Career sunriseI just celebrated my fourth year as the Graphic Design Coordinator at Nossi College of Art. Looking back, there are times that include confusion and confidence with my decision to accept this position. In all, I’m thankful today that I can reflect in both cases with a humble heart and consider how I have grown.

My creative passion as an art director and creative director are still as intense today as when I started my career nineteen years ago. As a young designer at my first ad agency, I couldn’t wait to achieve it all. Fifteen years later and reaching my goal as a creative director for my fifth ad agency, I realized that there had to be something more for me, I just didn’t know what–after all, reaching a creative director position was the pinnacle of my career. When I left my last agency, I thought running my own business was the answer, but God had already opened another door.

It’s funny the way God works in my life. He’s already many steps ahead of me and his path is usually something I can’t see when I go looking on my own. If you would have asked me ten years ago if my career would eventually lead to a coordinator and teaching position at an Art College, I would have laughed. I mean, “those who can’t, teach.” After four years of being part of this college, I’ve learned that cliche’ is totally a farce. Try standing in front of  a room full of college students for four hours at a time and see what I mean. Not only does it challenge everything I know, but being able to teach it to others successfully depends on my very success as a professional. Add to that the ability to mentor these young people in how to mature as an adult and understand what it’s like to be a creative individual in life and I’ve got the biggest challenge in my entire career. Oh, and did I mention that I couldn’t do any of this without still being active as creative professional? And why wouldn’t I include this, my passion is still for art direction and creative direction.

I still run Care To Create and I’m always working with new clients on projects that involve both of my creative passions. Being a creative professional is less of a career than it is a lifestyle. I can’t just turn it off. If you know someone who can, I’ll argue whether that are really successful at what they do. The only difference for me is that I don’t have to fill fifty hours a week doing it. I now have the freedom to work with people and projects that inspire me. Without knowing it, I walked through the door God opened for me. Because he knows me best. All I did was have the willingness to walk though it. The rest was a four year experience that I would never give back.

Today, I can reflect back on my ad agency and teaching carer with both good and bad experiences. All of it has humbled me and God has blessed me with this understanding. I’m very grateful. Thank you all who congratulated me and who have endured both my successes and failures through it all. I look forward to the doors God will open for me next. Amen!

 

 

 

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It’s officially the start of a new year and with it comes a new occasion to leave yet another year behind, especially my struggles, failures and missed opportunities. However, forgetting my successes, triumphs and personal growth shouldn’t be part of what gets left behind. The new year brings new hope and a chance for reflection. Why did I fail? How did I succeed? Can I have confidence and peace with all of it moving forward?

Human nature compels me to focus on the worst aspects of myself. Why is it so hard to leave the shame and guilt of past mistakes where they belong–in the past? Or better, how can I forget the hurt that was caused by someone else?

I was reminded of these things from a letter that was written to my wife by a dear friend. She so perfectly stated the truth and reminded me that this validity can’t come from this world. The world doesn’t offer peace, only fear of myself and of others. I must look to my creator and savior for this understanding and wisdom. She writes:

“I promise you, there will come a day when you will have peace with the past. You’ll look at, bleed, scream, shake, mourn – and you will leave what makes no sense at the cross. And there will be a day when all of the sudden, you’ll feel so light, so free that it will scare you to be free of the moorings that have suffocated you. You will find God will rush into every crevice, every dip, and the lightness will become Light. And then, my dear girl – beware!!! Everything will look different, smell different / more alive, more vibrant.

And it will scare you enough that you may want to run back and try to shove all that junk back in there, because its safe and known to you. And you will have to look it square in the eye, and walk it back to the cross, where it belongs. Each time, you have to be valiant, because once you give it over to God, you have to keep returning it. It was a long time during which I would have to say “no. You don’t belong in my head anymore. You go back to the cross” to those sick, sorry, sad memories.

The day I realized I couldn’t even TRY to be wounded by that junk anymore was the day I understood God’s love.”

When I focus on my hurt, from myself or from others, I can’t grow, I can’t love, and I can’t even use my talents and skills to their potential. Why? Because I lose confidence, ambition and I fail to take risks that allow for progress. As a creative professional, this can be destructive. As a human being, this perspective leaves me with no hope.

Here’s what Paul, an apostle of Christ, says about this dilemma in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This means that at ANYTIME I can choose to be renewed in Christ–leaving my past failures and hurt at the foot of the cross. It, however, doesn’t mean that these things will go away, it simply means that I can have peace with it. “Here is a new heart, and a new spirit, and in them new light and life, new affections and desires, new delights and joys; here are new eyes to see with, new ears to hear with, new feet to walk, and new hands to work and act with…”–Gill’s exposition. Of course there’s some further understanding of this as it pertains to “living in Christ” and I encourage you to read about this and more. Continued readings can be found at BibleHub.com.

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Everyday I interact with students who are reinventing themselves. Many struggle with leaving who they were behind and can’t embrace who they are becoming. It is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight and you have to find some humility in the learning methodology. For some it happens quickly, for others it takes awhile. Yet sadly, I watch still others who never seem to put the effort into what it takes for this kind of growth. I teach the portfolio class for illustrators and designers during their last semester of Nossi College of Art. It is the most rewarding part of my job to see how these students overcame their fears and found confidence to start a new life as a creative professional. It reminds me of how the “student mentality” can achieve great things. We must all carry this same perspective if we are to be successful in life, in faith…in hope.

So, today I can apply this truth to my profession–my willingness to learn and teach others, my relationships, my responsibilities and obedience in Christ, and even how I value myself. I’m leaving 2013 behind and focusing on what 2014 may bring and that’s exciting and adventurous!  I’m supper pumped about starting off this new year! My hope is to embrace this truth and run, not walk, into 2014.

