LeBron’s Comeback: How Illustrator Robert Carter Designed the King’s Return to Cleveland

Interview with Robert Carter of Cracked Hat Design

As you all well know, the Cleveland pride is bursting through the walls of Go Media, where we sit only 2 miles from Quicken Loans Arena, new (and old) home to LeBron James.

On July 11, we sat with bated breath, awaiting the news of his possible return to our great city.

Then there it was.

Sighs of relief filled the office. (Particularly mine). He was back.

Saturday came and we were in for a different treat, this a designer’s dream.

While folks say print has come and gone, this, the LeBron coverage in the Plain Dealer proves to us yet again otherwise. With something so moving and electric in your hands, it’s hard to say print will ever be irrelevant. Nothing like it.

Josh Crutchmer’s post on snd.org reveals the painstaking process the folks at the Plain Dealer went through crafting up these 20 pages I read, then reread with intensity last weekend.

The story starts with the mindset of any Clevelander: some hope filled with a lot of doubt.

As he notes in the snd post, “Even as buzz built and rumors swirled that James might be serious about a return, we kept it at arms’ length.”

With more information gained, including “open speculation that there was no backup plan for James,” Josh and the team realized that it was time to get serious.  T-minus 60 hours.

At the 60-56 hour mark, the concern to Josh and team was The Plain Dealer cover. What would it be and how would it get there?

They immediately decided that the cover stray away from a simple remake of the iconic 2010 cover, “Gone.”

| LeBron 2010 Cover from snd.org |

Enter Robert Carter:

Once the 2010 cover was out of the picture, Josh and the team decided that instead an illustration might suffice. They called upon Robert Carter of Cracked Hat design to see if he might be up for the task.

Why Carter?

He reflects, “I like to think my style is why they hired me in the first place. I think really for any artist it’s their unique signature that a client or fan is drawn to and the reason they want to work with or purchase or be part of that person’s art. It always blows my mind when every once in a while I’m asked to paint or illustrate something and they’re like ‘We really love your work but can you do it in ‘this’ kinda style.’ Style didn’t come into discussion with Josh, he knows the kind of work I do, and expects to see that. Nobody wants to hire you based on your established style only to be surprised by something completely different.”

After a quick email back and forth, Carter was in. Now the Plain Dealer had to wait for word that LeBron was, too.

Still, time was of the essence, and Carter wasted no time getting to work portraying one of basketball’s greatest. “I think even more so than his likeness (which is usually the main concern in portrait work) in this case it was to get the right feeling of impact, drama, that this was something big! The iconic pose and stark black backdrop, those are the elements that sold the piece more than anything I think,” he says.

“After being contacted by Josh and talking back and forth a bit about the piece, I got to work on the rough around 1:00pm. I sent it over for approval around 6:30pm, which thankfully it was. As they didn’t know exactly when James would make the announcement, Josh asked if I could have the final to a point where they could use it if absolutely necessary by 10pm! Scrambling to get as much done in that time as possible I sent them what I had. It was missing a lot of detail work like his tattoos and other things but it was enough that in a pinch it could have been used.”

| LeBron Rough Sketch from snd.org |

“Thankfully they didn’t need it that night so had until 6:00 pm the next day to take it to completion. I was pretty burnt out by that point so I called it a night and picked it up again in the morning. By 6:00 p.m. I delivered the final piece.”

The Final Hours

In the final hour, the unbelievable happened. Word came in: he was actually coming home.

With only a few hours to go, and the final illustration in place, the Plain Dealer team cranked out the print piece I thought would never be.

LeBron Plain Dealer Cover courtesy of Robert Carter

Read Josh Crutchmer’s story, 60 Hours in Cleveland: The Plain Dealer’s LeBron Section

LeBron Illustration courtesy of Robert Carter, Cracked Hat Design

More about Robert:

Robert Carter is a multiple award-winning full time professional freelance illustrator. Born in St. Albans, England, he moved to Ontario, Canada, at an early age. Robert began his journey into the world of art from the get-go, constantly doodling and sketching anything and everything. Robert went on to study Art and Illustration, graduating from the prestigious Sheridan College School of Art and Animation.

Robert has been working constantly as a professional illustrator for more than a decade. Combining a strong foundation in portraiture with a unique sense of visual and conceptual problem-solving Robert creates striking, vibrant, and textured illustrations and portraits with subjects ranging from the realistic to the surreal. With a background in traditional oil painting Robert applied those skills to the digital realm and taught himself the digital painting medium, which is now his preferred method of working for it’s speed and flexibility.

Taking a short hiatus from illustration in 2013 Robert went back to Sheridan College, this time to study Computer Animation, graduating with honours.

Robert would like to continue to explore and expand his work, continually striving to improve himself and his art. Robert now lives and works as a professional freelance illustrator in Baden, Ontario, Canada.

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest Interview with Designer: Scott Williams


I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for my life to be changed. I need a breath of fresh air, like now.

But until then, I have a friend or two I’d like you to meet. Let’s start with one of the designers who will be struttin’ their stuff this year at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 5, Mr. Scott Williams.

Scott Williams is a Chicago-based graphic designer who has been making things around town a little more beautiful since 1996. He’s created numerous show posters for the Annoyance Theatre, I.O. and the Second City in support of Chicago’s talented comedy and improv community. For the past five years, Scott has been designing gig posters, and has been commissioned by artists including Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, JD McPherson and Numero Group. Scott is also a part of Soul Summit—a three-man DJ collective that hosts a monthly dance party at the Double Door in Chicago’s Wicker Park. As Art Director for Soul Summit, he creates a fresh poster for every party.

Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires

Let’s hear from Scott for a bit about his background and what inspires his work, shall we?

So Scott, can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in the field and about any pivotal moments that brought you to where you are today?

As far back as I can recall, I’ve always been into drawing. My grandfather had a ton of old letterhead after he retired. He’d give me a box of it and I’d just draw on it. I’d draw everything I was into as a kid, which was usually sunken pirate ships, old castles, sword fights or anything Star Wars related. I was really encouraged to keep at it growing up and into high school. I went to college and got my BFA in painting and drawing. I was into Surrealism and Realism, painters like Chuck Close and James Valerio. My goal was to get my Masters at the Art Institute of Chicago and then teach at a collegiate level. But after moving to Chicago in the early/mid 90s, that didn’t really pan out for me. The Art Institute is expensive! So instead, I got a job at a record store. Standard pivot move from the life of academia. That was the turning point for me. Everyday I was seeing graphic design in the form of album covers. Working there was like being immersed in a graveyard of thousands of ideas in graphic form. That inspired me. A LOT. So I started doing tiny side jobs for bands. For example, I painted large tour banners and backdrops for bands like Man or Astroman, which really got me thinking about graphic design as a full time gig. I then went and got a degree in computer graphics and cut the record store hours in half. After I got that degree, which I really needed for the computer skills, things started to click for graphic design and me. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to work in the field for 20 years and counting.

Soul Summit
Soul Summit

What is the main style and or theme of your work and how did you develop that over time?

I’d say some of my biggest influences come from my own record collection, old magazine ads and from artists like Art Chantry or Tooth. I’m really inspired by folks who really fuck with the way we perceive imagery and font stylings. Very gritty, distressed, but simple and clean at the same time. The bulk of my gig poster work comes from a very successful Soul & Funk night here in Chicago called Soul Summit. I wanted to create posters that had a punk edge to them and not just revue styled Soul posters which were super prevalent during what some might call the “Soul Revival”. After a couple years doing those I got tapped by groups like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires, and Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears for work.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings Fall 2011 TOUR PT 1
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings Fall 2011 TOUR PT 1

Where do you find daily inspiration?

The Internet for sure. It’s corny to say, but it really provides a great avenue for Artists to share their work (if they’re online that is). Endless inspiration. Big portal sites like gigposters.com is good in that way as well. Other than that, it’s record covers, books, magazines, etc.

Menahan Street Band / Soul Summit
Menahan Street Band / Soul Summit

We look forward to seeing your work at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 5! What should we look forward to seeing and what should we expect from you in the future?

Hopefully a lot more art work! I think the WMC is a great concept and i’m very excited to be a part of it this year! Thank you!

For more Scott: Scott Williams Design

And don’t forget to:

Buy your tickets to WMC Fest!

An Interview with Rock Star Designer Tad Carpenter

Hello Tad Carpenter!

He’ll be the last to tell you, but for us here at Go Media, WMC Fest 3 alum Tad Carpenter is a rock star. Designer, illustrator, author and teacher, Tad balances good stuff like brand identity, packaging and book design, illustration and interactive along with his role as Professor at University of Kansas. Surrounded by design (his parents were artists and his wife Jessica a designer, too), Tad creates whimsical, smart and all-around fun for clients like Macy’s, Chronicle Books, MTV, Adobe and Hallmark Cards.

Clevelanders, be sure to catch him on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at the next AIGA Design Speaker Series.

Now onto our chat!


You’re pretty much a rock star designer in our eyes. In your opinion, why was it you who “made it”? What are characteristics that would drive someone to achieve such a status?

Complacency breeds death. I want that fire, I want the pressure, I never want to stop climbing.

I dont know how to answer that. Ha! Thank you for the compliment but I am just thankful to have work and to be doing something I love everyday. I don’t know if I have “made it” like you say. I still feel like I have so many things I want to make and so much I want to do that I’m still each day just climbing that hill. I will always be climbing that hill. The older I get at times that hill starts to feel like a mountain. I want to make more, I want to do more. The hill keeps growing. To be honest, I hope I never feel comfortable and complacent. Complacency breeds death. I want that fire, I want the pressure, I never want to stop climbing.

Illustration, Identity, Restaurants

If you had to choose one defining moment in your career that pushed you towards notoriety, what would you say that was?

Perseverance and sweat are vastly underrated traits.

Geez, again I am not sure. I don’t know anything about notoriety to be honest. I, again, am just so happy to love what I GET to do for a living. It is important to remember we GET to do this. There sure are a lot of other professions out there and I am so lucky this one chose me. I can say this, ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be an artist, a designer, an illustrator. I got my first taste in 3rd grade and at that moment I knew this was the life I wanted to lead. I worked really hard. I still work really hard. That is what it all comes down to in my eyes, how hard do you want to work? I have never been the best draftsman, or the best with color or have the best type skills or can draw anything I look at or whatever. But I have always been willing to roll my sleeves up and work, work, work. Perseverance and sweat are vastly underrated traits.


