I wanted to share some thoughts and replies to questions I frequently hear from students. Maybe it’ll help someone else out there wondering about this kind of stuff:
What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had to face in the industry?
Obstacles come in many different forms, but I like to look at them as opportunities. They’re a problem to solve, and as a designer and storyteller, that’s what I enjoy doing.
An important realization I came to after working for a while was that no matter how strongly I felt about something, at the end of the day it is not my project. Even if I’m the director, it’s the client’s dollar and their baby. Not mine.
In creative business we tend to ignore the latter word and fall in love with our own ideas. And when a client disagrees with our idea, we take it personally or get frustrated – angry, even. My work and life became much better after I discovered this. And it’s not about giving in or half-assing what you do, it’s about understanding the why and doing your absolute best to work within those parameters.
If you had a client that wanted a hamburger you’d make them the juiciest, meatiest most delicious burger you could make. You wouldn’t give them a hotdog because you like hotdogs more.
How did you achieve your title as Creative Director?
The path I traveled to be where I am is different than most. I was very fortunate with timing and what the “industry” was interested in and starting to become.
During my junior year at Otis, I formed a filmmaking collective with two friends. We made a handful of films – for fun, for school, for no reason – and we submitted them everywhere we could to be seen online and in festivals.
As it turned out, someone saw value in what we were making and literally emailed us asking if we wanted to direct commercials. That was when we formed Three Legged Legs (www.threeleggedlegs.com.)
So I was pitching and directing commercials before I graduated Otis. Like I said, good timing.
I co-ran 3LL from 2006-2011, when we disbanded and pursued our individual interests. Chris Do (owner of Blind and then teacher at Otis) was a long time mentor, so it made sense for me to join the team here at Blind, where I am currently Creative Director.
What skills should you know prior to looking for a job?
It depends on the job you’re looking for, of course. I’ll say this though, be software agnostic. I mean, maybe Photoshop is immortal, but everything else will change, die and make space for new, better, faster software. One is not better than the other – they’re all tools on your belt.
Aside from the fundamental skills of your trade, go beyond what you think you need to know. In our industry, most everyone is good enough. They can get a job, they can work. So how else does one compete in the job market?
Who you are, what you’re interested in and your world views are things to consider. Learn to be social, friendly and proactive in life and work, because you will always work in a team. It might be big, it might be a team of 3, but how you work with others is a major component to your success.
Making great work is the standard.
If you could give one piece of advice to students who want to work the industry, what would it be?
I get this question a lot and it’s quite difficult to answer because it’s so open-ended. I’ll share one important thing I’ve gained from not only work, but life experience: learn to be a good listener.
By “a good listener” I mean turn everything else off, even your inner monologue, and really pay attention. If you do it right, you’ll realize how difficult it is to do at all. It’s exhausting and requires a tremendous amount of focus. But if you learn to listen to people, clients, girlfriends, etc., it will ultimately teach you empathy.
And by virtue of your new ability to empathize and comprehend, the creative decisions you make will be stronger and clearer.