We chat with Charles Miller of Platoon about his journey from high school to now; including the longwinded history between himself and Platoon co-founder/best friend Zach Janicello. Plus we get into teamwork and collaboration, and how they manage conflicting ideas in the studio.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

My name is Charles and I run a design firm with my best friend Zach in Nashville, Tennessee called Platoon. We create visual identities, websites, and marketing campaigns for premium brands.

When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?

In high school, Zach and I were very involved in our hometown’s local music scene. Together, we booked dozens of local shows, and I would design flyers for all of the gigs using Photoshop. At the time, we operated under the moniker ‘First Platoon Industries’, offering booking and creative services for local and regional bands. We really had no idea what we were doing or exactly what we were getting ourselves into. I distinctly remember designing our first commissioned album cover for $15... we’ve since increased our rates.

Design work by Platoon The Design Kids interviews Platoon work-2

What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened?

Following high school, I attended Belmont University in Nashville to study ‘music business’ with hopes of eventually becoming a booking agent. During my time at Belmont, I played in a handful of bands and generated a decent side income by designing custom MySpace layouts for bands and businesses (RIP MySpace). I quickly lost interest in becoming a booking agent and decided to continue pursuing design.

While in college, I interned at a small creative agency called Aloompa. I began working on mobile apps for large music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, etc. My experience at Aloompa showed me the basics of how an agency operated: design, development, project management, sales, etc.

Upon graduation, I worked at Aloompa as a designer/developer for about a year before going freelance whilst touring full time with my band. While I was on the road, I would often commission other freelancers for their help on various branding and web projects. As we began taking on larger projects, it became more and more unrealistic for me to tour full time and effectively grow the company — so I stepped back from the road and began focusing all of my energy on the business.

I was way over my head in work when I found out Zach (who I used to book local shows with) had coincidentally been running a small creative studio of the same type back in our hometown. He and I were running into a lot of the same types of business struggles, and eventually realized that joining forces again was a no-brainer. He and I merged our studios at the beginning of 2017, and have been going hard at it ever since!

How do you solve conflicting ideas within a group of collaborators?

Luckily, we don’t run into this problem very often — usually everyone is on the same page with what the best decision is. But when there are conflicting ideas, we’ll take a vote and the majority rules. We always encourage everyone to share their thoughts and ideas— but to trust the majority’s decision. In our studio, one person may have ‘the' idea, but our projects are very much a team effort from beginning to end.

Design work by Platoon The Design Kids interviews Platoon work-4
Design work by Platoon The Design Kids interviews Platoon work-4

When there are conflicting ideas, we’ll take a vote and the majority rules.

Who’s on the team, what are their roles and why do you love them?

Destiny Keller — Destiny is currently a senior at Belmont University. She’s a killer designer, photographer, and musician and is down to tackle most any type of project you can throw her way.

Garrett DeRossett — Garrett is an Art Director living and working in NYC. He leads design on several of Platoon’s projects from beginning to end. He’s a very talented and pleasant fellow, and we’re thankful to be working with him.

John Michael McCasland — JM is a full stack developer based here in Nashville— he currently operates as our lead front-end developer and works directly with our backend dev partners. JM is also a really talented musician and plays in a sick band called Pocket Science.

Zach Janicello — Zach is my partner in the business and leads our strategy sessions with clients on all projects. Zach is really good at saying ‘no’ when we really need to say ‘no’— this is a very important person for a creative business. He’d never tell you this, but he is also an incredible singer and songwriter, and I think we may start another band sometime soon.

Charles Miller — That’s me! Right now most of my time is spent managing projects, working with clients, and filling the cracks with design and a tiny bit of development.

What’s on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?

Over the course of 2017 we began simplifying our service offering to develop a stronger core competency. We’ve finally shifted our focus to working primarily with growing e-commerce brands — helping them create and manage strong visual identities, websites, and marketing campaigns.

Personally, I believe we all at the studio plan to do a bit of traveling in 2018 and continue pursuing our own personal creative endeavors. I’ve actually been playing music with a few friends again and have really enjoyed it. There’s also been talk of Platoon launching a ‘sub-studio’ of sorts— focusing primarily on music-related design projects!

Design work by Platoon The Design Kids interviews Platoon work-6
Design work by Platoon The Design Kids interviews Platoon work-6

Where to find Platoon online.



Twitter: @platoonstudio

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