What is one important piece of advice you’d give a fellow designer who wanted to land a dream client, such as Hallmark – but had zero connections?

No way to fail.

Connections are important of course. I could be wrong, but to me making connections today is the easiest it has ever been. Everyone has those big pie in the sky dream clients they would love to work with. Anymore finding out their contact info is literally just a few clicks away. Never, ever be afraid to ask for something you want. If you want to work with Nike or Hallmark or Apple go make it happen. The worst that can happen is you end up exactly where you are now. No way to fail.

Have you ever broken a “rule” to get ahead in your career?

I did once go swimming 5 minutes after I ate. I regret this daily.

I also talked about Fight Club which I think might be a big no-no according to the clubs first rule.

What is your biggest fear, creatively speaking?

When I first wrote an answer down I wrote that I fear not getting any work in the future. All of it just drying up. This is a BIG fear for me but really, I would just have more time to make things for myself. That can never be taken away from you. So yes, not getting in more work and having to get a real job is a big fear but also just time passing you by scares me. I want to do this for another 70 years…can I? What will our profession be like in 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? The fear of the unknown is always present.

Illustration, Books

What is your biggest dream, creatively speaking?

I have so many things I really want to do. A huge passion for me is writing and illustrating children’s books. I have been so lucky to work on several over the past few years. I want to keep doing this forever. My first real exposure to art (like most of us) was from children’s books. I love that maybe I, too, can inspire or get a child excited about design. That is a serious responsibility that I don’t take lightly.  Something I have always wanted to create is a clothing line. My wife and I (also a designer) have played with a few ideas over the years and I would love to work more on this one day. I love branding new start-ups too. I hope I can create more and more of these as well. Restaurants, retail, anything. It is such a rush creating a new brand and seeing the clients excitement as it comes to life.

BIKE PRINT Illustration, Prints
Illustration, Prints

What is the biggest challenge you have faced, or face on a regular basis, to achieve success?

I guess having too many dreams, goals, work and commitments is not always a bad thing.

I am sure it is the same challenge everyone faces. Never, ever enough time. Outside of running my own studio I also teach graphic design at the University of Kansas. I love teaching. It no doubt makes me a better designer and I love working with aspiring young designers. It is so rewarding and flat out fun. But, it does add to my workload to get my “real work” completed. I feel I am pretty good with time management but could get better. I guess having too many dreams, goals, work and commitments is not always a bad thing.

For more: Tad Carpenter | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Tumblr | Flickr | Dribbble

Episode 22: Surviving As A Designer With OKPants

Comic, Creature and Character Illustration: 4 Pro Tips

Tips for Comic Book Designers

Dei G of Deisign is a master of comic design. A provider of unique character and creature designs for the entertainment industry, as well as a generator of character driven covers and promotional illustrations, Dei has won numerous awards and has produced work for Paramount Pictures, Stone Circles Pictures and ToonBox Entertainment, to name a few.

His work is captivating, his characters jumping off the page with a refreshing sense of life, movement and vitality.

Just how does Dei animate his illustrations so exceptionally? Here are some of his pro tips for comic book style graphic design:

Designing Creatures & Characters

Move beyond emotion.

It is not so much about “the best way to depict emotion” but about the best way to emote. What I mean is that the goal shouldn’t be to draw great facial expressions that are identifiable, but believable and relatable ones. To achieve this, I try to abstract myself from the fact that I’m just drawing lines on a piece of paper, and believe that I am in fact revealing a character that was already there, who is genuinely alive in its own little universe and therefore, has got real emotions that I need to stay true to. Ideally, when looking back at the character, you wouldn’t go “boy, that’s a good sadness expression!”; you should say “boy, this character is heartbroken”. In fact, another thing that helps is to be precise with the vocabulary of emotions you are looking to express. Never go for generic emotions like sadness, happiness or fear. Instead, think in terms of specific shades of emotion, like feeling melancholic, bitter, defeated, thrilled, glad, anxious, terrified, etc. When you do all of the above, it becomes a matter of drawing with emotion (I frown, grunt and smile at my drawing table all the time) and asking yourself if you can truly empathize with the character’s expression you just drew. Drawing great expressions is not so much an exercise of draftsmanship, but an exercise of emotional honesty.


Evoke a sense of movement and life.

My background in Animation taught me that every pose and every drawing is not an isolated instance in time. Every drawing is coming from somewhere and going somewhere too, like a single frame from a film sequence. To evoke that sense of life, motion and emotion in drawing, one should be mindful of what precedes and follows the instance that is being depicted, both physically and emotionally. Additionally, a good base of anatomy and life drawing can’t hurt. Being aware of these things helps inform the drawing choices and ultimately increases that sense of dynamism and life in the illustrations.

Mind your composition.

I don’t use any actual grid systems when creating cover illustrations or character designs, but I am very mindful about composition, which does have some inherent guidelines. One example could be the famous rule of thirds: This particular rule states that when the canvas is divided in three equal vertical and horizontal segments, the top left and bottom right line intersections (and vice versa) are thought to be the most restful and comfortable for the human eye to settle on. However, one may also choose to set the focus at the very center of the page for a striking effect, etc. Composition is a very powerful tool that’s worth learning about and the possibilities it offers are endless. The only general recommendation I could give when it comes to planning the composition of a drawing, is to strive for clarity and to know beforehand which is going to be the focal point of the image.


Know your Focal Point.

As a character oriented illustrator and character designer, the focus in my illustrations is usually on the character, but it could be any element in a composition. What’s important is to know what that focal point is (could be one or multiple) and to use the background and other compositional elements to direct the viewers attention to it. This doesn’t necessarily mean keeping the background plain, but using it to compliment the main element of the composition. This can be achieved through subtle directional lines/elements, but also through contrast in tone, color and detail.

Lastly, Dei reminds, always be prepared when inspiration strikes.

“For my professional work, for efficiency’s sake I usually use Photoshop all the way from initial sketch to final color. However, I always bring a sketchbook with me to doodle and sketch out ideas. Nothing beats the feeling of pencil on paper.”

For more Dei:  www.DEISIGN.com | Facebook | Twitter

Learn to Code: Tips for Designers (Part 2 of 2)

Learn to Code Quick Tips

Ok, so you’re convinced. A solid grasp of some HTML/CSS and Javascript will serve you, the designer, well.

Where, then, do you begin? We asked our very own front-end developer and designer guru, Bryan Garvin, as well as friend of Go Media, web designer, developer, and founder of Girl Develop It, Jen Myers, for some tricks of the trade.

Bryan Garvin, ladies and gents...
Learn How to Code with Bryan Garvin. Beard Not Required.
Jen Myers: web designer/developer, teacher, speaker, kicks code ass
Jen Myers: web designer/developer, teacher, speaker

1. Overcome your fear.

Where to start when you’re facing what appears to be a Mount Everest of information? Jen Myers suggests that you, “start small and put it in the context of what you already know. If you work purely in graphics, practice building your mockups in HTML/CSS instead. If you are familiar with HTML/CSS, it’s not much of a stretch to start working with JavaScript. You don’t necessarily have to start with programming fundamentals and work up. In fact, most designers tend think visually and holistically, as I do, and so starting with the big picture and drilling inward can be a more comfortable way to approach code.”

Girl Develop It    Learn to Code

2. Fight stereotypes.

Let’s face it, as Jen notes, “Women are indeed the minority in the coding world, but a lot of good people are working to change that.”

How do we go about it? “The easiest way to find a supportive learning environment,” she recommends, ” is to locate one of the many organizations who offer classes aimed at women. Or, start an organization like that yourself. Three years ago, I wanted something like this and I ended up founding the Columbus, Ohio chapter of Girl Develop It, which now has sixteen chapters in different cities and more on the way. There is also RailsGirls, Railsbridge, Ladies Who Code and Women Who Code. You can also start out doing some classes online at a place like Skillcrush.

“There are also many individual women working in code today who care about improving the coding landscape and bringing more women in. Don’t be afraid to ask them for advice or mentorship. We’re all here to help each other.”

3. Recognize Life Beyond Dreamweaver.

“Many schools still push using Dreamweaver,” notes Go Media front-end developer and designer Bryan Garvin, “And sadly, a lot of those schools are using outdated versions of that software. This industry is always evolving, so attaching yourself to something that is static in time won’t give you the best path to continuing to evolve with the world around you.”

“Dreamweaver looks nice and gives you the “easy” WYSIWYG editor. I started there, so I’m not going to tell you not to open it up, play with it, and see what it does. But, at the end of the day, spending the time to learn the code instead of learning the software that creates the code will give you the ability to design and develop regardless of what device you’re working on. And, that will also give you the ability to continue to code and work with new technologies and techniques, which may or may not be supported by Dreamweaver six months after you bought it.

Go Media is primarily a PC-based company and we code all of our sites using Notepad++.

4. Learn Responsive Design, it’s the future of web coding.

“We design our sites to be responsive, therefore accessible and usable on any device. During the early wireframe/prototype phase, we walk a client through how the responsive framework we use reacts to the changing width of the viewport. We organize and prioritize every content area on a page with a client and help them understand that on a phone, people can still access all of their content, even if it looks “different” than on their PC.”

“You can read the pros and cons to moving to responsive designs and frameworks through sites like Smashing Magazine, Mashable, A List Apart, and even Forbes. But the fact is, more and more people are using devices other than a 1600px-wide monitor. And more and more people aren’t going to sites to look at your graphic design. They’re there for content. You aren’t just designing something to look at and hang on their wall. You’re designing something people can use, interact with, and experience while consuming the content that is within your design. Your design is a piece of the puzzle and should always help a user get where they want/need to go, not distract and take precedence.”

5. Create and Team up on Side Projects.

Jen has been successful learning by way of side projects.  “Usually the way I have learned, and continue to learn, new things related to coding is to create side projects that interest and engage me – and that I don’t know how to do. For example, when I wanted to learn more about building applications from back to front in Rails, I came up with an idea for an application I wanted, namely, an application to track articles and blog posts I was writing. Then the learning happened naturally as I worked to figure out how to make it and because I was excited about what I was making, I was able to stick with it. Many years ago, I first started learning HTML and CSS by creating my own personal website and that has remained my playground for testing out new skills.”

“Another trick for designers to learn code is to team up with a developer on their own side project. Most developers are eager for design help and are willing to mentor, especially in exchange for some design advice for themselves.”

