Don't Quit Your Day Job - Advice for Young Creatives on Making Ends Meet

Don’t Quit Your Day Job – Advice for Young Creatives on Making Ends Meet

In this article, we’re going to tell you, in no uncertain terms, “DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB!”, but we promise not to be cynical about it. We offer this advice because we understand that, for a lot of creative professionals, sometimes you’ve got to take that crumby day job in order to fund your broader aspirations.

Juggling the demands of your day job with your long term goals is an art in and of itself. It takes tenacity, some level of stubbornness, and a heck of a lot of faith. You certainly develop a kind of dual lifestyle, and for some, even a dual personality. This, too, has its rewards depending on how you let this weird dichotomy manifest itself in your art. Sometimes you find yourself working at the right place but under the wrong title. Sometimes, the title suits you, but the pay doesn’t match. Sometimes, it’s all wrong, and you literally feel like a stranger in the wrong house.

Many a brave soul have succumbed to the temptation to pack up their tent and throw in the towel when faced with this professional dilemma. To those of you out there on the brink of folding, we’re here to tell you that you’re not alone. Sure, things seem pretty rotten right now. You come home at night feeling pretty let down, uninspired. Your true calling feels light years away, and so you end up surfing Snapchat all night instead of dedicating time to your art. To those of you out there struggling with this sinking feeling, remember this: Holding a crappy day job is simply a means to an end. It’s a tough gig, but sticking it out has its rewards. In the words of the great Ringo Starr, “You’ve got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues. And you know it don’t come easy.”

We recently asked a group of successful creative professionals to share with us some of their own remarkable horror stories of doing time in a lousy day job while chasing big dreams at night. How low can you go, you ask? There’s no telling until you hit rock bottom. And so, for those of you out there currently stuck between a rock and a hard place [creatively speaking], we’d like to share with you three inspiring stories from the artistic trenches.

Andre Espinosa, Exhibitions Designer, Cincinnati, OH:
I design exhibitions for a well-known museum, and I’m pretty happy with my job these days. But it wasn’t always like that. I’ve worked at this museum for seven years, but I spent the first five years here slogging it as a security guard. It wasn’t my dream job, but I kept at it and worked hard, day and night. Eventually, I figured it would serve me well in my long-term goal to work in the Exhibitions Department. It was a long road, I was the low man on the totem pole, and I almost quit on a number of occasions. I bumped into an awful lot of trouble along the way and had my pride hurt, and my head chopped off on a number of occasions. But I never quit. I watched people get promoted ahead of me, but I just kept working. I watched them bring in people from the outside to fill positions instead of promoting from within. Ouch! Still I kept working. I even watched as they implemented some of my ideas around the museum without a single nod of acknowledgment. I was never bitter. I just kept working.

Perhaps my darkest hour happened on a lonely Sunday afternoon in December a couple years back. My nine-year-old daughter was performing in a local production of the Nutcracker and, try as I might, I just couldn’t get the day off. [That’s another story altogether. You’d put in a time off request and, like a game of roulette, hope for the best. Sometimes you’d win. Sometimes you’d lose. I suppose I could’ve called in sick, but, remember, I had big aspirations. I was no deadbeat. I wouldn’t call in sick unless I WAS sick. It’s just not how I’m built.]

There was only one thing left for me to do, short of quitting, and that was to request early dismissal that afternoon. Early dismissal was an honest alternative, and harmless enough. It happened during the changing of the guard, between the first and second shifts, and only if the museum was dead quiet. Well, it was late in the afternoon on a Sunday in early December, and the museum was completely abandoned. You could hear a pin drop. I thought I was a shoo-in to head home early. But still, I was denied. So, with no other option available, I went to the floor supervisor and put in my request. I beseeched, petitioned, pleaded, and practically begged him. But he wouldn’t budge. I felt betrayed, though I didn’t hold it against him. I knew that someone else was pulling the strings.

I was eventually set free that day after a hair-raising stand-off between myself and the powers that be. I made it to my daughter’s recital by the skin of teeth. But the damage had been done. The next day I was called into my boss’s office and reprimanded. I was treated like a real troublemaker. It stung, but I held my tongue and took the beating, trying to toughen up for better days that surely lay ahead. After all, I figured, it couldn’t get much worse.

Time passed, and I weathered many a storm – including a complete shake up from top to bottom within the organization. I guess I just outlived them all.

Eventually, a position would open up in the Exhibition Department for an Exhibition Designer. I jumped on it and got the job. It’s all good now. I’m doing what I love, and I’ve got most weekends off too. I hung in there. It was bleak, it was humiliating, and I almost gave up. But, today, I’m glad I didn’t.

Shirley Matusak, Graphic Designer/Poster Artist/Punk Rocker, Rochester, NY:
I took a job as a junior Sales rep at a big corporation, selling software to car dealerships. It was a lot of cold calling, fact finding. Lotta hangs ups. Pretty grueling stuff. Hours were 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. On the job, I was buttoned down, conservative. I never betrayed a thing about my secret artistic life, or at least that’s what I thought. On the clock, I felt like a different person. Sometimes I’d catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror in the bathroom, and I didn’t even recognize myself. But as soon as five o’clock rolled around, I’d transform into a bold, prowling punker. I sang lead in a local band, The Sh*ts. We gigged around town on the regular. It was great. My day job bankrolled the whole thing. I’m grateful for that.
The fact that I had to keep my true self under wraps, that was challenging. It started to feel like a Jekyll & Hyde routine. Juggling these two personalities would eventually take too much effort, and teach me a very valuable life lesson. The more attention I gave to my art, the less I could give to succeeding at my day job. I had to strike a balance, and, when the time was right, strike out on my own and pursue my dreams.

It all came to a head one year when after the Christmas holiday I came back into the office and discovered that my entire department had flown to Orlando for the annual Sales & Marketing retreat. I was told to answer the phones until everyone got back. That hurt like hell. I hadn’t been invited to the party. I felt like a loser.

The chips were down, and I was tempted to quit. But thank God I didn’t. I needed that job to finance my art, to keep me sane, more so than I needed a trip to Orlando, watching clips of Braveheart, doing “breakout” sessions” with a bunch of ex-football players in pleated pants and Brylcreem. The whole experience taught me that the only one you can trust in life, no matter what your path, is yourself. I was an oddball, and no level of covering up my true self during the day was gonna work. The artist inside me needed to show through, and, eventually did, in spite of myself. I was an outcast by nature, and it was time to come to terms with that.

