Blank Canvas: Personal Projects

For this installment of Blank Canvas, Go Media is interested in hearing about your forays into the analog world.

With so much design work being created and used online and in digital format, it’s easy for a creator to only see their work on the screen. And typically the work you create is for a client.

Our question this time around: how much work do you create for yourself, and do you exhibit that work in shows and/or galleries? If so, how do you go about finding an outlet for your design work?

We also want to hear from you illustrators out there. How much of your work is personal creation, and do you show your art in community events?

Personally, most of my illustration work ends up being seen on-screen. I’ve been planning to create more personal digital artwork and get it out into the physical world, but to be honest I have been dragging my feet in that area.

At Go Media’s recent WMC Fest art/music/film event, I had the opportunity to display work and worked up an original illustration and had it printed out. The impact of seeing non-client work in large format print was addicting, and I plan to do much more of this in the coming months.

I’m also very curious as to those on the design end of the spectrum, what your thoughts are regarding personal creations and displaying them in a public setting. Sound off in the comments section below.

Go!

Defy The Hand You’re Dealt: WMC T-Shirt Giveaway

You may have heard about this little art, film, and music festival that I’ve been planning this year. It’s called Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and it’s happening THIS weekend here in Cleveland. I wrote this letter to the fine people who live in our city to encourage them to pursue their creative passions. This was reactionary after the Cavs lost last week and all we’ve had to deal with ever since are Lebron James rumors.

Anyway, WMC Fest is a celebration of creative visionaries who defy the hand they’re dealt. It’s happening this weekend, May 22 and 23 at Parish Hall – 6205 Detroit Ave in Cleveland Ohio. The fun starts at noon and three of us from Go Media (me, Bill Beachy, and Adam Wagner) will kick off the event with a 45 min talk about how this all started and how a creative agency can benefit itself from something like this.

We’re featuring lots of talented artists, bands, and filmmakers. More info at wmcfest.com.

T-SHIRT GIVEAWAY

Win a Weapons of Mass Creation t-shirt

Read my letter below and let it sink in. How does it make you feel? Inspired? I’d like to create more awareness about the festival this week and I need your help.

To win an official Weapons of Mass Creation t-shirt, I want you to write your own blog entry about what you think it means to “defy the hand you’re dealt.” Post it on your blog and then comment here to link us to your article. It can be as long as you want and we’ll pick the 3 we think are best. The only rule is that you need to add a link to wmcfest.com and tell people when and where the festival is happening (see above). The 3 winners will win an official Weapons of Mass Creation t-shirt, stickers, and a WMC 1.25″ button pack.

You have until Thursday at 11:59pm of this week (May 20th) to post it and comment. Make sure to give us a way to contact you in case you win. We’ll need to get your address to mail it out. You don’t need to live near Cleveland to win either. Anyone can do this and we’ll mail the winner their prizes.

Without further ado, here’s my letter.

To the city of Cleveland: defy the hand you’re dealt.

Like a lot of Clevelanders, I sat in my living room fixated to my television last night, watching the final Cavs playoff game in what was supposed to be THE dream season in which we’d finally win it all. Nope. After we lost, I turned my attention to sports talk call-in shows and Cavs message boards to empathize with the distraught and fed-up fans. I could have been just as deflated, but I’m not.

For many of us, we live generally decent and happy lives. Good job, family, friends, etc. Our sense of well being often hinges on whatever our beloved Cleveland sports teams do. It’s something that we buy into and root for but we cannot possibly control ourselves. And that leads me to my point. Why waste your energy getting worked up over something that’s completely out of your control?

Clevelanders, I suggest you take this advice. Defy the hand you’re dealt.

The Cavaliers have dealt us all a losing hand and instead of crying about how we’re cursed, we should be going out and improving our city’s reputation by means in which we actually HAVE control. We’re all sick of the national media not giving us enough credit. We all have the capability to do something remarkable and be remembered for something. What have you done lately that is worth remembering?

I write this because on next weekend, May 22 and 23 I’m hosting my first ever Weapons of Mass Creation Festival right here in Cleveland. A year ago I was tired of waiting for the perfect fest that blended my love for art, film, and music. I was jealous that the city of Austin, a thousand miles away, lights up every year during SXSW. Instead of waiting around, I told myself I was going to make it happen right here in Cleveland. Start it out small and see what happened. 10 months later, we’re here.

