Creative Direction Part Two

I guess it's been a couple weeks since I wrote my last post on the transition to working with Over. Well the good thing about writing your own blog is that you don't really have any specific deadlines to meet. I prefer to wait until I have something of value to share, before I sit down and attempt to arrange my thoughts in nice, neat little sentences. Enjoy!

Communication is key

If you work in a space where you sit across the room, the desk or the toilet from your co-workers, consider yourself lucky. The greatest challenge of working remote is also its greatest reward, learning how to communicate more effectively. When you work three states away from your other teammates it can be easy to lose sight of what's going on day-to-day. Even as good as the tools we use are (i.e. Basecamp, Skype, etc.) it doesn't replace the real magic of being face-to-face. It takes a certain caliber of person to be able to handle the responsibility of working remotely as well as continuing to communicate what you're working on.

Spare no feelings

You should know I am a big believer in grace. Grace, to me, is the ability to see your own flaws in those around you and then cutting them all some slack. But, I'm also a big believer in high standards, especially when it comes to doing work. I don't mind sparing your feelings to tell you how I feel for the betterment of the design. I prefer to challenge your design decisions and figure out how you arrived there, instead of just telling you it's not good enough and leaving you to figure it out on your own.

However, we humans are susceptible to finding our identity in our work. That can lead to some really heated conversations when you start challenging the very core of someones design. But that's exactly where I wish to get to, the very heart of the matter. I would much rather help someone see that their identity isn't found in their work, than just simply pat them on the back and say nice job. Our souls don't really need anymore of an ego boost, in fact just the opposite is true. We would all do ourselves a favor if we learned how to better rule our souls and not be lead by emotion.

Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

I've been stuck on this post by Regina Brett for the past two weeks it seems: 45 life lessons and 5 to grow on. Most of the one-liners she gives sounds like something I would say. But this one in particular, "Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful" really speaks truth on multiple levels. It isn't about the things you have in your design/life so much as it is the things you decided to leave out. That's what separates the good from the great. It isn't enough to just call your design/life "minimal" anymore. You really have to sweat and struggle with the details. You have to be willing to be wrong. You have to be willing to be honest. You have to dare to be great.

Part of my struggle recently has been waking up every morning with the notion that the greatest way I can lead my family is to serve. Doesn't matter if I feel like I'm winning or losing, because in marriage it's never a competition. This simple truth has really begun to ooze its way in to the way I work. One of my favorite passages of scripture says it best:

"Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty." Zechariah 4:6

This is great news. It takes the pressure off. It frees us up to seek first the Kingdom. When the eyes and ears of our spirit understand the truth here, we our free to bring all of who we are in to whatever we do without fear of being rejected. We know who we are and where we are going. So whether we're designing apps, or taking out the trash, we can have total peace about where we are.

Creative Direction Part 1

As you may or may not know, I have recently joined the team at Over as the Creative Director. Now, personally, titles don't mean much. A title is a title is a title. But it's what you do with that title that really makes a difference. I think this is why I've never tried to brand myself under a different name. I've always felt a greater sense of freedom by branding myself and being able to change at will. So I feel like one of the greatest lessons I'm going to learn this year is how to inject that same sense of freedom and liberty I've had on my own into a different brand/company. On one hand I feel a great amount of pressure and on the other I feel total freedom. Whether or not I like the title "Creative Director" it comes packed with responsibility. But the great part is that I can trust myself to lead by my past experiences. I'm not pretending to know it all, or that I'll always make the right decisions, but that I will learn from my mistakes and celebrate my victories.

One of the reasons I decided to take this position with Over is I started thinking more about my future than just the here and now. While I experienced some great success last year on my own, I am really excited by the leaps and bounds I will make this year with my new team. It may sound weird, but I am not the smartest person on our team, and I think that's the perfect place to be. Otherwise, what's the point? However, more than knowledge and skill, my team is full of grace and hearts of gold. That right there makes all the difference in the world.