I eventually left that place altogether and said good riddance to those squares. The coast is clear. My true self is now allowed to come out and show itself, day and night. I still sing in bands, but I now work for an advertising agency as a designer, and I also make my living designing gig posters professionally. My clients are mainly people I met while leading the dual life of a junior sales rep/corporate lackey by day, and punk rocker by night. That job forced me to fight for what I love, to have faith in what I believe in, and to appreciate the true person lurking beneath the phony exterior of a lousy day job. I’m glad I didn’t give up.

Maintaining a dual lifestyle wears you down. If you’re not true to yourself, eventually you’re going to crash, one way or another. But if you remain true to your dreams, no matter what life throws your way, your true self will eventually make its big debut. Be true to you.

Brad Castille, Marketing Director/Web Entrepreneur, New York, NY:
I worked for five years at a local nonprofit as an Administrative Assistant to the Marketing Department. My hope was that I would eventually move up within the ranks.

This particular organization was known for holding high profile events, and these events offered a great opportunity for employees to prove themselves. Lots of media and celebrities were always in attendance. But never one to be star struck, I could usually be found on my feet working the night away. I kept things very professional and never got distracted by all the glitz and glamor. But one year, my professionalism was questioned, and I nearly cracked under the pressure.

It all happened during one particular fundraiser when we hired an outside PR firm to help manage the often delicate world of media relations that surround these kinds of events. The PR firm sent a group of mostly young, college-aged girls, and I was partnered with them for the evening. Everything seemed to go down without a hitch. We spent the entire event hustling between the press box and backstage, seating guests, playing gopher to whoever needed a hand, you name it. Everyone worked tirelessly and gave one hundred and ten percent. No star gazing. No partying. We kept our noses to the grindstone.

But come Monday my boss called me into his office. He said that one of the undercover police officers who had also been assigned to help with security that night had reported that I (or someone closely matching my profile) had been spotted bringing “girls” out onto the floor during the event, and spending much of my time “entertaining” these girls. I informed my boss that these “girls” were in fact members of the PR staff that we had hired that night, and everything was strictly business. After a lengthy interrogation, I was let out of his office. A number of the regular staff vouched for me and even went on the record to say how well I’d done that night. But something fundamental between my boss and I had been breached, and we never fully recovered one another’s trust. It sucked.

I weathered this storm, and eventually found my way out of this situation altogether. Most of my off hours are spent these days focusing on my lifestyle/ecommerce website which I launched thanks to money from my day job. I still hold a day job, too, working as the Marketing Director for a well respected creative firm where I enjoy the trust and support of my coworkers and my boss. It’s a charmed life, and sometimes you just never know how things are going to turn out.

——

So there you have it, folks. What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger. Never giving up, and not giving in, only serves to sharpen your creative edge. Hang in there!

Note: This blog post is a combination of facts and certain embellishments. Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
Furthermore, names, dates, places, events, and details have been changed, invented, and altered for literary effect. The reader should not consider this blog post anything other than a work of literature.

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Enplug’s Entrepreneurial Journey: Zach Spitulski Spills Secrets to his Success

Enplug’s Entrepreneurial Journey: Zach Spitulski Spills Secrets to his Success

By being named one of Inc. Magazine’s 30 Coolest Entrepreneurs under 30, Zach Spitulski (Enplug) has been grouped with the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox, and Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi of Dropbox. Not a bad crowd to run with, right?

So what is Enplug?

Enplug is a revolutionary digital signage software company. Because it uses a universal operating system and app marketplace, businesses can showcase engaging content real-time, integrating social media with ease. This means that businesses using Enplug can essentially turn their displays into a giant smartphone, making their content approachable, relevant, and engaging.

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Go Media was excited to sit down with Zach, Creative Director at Enplug, to learn about how Enplug did it. What worked? What didn’t? What tips did he have on becoming an entrepreneur?

Go Media: So tell us about how you started your Enplug journey:

Zach, Enplug: I was at attending UCLA at the time. I was on a Southwest flight (open seating) to San Francisco to see Pink Floyd–I tripped over a bag and ended up sitting next the the guy’s bag that I tripped on. His name was David Zhu, an original founder of Enplug. I showed him some things I was working on at UCLA and he asked me to join his team. It was the summer between Junior and Senior year at school, I had to decide: school versus dropping out.

Go Media: So, goodbye UCLA?

Zach, Enplug: In school, I thought I wasn’t doing enough. I remember being unhappy just doing school. I was preoccupied with wanting to do something else…something that utilized what I was capable of. I was always itching to do more. It was a simple decision for me–I just decided to believe. Convincing my parents that it was going to be okay was tougher.

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Go Media: So, what happened next?

Zach, Enplug: UCLA ended up being accommodating and said I could come back if it didn’t work out. So, I started working with Enplug. Through David, I met Nanxi, Enplug’s CEO and Navdeep, but I call him Petey…Enplug’s CIO. After I decided to leave school, we all pooled our cash and lived in Koreatown in a 1 bedroom. It was cozy living–there were 4 of us and an engineer. We worked the whole summer and then pitched to Start Engine.

Go Media: Out of all the incubators out there, why Start Engine?

Zach, Enplug: We applied to a few: Y-combinator and others, but Start Engine had Howard Marks. He knew interactive space and seemed savvy in the industry. We thought he would have the guidance and the opportunities to raise a good base.

…And he did. We moved out of the 1 bedroom at the end of 2012 and then rented a house in Bel Aire. It’s actually the same house we still have. About a dozen people still live there, but now we have offices in Culver City.

In the beginning, we were trying to convince people to find organic growth. But now we’re a leader in the space, especially in the LA space. We’re very prominent, and it’s really exciting to see. My friends, or even just other people will say, “Hey, I saw the Enplug software running here,” to me most of the time. We’re locally relevant with big goals. We’re not just in LA–our software is used across the world.

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Go Media: Let’s talk more about your evolution of sorts–what are your company’s goals now? Have you changed them since you started?

Zach, Enplug: When first started, we wanted to rework the space. When we looked at what the space was offering, it seemed prehistoric. “Where do we start?” Was our biggest question.

