November 30th, 2010

Designated Design Houston: Tim DeSilva Plots a Course for Inspiration

Living in Houston, I find the creative community, to be quite elusive. When writing for The Loop Scoop we’re telling Houston’s story. Houston’s design, marketing, and artistic societies and what’s being done within them, is part of that story. That being said, we bring you this monthly experience featuring one such creative and their thoughts on a number of issues pertinent to Houston’s vibrant and diverse aesthetics.

The Loop Scoop: You’re names clearly Tim DeSilva given the title of this article, but just in case the readers don’t bother with that, would you introduce yourself, please?

Tim DeSilva: Tim DeSilva …”Prime Minister” or this just in “Tim the Enchanter” …of Culture Pilot

TLS: What is your favorite period of art or design history?

TD: Just one? 20’s, 30’s, 40’s vintage propaganda and pin-up poster art, 60’s American or NYC pop art from the likes of Warhol, late 90’s experimental and interactive design from the likes of Yugo Nakamura.

TLS: What work formerly or currently being created in Houston humbles you as a designer?

TD: A hard question but one current Houston-based artist that comes to mind is Daniel Anguilu who has several murals around Houston—his artwork simply blows my mind. I love the originality and style—it’s both humbling and inspiring.

TLS: What’s one responsibility or challenge in this discipline no matter how unlikely, that you would gladly take on if given the opportunity? (standardizing street signs in Houston, collaborating with street artists to make common buildings more attractive, redesigning the city’s brand?) There is nothing too outrageous.

TD: Now that’s a question right there… kudos on that magnificent mind fuck. Each of the ideas you’ve listed are wonderful. Each is something I’d love to take on or be a part of in a larger collaboration. Nowadays it’s hard to think of anything that cannot be done… it’s almost instinct in our industry (especially given today’s technology) that we can find a solution to everything. I’ve always based “success” on how well we’ve promoted the person, company, event or object in question, so whatever the challenge may be, no matter how likely or outrageous it’s considered, it would involve making something beautiful, creating human connection and hopefully promoting the creativity of our city in the process, if not the industry as a whole.

Okay I’ve got it now… I want to see Culture Pilot help develop the first fully interactive digital art museum in Houston, showcasing installations by the likes of (or in the spirit of) artists like Golan Levin and Chris O’Shea. (And a deserving thank you to Mr. Javier Fadul for turning me on to this medium as a whole) From the name and branding of the museum, to the building design and architecture, to some of the installations exhibited, this is a project I’d like to see come to fruition. Culture Pilot is now accepting funding to make it happen as of this conversation.

TLS: People outside of Houston don’t know much about the creative community that thrives here. What might be keeping the city out of the spotlight from non-creatives and creatives alike? How might we change that?

TD: Great question. I find this city to be a hidden gem when it comes to the creative culture and I quite like it that way but I also think everyone both in and out deserves to know how wonderful this city truly is. When I refer to creatives, I’m including designers, fine artists, theater, musicians etc. What’s keeping Houston out of the spotlight? Nothing that I can see directly… it could be ignorance or a general lack of motivation or interest? We live in a city where there is literally too much to do; it’s harder to decide what not to do on any given day. If you’re truly interested in being a part of the creative culture of Houston, whether as a participant or simply a spectator, the online resources run rampant. Now how to market that to a more national demographic at large and increase the desire to live in or visit Houston? Just wait.

TLS: What is one image you’ve come across in Houston or the Greater Houston Area, that simply captures what it is to be here?

TD: Two come to mind. The first was illustrated for the cover of Free Press Houston when our mayor Anise Parker voted in favor of an inner city Walmart. There are about a dozen other Walmart locations in this city, at least 3 within a 10 mile radius of this new proposed location. Outsiders may not realize we have a lack of zoning laws in Houston which allows for almost anything to be built on purchased land. It’s highly unfortunate that our mayor outright demanded her voters not fight for what they believe in. If there was a public voting process on the issue, I believe Walmart would have lost the fight and tax payers would be much happier. I think this image captures greatly what it’s like to watch a city you love dearly go through a detrimental experience like this.


