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This article was published on May 19, 2014

What’s next for Dangerdust, Ohio’s anonymous chalkboard art duo?

What’s next for Dangerdust, Ohio’s anonymous chalkboard art duo?
Jackie Dove
Story by

Jackie Dove


Jackie Dove was in charge of The Next Web's Creativity channel from February 2014 through October 2015. Jackie Dove was in charge of The Next Web's Creativity channel from February 2014 through October 2015.

Dangerdust has graduated. That’s right. That anonymous dynamic duo of motivational chalkboard metaphysics — which is to say, two advertising and graphic design students from the Columbus College of Art & Design  — actually graduated from the program and have formally set themselves loose on the world. Not that they weren’t out there already.

While it may be hard to picture a pair of self-described nerdy graphic design students as dangerous, their secretly devised chalkboard works of imagery, typography and inspiration have captured the imagination not only of their fellow students but of the larger community of Columbus Ohio where their work is occasionally displayed. Despite a rigorous course of study, Dangerdust also managed to develop an international following based on social networking. Their deft use of Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, combined with their Behance portfolio, propelled their initial push into the public consciousness.

Dangerdust’s Etsy store, where a handpicked choice of their creations are getting some brisk traffic, has transformed their inherently ephemeral works into a dramatic part of the permanent artistic landscape.

This might also be the only time some people will ever ponder the insights of folks like Claude Debussy, J.M. Barrie, Stefan Sagmeister, Ellen Lupton, Nelson Mandela and other thinkers.

Despite originating on a chalkboard and being erased later, Dangerdust messages are works of art, painstakingly crafted. It could take up to 11 hours to produce a design in an empty classroom on Sunday and Monday nights and erased later, but not before professionally shot images were recorded for posterity.

Not too shabby for art school. But now it’s time to move on.

The Next Web caught up with Dangerdust via email to get an idea of what we can expect to see for the future. Hint: They’ll be sticking around and they’re not going to reveal their identities.

Stefan Sagmeister

The Next Web: What is the purpose of maintaining anonymity now? Are you afraid that there will be legal repercussions or professional prejudice because of your activities? 

Dangerdust: We’re not worried about legal repercussions; mostly we chose to remain anonymous because it makes our work a lot more fun. We like to joke and say that we’re vandals, but in all reality, we’re just a couple of nerdy and ridiculously meticulous designers.

Now that you’re out of school, how will you continue with your projects, or is this the end? Will you still work together? 

We’re going to keep working! During the week since graduation, we’ve been catching up on freelance and making plans for our next move. We’ve got another project in the works, and we’ll be posting about it soon.

You have a store at Etsy and you’re available for commission work, according to your Twitter feed. So does this mean that you’re officially in business now? 

We are quite busy with freelance and Etsy at the moment, and we’re going to stick with that for as long as we can! It’s always tricky to predict how a freelance career is going to progress, but so far, so good! (knock on wood)


Do you have plans to continue your schooling?

We’re both pretty set on the idea of never having to do homework again for the rest of our lives. That being said, we loved our time at CCAD. We’re out on our own and loving the professional freelance life.

In doing your projects, it seems classmates were aware of who you were and what you were doing. How did you manage to keep people quiet?

Our friends and a few of our teachers knew that it was us doing the chalkboards. We tried to keep it as quiet as possible, but it can be difficult to keep a secret at such a small school. Outside of CCAD, however, we’ve managed to keep things a mystery.

Neil Degrasse Tyson

What kind of curriculum did you follow at school? I ask because of the concentration of typography in your pieces. 

We were both Graphic Design majors, so we took mostly the same classes. The assignments we received were generally loose enough to allow us to interpret them based on our own interests, which allowed us to pursue hand-lettering and illustration.

What was the inspiration for choosing chalk? Was that something you argued or debated or was it a lightbulb going on?

Chalk was a very natural choice. There is one chalk lettering artist in particular we both loved, and she was definitely an inspiration to us. In the end we chose it because it’s cheap, forgivable, trendy, and because there was a chalkboard on campus we knew we could use.

Paul Klee

Was there a specific inspiration that prompted you to move in this direction? 

Not particularly. We both wanted to get off the computer and do more work with our hands, which was the main driving force behind the start of this project.

What was the motivation for having a mysterious identity? 

It definitely has been fun remaining anonymous. We’d like to think we’re vandals, so we’ll never give away our identities.

Steve Jobs

What was the inspiration behind your name?

It’s along the same lines as why we have decided to remain anonymous. We wanted a name that was somewhat over-the-top, and suggested that we were vandalizing the chalkboard on campus. Dangerdust seemed just ridiculous enough to be perfect.

From an artistic point of view, how does incorporating words into the art enhance it? Why do words at all? 

Letters are our favorite thing to draw. This part of the project seemed very natural to us. We wanted to share quotes with the student body that might provoke thought or start a discussion, rather than just doing an illustration.

How do you arrive at the messages?

We spend a lot of time thinking about quotes we’d like to use. We have a catalogue of quotes we flip through every week to find one that’s appropriate. Sometimes we’ll choose them based on current events or what’s happening at school, but sometimes we’ll choose something goofy that just seems fun.

It seems you’ve already ventured out into the streets and coffee shops outside of school, correct?

Yes! We’ve done a few freelance gigs in the Columbus area. More to come soon!


The works that look vandalized, is that your work too? Or did someone really try to ruin your stuff?

There have been a few times that someone will run their finger though the chalk work, but that’s just a part of public art, as well as chalk art. It’s never permanent, and that’s part of the reason we love it so much.

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