Well, we had to start over. “Let’s rebuilt this,” we thought. “Let’s make it interactive, scalable, and reliable with a software development kit.” Essentially, we wanted to show people we could tap into social media and make it work.

In that respect, we have similar goals. Now we’re modifying our own product and making sure we stay ahead in the space.

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Go Media: Let’s talk about your team. It started with a small, core group, and now you have a team of over 50 people across the U.S, Africa, and Europe. How do you build a successful team?

Zach, Enplug: It starts and ends with the people. You have to trust each other. Honestly, you have to get along with one another. We’re strong on having a good vibe. With David, I trusted him. I believed it. I was willing to take the risk. People who join now have the at similar trust and belief.

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Go Media: So far, it all sounds like rainbows and roses. Let’s dig deeper. Can you tell us about a mistake that you’ve made on your entrepreneurial journey?

Zach, Enplug: Personally, I always should trust my gut. A few times, I ignored it. Whether when I was hiring staff or a making a decision on the product–the decision seemed logical and rational, but my gut didn’t like it. For hires, for example, there have been qualified hires with previous success at various companies. But my gut said that maybe they weren’t a cultural fit. We’ve done it a few times, and it’s always been a mistake and always causes more problems than it’s worth. Trust your instincts.

Learn more about Enplug here and
connect with them on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram and Google +

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Designer Justin Mezzell: Finding balance for creativity, family and success

A successful illustrator and art director talks about sacrifice, shifting priorities and exclusively admits to listening to the Backstreet Boys.

Justin Mezzell is a designer living and working in Orlando, Florida. He is art director for Code School, an online learning site that helps people learn how to code. He’s also a sought-after designer and illustrator, having worked with clients like Facebook, Twitter and Google, along with magazines like Wired, Fast Company, ESPN and Fortune. He also helped make this.

Justin manages to juggle a busy work schedule with personal projects and freelance work, all while working to be a good husband and a dad to two little ones— a daily balancing act he usually seems to manage quite well. I recently spoke with him via email to find out how he’s tried to cultivate that balance in his life, how he views his commitment to professional and personal commitments and what drives him in his day-to-day work.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Justin Mezzell, a designer/illustrator based in Orlando, Florida. I’m currently working as Art Director with the amazing folks at Code School. As a freelance illustrator, I’ve had the privilege of working with some truly wonderful companies, like Twitter, Wired, Google, Facebook, and others.

GoogleIllustrations

You’re in a major role at a busy tech company. How do you juggle personal projects and agency projects?

The short answer is that I don’t all too often. When it comes to taking on additional work, I’ve had to learn how to most effectively balance the work I do during the day with the work I want to do at night. There was a steep learning curve on that one—plenty of sleepless nights pounding coffee. What I’ve really come to learn is that the whole “Never Stop Creating” mantra is incredibly inspiring as you’re starting out, but less so as you actually settle in to a routine of ceaseless labor. Taking breaks is instrumental to working at your best. This essentially means passing on a lot of exciting projects because I know that I won’t be able to give 100 percent to them. The last thing you want is to turn in half-assed work that bears your name on it.

As for working on personal projects, that’s something I always like to have in progress. They’re so immeasurably valuable in cultivating exploration and self-discovery within the creative process. As you take on more work (and more responsibility), you’re sure to fluctuate on just how much time and energy you can sink into these extracurricular endeavors, but having ongoing personal projects is something I’ll always be passionate about.

What inspires you right now that might surprise people?

I still prefer iTunes over Rdio, largely because I can listen to whatever the hell I want to in private. I keep my library on random most days and ping-pong somewhere between 90s pop music to hardcore to neo-80s-electronica to hip-hop. It’s sporadic and, clearly, so is my personal music taste. A coworker recently reminded me that purchasing the Backstreet Boys’ Greatest Hits collection can’t be ironic if I’m the only one who’s aware I own it.

I suppose this interview changes that.

You’ve got a busy family life, and a busy professional life. How do you make sure to properly pay attention to both both—without sacrificing either one?

I don’t think I believe there aren’t sacrifices being made in relation to each other at all times. Every choice we make is made in the place of another reasonable path we could have chosen. For me, I’ve had to become more aware of where and when those sacrifices are being made, and to be more intentional with how I invest the time I have. In becoming a father of two, it’s safe to say my inventory of free time has only diminished since the days of being single and working. But people make these kinds of choices every day, whether or not they work in our profession. Choosing to date someone may remove your ability to stay in and play video games in your underwear until 4 a.m. Getting more into working out and investing in your personal health removes time you could have used to improve your professional craft.

ToResolve

We won’t get more hours out of the day in any scenario—barring a catastrophic cosmic event that changes our course around the sun. All we can do (and all I try to do) is invest in the life I want to live. Becoming a husband and a father hasn’t diminished my desire to push myself in my craft. It’s changed the way I think about success—but I’d say that transformation in me has been a mostly healthy one. I’m less interested in what’s “socially” successful and more focused on improving my craft where I want to see it go, rather than to where others might want my work to head. And my affirmation of a life well-lived has become a more personal endeavor than a public one.

You live in Orlando, which isn’t San Francisco or New York City. How do you think that affects your approach to design?

I’ve had my brushes with the West Coast—I’m originally from over that way—but for me, it just hasn’t been the right move at this time in my life. Being in a city that isn’t known for design or technology isn’t always the most tantalizing thing for some, but for me, working here has been a really positive force. It’s exciting to be in a city where you can change the entire conversation of the creative community and plug right into being effective where you are. We’re a city that’s only just beginning to align and embrace the creative and tech communities; being on the ground floor of that has been both affirming and thrilling. Also, getting to be near so many colleges has been a great opportunity in forming some truly great mentoring opportunities.

Where you live is more than where you work; it’s where you do life.

The fact is, you can do great work wherever you are. And if you’re not doing great work where you are, a change in location might jumpstart some of that in you, but it might not. It’s sort of like wishing on a star: That old star can only take you part of the way. You got to help him with some hard work of your own. (Thanks, Princess and the Frog. Did I mention I have kids?)

Do you think the industry is shifting away from assuming all “real design” has to come from NY/LA/SF?