On a brighter note, the second image is David Adickes‘ latest sculpture. A man who has lived in this city longer than most of us and has been creating art for longer than most of us. To me his latest piece captures the multi-cultural diversity and free spirit of Houston. I hope others see the same… that would be a great example of that human connection I was referring to. I haven’t met David yet but I’d love to hang out with him, hopefully at our new interactive digital art museum opening.


TLS: What’s one area of your creative job you can’t seem to get enough of?

TD: As a whole, the feeling of human connection. It’s something that’s a bit hard for me to describe, but the feeling of… achievement, for lack of better words, when I can make someone smile or share a mutual sense of understanding through my/our design work.

Or if we’re speaking on more literal terms, it would be designing in general. I can never seem to get enough time – whether it be a rush project or just lack of time in general. Working with a small team means there are many hats to wear; mine often falls on customer relations, project management and art direction, which leaves less and less time for design in the grand scheme of things. However on the flip side of that, the times I do get a chance to relax and be creative are all the more precious.

TLS: What area in Houston do you see as underrated? Why does it deserve more attention?

TD: I love the Heights for it’s history and charm—it’s most reminiscent of my youth in New York. I think Houston could use more similar style neighborhoods that allow for lack of automobiles.

TLS: How do you or would you as a creative use your skills to better your community/neighborhood/Houston?

TD: We’re currently helping develop the branding and marketing for a movement dubbed SLGT (an acronym for Support Local, Grow Together) which aims to increase awareness of local resources. On the business side we want local business to realize opportunities for in-sourcing local materials and products in their cities – eg. Restaurants that purchase ingredients from one of the many local Farmers markets. On the general consumer side of the spectrum, we want to educate kids and adults alike on how much is available to us in their city/neighborhoods… these principles work in many cities, large and small. If we can create a more sustainable mindset, we can create more sustainable cities and neighborhoods that will more thrive easily and we can create a really nice sense of community in the process.

Let me bring up “human connection” again in a more literal example—I can either order some tools on the internets and have them shipped to my house tomorrow, or I can still use the googles and the social medias to get recommendations on those tools but then walk or bike down the street to my local hardware store, talk to the friendly people that work at the shop for further recommendation and buy those tools today—and get a little exercise in the process. I choose the latter and would love to see more people doing the same and encouraging their children as well.

We’re also bringing to Houston for the second year now an all-day event called TEDxHouston. It’s derived from the parent organization, TED, and is a way for us to help educate and share new ideas by showcasing the many talented (and often times unknown) thinkers and doers in our city. TEDxHouston is streamed live to an international audience during the event and some talks are further showcased to an enormous international demographic on – I think this event is a fantastic highlight for our city.

TLS: Well, Tim, you’ve given us a lot to think about. Thanks for taking the time to dig deep and give us some really profound insights on the state of creative in Houston.

TD: Thanks for exercising my brain, I’m honored.

Thanks go out to Josh at Zulu Creative and April of the AIGA Houston Chapter for their help in nudging this out the door.

Top Image generated by AmazType (Amaztype is using Amazon Web Services. Created by Keita Kitamura & Yugo Nakamura for THA LTD. (C) Copyright 2005 THA LTD. All Rights Reserved.

First Image courtesy of PVizzy’s photo stream on flickr (Mural by Weah).

Second Image courtesy of Free Press Houston (September 2010 Article: Walmart Sinks Low in Heights Grab).

Third Image courtesy of mlsnp’s photo stream on flickr (Work Shown: David Adickes’ Sculptureworx).

— Richard


The Kid — Tuesday, November 30, 2010 4:36 pm

I agree that Walmart sucks and I wish it weren’t being built right off Heights Blvd. However, it’s unfortunate that in answering your question “R: What is one image you’ve come across in Houston or the Greater Houston Area, that simply captures what it is to be here?” Mr. DeSilva instead exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of “what it is to be here” by completely failing to grasp the process by which property is developed in Houston. The mayor did not vote for Walmart and did not demand that voters not fight for what they believe in. His statement is patently false. I’m sick of hearing this straw man argument.

tim DeSilva — Wednesday, December 1, 2010 11:51 am

Thank you “The Kid” for sharing your takeaway on the interview. I’m thankful to live in a forward thinking city that gives us opportunities (and publications such as this) to think, speak and converse freely. To be able to share our ideas in the form of writing, illustration, music and most any creative form… it’s truly a gift.

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