By Nicholas Johnsen
Every great product or brand has some form of designer behind it. These designers work with employers to develop their subject in unique and appealing ways. Whether it’s cheap freelance work or massive studio projects, the world of design and marketing brings artists, technicians and marketing experts together under one banner — creativity.
One designer with a unique perspective on the world of graphic design offered some insight into how he got to where he is and some of the hidden truths he learned along the way.
Gil Sandoval, 36, is the founder and creative director of Sandoval Design and Marketing. Sandoval’s studio has done work for Lionsgate, Sony Pictures, SanTan Brewing, and plenty other successful companies. They boast 17 team members and a state-of-the-art studio located in the heart of downtown Chandler on Commonwealth Avenue.
Though Sandoval is clearly accomplished today, the story of his success is a long-fought and moving one. Growing up in the inner-city of Los Angeles, Sandoval learned quickly and worked resourcefully. When asked what initially got him interested in design, he explained it as a fortunate coincidence.
At the formative age of 16, his school program presented him with a fork in the road: he could focus in health, finance or technology.
“I’m the worst with needles and I’m not good at math, so I decided to go into tech,” he explained. One of the first programs Sandoval learned was Photoshop 2.0, a fairly primitive form of the expert image manipulation tool widely used today. He fell in love, without any prior knowledge that graphic or advertising design could be turned into a business.
Despite that limitation, the teenaged designer got to work. While living in LA, Sandoval would approach businesses, restaurants and stores of all sorts and offer his services for free. Humble beginnings indeed— offering to redesign menus and logos without expecting anything, at least monetarily, in return.
“I knew that the more I did it, the better I would get at it. I wanted experience.” Sandoval realized that the more he worked at it, the better he would get. He also mentioned that he never got a college degree, so he had to figure these things out himself. The only thing that he knew was he wanted to be a great designer.
When asked about the origin story of Sandoval Design and Marketing, the now-established founder and creative director had a tale of equal interest to share.
“Immediately after I started freelancing, my brothers and I started a band,” Sandoval said. While he and the other members were busy landing gigs, Gil was maintaining his work as a freelance graphic designer.
Eventually, the gigs panned out and they secured a tour. He painted a picture of touring across the country in his 20s, playing venues and designing for extra cash in between.
“This was during the birth of social media,” he added. The guys in the band focused on connecting with their fans both in person and through ancient platforms like Dreambook and Yahoo Messenger.
“We started to build a community—our fans started advocating for us.” What Gil didn’t realize that he’s long come to now is that they were building a brand. Instead of focusing on sales or money, they set their sights on being good to the people—their people.
Eventually, a film studio reached out and offered him a position as an art/brand manager. After bringing his brothers on board at the new studio, the musician/designer got his first taste of the corporate world.
Two years after that, he quit the studio job to start the agency. It took Gil two years after that to get both his brothers to work with him. “We realized that our success depended on one another. The band’s goals got transferred to the agency’s goals.”
Sandoval also had plenty to say about the joys of working in the downtown Chandler area. He told stories of walking around as a broke musician and dreaming of affording to have a beer at one of the nice bars.
“When we eventually went to open our first brick and mortar, downtown Chandler was the first choice,” he said.
Family is everything to Gil, and with three kids and a wife, Chandler fit perfectly. Additionally, the location serves as a perfect place to build the community he spoke of earlier.
“A big misconception is that when I help you I’m taking away from my journey, but it’s actually the opposite—when you care for others, it grows who you and your brand are,” Gil said.
The agency’s general attitude and connection with the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership fosters this philosophy through their careers and everyday lives; a philosophy built on hard work, community and the occasional jam session.
Sandoval Design and Marketing is at 101 W. Commonwealth Ave., Chandler.
A full repertoire of past work and complete contact information is available at sandovaldesign.com/.