6. Don’t Rely On What You’re Being Taught Now.

“One last bit of advice is to not depend on, or expect that what you’re learning in school right now will be how you’re designing and developing five years from now. Don’t be afraid to step out of that comfort zone, get cuddly with Google search, and keep your mind open to new techniques, resources, trends, and technologies. There is something new in our industry every other day. And the beauty of our industry, a lot of that ongoing education is freely available and shared from one designer and developer, to another. So get involved and get to work.”

Jen sums it up best, “Keep in mind that the world needs more coders and coders need more people with new perspectives. Not only can coding offer opportunities and benefits for your own life, you can bring experience and qualities to coding that will make it a better, more productive environment for everyone.”

Good Luck!

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Read More:

Designers: Learn To Code: Here’s How to Start! on Fast Co. Design by Scott Sullivan
10 Places Where Anyone Can Learn to Code on TED Blog by Jessica Gross
The 7 Best Ways to Learn to Code on Venture Beat by Devindra Hardawar
Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Learning How to Code on Medium by Cecily Carver

More Bryan: BryanGarvin.com | SaveCleveland |
| Dribble | Google+
More Jen: Twitter | Tumblr | GitHub | Dribble | Instagram | Pinterest | Speakerdeck | Lanyrd | Ohours

The Adventure of Art with Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman is not just an everyday artist. Armed with Amsterdam paints, Posca pens and Sharpies, Jon can be found at the spot where art and improvisation collide. On any given day, you can find Burgerman on the streets of New York City, doodling, drawing and delighting in art and life.  Recent works including Hot Girls and Hot Dogs, Tumblr Girls, and I Want To Eat Myself illustrate a sense of humor and talent as sprawling as his imagination.

I chatted with Burgerman, of whom I am a huge fan, about life, craft and the adventure of art.

Comfort Kills Creativity


Burgerman recalls with fond memories his studies of Fine Art at University, where he was encouraged to create without limitation. Experimenting with different forms of media, Burgerman integrated performance based art into his vocabulary.

“When I graduated, laden with debt and little idea what I was going to do with my life, I started making a variety of work which had to be quick to make and cheap. Some of this work was performance based. As my art career started to pick up I dropped out of working with my friends on events and performances. I’ve always liked the immediacy of live work and it’s something I’ve retained through-out my career. I consider my murals and drawings live works and performances even if there’s not an audience around to see them. The artwork being a documentation of the creative act.”

Recent works integrating a performance element include the Tumblr BoothMy Great Movie and The Hungry Games.


“Recently, for a few years with my band Anxieteam and some works I’ve done on my own, I’ve purposely put live action and intervention into my practice. Live work, be it a performance, a mural, a talk, a workshop or a gig all require some degree of improvisation and fast reflexes, the great and awful thing about the ‘moment’, is not knowing what might happen next. This is equally good and bad for the performer and audience and invites a special degree of excitement to the event.

I think the live works sharpen these responses and and keep me ‘creatively fit’.”

Comfort is the killer of creativity!

Live works invite participation (although it can be unwelcome participation at times) and that connection can be really interesting. You can never really predict what people will come out with, and that can be an adventure all of its own. Comfort is the killer of creativity!”

Pieces like Game Sketch and Match, a collaborative drawing performance, and Korean Subway, reflect Burgerman’s passion, as well as his ability to play, on the job.


“If I’m not having fun overall with a project, the project will no doubt suffer as a result. I can’t help that, it just shows in the work. When I’m inspired and have great energy the work benefits. I’m in a super lucky position where my work, my job is fun. I’m in that position because I tried as hard as I could to make it happen. There’s plenty of room for improvement, of course, but I want to have fun and live a fun life, as much is possible.”

“Play is a bit of a gamble. When you play you’re not 100% certain of the outcome. There’s parameters you have to go up against to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve, it could be a defined goal or just the act of playing. I have this in my work. When I draw there’s a number of limitations such as paper size, pen, ink, time, surface etc. I then do everything I can to achieve my invented goal. During the act of play obstacles may arise or unpredicted ‘ferret events’ may occur. Maybe you spill your paint, or someone calls your phone and interrupts you. Perhaps you run out of a certain colour, maybe you smudge a line, or the paper reacts to the ink in a certain way…  Who knows, often it’s pretty subtle things, but they all influence the work, and you adapt and navigate around them. The game starts to change as you play it. I like playing, there’s no guarantee of a particular outcome, there’s always the chance of surprises and disappointments.”

Passion and play hasn’t come about easily, Burgerman admits. As with any career, there come challenges. 

Don’t become an artist to earn money.

“The competition to be successful in the arts is really tough. You face many years without any sort of guaranteed income.  And even if you get some sort of critical acclaim that doesn’t mean you’ll be financially any better off. So one hurdle is paying your way. Don’t become an artist to earn money.”

“It can be tough carrying on when you feel like you’re not advancing. I feel this all the time but the only solution is to keep going. You become stronger because of it. You have to push yourself. It’s exactly like exercising. Each time you have to go a little further or lift a little more weight to eventually push on to the next level.”

The reward for pushing is the way Burgerman feels every time pen or brush touches paper.


How does it feel, I asked?  Burgerman answers quite vividly.

“The great Kurt Vonnegut wrote in a forward of one of his books that when he went swimming he felt beautiful, as opposed to when he was going about his day to day life. I think when I’m drawing and completely submerged within that process I feel weightless and transparent and happy. I cease to be a body, flesh and blood and grease and kneecaps, I feel like a lovely perfume emanating above a flower bed.”

Now that, my friends, is an adventure.


Jon’s Burgerman shares: Supplies I Use

Amsterdam paints – I use these for quick, fast painting and even have used them on walls and the pavement in Manhattan.

Edding – I like these little pens, perfect for stowing away in your pockets for drawings on the go.

Krink – Krink go on anything, leaving a heavy, thick, gooey trail where-ever they go. These are great, a bit stinky and come from Brooklyn.

Sharpie and Pilot felt pen – These are my go-to pens for drawing in my sketchbook. Nothing is better than writing with a fresh felt pen on a blank page. The sketchbook is the place where all my ideas are born.

Posca – It can be hard to find Posca pens in America, I shipped a whole box of them over with me from Europe when I moved here. The colours are flat and solid. I use Poscas in a lot of my work, including my project Tumblr Girls

I sketch in Muji plain paper sketchbooks and have done so for over 12 years now.

More Jon: JonBurgerman.com | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook 

Build An Engaged Social Media Following Now: Tips for Designers

How to Increase and Engage your Followers

Entrepreneur and Marketing Connoisseur Kumar Arora knows social media like the back of his hand.  Fellow Clevelander and start-up wonder for ventures including Rogue Eyewear, iLTHYBlack Rose Entertainment Management Group and ICTech Ltd., Arora has an impressive history in the field. A few things in Arora’s backpocket? Developing campaigns for Coca-cola, Verizon, Redbull, Live Nation, Puma as well as starting on grassroots and viral campaigns for performers like Machine Gun Kelly, Jay Sean, DJ E-V. He is no stranger to growing communities at a rapid-fire rate.

Arora has a few suggestions for designers, like himself, who yearn to gain a following too.  In an age of #followme and #tagforlikes though, he reminds, “developing a community that cares is always better than having a group of people who don’t engage.” A great way to get started for example is to use an online service that allows you to buy 50 instagram likes for all your posts, but let’s not spoil the list. Ready to attract a loyal, genuine and true following? Here are Arora’s 10 tips and tools to becoming a master of social media:

1. Keep consistency in usernames 

This is a big one that I don’t always see with small startups. Maybe its because its hard to get the same name in the pool of social media platforms, but having the same name makes it easy to find or reference. Say if your name is Pepsi, you aren’t going to have an Instagram called @pepsi_co,a twitter thats @pepsico, and a Facebook username that is PepsiCola. Keeping consistency makes it easier and continues on the brand building. I always advise people that your name is equally if not as important as your message.

2. Identify your Market

People tend to forget social media isn’t always about telling the whole world what you are up to. Rather than sharing a post or an image to everyone you know, why not look to those who are actually interested? Create a community and understand your audience is the key for quick and instant success.  After that, those who follow you will eventually become your influencers and help share your information. There are also other tools out there to find the right base, a personal favorite is Little Bird.

3. Develop a strategy

Good campaigns are always backed behind a full out strategy. Plan out your tweets, choose when to post, and create proper imagery to boot along side it. If you can’t think of relevant content, then you need to try to seek new material to keep the momentum going. Larger companies might plan months ahead, but a small business should at least spend a few hours a week thinking about what they can share on their platforms.

4. Don’t spam

In this day and age, we spend more and more time on the internet. Last thing we need is to see our favorite brand spamming us about something we don’t care about. That and our attention spans have only gotten smaller with the amount of information that hits us. People these days cycle through so many pages on Facebook in one minute that they don’t have time to click on something that doesn’t give them any return.

5. Content

In the end, its always about delivering meaningful, quality content. Keeping things fresh, exciting, new, and most importantly, something you can share. After that, its up to your existing base of followers to interact, contribute or spread your own information. People don’t want to hear about the same thing over and over again, and they certainly want to engage with you in some way..after all: social media is just another form of communication. It’s a two way street.

6. Offline Marketing

Your twitter handle is the new physical business card. Sometimes leaving a lasting impression with someone can get an instant follow, and possibly even a mention. While some may say this can be a slow process, its the best for any startup to get some traction. Individuals can’t continue to hammer away on a campaign solely just by sitting at a computer. It’s best to try to cover all your bases along by reeling in your physical followers along side your virtual ones.

7. Social Media Integration

Just as important as it is to keep uniformity between your usernames, its also good to connect these platforms with each other. You may find that if your Instagram followers have spiked, you can pass on some of your followers to join you on Facebook as well. A lot of companies lately have been trying to work on Instagram, so they are using their massive followers on Twitter and Facebook to lead them to Instagram. A great example is to host a contest on Instagram, which you can then share with your followers on other platforms.

8. Ads

This is an easy one, but the higher your visibility (to the right crowd) the better your chances that you’ll get some returns. You need to be careful though, as the wrong ad to the wrong audience can yield little to no engagement. It’s always best to A/B test any ads so you can to see which one works best. Always remember you can continue to change them as you go, rather than leaving the same ads up for a period of time.

