My Digital Life: Chris Douch, Founding Director at Art Star Creative & Artist
Chris Douch, Artist and Founding Director of design studio Art Star Creative, shares his career highlights, favourite digital tools and more, in our interview.
If you've ever added an Instagram sticker from your favourite music artist to a Story, or marvelled at a DJ's live visuals, you may well be looking at the work of Art Star Creative, the studio and moniker of Creative Director and Graphic Designer, Chris Douch. Having cut his teeth in the music industry, Chris now works with music artists, fashion brands and even government organisations to bring their visual identities to life.
Art Star Creative is known for its artistic approach to visual design, combining disciplines to produce some seriously incredible graphic design, illustration, social media content, motion graphics and spatial design. Recent work includes the live visuals for DJ Snake's headline Coachella show and ASH shoes' 80s-inspired campaign (Delorean included), and you can also find ASC's eye-catching artwork lining the halls, walls and rooms of Universal Music's sprawling London HQ.
In addition to running his successful design studio, Chris also works as a painter. His work spans disciplines and subjects, but most recently, he's been working on a series of architectural watercolours featuring his favourite cities, from London and Paris, to Venice and Tokyo.
We chatted to Chris about his art and design career and how the digital revolution has changed the face of content.
NH: Could you share your career path to becoming a Creative Director?
CD: I started out interning at Decca Records (Universal Classics & Jazz as it was then), before getting a job in marketing at UMTV - Universal Music’s compilations division. I worked on a lot of greatest hits records - everything from Status Quo to Diana Ross. It was at UMTV that I started doing graphic design, first for UMTV then some other labels, before I left to go freelance. I started focusing on artwork for offices, mainly in the music industry, creating large-format pieces.
As social media became more prominent, I started being asked to create more and more assets for social media - in particular for Swedish House Mafia and DJ Snake. Over the years, I started to do more work in fashion, creating social content for various brands and companies, including MatchesFashion.com, ASH and The Fashion Digital.
NH: How has social media changed the music industry since you started your career? CD: How hasn’t it!? I could probably write a book on this subject. Social media has completely changed everything for music, from the emo bands in the early 2000s that started using MySpace as a highly effective marketing tool, to the artist collaborations we see today. The biggest change for me has been the shift from creating artwork for CDs in InDesign to creating animated content in AfterEffects.
NH: Your work for DJ Snake was featured on a Times Square billboard!
CD: It was the first time an artist had partnered with Snapchat to create a sticker pack. I was asked to create a series of illustrations, relating to Snake and the video of his latest release, "A Different Way". Snapchat advertised them at Time Square. It’s pretty amazing to see these things I drew on a small laptop screen, up on these huge screens in New York.
NH: You've created stage visuals for artists' live performances - tell me more, how you create them, and how important they are for live performances.
CD: I’m usually part of a large collaborative group, with everyone creating stuff, coming up with ideas etc. There’s a huge amount of work that goes into it before you end up with the final show.
The visual aspect is a huge part of any show - it really started with the Rolling Stones’ stadium tours in the '70s. When Swedish House Mafia started bringing dance music into the stadiums, they needed a live show that would be more spectacular than the stadium rock bands - after all, in a live setting, it's essentially three guys standing behind a table. Dance music and live visuals go hand in hand, as the screens replace the visual focus usually applied to the musicians on stage.
NH: What digital tools could you not live without? CD: All things Adobe! I’ve been using Photoshop since the late 90s, so have just had to learn the updates over the years. I used to use InDesign a lot back in the CD days, but now I rarely need it. AfterEffects has become my main staple over the last few years, as the industry has moved away from traditional printed graphic design to moving digital images.
NH: Tell me more about your paintings and art.
CD: I've always painted, for as long as I can remember. I started selling paintings while I was at university and have done a number of commissions over the years. In the last year or so, I've dedicated more time to my art, studying oil painting portraiture and creating a series of more impressionistic watercolours.
NH: What is your favourite social media platform?
CD: Facebook. I like the conversational aspect of it. I’m also very into cars, so I am a member of various owners' groups. On Instagram, I tend to follow a lot of 3D creatives and portrait painters.
NH: What are your favourite accounts to follow? CD: For work, I follow a lot of fashion brands, big and small. Mainly just to see what kind of creative people are doing in the industry. Personally, I like to follow creatives - 3D animators, visuals creators, painters, sculptures etc. NH: What is your earliest social media memory? CD: Before MySpace, my band and my friends bands had free .org.uk websites with forums that would operate as proto-social media platforms. We’d use them to share music, gig info etc.
NH: What was your first email address? CD: firstname.lastname@example.org a friend of mine created it for me - it certainly wouldn’t have been my choice of handle. NH: What are your favourite podcasts? CD: Rex Factor is my standout favourite. Two guys, Ali and Graham, discuss the monarchs of England, Scotland - and now English consorts - one by one. They’re incredibly engaging and very funny. I recommend it to anyone. NH: What physical things would you never, ever swap for their digital counterparts? CD: Guitars and valve amps. I use a lot of soft synths and plugin effects these days, but there’s nothing as satisfying as plugging a guitar into an old Marshall and cranking it to 11. NH: How do you like to spend time offline? CD: I’m the eternal hobbyist. I love electronics, especially making guitar pedals from scratch. I also love fixing cars, oil painting, origami and playing guitar. Making music is probably my favourite thing to do.
Interview by Natalie Hughes