Ep. 95: Design Strategist Alain Sylvain

Strategy and design consultant, Alain Sylvain, was born and raised in New York City, the son of Haitian immigrants. His early creativity included playing in fake bands and starting a fake restaurant. After studying international affairs and business he embarked on a brief stint in political campaigns, but that morphed into advertising and he found himself embracing both his creativity and business acumen to help leverage the might of corporations for the greater good. Listen:

Thanks to Adobe 99U Conference for connecting us for this interview.


What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

Don’t spend money. When you start a business, you need to keep expenses as low as possible. Have the mindset that you’re never going to actually spend money. Of course, we all end up doing so, but if you go in with the steadfast belief that you simply can'tspend money, you'll end up being more than just frugal. 

Why is authenticity in design important?

Authenticity is a complicated concept in general. We crave it in everything we consume or do. In design, I think that’s about intention. If the intention manifests itself in the actual design, there is integrity.

What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

Sylvain Labs. We’ve built a platform for us to exercise our personal motivations and passions. We make creative things, we think about issues we’re curious about and we serve causes that are bigger than us. Sylvain Labs is just a vehicle for us to be more ourselves. And we do that by leveraging the might of corporations. 

And we’re also just really into making cool sh*t together. Here are a few of our side hustles: 

Some Kind of Quest- a film we helped create that invites you into the singular world of Northlandz, a 52,000-square-foot model train installation just 75 minutes outside of Manhattan, and into the ornery mind of the man—and steadfast wife—who brought it all to life.

Instafame- a documentary that explores teenage relationships with fame through the lens of Instagram. 

Same Same But Different- our line of deliciously spicy hot sauces that failed miserably, but taught us more than we could have ever imagined. 

Waynesaw- a mobile game app about a friendly chainsaw. Just check it out if you’re confused.

The Dots- a book we wrote that deconstructs the concept of ‘influence’.

Critical Nonsense - our podcast where we dig deep into cultural ephemera through critically nonsensical conversations. We publish episodes every week. 

What are the last five songs you listened to?

In general, I’ve been into Afrobeat or Afropop recently: Wizkid, Davido, Yemi Alade. 

Follow Sylvain Labs on Twitter and Instagram, and visit their website for more information. Visit Alain at alain.is.

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Clever is produced by 2VDE Media. Thanks to Rich Stroffolino for editing this episode.
Music in this episode courtesy of
El Ten Eleven—hear more on Bandcamp.
Shoutout to
Jenny Rask for designing the Clever logo.