Frequently Asked Questions, or common questions I am asked.
Can you share a bit of your background?
I was born in New York City and grew up just outside the city in a small town near the Jersey shore. I spent my childhood in a neighborhood of 65 kids, mostly all older and bigger than me but that offered lots of life lessons. I loved the outdoors and played organized sports as well as sandlot games in our neighborhood.
We also traveled a bit and I lived in London for a time as a kid which was very formative for me and helped shape my world-view a bit more than most kids that had never experienced international travel. Travel also provided me a window into the world of art history which further fed that creative fire through access to the great works of Western civilization.
How did you choose a career in the creative field?
Like most kids I loved to draw, but unlike a great many of them I never outgrew it.
I was a voracious reader as a kid, both books and comic books, and found sanctuary in art. I toyed with the idea of going into music, but the rep from Julliard that visited our high school told the three of us in the meeting that you had to “know” this was your career, because the people you would compete against were that confident in their chosen path.
I didn’t feel that way about music but I did feel that way about art, so I chose to go art school.
What was your first paying gig?
The first gig I was ever paid for was in high school. I was 13 and one of the seniors found out I could draw. He wanted a picture of Eddie; Iron Maiden’s mascot.
I couldn’t believe that someone wanted to give me money for doing something that I loved to do. When I got paid for that painting, I thought that this will be the way to make a living.
Where did you go to school?
When I entered college it was the Philadelphia College of Arts. During my time there, they absorbed the performing arts school and it became The University of the Arts.
My class was the first graduating class of the first university in America dedicated solely to the arts.
What was your coursework in school?
Like all entering students, I took the foundation classes: drawing, painting, sculpture and a litany of liberal arts classes. I chose illustration as a major; which at the time was a very similar path to the traditional fine arts major but offered a broader curricula that seemed to make more business sense.
We were trained in virtually every painting and studio technique used throughout the course of ancient and modern history with the exception of fresco. We had some great and terrible instructors who brought their own sensibilities to the studios that ultimately helped shape my creative outlook.
For electives I concentrated in photography and printmaking since they not only supported my major classes, but also my expanding interests as well.
Where was your first job after graduating from university?
When I graduated from school, we were in a bad economy and much as the cycle goes the creative jobs are the first to go and the last to return so there was not really any staff jobs.
My brothers and I opened a bookstore so we ran the business while I also started my professional career as an artist. One of the first semi-permanent gigs was with Viacom, at their offices on Broadway in NY. I worked there during the burgeoning years of MTV, VH-1 and the rest of their growing stations. I did lots of traditional paste-up and layout work as well as some design and illustration for shows that would become the staples in their broadcast schedule.
Can you share your creative process?
I am a big believer in design’s function is to solve problems.
Art is a statement, but design is an answer to a question so part of my preliminary work is to answer the question, “What problem are we trying to solve?”. Once I know the problem the business is facing, I can then begin the design thinking process. From there it is a somewhat traditional approach in design thinking: research, prototype, learn, and iterate.
There is a lot of converging with clients and partners to plan then diverging to create and back again; somewhat rubber-banding back and forth to ensure there is enough time to thoughtfully develop solutions yet allow enough collaboration to receive much needed business interaction and feedback.
How do you keep up the changing technology?
Read and experiment.
There is so much evolution and disruption in all avenues of society today that it is important to have a plan to keep up-to-date while not letting it consume your life. I read some newspapers but most of my information comes from the web; tech site, traditional news media, blogs, forums, etc. I also try to play with new software and frameworks as much as I am able. I focus a lot of those efforts on things that will expand my current skill set versus replace something entirely unless that is truly warranted.
I am just enough of a nerd to enjoy technology so learning new techniques and frameworks offers an escape from daily regimens.
What kind of projects do you frequently work on these day?
Much of what I work on now is software development and specifically enterprise level design.
Although I have several smaller projects and partners I am working on for more traditional design and development projects.
I also have several independent projects and product lines I produce so my time is well accounted for throughout the day.
How long does it take for your typical project?
The larger, enterprise projects easily span months and can roll into years depending upon the scale and scope the business need. While the more traditional design and development projects can have a project plan that goes from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
What has been your favorite project?
The next one.
I am cognizant in the fact that new projects enable me to continue what I am doing so I appreciate that next opportunity to help a business solve their problem(s). Some of the past work I am most proud of is hard to say; I have been fortunate to have worked with some great companies on some really interesting and innovative projects so it would be hard to list a single project that was my favorite.
I have enjoyed working with companies like Disney or the NFL where your work is seen by millions of people while also appreciating some of the smaller projects that usually provide greater creative control.
What kind of project excites you the most?
The projects that excite me the most are the ones where design is provided with a seat at the table and is fully integrated and invested in the outcome.
I love being involved from the kickoff meeting to discuss the business needs and then strategize on how this project will deliver for the business to ensure that the project keeps focused on the business goals and adds value to the company.
As Apple has shown, design is a good business strategy and smart businesses value design. Those are the projects that excite me the most.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on several new projects with some old partners and a few serial ones as well.
The new projects are some traditional tourism applications as well as a new enterprise productivity app. Some of the serial projects are several poster series, an update to my travel guide as well as finishing a crowd-fund campaign for my next book for the iBookstore.
What are some of your current goals?
I want to get better at Swift programming and work on some ideas I have for the Apple TV. I would love to write more books for the iBookstore and have several ideas I am working on right now.
I have exhibited with Creature Features in several shows over the years and I enjoy the ability to work on fine artwork, albeit with pop culture sensibilities. I would love to get more involved in gallery shows, especially with places like WonderGround Gallery, Gallery 1988, Mondo, et. al.
What is your current studio set-up?
Right now my studio is my favorite MacBook Pro, a great external monitor and a Yuyinova drawing tablet; as well as a litany of external drives, cameras, and traditional art supplies.
I also have a small arsenal of digital and film cameras as well as scanners, high-end printers and other output media. Being trained traditionally, my favorite way to work is to start with a pencil and my moleskine sketchbook before moving to the computer. But once on the computer, I am all Mac.
What are the applications you use daily?
I use the standard image creation and manipulation apps for creative development. For development, I use Xcode, Coda, and Espresso. Nothing too out of the ordinary. There are some great prototype apps as well, and they vary on the needs of the project.
Who are some of the companies you have worked for in the past?
I have been fortunate to have worked for and with some great companies over the years on products ranging from toys and packaging to enterprise software and live events. Some of those clients and employers are:
ABC Television, Buena Vista Television, Campbell’s Soups, Canyon Ranch Resort & Spa, Disney Consumer Products, Disney Cruise Lines, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s EPCOT, Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Disney-MGM Studio, Disneyland Park, Disney’s Yellow Shoes Marketing Group, Fairmont Hotels, Fairmont Hamilton Princess, Fairmont Southampton Princess, Fontainebleau Hotels, Hallmark, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Films, Hallmark Flowers, Hilton Caribbean, Hilton Hotels, Jim Henson Productions, Magic Kingdom Park, Major League Baseball, National Football League, Nickelodeon Studios,Radio City Music Hall Productions, Special Olympics Florida, The Nature Conservancy, and The Walt Disney Co.
If you have any other questions, please send me a quick note over here, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.