9. Track your performance

Not getting any retweets or shares? Maybe its time to change things up. Always continue to seek out what works and what doesn’t can help in the long run to develop your voice. That, and its always good to check in once in a while on your performance. Some I recommend are: Cyfe, Ubervu, or some of the free monitoring tools like Hootsuite or Tweetreach.

10. Take the next step up

Besides social reach tools, there are plenty of available marketing tools out there as well for small to mid sized businesses looking to take the next level up. Managing your own social media can almost become a job in itself so it’s always great to have a few extra tools to do things one person can’t do alone. Sometimes if you have the budget it’s not always wise to just throw them into solely into social media advertising, but platforms to help drive more engagement. Some I’ve used in the past include Extole, Wildfire by Google, and Referral Candy.

Have any tricks up your sleeve that you can share? Which of these 10 worked for you? Share with us in the comments below!

Engage with Kumar: Facebook | Twitter | Google+

8 Detrimental Design Habits to Break Today

You’ve just landed that internship or job of your dreams and are ready to take on the world. Maybe you’ve been working at a firm or have been freelancing for years.

You’re sure you’ve got it under control. You’ve got this in the bag!

But wait!  There are just a few common mistakes that may be holding you back from achieving your full potential.

We’d like to help. Thanks to some great names in our industry, we have a wealth of advice for you regarding some design habits to break now! Or, better, those to watch out for and nab before they become etched into stone.

Tracey Halvorsen of Fastspot
Tracey Halvorsen of Fastspot

1. Failing to Ask for Feedback

Young designers / interns make the mistake of not asking for enough feedback. They are fresh out of school, and perhaps eager to prove themselves, but they are missing out on so much more learning by assuming their school experiences have prepared them for the real world. It’s a problem in that they end up in a bubble and don’t benefit from the team environment as much as they would if they reached out and initiated more feedback from their team.

They can correct the problem by being a good communicator, making it known during their hiring process / interview process – that it’s something they are actively looking for, and then following up by making sure it’s part of their process once the job starts. It’s tempting to hide away and just do the work, and hope that one day you advance to better projects. But you can speed this up by being more aggressive and “asking for” more challenges, feedback and work.

I’ve only had one design intern at Fastspot, ever, who constantly bugged me for more challenging work. This person also actively sought out feedback, jumped into group critiques (asking if they could join b/c they weren’t overly busy of course) and soaked up as much interaction, communication and feedback as they could get their hands on. That was the one intern who I promised a job to when they were done with school.

Everyone who’s just starting out should take every chance they can to get feedback, be challenged and push themselves outside of the comfort zones they’ve established at school. School is a lovely fantasy land but the real world is full of rewarding opportunities if you seek them out and never settle for mediocracy.

– Tracey Halvorsen, President and Chief Visionary Officer of Fastspot, award-winning interactive agency in Baltimore, Maryland

Rachel Downey of Studio Graphique
Rachel Downey of Studio Graphique

2. Ignoring Time Constraints

New designers are often inexperienced with managing budgets, and time is attributed to the project budget. We often see interns and young designers overworking their designs, either through over-development or the exploration of too many concepts. This burns the project budget in the early stages and leaves less time for development of the chosen direction. We encourage new designers to stay off the computer and hand-sketch to quickly explore many ideas and then share those for discussion and selection before moving to digital. Early and frequent check-ins with their colleagues help them stay on track with project objectives and project budgets.

– Rachel Downey, Founder and Principal of Studio Graphique, a lead branding, placemaking and wayfinding firm in Cleveland, Ohio

Alex Wier of Wier / Stewart
Alex Wier of Wier / Stewart

3. Not “Making it Real”

One of the toughest things for designers who are coming out of school (or are still in it) is making things real. Designing anything is only half of making it real. The other half is picking stock, converting colors and outlines, making sure info is correct, working with the developer, etc. Those are the things that take attention to detail and organization. It’s also something we’ve noticed not a lot of designers are taught. They get color theory, typography, etc. but they don’t get “how to make a 3 color brochure a reality” or “Is this photo high res enough and can I even use it?” classes. So you gotta coach them and usually the people that have most recently learned outputting are the best at teaching it.

– Alex Wier, Creative Director of Wier / Stewart, advertising agency and creative firm in Augusta, Georgia

Chad Cheek of Elephant in the Room
Chad Cheek of Elephant in the Room

4. Attempting to Fit In

Sometimes young designers have the tendency to come into a firm and try to ‘make their mark’ on the work by working to influence what they perceive as the agency’s design style. I encourage designers to work hard to learn the thinking and problem-solving process that the agency engages in and push the thinking of their own work in that way. They will make their mark by helping to elevate the craft of everyone around them – including their own.

– Chad Cheek, Owner and Managing Director of Elephant in the Room, boutique design agency in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative
Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative

5. Feeling too accomplished

When I got my first job out of school, I was so proud of all that I had accomplished – my portfolio that I spent months preparing, graduating college and landing my first job were huge achievements in my life. I felt like I finally arrived at my destination and achieved all my goals.

During the first few months on the job, the big mistake I made was letting all this get to my head. I went into work thinking I needed to impress everyone with my design abilities and knowledge. I thought that being a respected designer and keeping my job was about proving that I was just as good as everyone else working there. But I quickly learned that no one really cared about my accomplishments, and I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

I believe this is a common experience for a lot of designers, and the root of a lot of unhappiness working as a designer. My advice would be to view every new job as an apprenticeship, a mentorship. You earn respect by respecting others. And as my partner, Kim Knoll likes to say, “A good attitude is just as important as a good portfolio.”  Be positive. Be hungry.

– Kyle Eertmoed, Partner and Designer, Knoed Creative, Branding and Graphic Design Studio in Chicago, Illinois

Chris Harrison of Harrison & Co.
Chris Harrison of Harrison Agency

6. Copying Other Designers

The biggest problem I see in interns and new designers is that they try and emulate other designers – copy their heros and try and ‘be like’ notable/famous designers who are, actually, just ‘being themselves’ (that’s why they are famous and successful). I think this happens because it can look and feel like a short cut to being a better designer, or a designer that’s ‘ready’. It’s the hardest thing to try and find your own point of view. It’s a long path. I’ve been in the game 20+ years, and I think I’m only just starting to hit my stride and understand my own approach, my point of view and what I see as valuable. It does take time, but I really believe that to understand this early on in ones career is important. If it takes years or decades to work though and make progress, that’s OK. Everyone has to start somewhere. And its actually OK not to have a point of view in your work! I know a very successful illustrator who still maintains that she, after 20+ years, doesn’t know herself well enough yet for that point of view to come through. She just has fun with her projects, and that’s her main criteria for taking on work ‘is this going to make me happy?’

– Chris Harrison, Founder, Harrison Agency multidisciplinary creative agency, Brighton, UK

William Beachy of Go Media
William Beachy of Go Media

 7. Letting Your Ego Get In the Way

The following is a bastardized mash-up of Tyler Durden  quotes: “Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not your design. Your design is not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re not your fucking suspenders and hipster beard. Your professors lied to you. Your clients need to be respected and listened to. Your boss and your co-workers are probably smarter than you. If you’re feeling insecure, good – you should be. When you feel the urge to defend your design, don’t. Shut your mouth and open your ears. Understand that designing is a process and it’s not always going to go the direction you want it to. But don’t feel bad, it could be worse. A woman could cut off your penis while you’re sleeping and toss it out the window of a moving car.”

– William Beachy, President, Go Media, our creative agency here in Cleveland, Ohio

Julia Briggs of Blue Star Design
Julia Briggs of Blue Star Design

8. Forgetting to Prep

Designing is like cooking. You must prep your kitchen before you start. Get out your crop marks, dielines, logos and fonts. Know your paper limitations, mailing needs, budget restrictions and the marketing initiative – BEFORE you do any design.

It’s tempting as a designer to start cooking on a design immediately. But trying to fit a cool design into budget, size and production restrictions after the fact is often a recipe for disaster. At school you are often given the prep work as part of class assignments. Outside of school, you have to learn to extract that information from the client and your vendors at the forefront.

Scope project limitations first, prep your workspace second, and save the design for last.

– Julia Briggs, President of Blue Star Design, an idea design studio specializing in graphic, digital & social design, brand identity, web, marketing & technology solutions in Cleveland, Ohio


Ready to get out there and take the world by storm? Just remember to ditch these 8 bad habits and you’ll be good to go!

What bad habits have you seen in your colleagues? Employees? Share with us in the comments below! And hey, no naming names! 

How to Launch your Freelance Business: 9 Simple Tips

Doing It Alone

So, you’ve been fantasizing about taking the big leap in the freelance world. Maybe the three days at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest was just the little push over the edge you needed. Maybe the current job market looks so grim, that making it on your own seems like the best solution. Or is it that you just cannot stand living to create something you don’t believe in one minute longer?

Work by Dan Stiles

You’re not alone. We chatted a bit with freelance designer Dan Stiles, known for his vibrant, bold and bright screen-print art prints and rock music posters honoring such acts as The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie, Ray Lamontagne and Sonic Youth, about his decision to dive in head first.  Rena Tom, of Makeshift Society in San Francisco (a sweet co-working space and clubhouse for creative freelancers), also contributed.  And lastly, we drew some gems of knowledge from both our experience here at Go Media and Bill Beachy’s book, Drawn to Business.

Alt-J | Vampire Weekend posters by Dan Stiles

Deciding to go the freelance route was a no-brainer for Dan, as he cherishes his creative freedom: “My career goals don’t really fit with being an employee,” he notes. “If you look at any project I’ve done in the last 5 years you won’t find many that I could have done as an employee somewhere. I want to make the best work I possibly can. I want to make work that excites me and excites other people. In order to do that I need creative control. I can’t make exciting work as a Senior Designer at Wells Fargo, or as a Production Designer at NBC. There are too many limits. Too many cooks in the kitchen. Too many guys in pleated khakis telling me what art is. Blame it on the DIY ethic I picked up as young punk, but my goals and my attitude are best expressed on my own. Creativity is more of a shamanistic pursuit, not a team sport.”

Makeshift Society

Ready to take the leap?  Be advised.  Ahead of you is, according to Dan, a “complete and total lack of long term financial visibility,” continuing, “If you have a job you have a pretty good idea of how much money you will make next month, or next year. Working for yourself is a constant roller coaster ride. Additionally in order to succeed you will have to put in a Herculean amount of hours.”