Weapons of Mass Creation is a celebration of creative visionaries who defy the hand they’re dealt. It’s about being remarkable and pursuing your passion. My passion is creativity and doing things on your own terms. Not letting outside forces you can’t control dictate your happiness or impact. I’m bringing in local and national artists, designers, bands, filmmakers, and other creative leaders who inspire me and are living their lives with the mentality that you are in control of your own destiny. You have a passion and have the freedom to pursue it.

So come out to Parish Hall in the Gordon Square Arts District on May 22 and 23 and get inspired. There will be 10 bands, talented artists, inspiring speakers, and a few award winning films. Just in time to lift your spirits and remind you that you can be remarkable if you really want to be.

Check out www.wmcfest.com to get you and your friends a printable e-ticket.

Remember Cleveland: defy the hand you’re dealt.

So that’s it, let’s see your article!

Tutorial: Death Metal Logo

Blank Canvas: Flash vs. HTML5

Recently we published a post regarding Apple’s stance on Flash and their iDevices. The gist of the situation is that Apple has decided they don’t want to be reliant on a third-party plugin for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch products.

Apple’s suggestion is for developer’s to embrace the new HTML5 specs which are supported by most current browsers, with planned support for HTML5 coming in those browsers that don’t currently support it.

There’s actually two components to this situation: the first being a browser plugin, which allows Flash-based video players and Flash-based websites (or web elements) to run on the Apple devices; the second is the new terms for the iPhone OS 4.0, which basically state that coders must use Apple’s tools to create apps for the platform.

So on one hand, we’re talking about browser content, and on the other we are talking about the App Store.

GoMedia wants to hear from you web devs out there: what’s your take on this? Not being a web developer myself, my thoughts come from an end-user perspective.

Personally, I like the idea that video and other interactive content would be browser-based as opposed to being restricted to one single authoring tool (Adobe Flash). It just seems good for the internet in general moving forward.

As far as the App Store, I think that is beyond the scope of the Flash vs. HTML5 argument as you cannot use HTML5 to build an App Store app, but one could easily build HTML5 “web apps” for the Apple devices as Google has done with their Gmail, Google Reader and Google Voice “web apps”. So let’s stick to browser-based content on this one.

I’m sure at this stage Flash has more flexibility and options for creating content than the yet-to-be-approved HTML5 standards offer. Flash has been around much longer. But in the long run, which is better for the internet in general?

Basing interactive elements within the browser as opposed to relying on a proprietary plugin just seems like the way to go. It opens up more options for competing software development tools as well as a set standard and coding language that everyone can use without needing anything more complex than a text editor.

But perhaps I am missing something here, not being a web developer (or in particular a Flash developer). As I mentioned, I am sure the Flash tools are currently more robust than HTML5, but I am also looking forward to what HTML5 has the potential to become.

With the success of the iPad, I have seen many major websites starting to at the least implement HTML5-based options for their video and interactive content. Some have decided to completely switch over from Flash to HTML5.

Go Media wants your input: what are the pros and cons of each route? Are your opinions based on your use of Flash? We’d like to hear from web developers that use Flash, and those who don’t. We’d also lke to hear from those who have used HTML5 to either replace or supplement Flash content — what were the benefits? What were the limitations?

Go!

Video Tut: iMac Illustration

Solo To Studio

What does it take to go from freelancing to building a design firm like Go Media?

Do You Really Want to be a Studio?

Before you embark on your journey to build a design studio, you should stop and ask yourself an important question: “Do I really want the responsibility of a full studio (firm) rather than staying a small 1-3 man shop?” In your mind you may be assuming that larger = better. But this is definitely not always the case.

For instance, you may assume that more employees will equal greater profitability. But what happens when you’re slow? Payroll doesn’t stop just because your work load slows down. Also, if you’re the boss – how do you think your daily job will change when you have 10-15 employees? Will you even have time to design anymore? Or will you spend most of your days in meetings, corresponding and managing?

And what happens when you have a bad employee (they’re not all roses.) Are you prepared to deal with, and possibly fire trouble employees? Talk to other small business owners about their day to day struggles. Make a budget – what’s the overhead of employing 10 people at a reasonable wage?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t grow your freelance shop into a studio, obviously, that’s what I did! But I also had a background in management and a real passion for business. And even feeling like I was WELL equipped to build a firm, it’s been a very long and difficult journey.