Personal growth

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The title of this post sums up what many creatives today are feeling–their careers are being challenged by the unrealistic pace of technology and the ability to keep up. Having worked in the advertising industry for 18 years, I graduated college with a BFA majoring in graphic design. At that time, Apple was becoming the industry standard for designers and Adobe was just getting started as the go-to software company. My classmates and I were learning the very first versions of Photoshop, Illustrator and, Quark Express (not an Adobe product), because InDesign didn’t exist and its predecessor, Pagemaker, was a weak competitor. To give today’s designers a clue of what I’m talking about, Photoshop hadn’t even introduced layers yet.

Skip forward 10 years, 2005, the iPhone still had two more years before it’s introduction and websites were still considered untraditional media. Everything was mostly print and a designer’s life was moving at realistic pace. Learning new trends and adapting to software changes are part of a graphic designer’s job. However, today’s changing pace has tripled since the two generations prior. What use to take 10 years to radically change the industry and advertising media platforms, now takes 2-3 years.

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Since the introduction of the iPhone and it’s multi-touch screen, 6 years ago, and the iPad, 3 years ago this April, we have seen a dramatic shift in how consumers access information and how they engage with advertising. Terms like engagement strategies, mobile, interactive and integration now fill the brainstorming rooms of many ad agencies and now even classrooms within college environments.

So what does all this mean? What’s my point? Because what I’m saying isn’t news to anyone. And mostly to those I’m addressing–graphic designers, art directors and creatives alike. Well, it means that we are going to start seeing people infiltrate our industry that may not have had that much experience nor traditional training. However, they are use to the pace of change and will typically be more comfortable with the technology as a user. Their expectation of an ever changing world will be more aligned with the pace of the industry. Watch out old schoolers!

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Key take aways:

1. Be honest about your current capabilities. Are they up to par? Or better, are they above par?

2. Make a plan to adjust your capabilities based on your honest answer to the above question. A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Set goals that will help you accomplish your new growth.

3. Create a list of possible scenarios that will help to accomplish meeting these goals. For example:

     a. Workshops, seminars, conventions, or summits

     b. Online/offline learning – tutorials, textbooks, etc.

     c. Take some night classes at a local art college that will help you be more marketable (this might be dependent upon where your honest answer lies to your current capabilities.

4. Take the necessary steps (commit) to personally growing yourself to reach your desired goals.

5. Repeat steps 1-4. Let’s face it, this is your career and it will require ongoing personal growth. It will continue at a faster pace and will increase in the future.

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As the Graphic Design Coordinator of a local art college here in Nashville, Nossi College of Art, I am very aware of these changes and the challenge to not only change curriculum to meet the industry demands, but to find quality instructors who are capable of teaching our students. Even accreditation standards are having to reinvent how they look at qualified professors/instructors coming into the education system.

When I attended college in the early 90’s, the only real focus was creativity. I didn’t have many instructional courses that centered on learning technology. Today, there are just as many instruction courses within our curriculum as there are courses that utilize learning towards application and strategic execution. Of course, there will always be, and for good reason, the fundamentals of design, color, composition, and the history of art to be reckoned with as a young creative student. However, today’s graduating credit hours are packed with technical learning that almost trumps creativity. Creativity will always be the priority of the college in which I am an educator. The day this becomes obsolete will be the day I resign as a teacher of design. And I think I share this concern with many others in the education business.

So, what’s the good news? It’s that we now have an array of new opportunities to be clever, consistent and transparent (real) in design thinking and communicating a brand’s message in unique ways. Grass roots is being replaced with gorilla and multi-media is being replaced with media channels or integrated campaigns. And a campaign’s length is now much shorter and its name is being replaced with words like experiment and beta testing.

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This is very exciting times for creatives. Students are now teaching instructors new ways of interacting with the technology they have been using since childhood. Which makes for some very engaging classroom learning situations where students feel it’s less of a structured learning environment then a shared learning experience based on relevance. To think that my 3 year old grandson will probably never play a CD or DVD and will never use a “land line” telephone are becoming real. Wait, did I say, “land line”? Replace that with keyboard.

As a designer, being challenged at a faster rate falls in line with what should be our motivation for new thinking and adaptability to what gets us excited–the changing ways to create and communicate. This does come with a price. However, the name of it isn’t anything new. It’s called personal growth. How we define this term is however new. Personal growth may have been something you did occasionally within your workweek. And to some, this is still something they don’t do or, unfortunately, their company doesn’t aspire to. Today, personal growth will become a much more robust ingredient to business culture. Workshops, seminars, conventions, which are seeing huge industry growth, and, yes, even going back to school, will be the new standard.

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At Nossi College of Art, we introduced one of the first Interactive Graphic Design programs as a two year associates degree. And if you are a returning student, you already have a degree in this field of study and you can apply existing credit hours to fundamental learning, you can earn that degree in less time. We are seeing adult professionals coming back to school to invest in their careers either on their own or with the encouragement by their current company. With flexible night courses they don’t even have to leave their current employer. We even allow our alumni to return and retake courses with new technical learning for FREE! The college also invests in other shorter term commitments, like a new 6 week social media sympossium offered this spring to the Nashville community. Including well known industry leading professional speakers each week.

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It is exciting times we live in. Fear can kill any new endeavor, especially a creative one. The key is wether you are continually investing in your personal growth as a designer with the pace of the industry, which is totally based on the increased speed of technology that consumers are engageing. Don’t get left behind. Your talents are still valuable. How you use them, based on new technologies, will be the new standard.