Zombies vs Cheerleaders | The XX by Dan Stiles
Zombies vs Cheerleaders | The XX by Dan Stiles

Succeed and “you’re in charge of your own destiny, and you finally get to do work that is 100% yours. Not some amalgamation of what the client and the art director and the CEO’s wife like.”


How to Survive As a Freelancer

1. Complete a Business Plan

We recommend grabbing the Drawn to Business’s Business Plan Workbook or to download one you’ve found online to brainstorm, establish goals and parameters for your new business.

Do your research and be sure to ask yourself questions like:
What are the personal and professional goals for your business (1 month, 6 month, 1 year, 5 year marks)?  What will success look like to you? What is your mission, vision, purpose? What is your unique value proposition? What will your brand represent to your client?  What is the current demand for your services? What are other firms charging for their services?

2. Don’t Quit Your Day Job…Immediately

Sure you’re excited to jump in with both feet, but before you get in over your head, Dan recommends that you “don’t quit your day job.”  

“The best way to get going is to put in your 8 hours at the office, then come home and do work you think is good for clients you like. No clients? No problem, do excellent self-directed work. Start a blog, a zine, a YouTube channel. Just make good work and lots of it. Don’t spend your evenings doing work you don’t like. Remember, you’re building your base. Don’t start out making more of the kind of work you’re hoping to escape. At some point you’ll have enough projects to quit your day job. It will be scary to cut the cord, but you’ll have to do it.”

2. Do Your Legal Research

Make sure to do your research to make sure you’re running your freelance business legally and following all laws.  Consult a lawyer as needed.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Establish the legal form for your business from the following: partnership, LLC, S Corporation, Corporation, Sole Proprietor.
  • Research whether or not there are state or local licenses that you need to operate a freelance graphic design business.
  • Look to your state’s website for their Department of Revenue or State Treasury Department regarding the need to charge sales tax for design services.
  • Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number).


2. Make Yourself a Schedule.

Visualize what your days will look like. Will you dedicate a certain number of hours to your work everyday? Will you integrate work into your life more that you are on your own?

Dan recommends flexibility. “This notion that you work from 9 to 5, have a life from 6 to 11, and sleep from 12 to 7 went out the window 20 years ago for me. I am always on, but also always flexible to do what needs to get done. If I want to go snowboarding on a Monday I can do that, but if I have work to do I’ll be up until 3am getting it done. This whole notion of dividing work and home is a 18th century construct based on selling your labor to a factory during the day. Ever heard of a farmer who clocks out at 5? The farmer lives his work, so does the creative. You need to own your life and your career.”

Try this: start off on the right foot by waking up to your alarm on day one, dressing up and showing up on time for work, even if you’ve set up in your home office.  Whatever it is that you decide, begin to develop a nice rhythm for yourself. We use apps like TeuxDeux, Omnifocus and Smartsheet to schedule our days and organize our projects.

3. Save, save, save

Assess your current living space and equipment.  Can you get by without fancy new equipment and that hip office space?

For Dan, it does not make much sense to spend the extra money. “My life and my work are entirely intertwined. I can’t picture it any other way. I don’t stop at 5 and turn into not-working Dan. My mind is always working, even if I’m mowing the lawn. Working from home allows me to hang out with my kids at 3 in the afternoon, or make a sandwich and eat it on my front porch then go back to work until 2 am. On the bad side, I can’t really have employees or clients over, it’s just too weird. If you need space from your work, or some neutral zone for other people to be in then move out of your house. For me, I am my work, so having to drive 25 minutes to pay to sit somewhere else and do it just seems a little silly.”

In your first years as a freelancer, stick to the plan to save as outlined in your business plan.  Now is not the time to break the bank.

4. Establish Your Rates

“Figure out what you need to make an hour and start there,” suggests Dan, “If you’re drowning in work raise your prices. Working out pricing is always hard. You don’t want to leave money on the table, but you don’t want to price yourself out of the job either.”

Have downtime?  Keep working. Volunteer for high-profile jobs, assuring that your name is tagged on the project.


5. Be Everywhere

Get yourself out there! The more opportunity for connection with fans, followers and fellow designers the better.  Once you have created your online presence, be genuine,  humble and interactive. Create positive connections with your followers on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and the like. Not only promote yourself, but others as well. This not only builds relationships but also establishes you as an expert. When sharing what you love, be genuine.

Regarding those designers selling their wares online, Rena notes, “I think a retail presence is made up of many components these days: visual interest boards like Pinterest and Tumblr, and social media like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, to name the biggest sites. Also, a freelancer needs to think about blogs and newsletters still, as well as maintaining their own portfolio and retail site. That’s quite a lot!

Basically, any venue where you can show your chops, or your taste, is important to your business. You don’t need all of these accounts but you should be aware of, and therefore in control of, the ones you do have. You never know which “door” someone will walk through to discover you.

I think attacking on all fronts, a little at a time, is going to be easiest to execute for some people. For others, focusing on one task only is more effective. It depends on your personal work style, and there’s no one correct answer. That said, as long as measurable progress is being made *somewhere*, that’s important. I sometimes write a weekly status update for myself. It’s not exactly a diary but you just recap all of the things you’ve done the previous week. It can be really useful to prove to yourself that you were indeed moving ahead and getting stuff done. Be authentic, be forthcoming, and show your interest(s). Participate. It’s hard to get a following if you don’t make a splash so participate and be heard!”

Makeshift Society

6. Create a Marketing Plan

Shake hands, get involved in the community, start building relationships with clients you admire through LinkedIn/Twitter, consider selling to family and friends.

“I think that’s what is hardest at the beginning – consistently marketing yourself while trying to do your work,” reports Rena, “Scheduling activities to happen on certain days, even certain hours was pretty useful in getting a lot of different activities done.”

Making time for marketing, thus, is key.  Set a specific number of hours per month where you’ll be up and away from your monitor.

7. Set Up Your Metrics

Track hours logged, followers, costs, income, profit, loss. Every month review. What’s working? What isn’t? Are you hitting your goals?

8. Do Great Work and Make Sure that it is Seen

“The internet is magic,” notes Dan,  “If you do good work it will sprout wings and fly off all over the interwebs. Which is why, once again, you can’t just churn out more grade B corporate design product. Make work that people want to look at and it will take you places.”

Consider starting a blog, writing tutorials and articles which will serve to not only get your work out there, but establish you as an expert. When putting your work out there, make sure it’s epic!

9. Embrace Mistakes.

“Make crappy stuff and keep working until something good comes out. It can be a stressful process, but it’s almost never a waste of time. Eventually you’ll produce something good, you will have learned a few things along the way, and you might have generated a few extra ideas that you can put in your pocket for later,”  shares Dan.

dan-stiles More Dan:
Dan Stiles | Blog

rena-tom More Rena:
Rena Tom | Makeshift Society | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Flickr | Instagram | AngelList | LinkedIn


Ready to Spread Your Wings?

Introducing the Freelance Survival Kit.

Not too scared yet by Dan and Rena’s cautionary tales? Are you maybe a bit unsure of where to start to tackle all of that to-do list? Well, we happen to have just the thing.

Our own Chris Comella, along with the rest of the staff, created this Freelance Survival Kit that would fit your guidance needs perfectly.


The Kit contains a series of white papers on getting your business set up legitimately, billing clients, and becoming a social media powerhouse. But that’s not it.


We’ve also included templates for contracts, project questionnaires, project agreements, and more. On top of that, we’ve also added some of our mockup templates (CD case and shirts), grunge vectors, design articles, grid kits, and Jeff’s Wacom illustration tutorial.


Being a one person shop can be hard. That’s why we crafted this product, for all of you eager to learn the tools of the trade. This is packed with years of experience. And it’s available for just under 150 bucks.

Freelance Survival Kit

Wanna learn even more? Consider having a look at Drawn to Business, which is like the Freelancer Survival Kit on steroïds. Bill Beachy, the big chief here at Go Media took two years to write this extensive guide on how to run a design firm. It’s the result of more than 15 years in the field. And there’s plenty of additional content available too.



Still have questions? That’s what the comments are there for!


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Troy DeShano: No Great Story Comes without Difficulty

If you attended this year’s Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, you’ll remember Troy DeShano. Artist, illustrator, speaker, Troy stepped up to the Artists in Residence stage podium and told a story part trying, part terrifying, totally triumphant: his own.

Troy is known for Strong Odors, an editorial illustration, art and essay blog, he began in the spring of 2009. Strong Odors began after a conversation with friend Kelly Nogoski, whom shared with Troy the concept of earning a living through blogging, a thought he found ridiculous, awesome and enjoyable, quite perfect as he was attempting to exit the magazine industry anyways.

Also the creator of the Old & New Project, a growing biblical art and design collection he runs with fellow artist and designer Jim Lepage, Troy spends his days in marketing, designing websites and managing social media for clients.

Humble, down-to-earth and unassuming in every way, Troy took the time to tell me a little bit about how he got into design, what tried to derail him, and how he fought back.


In his words…

I am a Michigan native currently stationed up-north in Traverse City, which is actually a pretty cool little town for being relatively off the grid. It is a really beautiful place to live, with Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes just minutes away, along with hundreds of acres of state forests across the street from my house, and at least a dozen different species of trees literally right in my own backyard (decent Chinese food is a little hard to come by though).

My wife Noël and I were married in 1999, and have three kids (our oldest just started middle school—yikes).

My education was geared toward ministry work, and both Noël and I planned on some sort of career in ministry. But no matter what jobs I ever landed, I always ended up creating visual components for the work at hand. I regularly spent way too much time creating posters or videos or announcements to hang on the bathroom door. I kind of became a designer by accident.


Diagnosis Meets Design

My first cancer diagnosis was when I was just finishing school. I had big plans to move to Michigan that summer to start what I hoped would be a career in youth camps, but instead I ended up spending it in the hospital for chemotherapy, which shifted the trajectory of my life’s next decade.

What is really interesting is that when I finally did end up working at a camp, it started me on this path toward art and design. While creating all those random videos and bathroom signs, my boss recognized there was value in what I was doing and hired me as their Media Director.

I’d never even opened Photoshop or any pro video editors before and had been hacking Pinnacle Studio to make the raddest promo vids I could, but when my position became “real” I had to pick up those tools and learn to use them.


Of course just when things were finally looking up, with a real job and a chance to make a living creating cool stuff for an organization I loved, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer for the second time.

