So, is Scott a robot? What does he eat that he has so much energy and ambition? Why don’t you have Dadich-level ambition? What’s wrong with you? So many questions. Unfortunately, for this series of eight conversations with Scott–this first one regarding legendary shoe designer and Abstract subject Tinker Hatfield–Semi Permanent were only able to broach the queries that were not ridiculous. Scott’s a busy man. Enthusiastic, optimistic, and the dictionary definition of the Texan Gent–but, my God, he’s busy.
Are you excited to be barbequed with some really heavy questions?
(laughter) Yes. I’m so happy to talk to you.
So you’re leaving WIRED now after eleven years.
Just about eleven years, yeah. I actually have three more days. I’m hangin’ it up on Friday. January 27th is my last day.
And what are you going to knock-off on your last day? You’ve gotta get in the stationary closet and steal some post-its ‘n shit.
Oh, yeah, a whole bunch of pens and post-its are comin’ my way for sure. (laughter)
So you’re leaving WIRED and you’re starting up your own design firm–and you’re about to release a series on Netflix.
"First and foremost, I have benefited from communities of greatness starting back at Texas Monthly and in the New York design and magazine community, then the WIRED team, and the great resources and intelligence and creativity of the Netflix team. I’ve just been very fortunate to have access to some of the greatest design and literary minds of our era."Scott Dadich
So I guess my first question is what drives you, what do you eat, how much sleep do you get each night, and what is your most disgusting habit?
Really, why am I not as successful as you? That’s what I’m asking, Scott.
(laughter) Well, I have been fortunate to work with some of the most talented people in media and journalism and storytelling across the entire span of my career. First and foremost, I have benefited from communities of greatness starting back at Texas Monthly and in the New York design and magazine community, then the WIRED team, and the great resources and intelligence and creativity of the Netflix team. I’ve just been very fortunate to have access to some of the greatest design and literary minds of our era. I’ve tried to glom off of all of them as much as humanly possible, but, you know, one of things that I love to do is to take on challenges when I don’t know how the outcome will take shape; I have some notion that it’s all gonna work out, but I think it probably goes back to my earliest days as a magazine art director faced with the daunting prospect of filling a magazine with words and pictures; you’d never really know how it was all going to turn out, but at some point the printing press is going to turn on and you damn well better have your shit together.
Do you enjoy that aspect of working at a magazine?
I love that.
I was a magazine editor for about five years and those print deadlines cost me a lot of hair.
(Laughter) Well, that’s what the whiskey is for.
Does your leaving WIRED have anything to do with getting Obama to guest edit the November issue and then thinking, "Well, this is as good as it’s going to get"?
You know, there is an element of that…
I knew it.
The President has long been a hero of mine; I volunteered for him in both campaigns.
Yeah. He has been such a shining beacon of how one ought to conduct themselves, how to be a great participant in a civil democracy, so, you know, getting to meet and work with him and his team at the White House was really a career defining moment. I probably wouldn’t feel so completist about it if I hadn’t had the previous ten and a half years behind that, working with visionaries like Bill Gates and Serena Williams and J.J. Abrams and Christopher Nolan; it’s just felt like the completion of a very significant arc of my professional development, and simultaneously awoke a desire in me to go do more with more people, and I think that was certainly part of one of the realizations that I had working on Abstract for the past two years as well: there are so many opportunities for a person with my skillset, and there are so many people I am yet to learn from. It was about finding a way to say yes to more opportunity.
Okay, let’s talk about the new Netflix show, Abstract: The Art of Design. How’d it kick off?
Well, first there’s my two creative partners, Dave O’Connor from Radical Media, and Morgan Neville, the Oscar-winning documentarian and filmmaker. Dave and I were the first to partner up and meet with Radical Media and Justin Wilks. Dave and I had been talking about how to build out our creative team, and we really wanted to work with Morgan–the films that he had done are some of my favorite–and as we got him onboard we started mapping a whole roster of people who we’d be interested in profiling.
