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"When a project leaves TAOD, it takes a piece of our lives with it. We often spend hundreds and hundreds of hours on a design that spans weeks and months. Our art has depth because it came from inside each person who contributed to the project. It is exciting to see it completed and sad to see it go. How can you place a value on something that has become a part of you? As our customer, you're not buying a design or a work of art. You're buying pieces of our lives. We don't know how long a project will take because it isn't done until it's done. We know it is done when we can't find a way to make it better. Then and only then can we let it go."
Artist in Residence
A Look at The Art Of Design
Art: [ahrt] -noun
(1) The work of man in imitating, changing or counteracting nature.
(2) The body of knowledge of a particular field.
Design: [dih-zayhn] -verb
(1) To conceive in the mind; invent; contrive.
(2) To draw up plans for, by means of drawings or sketches.
Design: [dih-zayhn] -noun
(3) A drawing or sketch giving details for how something is to be made or an arrangement of details to convey ideas in real terms.
The Art Of Design: [thee ahrt uhv dih-zayhn] -noun
(1) The work of a company to imitate, change or develop real images from ideas, using technology and talent to produce results beyond expectations.
(2) To conceive or invent results by means of drawing, painting or construction to convey detailed messages through visual designs.
It's All About Looking Different
It's been said that most great ideas never mature or become reality. Well, no one ever told that to Dean Loucks, the creative force behind The Art Of Design. Loucks' company, founded in 1990, has grown from a basement operation to the leading design and paint studio in the country, located in a 15,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility.
Prior to TAOD's founding, the doors of opportunity began to open wide for Loucks in 1989 Disney when contracted him to airbrush apparel at the Spruce Goose and the Queen Mary. Shortly thereafter, Loucks did some work for comedian Sinbad and actor Peter Faulk of Colombo fame.
"All these jobs inspired me to search for new ways to use my talents," Loucks recalled. "I wanted to be able to conceive and create ideas and bring them so close to reality that the client could almost touch and feel the finished product before I even started painting." With this vision firmly set, Loucks left California and headed back east.
The year 1990 found Loucks and his concept of TAOD residing in Elkhart, Indiana. It was here that he began using various techniques to create complete corporate images – from business cards to truck fleets.
"It was tough at first because the technology just didn't exist for what I was trying to accomplish. I knew it could be done, but how I was going to do it was yet to be determined," Loucks said. "I have always strived to do it right the first time and exceed the customers' expectations. This is the foundation for a good relationship."
Doing It Right
Doing it right the first time has led TAOD to many high-profile projects. Corporate clients such as Valvoline, Cigarette Racing Team, Saturn, Prevost Motorcar, Coastal, Forest River Tsunami, Magic Bar, Unilube, Outerlimits, Formula Boats, DCB (Dave's Custom Boats) and Douglas Marine – all have gravitated to The Art Of Design.
Since the company started, TAOD has done specialty work for every major motorcoach and boat company, and has unveiled marketing ideas and designs to all major automotive companies through other companies. When a boat or motorcoach company is searching for a new look, they come to TAOD to create it for them. Magazines have recognized this uniqueness and have placed many of the company's designs on their covers.
TAOD's unique approach has also helped it gain the sponsorship of vendors such as Media, Avery and SATA. These special relationships allow TAOD to use the latest in Asset-Iwatta Airbrushes and Vinyl Paint Masks. This partnership approach has helped the company take on unique and demanding projects that range in size from business cards to railroad cars. TAOD is also a dealer for HRE rims, TUBI exhaust, Corsa Exhaust, Asset-Iwatta and Tire Rack for rims and tires.
"Our expansion into these markets ensures that when we design a project, we take other top companies with us on our endeavors," Loucks noted.
In the automotive field, TAOD has been breaking ground for years, buying and driving many different cars from exotic to domestic, searching for cars for which they could develop specialty items, such as custom paint, carbon fiber panels, wings, splitters and ground effects.
"The experience of having these vehicles at our disposal was crucial in understanding the car designer's thought process," Loucks said. "Feeling and testing the durability of different finishes, having the time over months to really understand what a designer was thinking when creating the original project – these are key points in developing something better."
The ability to scale art to any size makes TAOD unique. Personalities from the music and racing worlds – country singer Randy Travis and motor sports CART Champion Paul Tracy, to name a few – have found their way to Elkhart. The incredible level of detail that TAOD puts into each project means the work will transcend the expectations of clients.
"Technology allows us to create more detail for greater impact. Each project that we finish is our best work, until the next project when we find a way to take it to the next level," Loucks explained. "We're family at TAOD, and that's what allows us to give such great attention to meeting our customers' needs."
Since 2005, TAOD has helped Outerlimits Powerboats develop its corporate image, propelling it to heights unheard of in the boating and design worlds. In raising the quality level of Outerlimits Powerboats, TAOD helped design and select interiors, and played a major part in adding graphics to the engine and bilge areas.
"We have launched Outerlimits to a design level that has never before been seen," Loucks said.
The last few years have seen TAOD rising to new heights with airplanes and helicopters. In fact, after a helo ride in Arizona one Sunday, Loucks (never one to let the grass grow under his feet) scheduled his first flying lesson the very next day. Two weeks later, he bought a helicopter and has flown it around the country many times.
TAOD also is ramping up its design work on interiors, fenders, body panels, bumpers, carpet and floor mats, and sells a line of waxes and polishes through its website.
Ultimately, TAOD is about looking different – creating art by design to exceed the dreams clients have for the finished work.
"When clients leave with their finished product, they can't really appreciate the depth of the art," said Loucks. "That's something that takes time. They often call back several times when they notice certain details or how different the art looks in different light. They say, 'When you told me it was going to be special, we really didn't understand, but we do now!' That is how we know we did it right the first time."
Two of the most prestigious pieces of work TAOD has done in recent years are a corporate bus for Brassfield Wines and a 50' Outerlimits boat, with matching semitruck and trailer, for industrialist Barry Zekelman.
"We put 5,000 hours of work into the Zekelman project," Loucks said. "We did the door and dash panels, hood emblem, grill, air cleaner and so much more. It was the best of what we could pull off."
With TAOD where it is today, Loucks hopes to focus more on training others around the country in the unique painting styles he has developed. He is also venturing into exciting new territory with the launch of his Fine Art Collection [link] that is inspired, in part, by his new Signature Series paints. This line of custom paint, developed in partnership with Akzo Nobel, comprises 769 colors and a program to help other custom painters find the colors they want, quickly and easily, and to learn how to use the line to its best advantage.
"In the future," said Loucks, "we'd like to be known for the art of what we do, the art of taking care of customers, and the art of design to continually come up with new and different ideas – ideas that most people would never think of. In the end, we'd like to be known as the company that could do it all and do it well."
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