A second testicular cancer diagnosis is actually quite unusual, and my second bout was much more serious. We’d managed to have a few babies before I lost the last of my balls that year, and our family spent much of 2006 travelling back-and-forth from northern Michigan to the Cleveland Clinic for treatment. Over the course of that year I endured a bunch of chemo, a couple lung surgeries to remove tumors, and one big retroperitoneal lymph node dissection, which basically means they sliced open my abdomen—from sternum to pelvis—and scraped out lymph nodes to prevent cancer growing and travelling around my body.


I used to lug my big Dell laptop along when I’d check in for chemo. I’d spend the week in my hospital bed creating work that I think had much more emotion because of where I was and my circumstances at that very moment.

It’s pretty difficult to explain the magnitude of my cancer’s impact on my work. Having survived days and nights that I thought I might not has taught me (among many things) how precious every single moment of life is, how to open up and share pieces of myself I’d prefer to keep stowed away inside, and how to invest intimate pieces of myself into my work.

Since then I’ve been blessed with great health, and the odds are supposedly in my favor. At this point, however, I’ve been on the low end of the statistics too many times to put any stock in statistics. I have to spend the day leading up to each annual check-up mentally preparing for what could be the worst possible news, but I spend every single other day grateful and happy to be alive.


I have learned, that life isn’t something to be endured, it is an adventure.

Sometimes it is ugly, sometimes beautiful; sometimes wretched, sometimes sweet.

More often than not I get knocked down by the waves, but I head back toward the breakers over and over hoping the next one will be totally bodacious.

If life isn’t tossing me into adventure, I’ve learned to make some for myself. So I now try to take little adventures every day (whether taking the stairs rather than the elevator, or trying new foods, or wearing bike shorts), and big adventures regularly (like backpacking and mission trips and art shows).

I honestly believe that cancer saved me in a lot of ways. My marriage, for example, may not have endured had we not been thrust together into survival-mode for the first decade. There’s also a good chance I might have never started doing fine art without having first been forced to allow the world into the innermost recesses of myself from which the best art ultimately comes. It’s possible I’d have always been creating, but might never have developed the courage to display my work to anyone outside my home.


Many of the emotions that I experienced might be a surprise. I often felt guilty actually, that my wife had to spend so much energy taking care of me and the babies and wondering what her life might be like if I die.

There were a lot of things I didn’t even realize I was experiencing until years later when I started regular counseling. The greatest of these is how fear was at the center of my life. My failure to make decisions or relationships or take risks in my work all had fear at the center.

I’m working on that now. Each year I try to find ways to face specific fears. This past year I really made an honest effort to tackle my fear of dancing. I actually got out on the dance floor at several weddings for a little head-bobbing. It may not sound like much to most, but…

Dancing is quite possibly my Everest.

Ultimately, recognizing what fears I have is an effort to be honest with myself about myself. And the truth—so they say—will set you free.


For more Troy >

Strong Odors:
Strong Odors | Twitter | Facebook | Dribble
Etsy | Society 6

Old & New Project:
Old & New Project | Twitter | Facebook | Society 6


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How to Land the Design Job of Your Dreams

You’re knee deep in loans. You dream in Adobe. You crafted the-most-memorable video resume of all time.

Or so you think.

You’re knocking on doors and they just seem to be closing.

Slamming, really.

What is it that you’re missing?

We asked Dan Weiss, Talent Acquisition Specialist, from American Greetings, Taryn O’Bra, division director for the Creative Group in Seattle and William Beachy, President here at Go Media, to share with us some sure-fire ways to get the design job you’ve always wanted.

How to Get a Design Job:

1. Get your work up-front and center.

“”Only show your VERY BEST work. Less is more. If you only have three amazing pieces, only show that. When it doubt, throw it out.” – William Beachy

“When you’re submitting your resume, make sure you get to something compelling immediately. The truth of the matter is that the first thing I want to see, over your name or where you went to school, is a link to your work.  That’s the only thing that really matters most. Don’t hide it, put it in some strange font, or present it in a large PDF file. Link, link, link!” – Dan Weiss

2. Be accessible.

“Be in the talent pools where all of the talent is swimming around. Sites like BehanceKropCarbon MadeCreative Hot List. It may take a bit of effort, but it’s extremely important, as this is where recruiters like me fish for talent.” – Dan Weiss

“Be persistent. Most design firms don’t have an HR department. That means your resume might get shuffled away. Call and write regularly. Send examples of new work you’ve done. Keep reminding them that you would really, really, really like to work for them. If necessary, take an internship with them. Anything to get your foot in the door can turn into a job.” – William Beachy

3. Use your rock-star design skills to stand-out from the crowd.

“Design everything. I’m constantly shocked when designers send me Word template resume and or cover letter. Everything you send a potential employer should be beautifully branded and designed.” – William Beachy

“Catch our attention and make a strong impression on us! Our team interviewed one candidate who created a mockup of an iPad app for The Creative Group to showcase his digital skills and ability to understand his client’s needs, for example. Other things job seekers have done to stand out are making handcrafted thank-you cards and hand-bound notebooks showcasing their typography and design skills. One candidate even offered a leave-behind with his contact information in the shape of a Rubik’s cube – now that’s creative!” – Taryn O’Bra

4. Just Be You.

“At an interview, be prepared to answer out-of-the-box questions. I personally ask questions people aren’t expecting to answer, like “if you were a room in a house, which room would you be?” I am really trying to figure out who somebody is, because the truth of the matter is that we are adopting people into our studio family. Our culture is really important and we want to make sure it’s a fit.

What can you do about that? Well, all you can do is be yourself. Be who you are – not the awkward, nervous version of yourself or the uncomfortable, overly professional version of yourself. Come in and be who you are and then it’ll work out as it should.” – Dan Weiss

5. Do Your Homework.

“Learn something about the company that isn’t included in the one paragraph boilerplate summary on the company website. Do your research and then take the time to write your questions down. This will show that you have approached this process with methodology just like you would if you were going to handle a creative challenge once hired.” – Dan Weiss

“This is critical. Your potential employer should think that all you’ve ever wanted to do your entire life is work for them. Study them thoroughly. Know their history, what type of work they do and how you would fit into the company. Go in with an agenda – ‘I can help your firm with my XXXXX skill.” – William Beachy

6. Know Your Stuff.

“Know your Adobe. I’d also really recommend that any designer starting out in school learn how to code. It sure helps to know what the coders are going to do with your work when you’re done with it…and it’ll separate you from the competition.

In addition, your ability to show an aptitude to learn new programs will help a potential employer feel better about their investment.” – Dan Weiss.

7. Be Sincere.

“Demonstrate characteristics that are going to be valued in an employee before, during and after an interview. Be prompt to the interview and prepared when you get here.  Be engaged in the process and follow-up promptly and sincerely afterwards.  Being admirably persistent, but not annoying is always a good guideline!” – Dan Weiss


Did you land the design job of your dreams? Tell us how you did it by commenting below!


Thank you to The Creative Group and American Greetings!

For more than 100 years, American Greetings Corporation has been a creator and manufacturer of innovative social expression products that assist consumers in enhancing their relationships to create happiness, laughter and love. The company’s major greeting card lines are American Greetings, Carlton Cards, Gibson, Recycled Paper Greetings and Papyrus, and other paper product offerings include DesignWare party goods and American Greetings and Plus Mark gift-wrap and boxed cards. American Greetings also has one of the largest collections of greetings on the Web, including greeting cards available at Cardstore.com and electronic greeting cards available at AmericanGreetings.com. In addition to its product lines, American Greetings also creates and licenses popular character brands through the American Greetings Properties group. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, American Greetings generates annual revenue of approximately $1.9 billion, and its products can be found in retail outlets worldwide.

Connect with American Greetings on Facebook | Pinterest | Google+ | Twitter | Stay Inspired Blog


The Creative Group (TCG) specializes in placing a range of highly skilled interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms on a project and full-time basis. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and TCG’s blog, can be found at creativegroup.com

Connect with Creative Group on Facebook | Linkedin | Twitter | Google+ | YouTube | Pinterest


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Rustbelt Almanac

The Road to the Rustbelt Almanac

Proudly made in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania…

A fresh new copy of Rustbelt Almanac just arrived on my desk, the pages crisp, clean and full of goodness about all makers, doers and dreamers.  This, the first issue by producers Noah Purdy and Michael Artman is being passed around and poured over by all of us here at Go Media.  Just great stuff.

We’re proud, too. Rustbelt recently interviewed our very own Jeff Finley about this year’s Weapons of Mass Creation Fest.

We recently had a chance to talk to Rustbelt Almanac about their recent issue, their road to copy, why they believe print is alive and well and the vast sprawling rusty region that they call home.

See below for Rustbelt Almanac's Coupon Code – Exclusively for GoMediaZine Readers!
See below for Rustbelt Almanac’s Coupon Code – Exclusively for GoMediaZine Readers!


Photographer Noah Purdy and Graphic Designer Michael Artman were young creatives whose lives collided in Twitterspace in the fall of 2012. Hitting it off immediately, they quickly discovered they had much in common.  States Artman, “We’ve got family in the same small town outside of Pittsburgh, we had been to a number of the same local music events  – and more importantly, we both knew that a little hard work goes a long way. As a photographer and a designer looking at a pretty uninviting job market, it seemed almost natural to just start doing something fun. You wonder ‘if I’m not going to make much money, wouldn’t I be better off making no money doing something I’m really passionate about?’”

Noah Purdy and Michael Artman

One crazy idea turned into another and soon, Purdy and Artman’s brilliant plan unfolded: The Rustbelt Almanac, a quarterly magazine about the industrious people of their region.  A nod to America’s sprawling Rust Belt, an area stretching from the Northeast across the Midwest, and into parts of the Upper South, is inherent not only in the title, but also the theme of their publication.  Artman characterizes their community by its work ethic: industrious people who “value hard work and aren’t afraid to take risks to do the things they love to do.”


But where to start? The two immediately began brainstorming about what and whom to feature in their first issue. ” There are so many great things going on in the region that it was admittedly hard to decide on what to feature in our inaugural pages.”

Enter Brandon Rike. “We took trip to Columbus, Ohio in January – a particularly cold day in January with wind chills below zero. Brandon Rike was kind enough to bring us in out of the cold and tell us his story over some nice warm lattes. He was the second person we interviewed, and the timing couldn’t have been better. That guy is one of the most passionate artists we’ve ever met. The amount of work he gets done in a single day is impressive, and his drive certainly kept us inspired in the coming months.”