Thoughts on Instagram

Ever since waking up Tuesday morning in central California all I've heard from friends, both online and off, is smack talk about the new terms of service from Instagram. I posted a question that same day on Zerply asking, "What do you think about the new IG ToS? Instead of just complaining about it, what do you propose as a better alternative?" I've read through all the comments and agree with most, but I've been slow to offer my own opinion on the matter. For one, who am I but another clang against the cymbal when I speak negatively about not just a company, but the people who actually make up that company. So instead I want to offer my opinion from a different perspective. Are we so naive to believe that a free app could, and would, continue to serve us forever without asking anything in return. How's that old saying go, "nothing is really free". Yeah, that still remains true today. Nothing that's happening here should surprise us. The problem isn't so much that companies like Facebook, and now Instagram, want to use our information to sell it online for their profit. The problem is that we don't care because we have become too dependent on these social networks to fill the voids in our lives. Sure, we have good excuses like it helps us stay connected with family and friends, both far and near. But what ever happened to sitting down and writing a letter? Or what about the telephone? You know, that thing you use to connect to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc..

So what's the solution? Do we band together and form the "Instascram club" and delete our accounts? Do we post photos on Instagram with comments about waiting until the new Terms go in to effect and then we will be leaving for good if they don't do what we want? Do we just stand by and do nothing? No, no and definitely not. To be honest it's kind of hard to say if there is a solution. I mean, it feels good to see that Kevin Systrom has already taken note of the outcry from the IG community and begun to rethink the verbiage of the terms, but to me that just feels like putting a bandaid on a giant flesh wound. They might as well just post a photo of a giant sucker if we're to believe that is the solution. Honestly, the damage has already been done, Instagram is now under the giant thumb of Facebook. I'm not judging them for the acquisition, heck I don't know who wouldn't take a billion dollars. But what happens from here on out is directed by their end goal, making money.

I think what we have to ask ourselves is do the benefits, of using Instagram, outweigh the consequences? Only then can you make a decision for yourself. Don't be just another angry member of the mob. Think for yourself. I have a friend that has already deleted their account, with good reasons, and I respect that. I have other friends that are looking at other alternatives to share their photos. I too have been thinking about other avenues of sharing my photos. Flickr has a new app that is pretty nice, but I still yearn for the ease of use that has made Instagram such a success. But my soul is old and it twists and turns with all the choices that technology offers, so I'm considering reverting back to analogue (for a time) and get my hands on some prints. That tradition of loading the film, adjusting the aperture and actually pressing the shutter never gets old.

Freelance Week #39

Hello. Let me begin with an apology for my lengthy delay in these posts. I have received nothing but wonderful feedback from you guys and I just want to express my deepest gratitude for your continued support and encouragements. Hearing the impact it has on you really motivates me to keep writing. Now only if I could figure out how to slow down time or add more hours in a single day. But I'm not complaining, I'm just learning how to manage my time better. So without further ado here are some things I've learned lately:

On Work

Work is good. Sometimes it doesn't even really feel like work. That is one of the biggest blessings about what I do. The fact that I can draw things and design things and people want to pay me is amazing. I was having a conversation with a friend this week at lunch and he was saying that even though he may complain about taking pictures of lawyers he was still done with work by noon. I love that positive mental attitude. Because I know good and well how easy it is to complain when our work turns mundane and not really that exciting. You see, I have this theory that all of us (creatives) have a life-long struggle with contentment. We can't help it. It's in our nature to always want something more than what we have. We always wish to be somewhere else we're not. We always strive for the best and are the first to criticize ourselves when we're not. But the truth of the matter is that we just have to keep making. The second we put our pencils down is the same second in which we start to get frustrated. I can only speak for myself here, but the seasons in which I neglect my creativity is the same season I feel most discontent with everything around me. Creating is about more than just the finished product, it's about the journey of self-discovery through the creative process.

On Life

Learning to separate life and work is a daily challenge. It's more than just the time away from home and the number of hours I put in everyday, it's also about how much time I give thought to work even when I'm at home. And I think this is why I've been truly blessed with friends who don't do what I do. Whether I go spend time with Jason, Keith or Tim I know that we can still connect on a level much deeper than what either of us do for a living. But there's also a reason I have friends like Matt and Brenton who are very creative and share in my passion to always be pursuing the next best thing. There is a balance to everything in life. We can't be too far one way and neglect the other side. Things aren't black and white in this world. There are a million different colors in this world and it takes a heap load of grace to see them all.