Absolutely. I see great, inspiring work coming from all over. From Indiana to Montana to Georgia and everywhere else, the Internet is making distribution a limitless variable. Your work its reach is nearly boundless when coupled with an internet connection.

I’ve also noticed companies are more open to having offices that aren’t parked exclusively in SF, and remote work is becoming more and more common in practice. Hopefully, we can move the conversation beyond designating someone as being “too good” for the city they’re in. Because they’re really not.

What’s your favorite project you’ve ever worked on and why?

Right now, we’re working toward making Code School an even more valuable product in the learning conversation. We’re in the process of reorganizing the architecture and our approach to teaching. It’s certainly the most difficult undertaking I’ve worked on, but it also gets me ridiculously excited. Being someone who went through college and didn’t leave with a degree based on anything I happen to do today, I’m really interested in improving how we cater to and encourage learning technology here and abroad. It’s inspiring to get to work on something that can actually transform someone’s life.

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Who are other designers who inspire you?

I’m going to miss so many people on this brief list, but some people that I can’t help but consistently check in with would be: Jay Fletcher, Tobias van Schneider, Allison House, Kelli Anderson and Ryan Putnam.

Say I’m a designer just starting out, or trying to start out in Cleveland. What would you say to me?

If you’re waiting until someone asks you to do the work you want to be doing, but you haven’t started doing it yourself, you’re going to be waiting an awfully long time. Where you are shouldn’t be a barrier for you putting yourself out there and crafting the career you want to have. I’ve also got a particularly soft spot for Cleveland—it’s a great city.

Remember to re-evaluate what success means to you, and how you want to go about pursuing it. Our notions of success change over time and it doesn’t make us directionless, it makes us human. Pursue what fuels you, but don’t expect it to be the end-all-be-all. Look for inspiration outside of just design, and don’t fall prey to the idea that if you work hard enough, that’s the only ingredient you’ll ever need to be truly happy.

Anything else you want to add?

Thanks for having me and for letting me talk shop and all else. Also, thanks to anyone reading this. It’s a long one and you’ve got a lot of other things you could be doing with your day—maybe that you should be doing with your day. Don’t hesitate to say hey and if we’re ever at the same conference or place at the same time, let’s get a beer or (even better) a bourbon!

Learn more about Justin Mezzell’s work at his website, on Twitter or on Dribbble. You won’t find him on Spotify though—he’s busy hiding the fact he still listens to Yellowcard all the time.

Type That’s Good Enough to Eat: An Interview with Danielle Evans

Cleveland graphics firm, Go Media presents An Interview with Danielle Evans

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THE WONDER JAM

Tell us a little bit about your life growing up, creatively speaking. Did you always play with your food?

I had a very happy early childhood, and both of my parents encouraged me to try my little hands at everything. I had a wide variety of interests, but I was very keen on drawing and coloring. I knew I loved putting pencil to paper, and this manifested in many ways; I would draw the weather report and pretend to be a news anchor, I wrote stories for a fake newspaper but only ever finished the supporting photos/drawings, I made award certificates for my soccer teammates when we won the championship. My dad started college as an artist, and helped me paint a cheetah shaped car for the Pinewood Derby; it won best of show but got stuck halfway down the track. Neither of us were engineers.

As a small child, I only desecrated family dinner once- I had just seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind and was investigating the merit of the mashed potato mountain before my mom put a hard stop on my dinner table creation. However, I had several school projects where the two of us made food based social studies maps, such as the island of Japan out of cake or a local fort out of cookies and candy. These were always popular with my classmates for obvious, diabetes inducing reasons.

THEGUARDIAN
THEGUARDIAN

Who has been most supportive of your journey and how have they supported you?

I’ve heard it said that many people don’t wish to owe anyone else for their successes, but I honestly owe so many people. So many people have supported me in this journey that naming one person solely would be remiss. I’ve had great discussions with Tim Frame, Jeremy Slagle, Ron Mazellan, and other professional creatives when trying to decide if I wanted to freelance. My husband, Jarrod, has been the most constant contributor; he has dutifully served as a therapist, art director, unwelcome-but-correct art director, accountant, sidekick, fan, caretaker, and support. Several artists from the community have had a profound impact on my business model and sense of creative self; Allan Peters for my first big break, Jessica Hische on creative enterprise, Clark Orr for kickstarting my train of thought on multi-sensory design, These are Things for playful professionalism. Without the constant emotional support of various creative friends- Claire Coullon, Joseph Alessio, Mikey Burton, Scott Hull, Heidi and Asim Ahmed, Jonathan Vair– I don’t think I would have made much of myself. If anything, I’ve learned artistic endeavors are rarely made alone.

TARGET "FOOD FOR THOUGHT"
TARGET “FOOD FOR THOUGHT”

Did you have a moment when you realized that design was your calling?

I had always struggled with finding my calling, in part due to my moderate success at most of my hobbies. Passion was always a frustrating word as well because I never felt particularly inclined towards any of these endeavors, save illustration, but I wasn’t particularly gifted. School had broken me of my perceived skill, and in design I found shape based, typographic solace from messy strokes and the human form. However, I felt design could be soulless and longed to marry the two. When I discovered lettering, the world suddenly opened up and swallowed me. Handwriting had always been important to me, and this convinced both my husband and myself that this was a narrative and design-y way to focus myself and my portfolio. The calling came in a series of small epiphanies, really. I realized I could be happy for those finding success and not be consumed by jealousy because I had my own path to trod; I decided I would love doing this if I never became well known or published; I determined I wasn’t my business and therefore wasn’t a failure if I never made any money back. Once I became easy in my own skin, I found solace in my work and made confident strides.

GET CRACKIN
GET CRACKIN

What does a typical day look like for you?

