D&AD Meets is a regular series where we elevate the work of need-to-know creatives. Each season of features is curated by a creative who can reach beyond our established networks to help us find new talent deserving of a spotlight, the ones to watch, and the ones to work with. Here, the current curator and interviewer Tarik Fontenelle meets multidisciplinary creative Dean George to chat about his creative journey and the people who made an impact on him.
Tarik Fontenelle is the CRO of ON ROAD, the strategic research company he co-founded at age 26. Tarik set-up his first company at the age of 17, experiencing the impact of the recession firsthand as he helped companies navigate that tumultuous time. Fascinated by people and places, he went on to study anthropology and later set up ON ROAD to help brands in the on-coming age of disruption.
Tell us a little about yourself – where you're from, what's important to you, and what makes you different.
I’m Dean, from Hackney, East London and I’m a creative director, film director and founder and editor-in-chief at Gauchoworld magazine, which is a magazine focusing on music, fashion and sport culture.
Family, personal elevation and creation are all things that are vitally important to me. Just being better than the person I was yesterday. In terms of work I’d say putting the art first, no matter what, is really important to me. What makes me different is the fact that I don’t care about what people think, I care about what impact my work can have on people.
Did you go to uni? If so, what did you study and where?
Yes, I did go to Uni, through no choice of my own [laughs], coming from a Caribbean household. The creative industry is not really understood, but I knew what I wanted to do. My parents see education as a safety net. I felt as though, whilst living under my parents’ roof, I had to abide by certain expectations they had of me. So, if I’m honest, uni was more of a box ticking exercise for me. I went to the University of Westminster, where I studied human nutrition, something that has nothing to do with what I do now, but I’ve got a degree. It’s not necessarily something I felt I wanted or needed to do, however I feel proud to say that I have a degree. At the same time, I’ve learnt that it’s about finding something you love and are passionate about and chasing those dreams, seeing how far you can go with them and being happy. I wake up every morning in love with the life I live.
Talk us through what you do – what are you responsible for? What are you making in your day-to-day life?
I am a creative director and a film director. Creative direction is the initial ideation of projects and film direction is bringing those projects to life, so I’m in a blessed position where I sometimes activate my own creativity when I direct. It’s exciting when I can bring things to life exactly how I originally envisioned it. I am also the founder and editor-in-chief of a magazine called Gauchoworld. We’ve got a small team that consists of two editors, Seun and Ellie, and they mean everything to me. We are responsible for knowing everything that’s going on within our culture and our community and effectively documenting this in a stylistic fashion.
How much have you had to teach yourself on your journey?
I’ve had to teach myself everything on this journey, I haven’t been formally educated within my field and I feel as though that has provided me with the rawest approach to learning because it wasn’t modular. It’s been life itself, and in my honest opinion there’s no better university than the university of life.
How did you get your experience and how did you enter the industry?
I gained my experience by being fearless, for example when Gauchoworld started, it wasn’t what it is today; it was a splurge of ideas with no structure and it gave me the opportunity to make mistakes whilst figuring out what worked and didn’t. I did a lot of sports modelling when I was younger as well, being on set and seeing the scale of production was exciting; I didn’t want to just be in front of the camera, I wanted to understand why I was receiving certain instructions.
What has been the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur and what have you learned from it?
Respect money. Be prepared to lose it. Be prepared to invest it. My mum used to give me £2 a day when I was in secondary school and every day without fail I’d come home with £10 because I’d go and buy snacks to sell in the playground, I’d flip that £2 every day. It’s the same principle in life, make money, look at it and never be happy. Think of ways to increase your capital, reinvest. Once you learn to not be money hungry but know how to make money, you will always feel as though things are achievable. The minute you can look at yourself to invest in your own dreams, versus looking at others to do so, things will become a lot easier. When other people see you investing in yourself, they are going to be more inclined to invest in you because you’re taking yourself as seriously as you’d like them to take you.
Talk to us about some of the favourite organisations, communities, or individuals that you've collaborated with through your work life.
Soho Warriors are a community that has been life changing for me. They took me in at 15 years old when I was training on the side of Haggerston Park. They asked me if I wanted to play; I said yes and I sat down with them afterwards. I didn’t know who they were, or what they did for a living but they took an interest in me. They spoke to me, they found out what I liked to do and the relationship just grew really naturally from there. Through that, I was opened up to a whole new industry where I was having conversations with people who are very well respected within the industry, people who have been part of great pieces of work, campaigns, films, activations and they really gave me a hands-on experience without me even knowing, I was learning so much.
Who are three creatives you want to shout out? Tell us about them and what they are doing creatively that's inspiring to you personally right now.
Andy Carnegie is someone I definitely want to shout out, he is a very talented photographer, graphic designer and all round creative. His work is incredible, I remember stumbling across him on Instagram a few years ago and I immediately thought I needed to have a conversation with him. Andy is really one to watch out for. The work ethic, the quality of work and work rate is really inspiring.
Sainté, he’s a musician from Leicester. He has broken through the music industry particularly during Covid-19. I feel as though there’s an ethos as a young black rapper to carry yourself a certain way and rap about certain things. The way his music is formed is very uplifting, direct and positive without having to lean on all of the stereotypes that are associated with being a black artist and for me that’s truly inspiring.
The final person I’d like to acknowledge is Phoebe Gold, who is a music manager. The reason I’d like to mention Phoebe is because I think the title ‘music manager’ often comes with connotations of just handling business. With Phoebe, she plays a massive role in terms of creative and roll out, for example how she allows the public to view her artists and who is involved with them with regards to things such as the photography, styling, and art direction. It’s a rare stance in management, I really like it, you can tell that she really cares.
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the creative industry?
Be ignorant, be bold. Don’t ever try to lean into anyone else’s ways, if you want to do something, get out there and do it, when it’s your time to gain traction it will happen. If you’re doing the right things, it will pay off. It may not happen today, tomorrow or in two years but have patience in what you do and believe in it. Eventually you’ll get to exactly where you need to be.
Get in touch with Dean George:
Meet more rising creative talent including photographers, motion designers, illustrators and visual artists. D&AD is committed to showcasing a diverse range of creatives in our D&AD Meets content. We acknowledge the obstacles to getting into the creative industries for some underrepresented groups and so behind the scenes we offer mentorship pairings with a creative from the professional D&AD community to help to develop the careers of some of the emerging creatives featured. If you want to lend your time to portfolio reviews or a networking meeting please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org