So before you go any further, just stop and take a moment to consider all the pros and cons of growing your solo operation into a studio.

The Positive

Ok, so assuming that you haven’t been scared off by all the negative stuff, why exactly would you want to hire a bunch of designers and build a studio? Go Media’s main impetus was that we wanted to share our daily lives with other artists that would inspire and push us. There is just something a lot more fun about a design collective than being a one-man-shop.

I was completely on my own for several years and found it completely depressing. Also, there is greater efficiency when you have job specialization. And, assuming you ARE very busy – there IS the opportunity to make more money. One really cool thing that I’ve discovered about Go Media is that crazy amazing things happen that I never would have ever dreamed of. Those life experiences are priceless. Without my staff to dream them up and execute on them, I never would have experienced them. I’m very appreciative of the different perspectives, ideas, and energies they bring to the company.

Money Money Money

What steps need to be taken once you’ve decided to grow your business into a studio? First and foremost you need the money. And I don’t suggest taking out loans or hiring with the anticipation of getting more work. Hiring new staff should only take place when you’re so slammed with work that you need them – desperately. That and you should be relatively sure that the work load isn’t going to drop off suddenly. How many new projects are lined up for the near future? If you’re unsure about your workload for the next few months, I suggest outsourcing your overflow until you’re sure you will have enough work for your new employees.

It’s Not All About Design

If you don’t already have a good lawyer, accountant, and payroll service, you’re going to want to find them and form good relationships with them. Your lawyer and accountant are extremely important advisors for your business. You should feel very comfortable and confident in your lawyer and accountant. They should feel like trusted family friends. Don’t just pick one from a list on Google. If you have friends or family with good contacts, meet them first. And then meet a few more for good measure. Basically, you are interviewing the people that will have a major impact on how you structure and run your growing company. I hired and fired several lawyers and accountants before I found the ones that I now trust.

“But Bill,” you ask “what if I can’t afford them yet? Lawyers and accountants are expensive!” Well, if you can’t afford them – you’re not ready to build a studio! I suggest going back to evaluate your pricing, business systems, how you find new work, etc. It’s called organic growth! You only grow when you can afford all the things that go along with growing.

Artificial growth is when you go take out loans and spend money before you’ve earned it. Basically, you’d be gambling on the fact that even though you cannot afford lawyers and accountants NOW, you’re going to get a loan, hire them anyway, and hopefully, before the loan is due you’ll figure out how to make more money. Hhmmm… sounds risky to me. I suggest focusing on making the money first, and growing second.

Suit & Tie Stuff

Once you have a lawyer and accountant that you trust, you should sit down with each of them and discuss your planned growth. They will advise you on how to structure your business, legally and financially. Typically your accountant will have a payroll service that he trusts and works with. Go Media is set up as an S-Corporation and we are on a cash basis accounting system since we don’t have any inventory. These are pretty typical for a design firm.

Along the way there will be a thousand little problems that will surely make you question whether or not you’ve made the right decision to grow your solo design operation into a full blown studio. At the end of the day, you just have to battle through them like anything else in life. One thing that was a major issue that I hadn’t really accounted for was the amount of time it takes to manage.

Design Time

The time I could spend designing was reduced to virtually nothing the first year that we expanded the staff to over 10 people. Even with a sales/project manager and a full time accountant/customer service rep – I was still inundated with questions, problems, and correspondence to deal with. As I was the primary sales person, I also had to spend significantly more time selling now that I had 8 people to supply with work instead of just 3.

Fortunately, the longer you keep a group of employees together the better they become. They learn the systems, improve at their jobs, get better at working together and require less and less management.

If I did it all over again there isn’t too much I would change. Whatever mistakes I made were good learning tools. If I had to give advice to others making that leap in growth, I think I would just suggest that you take it slow. Don’t be in a huge rush. Take it in steps a little smaller than what you want. You’ll benefit from holding yourself back – I promise!

The Next Step

So, what are the next steps for Go Media? Right now we’re feeling really comfortable as a 12 person firm. We still have some lessons to learn and some systems to refine before we’re ready for our next growth spurt. We’re working really hard to expand our circle of influence and dialing in our business model. There is a lot of growth ahead for Go Media, but right now it’s the internal growth that we’re focused on. We still need to get smarter and more efficient.