My days vary wildly; sometimes I’m doing office related work- writing/responding to emails, filling out interviews, posting work to my site(s), etc. These days are occasionally spent in my underpants and are why I describe myself as “low maintenance”. Shoot days are far more exciting and vary based on location, but consistently I am wearing pants for these. I arrive early, around 8- 8:30am, and gather with the creative team to determine a shoot schedule and assess supplies. If the shoot is a still vs. video day, I’ll immediately begin working on the first piece. I usually request a specific item and brand that I’ve tested and a couple back ups, should we run into issues. I may be asked to do a test on the intended surface for lighting and camera placement, which allows me to warm up to the substance. The creation portion of the day is the most basic but often magical to others; I put my head down and make whatever I’ve set out to do without stencils or grids, and occasionally without sketches until the piece is finished. This part of the process can be most intensive, as the agency and client are usually present and wish to offer feedback during production. Once I’ve arrived in a finished place and everyone is satisfied with the lettering, I’ll begin propping and styling the final frame and ask the photographer to pop a couple of shots. These days can last between 9-16 hours, dependent on the number of pieces and amount of revisions; the marathon of my jobs is exhausting, but having a finished product(s) at the end of the day is extremely satisfying. Usually I’ll come home and stretch, as I’m often bent over a board for most of the day, occasionally balancing on a table top or kneeling on concrete.

What is your biggest fear as a working artist?

The real answer to this question is somewhat illogical but legitimately concerning: becoming commoditized. I’ve struggled to find my place in the creative community and develop my style, eventually succeeding after several years of anxiety and error. I’ve cobbled my job to include my favorite interests, strongest skill sets, and wildest dreams (ie. travel). The internet has aided me in achieving a small measure of success in spreading my unusual brand of work beyond my furthest circles, which is wonderful. Eventually my design reaches those with no knowledge of my personhood, process, or my struggle, becoming a trend. This is surreal, as I’ve lost jobs to other “food typographers,” a title and misnomer I created for myself. As my work becomes further removed from me, the sensibilities and techniques I use are deconstructed and reused without rhyme or reason by others, becoming part of a movement. This is both flattering and terrifying; if I want to remain ahead, I need to continue to evolve.

Secondarily, stagnation scares me, as it’s the slow, hospital bed death of creatives. I always want to better myself with each project, so either my type styles have to advance, or my substances have to evolve. I want to ensure I’m racing myself and topping my own accomplishments. If I continue to make strides with each piece, rather than padding a portfolio with repetitive work, I’ll always receive interesting inquiries and opportunities.

What is one risk that you’ve taken in your career that has paid off?

My greatest personal risks involve becoming courageous enough to test my own limits. I’ve learned to ask myself “Is this possible?” when brainstorming a new piece. The risk is so small, as the the answer is merely for my own satisfaction. To pad myself from expectation, I don’t broadcast what I’m working on online or in person until I know for certain the piece is working; if I screwed up and ruined everything, I’d either scrap the project entirely or start over from scratch. Once I became confident in the portfolio I had amassed, I felt comfortable asking others if it was possible to work together. My biggest break came from answering a call for freelancers tweet from Allan Peters simply because I asked to be considered. Asking others for a chance became so much easier once I proved to myself that I was worthy.

WORLD CUP
WORLD CUP

What is your favorite food to work with and why?

I love working with food, but I’ve had such amazing experiences with other materials. Various ropes/strings have proven a fun challenge as they require twisting and monolinear treatments, fabrics look elegant in their own right, plants unfold in my hands and have a timetable before they wilt; the world is full of potential materials. Whatever I utilize, I like to suggest rather than dictate how the material works for me. I like my substances to remain true to themselves. My greatest satisfaction is walking up to a tree and plucking the bowl of a 5 out of a bough, spotting the perfect curve in the wild. I could reason this branch had grown for years at a perfect curve, waiting for me to pluck it off its tree, which blows my mind.

More Danielle:  Dribbble | Instagram | TwitterPinterest

The Characteristics of Excellent Website Design: Experts Weigh In

The Characteristics of Excellent Web Design

Options for building a website are plentiful, but finding a team to deliver a creative custom solution on time and on budget is not easy. Here at Cleveland based graphic and web design firm, Go Media, we take great pride in our reliability, delivering robust websites that function flawlessly. We’re passionate about creating excellent web design and know it when we see it. As our own web developer Dave Romsey simply states, “In my opinion, excellent web design allows the content of the site to be consumed as effortlessly as possible.”

But how do we know that we’re creating it? And how do we know it when we see it? Today some of my favorite web developers are answering the question, “What are the characteristics of excellent web design to you?”

Enjoy the advice, and please share yours in the comments section below.

Layer Tennis – One Design Company – Chicago Web Design

David Sieren, Creative Director
One Design Company

What makes for a good website? That’s such a loaded question—the answer will vary wildly depending on who the website has been designed for. Add to that the countless facets inherent to the concept of “good” and we’re headed down one heck of a rabbit hole. But I suppose that leads us to the best all-encompassing answer we can give you.

In our opinion, a great website—or any interactive experience for that matter—thoughtfully takes into account the goals and needs of the final user from both a functional and emotional standpoint.

At One Design we underline the last part of that statement, emphasizing the importance of emotion in every interactive experience. Our users are humans, and humans have an innate need to connect. The strongest interactive experiences understand and embrace this. Technology that winks back at us—often at the most unexpected moments—defines the difference between tools we own and products we covet. It’s the wink that leads to conversations about our work over coffee, links being passed at the dinner table, and fierce loyalty at the end of the day. A wink is the difference between a good interactive experience and a great one.

One Design Company on Twitter | Facebook

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sunrise-calendar-landing-page-100566791-large

Rob Davarnia, Senior Full Stack Developer
Giga Savvy

Websites have been changing so rapidly. They get reinvented every year. However, the core traits of a perfect website rarely change. In addition to a great design, the following will set apart a website:

  • Smooth and well-thought out User Experience
  • Minimalism. Less is more.
  • Testing funcitonality before launch
  • Testing
  • Solid page load time and consistent uptime
  • Security
  • Clean code

GigaSavvy on Twitter | Facebook

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portfolio-main-cabot

Nick Haas, Creative Director
Orbit Media Studios

Great question. For us, excellent web design should put the user first. Most importantly, we design to convert visitors. The site should clearly establish “who they are” and “what the user can do”.  Using white space, color, and other visual elements, we can direct attention to calls to action or other focal points. Of course, good design only gets us so far. Images and copy, optimized for the web, is going to draw the user further down the funnel. It needs to all work together. And, obviously, it is a must to support multiple screen sizes so the design holds up on any device.

