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.
1. Please tell us more about yourself, your background, education and what you do as a designer.
Where to begin? I am a graphic designer / illustrator located in Phoenix, Arizona. I am a full-time student studying graphic design, illustration and digital media at my local college. I am a full-time designer for a large format printer and trade-show display manufacturer located in Mesa, Arizona. I am a full-time daddy and husband to the two greatest girls in the world. I run a part-time freelance business at night revolving around indie music and bands. I just turned 21, and I never sleep!
2. How long have you been designing and what made you become an artist / designer?
I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil. I started using Photoshop in High School in a digital media class when I was 15, and I’ve never looked back! I knew from that point exactly what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I’ve been doing digital art for about six years and I have discovered that no matter how good I get, I can always be better. I love what I do, and I love it more and more each day.
3. Where do you work and what is your daily routine?
My daily routine is to wake up super tired. Play with my daughter as much as possible while getting up for work. Going to school (constantly e-mailing customers and checking on the status of print orders and such during class), getting to work where I design large and small format print designs, I also preflight customer made orders ensuring that they are up to par for print. Then I head home to start life #2.
I usually eat dinner with my wife and play with my daughter until she can’t hold her eyes open any longer. My wife and I then do homework, and after we’re all finished up she usually heads to bed, and I start work shift # two. I check my e-mail to make sure I’m not falling behind, and make sure no customers are waiting for anything. And then I start the projects that I set aside for the night and put on the headphones. Once I complete the projects that we’re scheduled, I e-mail out the proofs and try and get as much sleep as possible.
4. How did you market yourself in the beginning of your design career and how has that differed to how you market yourself now?
As far as marketing myself now, I just do the best job that I can. If you’re a good designer then the customer will refer you. A happy customer willing to talk about you is the best advertising you can get! If I love a piece and I know it will draw attention I will sometimes ask if I can put a credit line on it.
5. What are your tools of the trade? This could include hardware, software and traditional tools.
For my freelance work my tools include a moleskin, a loaded Mac Pro, Logitech MX Revolution, Adobe CS3 Design Suite, Firefox, MacFreelance, Wacom Intuis3 (which I now cannot live without) and the good old imagination!
6. How do you manage the business side of design such as accounting, invoicing and bookkeeping?
MacFreelance 100%. Only one side of my brain works, so MacFreelance took over the other side. If you take a look around the program it isn’t rated very high but I couldn’t live without it. It keeps all of my invoices together, times my design time and helps me bill my customers. I would be a mess without it.
7. Where do you get your inspiration and how do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
Stumble Upon! I reach a point some nights where the sun is coming up and I’m just drawing blanks, and that’s where stumble comes in. I set it for art, graphic design, illustration and unique… and just start clicking. After 5 minutes I have a million ideas.
8. Can you please guide us through a typical project from start to finish.
I like to start each project by speaking with the customer and figuring out exactly what style they would like to represent them. A lot of my creative process happens just in the initial meetings, I like to brainstorm with the customer so they feel like the end product is just as much theirs as it is mine.
I then knock out a couple different proofs and wait to hear which direction the customer would like to go. Once I receive an approval I like to bring up future projects to keep they’re gears moving.
I try and give even the smallest projects all of my attention and effort, so each customer feels like I’ve met every need. I like to give them a million reasons to come back and even more important, to talk me!
9. What are your top 3 websites / books and why?
I love justcreativedesign.com and gomedia.com for their freelance insight. I have just started working for myself in the past couple of months, so the advice these two sites give are usually priceless.
For inspiration I love faveup.com. It is very diverse and often gives me great ideas.
10. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out?
Work your butt off! If you don’t try your best and give it your all, the customer will know… not only because of the way that they’re treated but also just by looking at their artwork.
Treat everyone you work with with respect and be kind. Customers talk about good designers but they talk way more about bad designers. Be respectful on blogs, contests and anything web related. Being distasteful not only reflects bad on you personally but also for your business. Don’t use slang or internet terms when talking with customers, be professional.
Think of grade-school… treat them as you’d like to be treated!
Jacob: Thank you Drew for taking the time to fill out this interview, I can seriously relate to your situation! (not the married with kids bit though – that’s a whole other story). If you want to be featured as the next Designer In The Spotlight, please fill out this form.