The Handshake

It's the poetry of capitalism.

(  And this is An About Page Posing as an F.A.Q. Page  )

So Who are you?

I'm David. I do brands and solve problems.

I'm a writer, branding strategist, and UX designer in New York City. Over the past decade I've worked for companies large and small in Asia, Europe, and North America, from Daekyo and YBM in South Korea to Brainly in Poland and the Oberthur Group in Québec. In Bangkok, I founded Thailand's first-ever personal-branding consultancy for students pursuing university study in the United States and Canada. I've written for The New York TimesOutside Magazine, and Harper's Magazine, and have worked with more academics than I can count to explain high-level scholarship to popular and non-specialist audiences. I hold degrees in French and English from Sarah Lawrence College and Rutgers University, and wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on early Native American literature. I've lived in five countries, traveled in fifty, and now make my home in sunny Brooklyn with my twenty-dollar cat, Ramble, and my Hawaiian rescue dog, Koa. Get in touch. (I'm great at handshakes.)

Conventional portfolios don't always get the job done—especially since a lot of my work has focused on longer-format, data-driven copywriting and research projects, which can overwhelm the portfolio format. I've designed this collection to give a representative look at my copywriting, branding, and user-study work, and to offer an impression of how I think through client problems. There's plenty more where this came from, and I'm happy to link you to more samples.

What even is this?

It's a portfolio, but different.

My many side-skills include making great barbecue, being able to list all 45 presidents in order, and having a bona-fide expertise in early-American and Native American literature. My dissertation took on some curious and long-forgotten transcripts from the 1700s, which documented a series of diplomatic encounters between indigenous and colonial governments in the American backcountry. They're beautiful texts, filled with all the soaring oratory, holy ceremonies, and witty verbal assassinations that turned frontier treaty councils into high-stakes performances. Reading them gives you a front-row view of what happens when Native American ways of thinking collide headlong with all the radical religious and political ideas being imported by the outcasts and mystics and sectarians who were streaming into the back-country to seek refuge from traditional churches and ex-wives and debt-collectors. It was a wild time.

Ph.D. in English? Talk literary to me.

Okay, but here's a pro tip: don't raise your hand when a flight attendant asks if there's a doctor on board.

I went to graduate school to get smarter and to become a better writer. From start to finish I read about a quarter-million pages and wrote nearly a thousand more, which taught me a few things about coming up with great ideas and selling them to suspicious strangers. My academic work showed me how to turn enormous quantities of information into sharp, compelling arguments capable of winning over the hearts and loyalties of broad audiences—from undergraduate students to corporate donors to senior academics in diverse fields. All in all, it was the perfect training ground for this business.

What does a Ph.D. in English have to do with Branding and Advertising and stuff?

Advertising is the poetry of capitalism.

Sarah Lawrence? Really?

It's totally not a women's college.

It's more of a gender-non-conforming college featuring an anarchist cheerleading squad, an "all-time undefeated football program" that has never existed, and a basketball team that routinely loses to a neighboring culinary school.

Was your career presaged in your deep childhood and fulfilled in the present like a prophecy carried forward upon the winds of time?


My earliest clients were my fellow first-graders at Carlos Rivera Elementary School in El Paso, Texas. I charged a 10¢ fee to ghostwrite short stories for morally questionable six-year-olds, who would eagerly pass my work off as their own in pursuit of accolades, adoration, and the hearts of their paramours. It was serious work, and if I could sell three stories by the end of each week I'd have enough money to buy a popsicle at the Friday Popsicle Sale. And I'll be straightforward with with you. I bought a lot of popsicles that year.

But my earliest and proudest branding-specific work dates to the fall of 2000, when I launched my spirited write-in campaign for the presidency of the Keystone School student council (☞).


I lost by a substantial margin.


DKJ: A Life in Numbers

I need numbers. Show me the numbers.

No problem.

Show me your dog.


Her name is Koa, and she's a darling little rescue I adopted in Hawaii. Her genetic test indicates she is  "25% pit bull, 75% Southeast Asian Island Village Dog." We have a lot in common. Also, big props to the copywriter who came up with "Southeast Asian Island Village Dog." It's a huge improvement on "Clearly This Dog Is a Mutt So We're Returning Your Hundred Dollars."

Why does your twenty-dollar cat live in the sink.

Because he does, is why.

And it's not my job to judge his life.


Do you do internet?

I totally do internet.

And I'm always seeking new collaborators and nemeses to make me work harder and smarter. Let's make cool stuff together.