Orbit Media on Twitter | Facebook

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motivideos

Wilson Revehl, Web Developer
Go Media

The glaringly obvious on today’s web would have to be responsive design & development. Taking a mobile first or desktop first approach to the design isn’t as important as simply taking the time to implement both. I won’t get into the nuances of more breakpoints, although taking advantage and considering more will get you closer to a mark of excellence. To at least be a good design, you should have a design for primary and secondary menu systems, the content above the fold, below the fold and the footer of the homepage, all for mobile and desktop. If you want to achieve excellence, you’ll take time to consider responsive breakpoint design for key interior pages and for general defaults as well. We realize this is a lot of work. Fortunately, there are excellent responsive frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap and Zurb’s Foundation which provide a ton of the heavy lifting on the development front. They also offer tremendous resources to help guide you along the way.

Go Media on Facebook | Twitter

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characteristics-of-excellent-web-design-lark-tattoo

Andrew Ruditser, Lead Technology Coordinator
Maxburst 

In my opinion, the characteristics of excellent web design consists of four things:

  1. Tuning into new trends
  2. Understanding our clients identity image
  3. Making every project personal
  4. Always delivering in style

We follow these four principles across all of our design projects in order to produce the most effective and compelling websites like our newest client launch, Lark Tattoo.

Maxburst on Twitter | Facebook

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BLUE Laser Design

Traci Guthrie, Director of Marketing
Blue Laser Design

Excellent web design begins with the capability to captivate the audience. The design should feel effortless and work hand-in-hand with the brand to serve a purpose. When websites interact with an audience meaningfully, the design encourages users to take action and leaves a lasting impression.

Blue Laser Design on Twitter | Facebook

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WMC Fest – August 7th  8th  and 9th at Allen Theatre

Bryan Garvin, Front End Developer
Go Media

An excellent website design starts before you dive into Photoshop. It’s all about making sure you’re understand the content, the goals of the site, and the way a user should be interacting with the site. Start with sketches or wireframes. Sit down with the client to talk about how the site should work, not just about how it should look.

An excellent website design:

  • Provides the best presentation for the content that we have, not the content we wish we had.
  • Makes it clear what route a user should take to access the content that they’re looking for.
  • Remembers that not every user comes in through the home page.
  • Can be easily understood and accessed without the need of a 1900px-wide monitor.

Go Media on Facebook | Twitter

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Home   Website of Mia Tarducci Henry

Carla Rosemarino, Digital Marketing Manager
Blue Archer

Web design, like social media, needs to be a conversation between you and your audience. A successful website supports a brand’s unique business goals and prioritizes user-experience and accessibility. Design is different from art. It’s about creating a solution.

Blue Archer on Facebook | Twitter

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Battlefield Collection   Authentic Military Sportswear   Battlefield Collection   Authentic Military Sportswear

Harshal Shah, Web Designer
DotcomWeavers

One of the most important things that makes top notch web design is clean and easy user interface. There have been so many times when a user, including myself, gets confused on how the site works or where the call out buttons are. One way to solve that issue is bright colored buttons and hierarchy font size and colors. Using the right technology and updated current design style is also important. Mainly using fonts that reflect the site. For example, if the site is about selling military clothing, like Battlefield Collection, we analyzed who the target audience is and then decided upon using large bold fonts, as their majority of the user will be age of 40 plus.

Bridal Hair Adornments  Veils  Accessories  Jewelry   Laura Jayne

Using icons and heavy visual such as images and banner help creates a visual flavor. It also entices the customer to be engaged. Great use of visuals from our line of work is Laura Jayne. It highlights the product and is used with elegance. Overall clean and easy to use with a little BAM of visuals and eye candy will get you a top notch web design.

Responsive website is the new mantra; it is important that the usage of elements like Bootstrap and fonts are done effectively. As websites are used across multiple channels today, ensure sure that the fonts comply to the Google fonts and the framework aligns with HTML5

In effect, the design starts with the homepage but it is essential that you maintain the language and feel across all the pages.”

DotcomWeavers on Facebook | Twitter

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What characteristics do you believe make near-perfect web design? Share with us in the comments below!

Cleveland Browns Branding: Julia Briggs of Blue Star Design Weighs In

Cleveland Browns Logo Redesign 2015: Wilson Revehl of Go Media Weighs In

Cleveland Browns Logo Redesign 2015

Our recent post, “New” Browns Logo Leaves Cleveland Graphic Designers Deflated” collects expert advice from local authorities on the matter including our own Wilson Revehl, Go Media Vice President, web developer, brand expert and sports enthusiast.

Wilson’s full interview is included below. Enjoy and be sure to catch the full story, featuring fellow experts William Beachy, Chris Comella, Todd Radom, Aaron Sechrist and Julia Briggs here.

The new Cleveland Browns logo design has been harshly derided in some circles for being underwhelming or, as some have put it, “just oranger.” Do you think that kind of criticism is fair or unfair? If so, why?
I think it’s fair. They played it safe, probably too safe. It is indeed virtually the same mark. It’s the helmet. The changes of the helmet are so miniscule you really can’t discern much of a difference. No one was going to see this and be shocked or even form much of a new opinion because it’s hardly new. The changes are so subtle.

The team has stated the goals were to “honor tradition and provide a modern edge,” partially by incorporating a move from the traditional block lettering to a “cleaner, simpler, elegant” font and making the helmet “brighter and richer to match the passions of our fans.” Do you think those goals were accomplished?
The type face they went with is high impact. It is modern. You got to give them that. It’s not your classic, university block lettering that they had been using for so long that has been seen so often. The concern about the orange is kind of like them “catching up” with the fact that most of the apparel manufacturers never printed in their specific orange color pallet. Most apparel manufactures bumped it up to the very bright, classic orange that they’ve now officially adopted. It’s kind of like the fans were the cart and the old logo was the horse.

Had the team gone for a more adventurous approach, what kind of elements could/should the designers have incorporated?
A big change done right would have created big excitement. It would have been thrilling and viral in the sense of all football fans would have been talking about it and taken notice. This is the new Cleveland Browns, shedding the baggage of legacy problems we’ve had over 35 years and given us a fresh restart. When done right, it could have been absolutely thrilling.

Is there anything about the new logo that “works”? If so, explain.
I do like the new dog pound logo. Even though he’s supposed to look tough, it’s a little cuter than maybe I would have preferred. I think they could have gone with something a bit more fierce. This is the most violent sport in America. These guys are warriors, and I think the new dog could have been a lot tougher looking. It’s a little too cute for my taste. I think it could have been and should have been more badass.

