Designer In The Spotlight (DITS) is a weekly feature that I run every Sunday (or more) to help particular individuals in the design community get their name ‘out there’ and to educate the community as a whole. It is a series of questions that asks the designer about themselves and their job as a designer. If you would like to be featured in an upcoming DITS post fill out the form here.
In this article Doug Cloud tells us about his hard time growing up and his journey becoming a talented graphic artist. Doug and I originally met when he emailed me in regards to finding the best mouse for designers and Doug claims that this is what influenced him to start his own design blog.
1. Please tell us more about yourself, your background, education and what you do as a designer.
I was born with a rare endochronological disorder, but it was not diagnosed until I was twenty-one. A side effect of the birth defect were some bone deformities, including a missing left ear. A very talented plastic surgeon created one for me from cartilage he took from my chest. In order to raise money for the operations the March of Dimes made me a poster child for two years. I went in for the operations when I was seven and by the time he was done I was fourteen.
I remember the newspaper coming over to do a story on me. There was a drawing I did in art class that my mom had framed hanging on the wall and the guy asked if I could take it down and make like I was drawing it… so I did. Unfortunately, the newspaper that my mom saved with my story in it got lost somewhere.
I was never afforded the luxury of schooling. In fact, for me school was a nightmare. Because of my handicaps I was always ridiculed and picked on. I finally dropped out in the ninth grade, got a regular job, bought a car, and was much happier.
The only thing in my life that gave me joy was my drawing. I remember the time in the hospital there was this room down the hall where all the other kids would gather and play. I would sit in there for hours drawing away and quite often I’d have a huge group of kids and even nurses gathered around watching me. By the time I left the hospital the nurses had hung my pictures up on the walls all the way around the room.
2. How long have you been designing and what made you become an artist / designer?
I started drawing from the moment I could hold a pencil (or crayon). First it was just doodles, then stick men, then drawing Snoopy and other Peanuts characters on kids notebooks. My mother still tells me the story of when I was three years old and she used to brag to her friends how I could color inside the lines in my coloring books.
Cartoons are what inspired me. The old classics like Quick Draw McGraw, Underdog, Top Cat, and Tennessee Tuxedo. Later I became inspired to draw thanks to Charles Schultz and his wonderful comic strip, Peanuts.
I first began doing graphic design work on the computer only a few years ago. Up until that time all my design work was done by hand with good old pencil and paper. I still draw out my concepts, but now I can import them into the computer and make them come alive on the screen.
I still love to draw and when I’m not working on something for someone else I doodle just for the sheer joy of it.
3. Where do you work and what is your daily routine?
I’m a night auditor at a hotel. Because of my handicaps I naturally gravitated toward third shift. People are cruel and vain and someone with disabilities is often left an outcast by society. It’s a shame really, but that’s the way most people are. So for me nights are a refuge; quiet, no people, and plenty of time to work on my craft.
I believe this is why I love my computer so much. On the Web you can make lots of friends and interact with these people and there’s none of the negative dogma that comes with such interactions in my every day life.
Most days I go to sleep at 7 a.m. then get up around 5 p.m. I make some coffee and fire up Edgar (that’s my computer). I check my Twitter, Facebook, and other social sites to see what’s been happening. Then I work on my blog for a while and get ready for work. On my days off I just relax, stay as far away from people as I can, and sometimes go visit my folks.
4. How did you market yourself in the beginning of your design career and how has that differed to how you market yourself now?
I know this is going to sound odd, but I never market myself much. Occasionally I will meet people and the subject of design will come up and I’d mention what I did and maybe hand them a business card. But for the most part that was it. I’m not much of a PR man, just an artist.
5. What are your tools of the trade? This could include hardware, software and traditional tools.
Photoshop mostly, and sometimes Illustrator. I had to teach myself how to use these programs and I’m still learning as I go along. I still do a lot of drawing by hand. I guess I always will. You never lose touch with your first love, and mine is drawing.
6. How do you manage the business side of design such as accounting, invoicing and bookkeeping?
I don’t do much of that stuff. When I do have a client I simply fax over a design request form which has a list of questions for the client to answer (things like colors, fonts, etc.) and after that is filled out and we are good to go, I send them a design contract that we both sign before any work begins.
7. Where do you get your inspiration and how do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
I’m not one to readily jump on the old fad wagon. I don’t follow trends or the crowd. I’m very old fashioned, both personally and professionally. I stick with what works and I guess you could say the only new things I’ve bent to are the software programs I use and my computer. Other than that I just do what I do.
8. Can you please guide us through a typical project from start to finish.
Whenever I am contacted by a client I suggest they ask themselves, “What is it I want?” This is a safe question for both of us, because after all I’m not designing the site for me, I’m designing the site for them. I can give a client anything they want, but first they must tell me what that is. Now this isn’t said in a manner that is difficult or rude, but rather to emphasize that “i ned a free grphc fer my website pleez” doesn’t tell me a whole lot.
Next, I ask them what their budget is for their particular project. I can’t tell you how much time is wasted by people who contact me to design something, but then when the subject of money is considered they bug out. So it’s important to get that topic up front right away. I also inform them that I require half of the total projected for the project before any work begins.
I also send them a design request form which lists questions to ponder over, like what colours they would like for their design, fonts, page layouts, etc. I tell the client to consider these questions carefully and then send it back. If we are good to go after that then I send them my design contract to sign and fax back to me. Once I sign it I fax a copy back to them.
After all that is taken care of then I begin work on the design. Now I do not own a scanner so any artwork I draw by hand I take pictures of them with my digital camera and upload those into the computer. Once there, I open the drawings in either Photoshop or Illustrator (I use both programs for design work). When I have my initial ideas done I load them onto a web page for the client to see. Being able to view the designs online is good for both of us, because visually seeing the work gives the client ideas and helps me to narrow down what it is they are after.
Once the design is narrowed down I begin tweaking it. When I’m satisfied I upload again and me and the client converse some more. This process can take anywhere from one day to a week or more, depending on the job. Rare are the clients who say ‘Yowza!” right out of the gate, but it does happen.
Now from a design standpoint, I can make suggestions, but I tell the client to not base their final decisions on my suggestions alone. When they are completely satisfied then I save the design in whatever format the client requires and send them copies of the work. Unless the client specifically asks for them, I always keep my original designs.
9. What are your top 3 websites / books and why?
Dan Rubin’s SuperfluousBanter: I just love the colors and the layout. His use of the title in the different sections on his page is really slick. I’ve always admired the use of words, slogans, and images for dramatic effect, and Dan has done a superb job.
Watership Down by Richard Adams: Think about it … an entire book … about rabbits. Ingenious. Every time I read this I am transported into this world inhabited by rabbits and I am amazed at the depth of feeling and atmosphere Adams gave to these critters. A true artist in his own right.
Blambot by Nate Piekos: Because I love cartooning and because it’s home to one of my favorite online comics, Atland. Nate also has a wonderful selection of free and professional comic fonts. He also has some nice articles on the process he uses for making his comics.
10. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out?
Don’t give up. No matter how much you want to. No one is going to succeed if they give up. And besides, why would you want to?
Jacob: Thank you Doug for taking the time to fill out this interview, it was a great insight into how you live your life and the challenges you have faced. If you want to be featured as the next Designer In The Spotlight, please fill out this form.