2019 SEEN Changemaker David Danielson

December 2, 2019

From working on parade floats to building stage props for Coachella, artist David Danielson shares the serendipitous journey that led him to success

By Rachel Pepe

Photography by Hayden Stinebaugh

The sky is the limit for local artists looking to utilize their talent, and David Danielson is living proof.

From creating a statue that went viral in a Pepsi ad campaign to lettering Toyota displays for the LA Auto Show, Danielson’s artistic abilities can be seen nationwide.

David Danielson, Creative Director of Display GroupCourtesy of Daniel Davidson

After graduating from the College for Creative Studies with a degree in fine arts, the Clawson resident began working with The Parade Company, known for organizing America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He worked at the nonprofit for a year before moving to a private company building props.

In 2008, Danielson heard the art director of The Parade Company was retiring. He says he was selected for the position and was tasked with expanding the private prop building business. While building bobbleheads for the Display Group, an events production and rental company that designs temporary and permanent displays, he connected with the company’s owner, Rick Portwood.

“He had just purchased this building here in the old Packard Plant in Detroit and was looking to expand his custom-built business,” Danielson says. “It was kind of serendipitous — right at the same time I wanted to go and do something more specific than just parade floats.”

David Danielson, Creative Director of Display GroupCourtesy of Daniel Davidson

Danielson, 39, began working for Display Group as the creative director of what became DG-3D. When he started at the company, he told Portwood about the CNC machinery needed to take their prop making to the next level. “Once we had those resources, it was able to give us a step above what has been done in the city before,” Danielson says. “No one in this area had done that, and that’s really how we have been able to expand to do work all over the country out of Detroit.”

Most of the work is commercial art for advertising agencies, exhibits, museums and trade shows. Last year, the company built the stage props for Migos’ performance at Coachella.

When Danielson began working for Display Group, the shop had only three employees. Now, they have 10 employees in the shop and four designers. “We are going to take up more space in (the Packard Plant),” he says. “We are going to bring in more equipment and bring in more artists — that’s the idea.”

Daniel DavidsonCourtesy of Daniel Davidson

Display Group marketing coordinator Stephanie McClung says Danielson is the type of leader who “will get in the trenches with his employees.”

“He will work late, he will build alongside his team to make sure a project is done and up to a client’s standards,” she says.

In his role, Danielson says he likes to bring in local artists and show them career opportunities.

“There is a big market out there for people with skills to use commercially,” Danielson says. “I think a lot of people who come in here don’t really see that until they start doing the work, and it becomes really satisfying.”

Dave Danielson is the 2019 SEEN Changemaker in Art & Entertainment. Read more about the 2019 SEEN Changemakers here.

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