Damian Madray is an experiential artist and a culture anthropologist who is (re)designing the art of dialogue by creating experiences that connect humans on a deeper level. He has a long-lasting successful career in design and is considered one of the leading designers in Silicon Valley. Damian is enthusiastic about culture, philosophy, and creating communities.
Damian, you are a founder of two startups: TheGlint and Hunie. What’s it like to be a multi-entrepreneur in San Francisco?
It’s busy. It’s fun. It’s hard work. It’s less sleep. It’s more time. It’s passion. It’s depressing. It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur with one startup or more, it’s the same thing. It’s the same crazy ride that you’ve got to strap in for.
What keeps your creative fire burning when designing experiences that connect humans through art and conversations for TheGlint?
The end result. I view the experiences I create as my form of art and there’s a very specific vision in mind when I set out to design an experience. With each experience I create, it’s not a sure thing that vision will come to the past but when it happens, it’s like standing in front of a painting. There’s something special to be said about having an idea in your mind and then seeing it happen in the physical world — it’s amazing. The chances of creating what I envision, as unlikely as it might seem, is what keeps the creative fire burning.
… going to places for experiences. I think everyone feels that way. But those experiences should be focused towards expanding our mind and thinking. I think this is why the concept of ‘live local’ is interesting because traveling can get pretentious. We travel with our selfie sticks and take photos to say we were there but the ideal way is to actually be there. Travel is a way to gain another perspective through experiences but it has to be intentional and you’ve got to be present. I like to hang with the locals, hear their stories, go to their bars, go to the local grocery stores and so on. As a result, slowly but surely, you’re being immersed in their culture and invited into their stories. That is traveling.
When compared to having a 9–5 job, being independent is a lot harder. Did you ever feel like you want to have that comfort back?
Comfort is boring. I had comfort for a year in 2015. It’s ok, things are easier but it’s ultimately the most boring thing. The last thing I want right now is to be comfortable. However, that must be defined. I want to be comfortable in my living situation, in my finances, and perhaps in my relationships. What I don’t want is to be comfortable in my passion, in my job. I don’t want comfort to be defined by being inside a building, working on god knows what for god knows who. I do not miss that comfort.
As you travel, the first question people ask you is “where are you from”. I think where are you from is irrelevant so I would like to ask you where are you headed in life?
Where I’m from is truly irrelevant. There’s a great TED talk by Taiye Selasi about living local that’s a good watch on this topic. Nationality, borders, and countries are subjective realities we create and so these things do not exist. We created them with the stories we tell. What we should ask is where have you lived like a local? If that question was asked more often then perhaps people would travel less and live local more and in doing so, they will truly experience. Most nomads out there will agree to this because that’s the idea of being a nomad.
I don’t know where I’m headed in life. I’m focused and concerned with where I am and who I am now. One could argue that this question is also irrelevant. Too often we’re obsessed with the future or the past, often not being in the present. I attempt the practice of presence by enjoying what’s in front of me, right now. It’s almost impossible to do but it is well worth the effort.
TheGlint experiences can happen in any city in the world. Where are you taking it next?
I’m thinking Mexico, Los Angeles, New York, London. It depends a lot on my network on the locals I know who can assist.