Is there anything you would have done differently if you had tackled this project?
Rumors have it this was done in NY. If that’s true, it’s borderline shameful. Cleveland is a hot bed of phenomenal graphic design and branding talent. There was no reason for them to farm it out. You would have many people not only good but very passionate about a project like this.

Talk design with Wilson | Twitter

Updated Cleveland Browns Logo Design 2015: Previous Dawg Pound Logo Designer Designer Todd Radom Weighs In

Cleveland Browns Branding: The New Logo – Chris Comella of Go Media Weighs In

Cleveland Browns New Logo 2015 Branding: William Beachy of Go Media Weighs In

Cleveland Browns New Logo 2015 Branding

Our recent post, “New” Browns Logo Leaves Cleveland Graphic Designers Deflated” collects expert advice from local authorities on the matter including our own William Beachy, president of Cleveland Design Firm Go Media, designer, brand expert and sports enthusiast.

William’s full interview is included below. Enjoy and be sure to catch the full story, featuring fellow experts Wilson Revehl, Chris Comella, Todd Radom, Aaron Sechrist and Julia Briggs here.

Interview with William Beachy 

The new Cleveland Browns logo design has been harshly derided in some circles for being underwhelming or, as some have put it, “just oranger.” Do you think that kind of criticism is fair or unfair? If so, why?

I think the criticism is appropriate. The Browns need to learn a little showmanship. The way they presented the changes was quite underwhelming. The icon of the helmet is BORING. They aren’t even using a modern helmet design with slick angular ear and vent holes or a fancy face mask. If I was going to roll out the new Browns brand, I’d show athletes in full uniform in dramatic lighting. At Go Media we present our brand ideas in context. Show me that logo on a flag, in the stadium, under the Monday night lights with cheering crowds in the background!

The team has stated the goals were to “honor tradition and provide a modern edge,” partially by incorporating a move from the traditional block lettering to a “cleaner, simpler, elegant” font and making the helmet “brighter and richer to match the passions of our fans.” Do you think those goals were accomplished?

Well, they’re certainly honoring the past. And yes, I think the new font is a natural progression from a more collegiate serif font to a strong clean modern look.

The Browns are currently the only NFL team whose primary logo is a helmet. Do you think there is value in that, or do you think there could have been a benefit to pushing beyond that “traditional” image?

I like tradition. And I think, Cleveland being a no-nonsense, blue-collar working man’s town can strangely identify with a logoless team brand. We may not look fancy, but we’re going to humbly show up to work every day and do our job. (Translation: We’re going to kick your ass and skip the post touchdown celebration dances.) Unfortunately, when your team isn’t winning, a boring brand is just adding insult to injury – it’s not a badge of honor to be worn, it’s a mark of shame.

In what ways do you think the team would have benefited from a more daring design change?

How you dress can affect the way you feel about yourself. Back when I had hair, I always felt much better about myself after a fresh haircut. And when you’re feeling better, you’ll probably perform a little better. I’m not suggesting a fancy uniform can turn a loser into a winner, but sometimes it can help – even if just a little.

Had the team gone for a more adventurous approach, what kind of elements could/should the designers have incorporated?

I’m not sure that we’ve even seen the complete redesign yet. All we’ve seen is a logo, color and typeface. So much of a team’s brand is in the complete uniform – what does the striping look like? Brown pants or white? What types of materials are being used? Do they have subtle patterns on them? What about the helmet? If it made with a matte finish paint like some colleges are using? Even within the constraints of Cleveland’s traditional brand aesthetics, there is a lot of room to create a bad-ass design. Personally, I would have loved to see the stripe on the helmet get much thicker. In 2012, The Ohio State Buckeyes had a special uniform with an extra wide metallic helmet stripe, and it looked awesome. This is a good example of how you can take the boring traditional and spice it up with color, material, texture, and design etc.

Is there anything about the new logo that “works”? If so, explain.

Nothing in particular is amazing or different or better… It’s just kind of the same thing.

Do you think this logo design change was ultimately the best decision for the team in this case?

Football is entertainment. And if you’re going to be an effective entertainer over the long haul, you’ve got to embrace reinvention. The NFL changes their marketing, logos, rules, etc. constantly. As an NFL team the Browns also need to constantly reinvent themselves. Ya gotta make it fresh! In my opinion, this was an okay step in the right direction, but certainly I would have gone further with it and presented it with a little more glitz and glam!

Is there anything you would have done differently if you had tackled this project?
I would have hired Go Media. ;)

| Talk Design with Bill |

F#@% your Function, Find your Fire

Before diving into my position at Cleveland Design Firm Go Media, I knew the basics of personal branding.

My understanding went something like this:

1. Figure out who you are

2. Package it up nice and neat

3. Show it off to the world

How to do all those things, I must admit, was a little vague — until now. Let’s just say, I’ve just been enlightened by Michael Cavotta, certified personal brand strategist and professional headshot photographer. As it turns out, there’s more to it than a shot in the dark and a nice photo.

“Personal branding,” explains Michael, “is the external expression of the authentic self, which is by definition a unique and powerful commodity. It’s the ability to tell someone else—to show someone else—in words or an image—what it is that simultaneously sets you apart and draws others to you.”

Whatever your role within an organization, Michael emphasizes without an authentic personal brand, your success is on the line—both as a business and an individual.

Wait..why?

“In my former life as a venture catalyst, I learned no one invests in business plans—they invest in the people behind it,” Michael recounts, making a strong personal brand a  fundamental element of entrepreneurial success.

But personal branding isn’t limited to the world of business. It’s for anyone and everyone who wants to walk a little taller in their own shoes.

“No matter if you work for a company or you’re out on your own as a musician, an artist, a designer…everybody is their own salesperson—their own branding agent.”

“Some people do a really shitty job of branding themselves,” Michael chuckles, “or worse, they’re completely unaware there’s a job to be done. Instead, they’re out there floating, confusing their function—what they do for a living, with their fire—who they really are.”

What kind of fire? “It’s that thing that gets lit up and effortlessly erupts when someone’s allowed to just be themselves, in their element—without friction, without limitation and without a sense that they need to be something else in order to succeed.”