Brandon Rike / Fiks

They also found Pittsburgh based company Fiks:Reflective, who manufactures passive safety gear for cyclists, and does so with style. The rest fell in line reports Artman, “We’ve got grocery store owners, musicians, photographers, and even folks who recently opened a new brewery. So yeah, there really is something for everyone in the first issue. These are people that value hard work and aren’t afraid to take risks to do the things they love to do. These are stories that resonate with anyone, and they are stories that need to be shared.”

These industrious makers from their community whom they featured not only gave them great content, but wonderful support as well.  This backing from the community, as well as from family, friends and artists all over the country, who came together to fully fund Rustbelt Almanac through Kickstarter, was huge, stresses Artman. “We think folks in the community are just excited to see us out there shining the spotlight on people who deserve recognition for their hard work. So in that regard, we’ve been blessed and have avoided a lot of stress. Relatively speaking, the ride has been a lot smoother than it really should have been. ”

A spotlight on the Rust Belt region is due too, because of the opportunity it gave Artman and Purdy.  Compared to bigger cities – New York, L.A., Altman feels “the opportunities that await driven individuals is unparalleled. So many media outlets focus on the dilapidation, but what we really have is opportunity. If you can rent some studio space in an empty warehouse or renovate an old storefront for the fraction of what it would cost in say, New York City – you’ve got that much more money left over to fund the things that actually matter.”

Artman continues, “Beyond that, as more people open businesses in these cities, you get a lot of camaraderie. If you and your neighbor both opened up shop within the past few years, its like, ‘we’re in this together’. Competition goes right out the window. No one is going to visit a neighborhood with one business in it. Helping your neighbors succeed brings more people around, and the more people, the better. The sense of community that this resurgence is fostering is fantastic.”

Like any new venture, they ran into some challenges. “Admittedly neither of us knew the first thing about independent publishing,” reports Artman, and “from delays on shipping supplies, to ruining entire rolls of film, to trying to find financially viable methods to manage our subscriptions… we’ve had some trying times. But we have yet to run into any issues that are insurmountable, and that’s mainly thanks to all the great people we’ve met through this process. Almost every time we hit a snag, someone is willing to jump in and say “Hey, I’ve dealt with this issue before, lets solve it together.”


So now that Issue 1, is out in the world, on coffee tables and design studios like Go Media, what can we expect? What are the challenges involved with a print publication like Rustbelt Almanac in the age of the iPad, when major titles like Newsweek and SPIN are choosing to stop their print editions?  Artman and Purdy aren’t worried, stating simply, “We definitely don’t believe print is anywhere close to dead.”

Although they do offer a digital copy of their publication, they are focusing on the hard copy of Rustbelt Almanac because they believe in the content. “Plenty of publications suggest the shift to digital is because people don’t buy magazines anymore. Call us crazy, but we wouldn’t buy magazines that has more advertising than content, either. Maybe it’s not so much that people don’t like printed goods. Maybe it’s that printed goods just aren’t as good as they used to be. I’ve read plenty of studies that say consumers still prefer physical media. How accurate those studies are remains to be seen, anything can be skewed one way or the other. However, the cost of producing digital media is near zero. From a business standpoint, it is hard not to go that direction.”


Call them sentimental, but Purdy and Artman really value the hard copy.  Adds Artman, “Thirty years from now, when our kids or grandkids are sitting around asking what life was like in 2013, we’ll have to rely on our senile old minds to tell mis-remembered stories. Gone are the days of handing down your 100 year old pocket watch, or pulling some old polaroids out of a shoebox. All we know is that we prefer holding something physical in our hands, and we aren’t the only ones. Here at Rustbelt Almanac, we value longevity. It’s not even about tradition in any romantic sense. It’s simply a fact – print lasts longer. It’s kind of depressing living in a throw-away culture where every two years you toss your computer or phone or tablet in favor of the latest and greatest. Technology changes too fast, and it’s far too easy to accept that everything on your hard drive is expendable.”

“We believe in documentation – journalism – photography – storytelling.”

Continues Artman, “We want to make a product that is going to sit on people’s bookshelves. So years down the road when the paper is nice and aged, and the inks have begun to fade, you can open the magazine, and read the stories that your iPad 15 has long forgot.”

To get your own copy of Rustbelt Almanac :


and to find out more:

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Sean McCabe: Doing What You Love

The Interview

Sean McCabe‘s passion for hand lettering and typography can be traced back to middle school, his homework littered with typographic illustrations.  While others doodled, Sean shaped and sculpted his own unique letters, seeing them as shapes and curves full of beauty.  His fascination with typography grew into a career, with Sean now doing what he loves most.  His love for meticulous detail, attentive eye for precision, balance and composition are all in a days work.

Sean Wes

Go Media had the opportunity to chat with Sean about his love of letters and how he made it his life…

10% with Coupon Code: GO MEDIA
See below for Sean’s Coupon Code – Exclusively for GoMediaZine Readers!

Go Media : Hi Sean! Can you tell us a little about how you got started as a designer?

Sean McCabe: I started learning and practicing design as a creative outlet 9 or 10 years ago in high school. In the beginning, it was something I did in my spare time, but gradually grew from part time gigs to full time freelance work. Eventually I partnered with a developer friend of mine to form a web firm which we ran for a few years. It was through web design that I developed a keen interest in typography. I started really focusing on type design and lettering and applying myself toward honing that craft in my nights and weekends.

I now concentrate solely on custom type commissions and producing various products featuring my lettering.


Go Media: You stress doing what you love! What is the most satisfying part of your job?

Sean: The most satisfying thing is crafting something to the best of my abilities. In the beginning, these were usually self-initiated projects, but over time I learned to be selective in what clients I work with. The clients I do take on now are very on board with my process and come to me solely for my expertise.

I was jaded early on in my design career because at the time, I did not know how to be a professional. It always felt like an uphill battle trying to convince clients that I was making the right decision or that I knew what I was doing. I came to learn that you can’t shove good design down someone’s throat.

So where do you start?

You start by ensuring the clients you DO take on are willing to invest in good design, and are willing to trust you based on your track record. You’re only able to be selective by practicing selectivity. You’re never going to get to that place unless you start paving the way by turning down bad leads. Your efforts should be spent pursuing good leads from the start rather than trying to convert bad leads.

Do a ton of self-initiated work until clients are practically knocking down your door to hire you based on the immense portfolio you’ve developed. My clients want the quality results I deliver, so I plainly explain that adhering to my process is how those results are achieved.

You’d be surprised how smooth it is once you get to that point. Since these clients are cream of the crop, there’s little-to-no friction in terms of me being enabled to do what I do best. They’re invested in my professional results and what I am able to deliver, and less about trying to tell me how things should be done.

It comes as no surprise that the work produced from these types of projects receives the greatest recognition and appreciation from a general audience when published.


Go Media: Tell us about an average work day. What does it include?

Sean: My wife used to be a barista and now makes me espresso drinks in the morning before work, so I’m super spoiled. I drive her to work and get in to my home office at around 8:15am. On an ideal day, I’ll have 3 or 4 tasks that I’ve prepared the night before that I try to tackle first, but I’d be kidding myself if that was always the case.

My efforts are typically split between administration and actual working. For the product-selling aspect of my brand, I try to stay engaged with my audience on various social platforms every day. As far as actually creating, I usually have a list of self-initiated works I want to make that I curate throughout the week, and also active client commissions to work on.

The mornings are usually spent trying to respond to (or more often turn down) the incoming requests for work and handling customer support inquiries and other emails. I usually get my quality lettering work done in the early afternoon and later evenings. I pick up my wife, and do a little more work before dinner and a TV show, then I usually do a couple more hours of work in the evening.

I say “work”, but really the evening is typically spent on projects I WANT to work on, and not so much the ones I HAVE to work on. Because I do what I love for a living, it’s pretty much indistinguishable from an outside perspective. I may seem like a workaholic (which I probably can’t honestly deny), but though what I do after-hours appears to be more “work”, it’s actually a different kind of work. It’s much the same as playing video games or reading a book for some.

You Will Never Influence the World...

Go Media: You described yourself as “pretty strange” in your younger years, littering your homework with beautiful type (we can relate…to the strange part at least!).  Was there someone in particular who inspired or mentored you at that time, encouraging your career as an artist?

Sean: Yet again, I feel odd saying that I never had any sort of mentor figure. I hear many others share that they had someone to help guide or mentor them, but that was never a part of my story.

I’ve always been very self-driven and motivated. The worthwhile things in life require discipline, so as one who very highly values those things, I came to love discipline. Whether it was learning piano, or teaching myself anything from guitar to design and typography, I trained myself to enjoy the process as much as the results.

I’m very long-term oriented. I like the slow-progressing steps toward vast goals. I suppose that’s what enables me to accomplish things because I see the big picture and don’t get discouraged by small defeats.

My family has always been supportive of my ventures. When I started my first business in early high school, they were very encouraging. I thrive on words of affirmation, so even if they never thought in their minds that I could be successful at it, the words they spoke were enough to fuel me.


Go Media: How do you continue to learn and grow as an artist?

Sean: I was home-schooled growing up. My mom was a great teacher, though as I was the oldest of 12, there was only so much 1-on-1 time you could really get. This resulted in a lot of our education being very self-propelled. We were given the curriculum, but really we could go as fast or slow as we wanted to. I could see this being a good or bad thing, but for me it was very beneficial because it didn’t slow me down the way a traditional education likely would have.

I devoured every book in our house and then took to libraries. I think if being home-schooled gave me anything, it was an insatiable desire for knowledge and learning.

I got about 1/5 of the way through a computer science degree, but at that time I was already running two businesses. I recognized that in both industries I had companies, experience was equal to education.

I stopped pursuing the degree.

While my formal education ceased, my self-initiated education continued all the more and with renewed focus and vigor. I wanted to learn music production, so I spent 30 hours watching YouTube tutorials, and making things. I wanted to learn Adobe Premiere, AfterEffects, Photoshop, illustrator, etc., so I simply did.

