s fucking cool. We should just do it’.”
“We were gonna do a series and then an expo, but then thought they’re quite fun to sell commercially as people actually wanted to skate on them”
Dal: “It was simple idea. We only started with one board. We could walk away after the first fifty. We just thought fine we’ll stump up the cash, couple of hundred each. Worst case scenario we’ve lost a couple of hundred quid each”
How hard is it to set up something like that?
Ben: “You can draw a stick figure and get it printed… it’s not the hardest thing to implement. We didn’t need beta-testing or anything. We literally made a website… on squarespace. If you want to make it commercially viable it’s a bit more complicated. Right now, all decks are in limited runs of 50”.
How did you manage to get it off the ground?
Dal: “A friend of mine from Cardiff is a storyboard artist, he does comic books as his side thing himself. We were talking about Hateboards and flicking through facebook and we were like ‘he could do these!’ We gave him couple of boards as payment and a bit of money, and that’s it”
“Someone in california did a one off run… and then after that we were like OK there’s a place in Spain, there’s a place in China that will do them…”
Would you consider it a side project or side “hustle”?
Ben: “A side project. Selling skateboards is a bit of a stupid hustle, as you’ve gotta buy all the boards and then store them at home.”
“But they’re cool bits of art. People buy them just to put them on their wall.”
How did you find the time?
Ben: “Just at the weekends… mostly remotely... weekly pub sessions. Once you’ve got the design, it’s done all remotely, they print it and we just got them delivered at work”
Dal “Actually it did take quite a long time to do didn’t it? It was almost a year before we ramped it up. But there were quite long gaps in between because we were really busy.”
Does having a side project make you better with your day to day work?
Ben: “I think it does for creatives. It’s just good when a client’s killed your idea for the 5th time, that you’ve got something that you’re in control of. It gives you a bit of sanity”
“Everyone gets frustrated with the work getting destroyed by clients, [but here] you’re your own client. If you present this to a client they’d be like “whoaaa Hate’s a strong word…How about ‘Slightly Mean Boards’? When you’re your own client, we can make these things as spiky as we want. No client would do it as they’d be worried about being sued…”
“As long as you’re delivering all your briefs… agencies are usually happy if their creatives are doing other stuff as it shows drive.”
Dal: “When a creative does a drawing, we wait for the client to buy it… and then you have to go and produce it, with a producer and an illustrator, or photographer or even director, You’re reliant on other people to get it done. Whereas with a side project you have to learn to be more self aware, you take on the producer’s role, to some extent the account man’s role, you have to go to shops and convince the shops that your product is worth stocking. It’s practice I guess.”
“It makes you more valuable to the company you work for. Because there aren’t that many people doing it - successful ones. The amount of times it’s brought up in meetings...”
Have you always done side projects?
Dal: “I like being more hands on and doing stuff. You have to be like that.”
“Before hateboards, I used to do a lot of illustration. I kept having ideas for adverts that never went anywhere. So I ended up doing them myself.
“I’ve always wanted to do stuff on the side. The more of it you do, the more confident you are that you can pull it off. Because if you haven’t done any it’s kinda hard isn’t it? It’s daunting, you go ‘is it going to work? Are people going to like it?’”
It looks like people do like it.
Dal has since made the decision to move to Melbourne. He recently did a Instagram poll asking whether he should take them to Australia. The answer was a resounding yes. Sometimes a crazy idea, hatched over some Thursday night beers, can become something you never expected it to. Launching in Australia, and with an ever-growing online following, Hateboards will soon be a global business… almost by accident.
SOME TOP TIPS:
To avoid criticism, move fast.
Ben: “With Hateboards, it moved really quickly, so we spoke about it - and the next time somebody else saw it, the boards were made”
“it’s a lot harder to put something down when you’ve got the finished article in front of you… if you’re just talking to somebody about the idea before anything’s been physically made it’s much easier to kill .
Side projects help creativity
Ben: “Everyone has a good idea in the pub right? The pub is littered with echoes of wicked ideas. But three more pints down and they’re forgotten, you just need to try and keep them alive.”
Show your idea to people who understand the process.
Ben: “I was showing it to other creatives while at work. I probably didn’t explain the idea to anyone who I thought wouldn’t get it”
Don’t be afraid to start
Ben: “Even if you think the idea is weird, it’s still cool that you’re doing something. There’s a guy at work who makes balsamic vinegar on the side. He did a course somewhere… and it’s super random but cool.”