The designer behind the pingpong and mousetrap video tells us why he loves Dayton

When the Ohio Department of Health called upon Andy Nick and his video team at Real Art to make a social distancing awareness commercial, he had no idea it would be a worldwide phenomenon. What made Nick particularly proud, was that Dayton, his hometown and city he loves, shared the recognition, too.

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Nick’s passion to create work that puts Dayton on the map, combined with his dedication to his friends and his beloved Dayton Flyers, is why we wanted to learn more about him and Real Art.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Q: The social distancing video you and your team at Real Art created for the Ohio Department of Health has gone legitimately viral. How does it feel to have your work shared by the likes of J.K. Rowling?

A: It's been the strangest month of my life. I can't really describe it. I've been trapped in my basement, but at the same time, the work that we've done has been viewed around the world by now. … As a designer, you always try hard, you want things to be popular and successful, but I've never been involved in anything that captured so many people's attention so quickly.

To be honest, what we're happiest about is that it brought attention back here to Dayton. ... It was just the perfect mixture of “Hey, we're doing something for our state, but we're also doing something for our city, and we're doing something for our whole country.”

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Q: A lot of Daytonians may have heard of Real Art, but aren’t sure what all the company does. You do more than just marketing, right?

A: Yeah, I think if you ask my boss, he'd still probably call it a an ad firm. I like to call it a design firm, but experiential design is what we've been specializing in over the last couple years. That means building something that is either in a physical place that people see (like a trade show), or a launch event or live event, or doing something that happens in one place, but we film it and we spread it via video.

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At Real Art, we have five different departments. I lead the video team. We have a print team, a development team (which is for websites), an industrial team (which is fabrication, electric engineering, and woodworking). Then we have our usual studio stuff, a production team, account executives, etc.

I think one of the advantages of being in Dayton is that we don't have to do work just in Dayton. Being in the middle of the country, we're able to do work on either coast, and our overhead is really low here. … It’s an advantage being in a city where it's affordable to live and work. I think that's one of the reasons why we've done so well over the last 10 years. We continue to do work that’s on a national caliber, but we're doing it in Dayton with this Dayton mentality of “roll up your sleeves, let's just find a way to do this.”



Q: With technology, you really don’t have to live on the coasts anymore to do this kind of work?

A: Yeah, and I think it's important to point out it didn't always used to be like that. When I graduated college, I was like "Which city do I have to move to, to do good work?" But I grew up in Dayton, I love Dayton and want to see things change. So I chose to stay in Dayton after college. I really like living here, and I wanted to get a job at a firm here.

Over time, I’ve had my cake and eat it too, in terms of having national clients. We're doing work for something that's going to go over to Europe, and I think, “Wow, I can do all this from Dayton.” When I talk to students on a tour of Real Art, I always tell these kids, “Dayton is a place you can stay in. You don't have to leave here like people did 30 to 40 years ago.”

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Q: Switching gears, I know that you are a big University of Dayton Flyers fan. Have you recovered from the NCAA Tournament being canceled?

A: Yeah, I don't think I'll ever be OK. It's not gonna go away ... I'm a UD grad from 2002 and I've been going to UD games since I was a kid. I got involved with the program through Real Art.

When Dayton won the right to host the First Four that changed a lot for the city and for UD Arena specifically. It meant that they got four giant video boards put in the corners of the arena. The good news about when somebody gets gigantic screens and doesn't have anything to put on them, that’s when they call video designers.

We got the opportunity to go into UD and to film the 2011-2012 men’s and women’s basketball teams and design the pre-game experience. The first year they turned out the lights for pregame and I mean, you want to talk about a giddy kid from Dayton! It was a dream come true.

Q: The arena has been a big part of the basketball program’s success right?

A: Absolutely. I think about a lot of things in terms of being a designer. The branding aspect of what UD has done for themselves is spectacular. It’s a master class in how to take a city like Dayton, and put it on the level of some of the biggest power conference schools that that there are.

A lot of people also don't realize Archie Miller was instrumental in changing the perception about UD. He's the one that personally ordered a pregame experience where you turn the lights out. He wanted professional videography for the pregame video.

He's the one that ordered that we dropped the “U” from UD when we rebranded after we made the Elite Eight run in 2014. That ruffled a lot of feathers dropping the “U.” He was like, “Nope, we're “D,” we're just Dayton. A lot of Daytonians don't have that global view of the college basketball scene. UD, I believe it's mostly known for University of Delaware if you're out on on the East Coast. And Archie was like, “We are not sharing an acronym with anybody. We’re Dayton.”

Q: I didn't realize that was the mindset behind that.

A: Yeah, and I don't think many people did. All that happened was a logo dropped one day and people were like, "I hate it." In retrospect, that was a brilliant marketing move to invest in our own arena and change our brand to have a more own-able mark. The different things that he put in place are still paying off for us today. Yeah, this season is really disappointing but, in general, the last eight years of Flyer basketball have been the kind of seasons that we'll tell our kids about, you know?

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Q: What’s next for you? What’s next for Dayton?

A: Well, that's a that's a pretty big question. Right now, what I really would like to do is get back out into the community and see my friends. That's all I wish for right now is to see the people who are going through tough times, waiting for their job to reopen, or are really struggling to be productive while watching their kids. That's a pretty common problem that's totally real, and maybe a bigger problem than the coronavirus to a lot of my closer friends.

In general, I'm just really excited to see Dayton continue growing and I hope that this isn't like a stumbling block. There are so many other amazing creative places that have popped up. I respect so many of the small businesses that have just emerged at the complete wrong time, from the different coffee shops to bars. Real Art opened Red Star (bar) a month before this all happened. It's like "Oh, that sucks."

I'm just on the bandwagon with everybody else, rooting for us to get up once we've been knocked down, and try to get back to right where we were before this started. Honestly, I'm an optimist when it comes to our city. I just think Dayton rules and that we're headed in the right direction. So I just want to be right back there and pick up where we left off.

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