The internet is a phenomenal wealth of resources. The vast majority of information is freely accessible, and what quality material is available is very affordable. The internet merely amplifies what inclinations we already have. If you want to learn, there’s no stopping you. The sky’s the limit. If you want to waste it all away, there’s no cap on how long you can play video games, and there are enough cat gifs on Reddit to fill the rest of the time you have on this planet.

I always say if you go to school and didn’t learn to learn, you’ve learned nothing.

Practice Makes Perfect

Go Media: Is there a piece you are most proud of? If so why?

Sean: The works I’m most proud of are usually the most recent. This is because I visually tear apart any of my work that is older than my recent one or two pieces to the point of strongly disliking it. All I see are the flaws and what can be improved.

Perfectionism is somewhat of a curse, but it also pushes me. It keeps me innovating. As annoying as it is, the reason I see the weaknesses and flaws in my previous work is because I’m growing. I’m improving. That’s always a good sign, and it’s enough to keep me going.


Visit Sean’s Store

When you used the coupon code GOMEDIA at Sean’s Store (through July 4, 2013), you will receive 10% off of Sean’s t-shirts, posters, pins, mugs & stickers, just for being a GoMediaZine reader.  Thank you, Sean!


For more Sean: SeanWes.com | Facebook | Dribble |
Instagram | Twitter

So You Want to Learn Hand Lettering: By Sean McCabe

Life is Happening

Perspective, Hustle and Passion with Kern and Burn

Let’s Talk Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs

We’re big fans of Jessica Karle Heltzel and Tim Hoover here at Go Media.  Designers, writers and publishers, we are super honored to have Jess and Tim on our list of WMC 2013 Speakers this year. 

Jess and Tim

We had a chance to chat with Jess and Tim about their recent success with Kern and Burn, a recently released online and print publication that curates discussions, interviews, and essays about design entrepreneurship.

Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs is a beautiful two-color book that features candid conversations with 30 leading designers who have founded startups, channeled personal passions into self-made careers and taken risks to do what they love. In this book they share their failures, successes, and perspectives.  Kern and Burn’s hope is that you, the reader, can learn from them — not to follow in their footsteps, but to chart your own course in parallel, one that allows you to thrive, add value to the world and love what you do. Dedicating the book  to “those who kern, those who burn and those who embrace the risk of failure daily,their book is available online now on KernandBurnBook.com.


The Interview

Go Media: Kern and Burn started with the 100 Days of Design Entrepreneurship, a daily blog that curated discussions, interviews, and articles about design entrepreneurs—those who pursue self-initiated projects, think for themselves, and channel personal passions into self-made careers.  Tell us a little about how you decided to begin on this journey.

Kern and Burn: The blog started out as a process. A daily commitment for us to formulate our thoughts on all of the essays, interviews, and blog posts we were reading in school. It was a way for us to figure out what we were interested in—and we centered our thoughts around all things business, design, and entrepreneurship. When we started to gain an audience we slowly realized that the blog was our project and then we made the decision to focus solely on curating and posting the best content we could. The 100 Days was amazing. Every day we were able to reach someone new and that person would inevitably bring something valuable to the discussion and point us in an unexpected direction for a future post.  

For us, the blog is also a literal map of the places we traveled, the design communities we met, and the experiences we had over the year. We were fortunate enough to successfully Kickstart the book which led us to where we are today with Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs. It’s been a great journey.


Go Media: You talk about breaking rules in order to follow your passions.  What is one rule you broke that paid off in dividends?

Kern and Burn: We collaborated on our thesis project. That’s fairly unheard of at competitive graduate schools. MICA does a wonderful job of allowing students to pursue their goals full-force with thesis and thankfully they didn’t have a problem with us working together.

The success of our partnership has always worked because we are different. We have different skills, priorities, work methods (and stress-levels) but those differences work in our favor because they force us to challenge one another. We love the name Kern and Burn because it represents each of us so well. Jess is the Kern—detail and execution-oriented—and Tim is the Burn—ideation and big-picture focused.

We self-published our book. That’s another “rule” that we broke when we decided that we wanted complete control over the layout, the paper choices, and the content. Looking at the end product we know we made the right decision.


Go Media:  What advice would you give to designers who are drawn to entrepreneurship and are dreaming big, but are struggling at the beginning of their career?

Kern & Burn: You don’t need new ideas. You need ideas executed extremely well.

Many designers, ourselves included, can get stuck at the beginning of projects under the pressure of needing to come up with the newest or greatest idea that no one has ever thought of before. We came to realize that the idea itself doesn’t have to be new, it just has to be done in a new way, and executed in a great way. As designers, that’s where our opportunity lies to use our expertise and skill sets to create businesses that rise above the competition.

Go Media: What do you love most about what you do? 

Kern and Burn: We love that we created an experience that asks people to think about and define their perspective. We curated 30 perspectives in the book so that readers can discover what they think about the topics we discuss. We want to encourage designers to think for themselves. There’s no better way to do that then start a conversation and a dialogue and that’s what we hope people do when they read the book.


Go Media: What is one word of wisdom you heard from a fellow designer that you now use on a daily basis in your career?

Kern and Burn: Definitely Christian Helm‘s: Ask For Advice.
The interviews in our book were our way to ask for advice—for ourselves and for our readers. For the most part, people and especially designers are super nice. Ask them for advice, wisdom, or just out for beers. Meet people and start projects. So many amazing projects are the result of one person asking another person for advice.

Go Media: What’s next for Kern and Burn?

Kern and Burn: We’ve been thinking a lot about what our purpose is as a business, as a platform, and as a resource. We landed on Kern and Burn: For Design Entrepreneurs.

With the blog, Kern and Burn was a place for people to stop by for daily inspiration. With the book, readers can pick it up once and find insight in an interview and read that same interview again later—at a different time, in a different place in their careers—and still find meaning in the interview because they have new life experiences to bring to it.

We want to continue to grow and build a set of tools and resources that positively influence people’s paths. Whether that tool is a book, a workshop, or a conference we want to design experiences that benefit others and build communities.


Want more Kern and Burn?  Stay tuned for our upcoming podcast with Kern and Burn – to be posted right here on the GoMediaZine!  Also, don’t forget to purchase your ticket to this summer’s Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 2013 where you can see Jess and Tim speak about their journey and the success of their new book, Kern and Burn: For Design Entrepreneurs!

Buy the BookKern & Burn on Twitter |  Kern & Burn on Facebook  

The Age of Instagram: An Interview with Dan Morgan

Sitting down with Dan Morgan of Straight Shooter

Filterstorm, PhotoGene, Camera+, iDarkroom, Instagram.  With a flick of a finger, a simple effect, a toasty filter can bring a dull photo to life. In the age of the iPhone, such easy access to the camera itself, combined with photo-editing software gives us power and confidence we’ve never had.

Professional Cleveland photographer Dan Morgan of Straight Shooter, who has been in the business for over 30 years, has embraced the recent explosive advances in his field. Go Media sat down with Morgan to talk about Instagram and related software programs.

Dan Morgan
Photo Credit: Dan Morgan

Morgan notes, “That same rapid-fast forward in technology that has made it so everyone can take pictures, has made it so professionals can take better pictures.”

Spending the majority of his time as a commercial photographer, these new advances have broadened the scope of what he offers to his customer.  He tells Go Media, “The type of photography I do today I never attempted to do back in the day because I’m able to experiment more and see how things look.”

Instead of simply offering catalog items, he offers varying options including food and notably, architectural photography.  In the past requiring a big and bulky 4×5 camera with very sensitive and specific adjustments made at time of shooting, Morgan can now take his digital SLR and make all changes with ease in Photoshop and other software programs.  He reports: “Architectural photography is one of my best sources of income now.”

Morgan’s experience capturing images of jewelry has been expanded as well. Recently published as the sole photographer for Brandon Holschuh’s book “The Jeweler’s Studio Handbook” where he captured stunning images of custom made jewelry, Morgan came across more advances in technology, making his process easier.  One application of note creates a reflection of the jewelry, at the click of a button. This would at one time be a frustrating, multistage process involving multiple artists.

Tap I
“TAP I” – Shot with a Canon Mark II, Reflection app used. Photo Credit: Dan Morgan, Straight Shooter

“All the fine art experimenting that I did in the last 15 years are now, with the assistance of technology – those effects are being achieved immediately,” Morgan comments, emphasizing that  this technology not only impacts the quality of his technology, but the speed at which he can produce as well.

Morgan stresses that the decisions made within Instagram and other software programs should not be made randomly.  “Those apps, all those tools that everybody can use – it’s all about applying them and having a method to the madness. It’s having that trained eye that’s important.”

He not only enjoys the options available to him in post-production, but also uses them to his advantage before he even presses the shutter. “I’ve been able to take pictures with my Canon Mark II, that yields a really sharp picture, into an Instagram picture.  I photograph these knowing that I would put an Instagram filter onto it.  The effect that I’m creating now by doing that same amount of work is getting me that much farther.”

Morgan shared some additional photos with us, exemplifying the power of this new technology, and how it has advanced his own work.

“Here’s something I concocted based on Instagram.” I knew the effect that Instagram gave, but I also knew that I could apply that effect from a good quality picture to begin.”

"Airstream" Canon Mark II with Photoshop and Instagram app
“Airstream” taken with a Canon Mark II, Photoshop and Instagram app used. Photo credit: Dan Morgan, Straight Shooter

“Earlybird is my favorite Instagram filter because it doesn’t take it too far away from the original look, but it darkens the photo around the corner.”

Guardian III
“Guardian III” – Shot with a Canon Mark II, Earlybird filter applied in Instagram. Photo Credit: Dan Morgan, Straight Shooter

“I shot this on a cloudy day so it was a really neat picture to begin with, but playing around with filters and it was the ah-ha!  I got the energy coming from the tower.”

Tower Power
“Tower Power” – Shot with an iPhone, FX Photo Studio HD iPad App Used, Explosive Color applied. Photo Credit: Dan Morgan, Straight Shooter

A vintage photograph of Morgan’s father, “the original Mad Man!”

The Real Mad Man
“The Real Mad Man, James O ‘C Morgan” – Original B & W film negative with Mamiya 120mm Camera, copied with iPad, Photoshop and Instagram app used. Photo Credit: Dan Morgan, Straight Shooter

Is there downfall to all this technology?  “Having the tools,” Morgan cautions, “is not enough. It’s good that the tools are out there, because people are given the motivation to see that you can go places with it.” But there will always be a place for professional photographers in this world.  Morgan emphasizes, “you still have to have that eye.”

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