From Function To Fire

Michael’s process hinges upon the idea of freeing yourself from an external sense of self driven by what you do for a paycheck. It begins with a deep drive to find the authentic you, the exceptional person people are drawn to both in business and in life. Accomplish this, and you’ve got the core of your own personal brand.

3 Words Exercise

Addition by Subtraction –

Michael recommends an exercise he calls 3 Words, clients are asked to identify the three words that “unmistakably, irretrievably, undeniably” describe themselves. This process isn’t one to be taken lightly, and if done right, can take weeks or even months. Michael notes, “Start by writing down words that describe someone in your profession. In the case of a designer, these could be words like creative, visual, passionate. When you’re finished, go ahead and cross them off the list. What you’ve just described is a brand tied rooted in function, rather than fire. You can’t set yourself apart by saying me too.”

Build Your Tower

Michael is big on imagination. He’ll ask you to “think of yourself as a Jenga tower, where each block is a facet of you with a word associated with it.”

You start by building your tower with blocks/words connected to your powers, your passions, and your purpose—the things that make you extraordinary and set you apart from the rest. “Don’t worry about what I do; let me tell you about me.”  Suddenly, the conversation is no longer about the mundane expectations we have about someone in your field, it’s about activating the things that are most engaging about you.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so take your time building your tower. “You have to see the whole before you can touch what is essential.”

Pull the Pieces

Just like in the real game of Jenga, once you build, you start pulling pieces.  Except in this game, your job is to figure out which three blocks are the keystones that can’t be removed without the entire thing falling apart. You’ll know when you’ve found them when you get to the point where no meaningful conversation about you can happen without them.

OK, Now What?

Finding your 3 Words is really just the beginning—the point where a process becomes a practice. “The only way to work, live and love authentically is to be mindful of where you stand. Whenever you’re presented with a challenge or an opportunity, stick your finger in the air and check which way the wind is blowing. Ask yourself, ‘is it taking me closer to or further away from my authentic self?”  If the answer is no, Michael asserts, “the result will be neither lasting nor exceptional, since any effort engaged in the absence of authenticity is doomed to mediocrity.” But the converse is decidedly more optimistic. “When approached from a foundation of authenticity, there’s nothing that you can’t do.”

Learn more about Michael Cavotta:
MichaelCavotta.com | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn | Google+

Having Faith in Design: an Interview with Mike Jones of Creative South

Cover Photo courtesy of Patrick Chin

Meeting the Man: Mike Jones

Whew! What a weekend, huh, guys? As this was my first Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, I did not know what to expect. I knew I’d meet some cool people, see some awesome things – but I could’ve never imagined the magnitude of all of it. Before I get into my time with Mike Jones, let’s give a round of applause to the creator of WMC Fest, Jeff Finley, for bringing this to life. The event is truly one-of-a-kind, and the fact that it all started in Cleveland makes me feel profoundly proud.

***

“Have you met theman, Mike Jones?”

I heard that probably 20 times over the weekend. So, I marched up to Vendors Village to find this Mike Jones, and try to snag him for a quick interview. I found him at his booth, Old South Supply Co., with his (equally awesome) partner in crime Lenny Terenzi. I introduced myself and asked if we could chat for an interview at some point, and he said well of course! We can do it right now.

The crew joined forces to create Old South Supply Co. with the idea of giving people quality, hand-crafted goods with a sweet southern flare. Mike is from Georgia while Lenny is from North Carolina. The two have assistance in web development by friend Rob Davarnia, who owns Parse Labs, a web development and design company in Orange County, California. Old South Supply Co. just got its start back in June and had its soft-launch at WMC Fest. Their online store will be up and running soon, and you will be able to purchase anything from t-shirts and hats to drinking glasses and cooking utensils, and there’s even a button-down clothing line in the works.

Lenny and Mike met at Creative South (a design conference run by Mike). Mike suggested he and Lenny collaborate together on a lifestyle brand based around how we view the south.

“There are a lot of types of southerners. The two main categories of Southerners that come to my mind the most are “country”– and what I like to call ‘the “old money”, – both have their following and both are valid!

Mike and Lenny want to make Old South Supply a way for everyone to meet in the middle and service the views and lifestyles of both. The duo handmakes as much as they can and since they’re both designers, they definitely get to design everything!

***

Photo by Patrick Chin of Real Thread
Photo by Patrick Chin of Real Thread

A faith-based designer, Mike never seems to stress; He just goes with his heart and a little direction from the Big Guy upstairs. His story begins a year and a half ago, when Mike asked God to let him know loud and clear if he should stay and work at the design firm he knew and loved, or if he was needed somewhere else. He went back inside to finish his day of work and was delivered the message as clear as day. No hard feelings, but it was just his time to go. As they say, as one door closed, another opened.

The very next day, Mike received a call from a fraternity brother he hadn’t heard from in 10 years.

His fraternity brother needed a logo and a website. From then on, his freelance career took off. Mike received a phone call, text or e-mail every day for the first four months of freelancing full time.

“I was blown away, like doors were opened just like He said they would,” said Mike. “For a year and a half, I have been steady. I don’t advertise, it’s all word-of-mouth and it’s just blessing after blessing. I’m thankful, I get to do what I want to do and I get to do it on my own terms. It allows me to spend more time with my family and do side projects like Old South Supply.”

Mike looks back at his experience as design firm invaluable; it’s there he recommends finding, and keeping life-long mentors.

“You know what? Don’t be afraid to call ‘em up. ‘I love your work! How’d you do that?’ If they share, fantastic, if not fantastic,” said Mike. “If someone calls me and asks how I did something, I tell them because your vision of art and mine are different, even if the technique to do it is exactly the same.”

Mike’s big take-away? With faith on your side, try, fail sometimes, but don’t ever give up.

“It is a scary thing. Like what if I fail? Then what do I do? Look, go into it like this. I have this thing that I wanna do. This is my plan B just in case. Worse case scenario, it’s not gonna work out. Best case, it’s the best thing you’ll ever do. Be confident that one of those is gonna go!”

“If you fail, the people that love and care about you thought it was awesome – and if anything, you’ve made some cool things for your buddies.”

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More Mike Jones: Twitter | Dribbble | Old South Supply Co.
Creative South Main | Creative South Facebook | Creative South Twitter

Thanks to Patrick Chin for all photography used in this story.

Podcast for Designers – Episode 26: Live from WMC Fest 5!