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Nathan Canupp originally planned to make ski films. But when he realized that being from East Stroudsburg, Penn. makes that nearly impossible, he wound up choosing a different path. After 12 years with Line Skis, Canupp knows a few things about designing eye-catching top sheets and ski boots.
How did you get interested in graphic design?
I went to college for media communications and technology, which is basically anything from print graphics, to Web design, to making movies and television. I originally went there planning to make ski movies. I was going to partner with my friend who went to film school, but we wound up taking different paths after realizing we didn’t have athletes that anyone wanted to see.
Meanwhile everyone else had access to big mountains and parks. So it just naturally happened. It really wasn’t something I expected to do as a kid, especially after being so passionate about making ski films for years.
How exactly did you end up at Line?
I interned for Line Skis in Vermont when I was in college. At the time, they were in the same building as Karhu. After the internship, Karhu offered me a position doing graphics. Then, when Line moved to Seattle, I started working for them.
How do you come up with initial design ideas?
I usually run a graphic through a survey or focus group to see what people think. If people like it, I usually get the green light. From there I contact the artist and negotiate a contract with him/her. I’ll send him a creative brief saying what we’re looking for, and eventually they start sending in art.
How do you go about finding these artists?
Typically you’ll just go through agencies to find an artist. Or sometimes, you’re just browsing the Internet, going from one thread to another. Then you find an artist you like, and from there maybe he has links to other artists that you like. Eventually I’ll see someone’s work, decide if it fits our brand, and see if I feel like that artist would understand what we’re going for.
What do you look for in Line designs?
We’re always looking for something new and unique. We’re always trying to guess what the new trend is going to be, and trying to forecast that along with possible colors. We’re not always trying to do something bizarre, but we like to do something that’s comical and humorous. We’re making skis that should be fun, and one thing that’s fun about working with Line is that we see ourselves as the skateboarder brand of the ski industry. We’re not afraid to take a risk that’s over the top.
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How much does athlete input come into play with Line’s graphics?
We collaborate with our athletes on nearly all the graphics. They’re skiing year round and can see when a new trend is starting. They’ll let us know if a graphic’s not working, or when something has been over played. They’re basically our eyes, and play a large part of the process.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
The trickiest part is trying to convey my vision to another person, so he or she can create it. The other hard part is keeping track of all of the artists.
What’s the most fun part of your job?
Honestly just working for Line. Having that skateboarder mentality, we tend to take chances with our graphics. Sometimes it stirs up a conversation with people talking about it online or in magazines, and it goes way better than we thought it would. Also seeing your work, and the physical proof of your labor is a great feeling. Seeing kids using our skis and poles is fun and rewarding. When our ideas end up being sold on a global level, it still blows my mind. It’s humbling. It’s just nice to see something tangible at the end of the day that you’ve worked on.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned throughout your career?
It’s something I learned a long time ago when I interned with Line: Never show a graphic that you’re not happy with. If they choose it, then you’re stuck looking at something you’re not happy with for a year.
Originally published on Skiing Magazine’s Website in December, 2013. It has since been updated with new photos, links, and formatting edits.