The Designer Catch 22: Experience to get Experience

I once had to read Catch 22 by Joseph Heller for English class in high school. It was a good book, and the term “Catch 22” has become a bit of cultural literacy. If you don’t know what it is already, a Catch 22 is when your stuck in a situation because “A” needs to happen for “B” to happen, but conversely “B” cannot happen without “A” happening. It’s basically a paradox in logic, check Wikipedia for a better explanation.

Earlier this year I decided to leave the motion graphics job I had in search for something else. The position I held somehow was both aggravating and comfortable to me. It was aggravating because I had no opportunity for a promotion or to climb any ladders. I stuck was creating the same crap over and over again, so my reel had no diversity and nothing that I was making was good enough to be put on it. And also my salary wasn’t very high to begin with, and that got cut and started heading backwards. So there were plenty of reasons to be unsatisfied. But it also had its comforts, since I had established myself there, it was close to home, and I was never in over my head work wise, I simply felt adequate on a daily basis. It was “meh.” I don’t like feeling meh.

I got greedy/ambitious and wanted more, for various reasons beyond just my design work. I was having a quarter-life crisis, basically wondering why being smart, educated, funny, dependable, and talented was not worth more (wow modesty would help I guess). I had to make a move at this point in my life, before I let an opportunity (ok fine, there was this girl too who had me wrapped around her finger…) slip away. I felt my job had served its purpose and I wasn’t going to get any better doing the same thing I have already done so many times. I’d learn no new styles, techniques, and my reel would remain stagnant. If I wasn’t going to change it up now, when would be a better time to do so?

So I set out towards New York, which has a thousand times more job opportunities than the golf courses and nursing homes of my home state of Florida. I figured I could work my way in the door somewhere, take my lumps and start a career instead of just simply having a job. I will admit I underestimated the weakness of the economy, since I really didn’t personally feel it on a daily basis. I can use that as an excuse, but I’m not going to sit around twiddling my thumbs while my youth rots away while the government tries to fix this fiscal mess we are all in.

So far I’ve had a couple interviews at some legit places. I was particularly high on a position that I was plenty qualified for and would be an ideal place to start building my career. I really wanted the position, especially when it hit me after the interview of what a perfect place that would be to start. It took forever for them to get back to me with the bad news, I didn’t get the position. They said my interview was good, my work was too, but they hired someone who had more experience than I did.

So herein lies the problem: How exactly do I get not only more, but also better experience if I need that very experience to obtain it? Good question. I obviously took a gamble leaving my position when I didn’t have anything to immediately fill that void. So that was dumb in hindsight. My freelance work is picking up, but it’s been sporadic and I banked on it to hold me over until I got a full-time position. I can do quality work if I just get the chance, but if I never get the chance I’ll never be able to prove it. Catch 22.

So how do you get experience without experience? Basically I would think you need to draw attention to work you created yourself, for no other purpose than to showcase your skills. Basically that’s what I try to do with this site. This is harder than it sounds; it’s the equivalent of asking a painter to sit down and just paint something. Anything. More often we need inspiration or guidelines to jump-start our brains and create something great. Design work is often problem solving, it’s how to start at point A and get to point B with as much style and effectiveness as possible along the way.

Another way is to freelance and build connections. You’re at least making money and you meet a guy who knows a guy who needs a guy to jump on a big project that leads to bigger things. This hasn’t happened to me yet, so I’m basically trying to get any work I can in hopes of opening a door that leads to somewhere more promising.

So ultimately I did something brash and less-calculated, which usually isn’t my style. I’ve kind of dug myself into a hole with my back against the wall in the corner. Exactly. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I’ve got to get some more experience, so that I’ll ultimately be able to get… more experience.

Reel Update: July 2009

I added a few clips to my reel. I also picked a less obnoxious music track. Watch it and get your funk on.

Slight Site Facelift

Well actually it wasn’t slight, I kind of re-coded the whole thing. A few cosmetic changes too. Please alert me of any glitches.

I Succumbed to Twitter

I need to network better. Everybody is on Twitter, and it’s no longer just for letting you know what I’m eating for lunch or that I just got the mail. I want to get connect to more people because I want to make new contacts and get some new work opportunities to come my way. If connecting to Twitter helps me with that just 1 time, it pays for itself. Yea I know it’s free.

So please follow me on Twitter. I don’t want to be a desperate nobody, trapped in Twitter purgatory. I will post links to my stuff as well as cool tutorials, design resources, articles, etc. that I find on the net. So please add me, otherwise I’m going to have to make like 100 pretend Twitter accounts, and I really don’t want to do that.

Happy Anniversary

My oh my they grow up so fast…my blog is turns 1 today. I first posted on it last year at this time.

Since then I have graduated and been hired. I’ve probably made over 100 commercials that have been on TV all over the country.  At this point last year I knew nothing about Cinema 4D or pretty much all 3D animation in general, and now I can hold my own with it. I look forward to another year of personal and professional growth.

Guitar Hero Style Welcome Video

I felt my home page was in need of a bit of a makeover, so I created a new welcome video. I consulted my Xbox for inspiration and decided to create a Guitar Hero style video for my site. After doing tons of interactive research while observing the details and nuances of the game, I did my best to recreate the look and feel of the game with Cinema 4D, Photoshop, Motion, and After Effects. If you’ve never seen or played Guitar Hero (or even more awesomer, Rockband) then I suggest you head down to somewhere like Best Buy and take the floor sample for a spin.
I’m pleased with the way this came out. It’s good to know that all of my research and hard work payed off.

I’m planning on doing more welcome videos to the site every so often. I’ll either have them play randomly if I can figure out how or I will have a way to cycle between them. 

What’s Going On

Well I spent a lot of time during summer making sure I built up my site and getting my reel together. Lately…not so much.

I’ve been working with Cinema 4D trying to get better at 3D animation. I made a promo for Current Using Cinema 4D, specifically MoGraph, but they are having some technical difficulties posting it on their site. I’ll link it up once it’s up there.

aefreemart posted a link to my paper rip tutorial which I thought was cool, good to see that someone has looked at my web site besides my mom.

I want to make more tutorials, but I have come up with any new techniques or ideas. I’m trying to keep the tutorials to things I work out on my own. And lately I’ve been the ones using the tutorials so I’ve got my own work cut out for me.

The only other thing to share that I thought was cool was this technology Adobe is working on to take what essentially would be 3D photos. It involves special lenses and software that could seperate foreground, background, etc. in an image. Maybe soon in the future you will be able to scratch this off short list of things Photoshop can’t do.