"What I love about spending time with designers is that they are dealing with the same issues most of us deal with in our own lives and careers: How do you balance form and function, schedule/budgets and creative freedom? Design is the process of navigating those poles, and I’ve found it hugely applicable to my life. I think others will too."Morgan Neville
"I hope Abstract: The Art of Design allows our audience to see the intentionality behind the things that surround us every day, and how nearly everything we interact with on a daily basis is the output of a design process that begins with the work and ideas and compromises of other people. Whether the design works or not, that’s how it got there. I think it helps you see the world a bit more clearly, and perhaps shift your perception of what happens around us more clearly."Dave O'Connor
How did you select the designers you’d feature?
Morgan came up with a very useful set of frameworks that we dubbed in shorthand "the Morgan Matrix." And, without boring you with all the decisions that went into it, it was about doing work that was highly relevant, about having a great personality and great charisma, people who are fun to be around and who like sharing their work, but they work in media that are relevant to wide numbers of people, and a couple of other factors went into the selection process.
And Tinker Hatfield is on the show.
Yeah. Tinker was one of the first people that we had thought about and talked about, and Dave O’Connor was a great advocate of including him on the list. In talking to Tinker and talking to the team about the incredible record of design work that he has done, it was just a no-brainer; there was such a rich vein of stories. And it was coincident with the revealing of the HyperAdapt 1.0, the E.A.R.L. self-lacing sneaker.
Oh, that thing is crazy.
Yeah, so we had the happy confluence of having the legacy of a careers worth of great design work in concert with a brand-new, highly innovative product that was just coming to market.
What did you learn from Tinker?
I learned so much from Tinker. He is one of the most voracious creatives I’ve ever encountered. He draws constantly, his mind is running constantly. But one of the coolest things to learn from him was that he is such a proponent of being out in the world, of going hiking and riding motorcycles, meeting new people and playing sports, having new experiences. And it is for Tinker those experiences that are the true source of his inspiration. So there is always a relentlessness in him and in his team and colleagues at Nike to find that next thing, whether it’s a new manufacturing process or inventing a new kind of texture or textile, he is driven by the need to create the new, and to try things and experiment. I learned from him that it’s just as important to get out into the world as it is being head down in the studio; whereas someone like Christophe Niemann is about being in the studio from nine to five every day, and these two creatives couldn’t be more different in their practice, but both have achieved so very much in their careers.
Do you think Tinker benefits from having his career begin prior to the rise of digital design methods?
Oh, absolutely. He just sent me a new drawing last night that he had done with a number two pencil. So he can still practice in the highly analogue, but I also saw him last weekend at the Sundance premier drawing on his iPad. So he’s someone that the technologies are probably irrespective of his sheer need to create and keep momentum going on that creative process of making and doing.
I’m assuming you must’ve worn one of his designs and thought, "This is awesome," before you even met him.
Oh yeah, I mean I’ve been a fan of his for years and years and years. The Jordan 11 was the first pair of shoes I felt that deep, panging lust for. I remember in high school wanting those shoes so badly, and when I got them I just couldn’t believe how cool they were. So I have known of his work for many years and owned many, many, many pairs of his shoes; I’m wearing some right now actually.
Are you really?
I am indeed. So to meet him and discover that he’s this great human being, and to become a friend through this process is beyond extraordinary to me.
Did you fan-out when you first met him?
Oh totally, totally. It’s hard not to. He’s just a legend; he’s a towering creative figure. But you know, he’s a guy that puts on his shoes one at a time just like the rest of us. (Laughter)
For me he’s one of the greatest subjects and creative partners in the entire series. He was truly incredible.
This interview with Scott Dadich is part one in a series of eight that will be released weekly, exclusively on SemiPermanent.com over the next eight weeks.
To watch Abstract: The Art of Design, head to Netflix on February 10
To follow the adventures of Scott and his Co-CEO partner at Patrick Godfrey at Godfrey Dadich head to @godfreydadich