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Mink Brings Visual Uniformity, Creativity To Cherokee Nation
by Mark Dreadfulwater - Cherokee Phoenix Digital Media Coordinator
Cherokee Nation Communications graphic design lead Dan Mink displays a design concept in the works. The depiction shows a southeastern style figure playing stickball.
The 2021 Cherokee National Holiday poster

TAHLEQUAH – When one drives around the Cherokee Nation reservation and CN-owned properties, you may notice artistic signs and graphics as well as the annual Cherokee National Holiday poster art.

This is the work of CN Communications graphic design lead Dan Mink.

“I started working here in August of 2005,” he said. “I started actually doing contract work in 2004, and I honestly don’t know how many projects I have done. I was the only graphic designer here for a long time. I have folders on the computer well into the terabytes on the hard drive.”

Mink said he was interested in art growing up but didn’t have formal training or education.

“All I knew was that I liked to draw. That’s all I knew, really, just drawing stuff,” he said. “I drew mostly contemporary things that were around me. I never really did traditional Indian art. I’d draw cars, airplanes and trucks, stuff like that. That was the extent of my art education until later in life.”

He said he was on disability a lot until he was 27 years old. It was then he decided to do something to improve his life and quit utilizing disability benefits.

“I went back and got my GED…in spring of 1990. A couple of weeks later, I was at (Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology) Okmulgee looking at their graphic design program,” he said. “That’s all I ever liked to do is art, and I’ve always been fascinated by commercial art so I wanted to see if could get into that. It looked like a lot of fun so in the fall of ’90, I enrolled in the program.”

While at OSU IT, he said he fell in love with artists such as Claude Monet and Edouard Manet, but his art is mainly commercial rather than traditional.

The 2019 project “Rising Together” is one of Communications graphic design lead Dan Mink’s favorite designs in his tenure at the Cherokee Nation.

“I’m not a traditional artist; I’m a graphic designer,” he said. “I do work commercially. It’s a job but I love it. It is a job and I’m expected to produce. Artists can take your time…here…you have certain freedoms, but you have to see the bigger picture. What does this art say to the outside world about the Cherokee Nation?”

Each year, Mink designs the official artwork for the Cherokee National Holiday as well as other themed projects. He said the creative process is easier when a theme is established.

“As far as the holiday goes, it’s a theme. That’s all I want to know is, ‘What’s the theme?’ so I can start going through the process of what best visualizes that theme,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll get input on what ideas can be incorporated about what the theme can symbolize. That’s always helpful. The more people put input, the better for me.”

He said he’s worked on countless projects while working at the CN but never really thought of what the projects meant until a 2019 project called “Rising Together.”

“Before I never really gave it any thought of what people would see in my art,” he said. “I was asked ‘What does this mean? What does this symbolize?’ and I just said ‘cause I like it.’ So then I started to think about what I was doing. What exactly am I trying to achieve, why do I want this element? That one (“Rising Together”) has a lot of symbolism.”

Mink’s work is seen by thousands of people every day. From signs around the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex to the annual holiday artwork. Mink said few pieces out there has his signature on it, but one might say he developed the most recent CN brand by the consistency and conformity of his designs.

“If I hadn’t been here, I’d be just another face in graphic design land,” he said. “It hadn’t really sunk in about the branding and the southeast designs, but I’m glad I played a part in that revival…on the southeast art to make people aware that we do have a style and it’s not just plains and southwest art that I grew up seeing. If I’m known for the ‘branding guy’, then so be it I guess.”

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