On Faith

If faith without works is dead, and if we receive salvation by faith not by works, where does that leave us? Could it be that we're called to a place of rest now? I remember writing about this before earlier this year, but one of the best ways I can explain this is from a conversation I had with my friend Ben Pasley. He explained in a very simple way that we work because it's something God called us to enjoy, not to merely provide for ourselves. God is ultimate provider, all things come from Him, and all we have to do is trust Him. But all this talk of trust and rest can be quickly taken out of context. The promise of rest God offers us is one that speaks to our identities in Christ, and frees us up from striving to make people like us. So then it doesn't matter what we do, how good we do it or whether or not it's better or worse than the next guy. It's always been about doing it for the glory and honor of our Heavenly Father. That's the kind of faith I want to live in.

The Past Two Weeks

The past two weeks have been super busy for me. I feel like in one week I went from no work to full capacity. Which is great though, don't get me wrong. I feel like I've expressed it here before, but there's nothing worse than not having work to do. However, in that lull I found time to pick up speed on some other personal projects. My buddy Matt and I are making leaps and bounds over at Folly. I found time to put together a new site to sell premium instagram prints, aptly named Steedagrams. But more importantly I am continuing to learn how to be at rest and remain thankful in times of lack. My current condition does not change God's position in my life. He is still good no matter what the condition looks like.

Business is still a vast ocean to me. I feel like I know just enough to get in my boat and start rowing, but still wonder if I should have read the owners manual. I guess my view about business is the same about everything else, it's all a learning process. But I know that even if I go out beyond the site of land and my boat sinks I know how to contact help. The friends I've made along the way these past 5 years of designing are so valuable. People are always the most important part of any adventure. I hope I never forget that.

Lastly, just want to say thanks for your continued support and readership. Keeping up with this blog continues to prove itself a challenge, but it's your comments and encouragements that keeps me going. Thank you.

Freelance Week #26

I had the chance to visit Atlanta this past week, for the first time in over a decade, and speak not once but twice to a great group of people. On Thursday night I spoke at the AWDG (Atlanta Wed Design Group) meetup. They had a good turnout of people who were really gracious enough to listen to what I had to say. I still feel like I learn something new every time I speak, and I think this time it was learning not to judge people's level of interest based on their facial expressions. One guy, in particular, who I thought was shooting me eye daggers the whole night turned out to enjoy my talk and wanted to buy me a beer. That was pretty awesome. The second day in Atlanta I had the great pleasure of heading over to MailChimp and speaking to their team. I don't know about my talk, but their offices were pretty awesome. Plus, they have some of the coolest people working for them. Big hugs to the MailChimp team for having me out and listening to me ramble on. Something else that's been on my mind lately is this notion of myself as a person vs. myself as a brand. Is there a difference? Should there be a difference? As self-employed people should we be more careful about what we do and say on social networks? Or is it more rewarding to see people just being themselves, in all areas. I know I talk about my faith a lot, and sometimes I wonder if I'm doing it just to prove a point or because it comes from the heart. I don't ever feel like I'm trying to prove a point or judge people. And if I tried to please everybody then I would be totally missing the point. Like in design, if you try and design for everyone, you end up designing for no one. You have to know who you're designing for. So too in life, you have to know who you're living for. That for me, is Christ in me, the hope of glory.

Freelance Week #25

When I stop and look around at the current landscape of this profession I'm in it makes me smile and frown all at the same time. Don't get me wrong, there are so many awesome people doing so many awesome things it makes my head spin. And now we can see it all in seconds thanks to this thing called the internet. But for all that is good about the internet I feel is also what makes it bad. Instant comparisons. Instant likes. Instant stats. How much of what we see on any given day is straight from the source information and what has just been repurposed and reformatted to fit someone else's website? We share, tweet, link everyone else's stuff. So when do we have time to actually make something? We've got to step away. We've got to shut the lid. We've got to turn it off.

Only after we stop looking to everyone else for inspiration and ideas will we find our own voice. Not to say that we don't need each other, that would be foolish, but we don't need to be a bunch of copies. We each have a unique way of how we view the world around us. It's through that process of learning how to be comfortable with who we are that takes our work to the next level.

So I say just stop worrying about all the likes, comments and stats on your website and just start making stuff you like. Because at the end of the day if you aren't happy then what what's the point?

Thanks for reading. Have a great week.