Tony the Whlgn is a graphic designer from Detroit. Upon moving from Detroit, he lent his artistic skill to Ecko Unltd. His work has been utilized by Joey Badass, Dej Loaf, BIG K.R.I.T. and more. Rolling out had the chance to speak with Tony’s manager Allante Steele about Tony’s progression, The Whlgn collective, and more.
“Work with people that love what they do” is the mantra of your creative coalition “The Whlgn.” When did you know that graphic design was his calling in life?
I probably would have to say back in high school. He was always drawing and doing mixtape covers in high school. Drawing is where it all stems from because if he didn’t have a passion for drawing, then he wouldn’t necessarily be into graphic design. He went to the Detroit School of Arts so that served as his playground to do everything that he wanted to do.
The Whlgn is a collective of successful artists, photographers, entrepreneurs who originate from the soil of Detroit. Tony was the brainchild of The Whlgn, so how does one go about maintaining a successful brand such as this one?
It’s really all about believing in yourself and your team because at the end of the day, if we don’t believe in each other, then we can’t move forward. We have to be able to hold each other accountable for what we got going on individually, and as a brand. It’s also about trust and communication. We definitely have had our ups and downs because we aren’t perfect, but we’re all a work in progress at the end of the day. We got the drive, and we know we can make the brand better and even within our own brands, we have that same belief. We all have the same mentality.
Tony’s graphic work as been utilized by Dej Loaf, Joey Badass, and Big K.R.I.T. He even designed for Ecko and Chene Park Amphitheater in Detroit. How has he been able to consistently translate his ideas from sketch and paper, onto software at a high level?
Keeping things on task is most important. I’ve been his manager since April of 2016, and I’ve been helping him because [there has] been a lot on his plate since I started, but me being there to talk to clients, answering emails, and remind him of things has helped a lot. It’s really all about the focus because when our focus is right, we get s— done. Ain’t nothing like a damn distraction. Anything can be a distraction, so you have to minimize distractions and maximize focus.
I know you’re his manager and you tend to handle all of his personal affairs. You’re also his cousin. The ideology behind family lies in trust and loyalty, so how has your undivided support kept him afloat?
I’ve been keeping him on his toes and helping him to bring more ideas out. At the end of the day, he’s his biggest critic, so he’ll do something, hold on to it, then I ask him about it and he doesn’t like it. So I usually tell him to show it [to them] and see if the person likes it, and every-time this happens, the s— that he doesn’t like, the person loves. He’s done that on multiple occasions.
Everyone wants to be recognized by big names and have their work posted, retweeted, etc. The Whlgn collective believes in humility, focusing on the details, plus the work ethic behind it all. What are some of the things that one must do if they want to become a successful graphic designer like Tony?
I feel like networking and perseverance are key elements because the more people you get to know, the more people they’re going to know. Networking and work ethic go hand in hand. Four years ago, Tony didn’t expect to go to New York and work with Pro Era. He got a call from someone, and they wanted to bring him out to New York to work with Ecko. This person knew also knew Joey Badass and that’s how that relationship started. If you persevere, God is going to take you where you need to go and that’s how I feel right now with The Whlgn. We’re going to continue to continue to grow.