Friday, January 28, 2005


So you relocated to a new town or you are virtually unknown in the town you live in as a designer. What do you do to create a buzz about you and to get some freelance gigs? Here are some things that I did when I moved to a new city that helped get my name out in a relatively short period time. First things first, get your material together. This means website and biz card. Take your time. Come up with a clever theme for yourselves and run with it. Nothing impresses people like wit and a cool look. Once you have that aspect of your game together its time to hit the streets. When I moved here I spent a great deal of time going to club after club looking for the right scene for me. When I found one I became a regular and got to know the doorman, promoters and the bar tenders (always befriend the doorman they can let you in for free). After a while they began to introduce me to other people that came through the spot and those people introduced me to others. This is basic networking; you will be surprised how much work you can get through just a casual introduction once they find out what you do.

Now that you have your "spot" its time to branch out. Most clubs have websites in which you can email them and ask to be put on the list. The only inconvenience is that you have to show up early (which will work in your favor later). I made it a practice to do what I call club cameos. Basically I would hit 3 or 4 spots in one night staying at each spot for about 30 to 40 mins. Here is how it works. Call the club a head of time or email the promoter to get on the list. I find that it is better to roll alone or with one other person (travel light, the more people you have with you the harder it is to get on the lists for clubs or get in free). Once you get in the club walk around and say, "what's up" to all the people you know. Chances are they will be talking to someone and then will introduce you as their friend who is a designer, illustrator or what ever. Normally they will ask you a few questions then you ask them what do they do (remember people are always interested in themselves more than you so let them talk and ask questions). After they go into what they do ask them for their biz card. In return, chances are, they will ask you for yours. That is when you reach into your dope business card holder and pull out one of the flyest cards they have ever seen. The likeliness of them holding on to your card quadruples when you get them to ask for your card rather than shoving one in their face. Repeat this over and over then hit the next club. After a while you will start giving people the impression that you are all over the place and everyone knows you, plus it is always a plus to have someone introduce you, it gives you a bit of credibility.

*** Notice that I didn't mention anything about having a portfolio on hand to show. I find that carrying a small leather portfolio with me everywhere isn't all that productive. People aren't in the mind frame to view designs in a smoky loud club when they are drunk. So the dope biz card would be just enough to create the buzz that will get them curious to view your website the next day at work. If your work is hot they may forward your site to other people thus increasing your exposure.

Artists Who Have Secrets


Recently I took a freelance gig that required me to live in New York for a month. During the course of the project I came across an illustrator whose vector artwork was pretty hot. I watched as the design team and staff looked on in awe. Then amongst the ews and ahs someone asked him how he achieved a certain effect and he responded, "I can't tell you... It's a secret".

This brings me to the point of this section. The art business is over run with people who believe they have unearthed some super "secret", and that is WACK!!! There aren't any secrets. Art has been around since the dawn of man and for some reason there are artists out there who feel that sharing info will cut them out of the art biz or give away their recipe so people can copy their style. To me that is artistic insecurity.

The best example I can offer is this: Michael Jordan could tell me everything he knows about basketball. He could show me every move, every dunk, every pass, but I will never be Michael Jordan. Why? Because I can't think like Michael Jordan (and I'm not 6 ft 7). Until someone can think like you, at best they will be just a parody. It can take years for an artist to develop a style or styles, so there really isn't much in a tip that will lead to your artistic unraveling. If you read a book with great info, recommend it to other artists. If someone needs an easier way to do something and you know how, pass the knowledge on. By sharing info with others it may encourage others to share info with you.


1. Take some dope photos of yourself (look as fly as you can) it helps when magazines do write ups on you and great for pushing your image in press kits.

2. Get a HOT website!!! Take your time and craft the message you want to convey. Look professional!!! If you have a site, look at the sites of other artists whose work you dig and ask yourself "Is my site equal too or better than theirs" if the answer is no to both revamp your idea. It took me about 4 months and 2 versions to get my site together. Also PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make it easy to navigate and make sure the purpose of the site obvious! Most folks can't stand it when they go to a site and have no idea where the nav is or what the hell the site is about.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

How to spot and destroy bad ideas in graphic design


One afternoon I was hanging out at a friend’s workspace while he was wrapping up a project. After the meeting ended and he then introduces me to his client. The client told me he has been into my work for a while and I responded with an honest thank you. We then ran off the usual art small talk while he waited for his files to be burned to CD. In the midst of our conversation he sat down beside me and said, “Yeah yeah check this…” Now let me stop thestory here to say one thing. It has been my experience that nothing really good comes after the phrase “yeah yeah check this”. How many times have you heard “Yeah yeah check this... you won the lottery” or “Yeah yeah check this… the charges were dropped”? After his segway he stated he had a few ideas for a T-shirt line and with “his ideas and my art, it would be off the chain”. One of his “concepts” was for me to create an image of a brain behind prison bars with some poetry next to it. It took me a second to process this info. After I took it all in, I responded with:1. Who is going to stand in front of you long enough to read your poem or do you want dudes rolling up on you at the club staring at your chest for 10 minutes reading? 2. Brains aren’t really that attractive as bodily organs go. Especially when placed behind bars center mass on a white tee. Livers, kidneys, or maybe a pancreas but brains no. And 3. What makes you think this idea is Hot? Alas, this brings me to the point of this issue… how to spot, avoid and destroy bad ideas.
According to the Dubelyoo Edition of Webster’s Dictionary a bad idea is defined as follows: Any concept for an action or a product that cost lots of money yet makes no damn sense. I hear ALOT of bad ideas. Ideas ranging from the asinine to the ass backwards. We all have them, I have them all the time, but it’s what we do with them that really matters.


Now lets say you want to produce a clothing line (hey lets be real here, a T-shirt line). Everybody and their mama and mama’s cousin wants to get into the T-shirt game. It seems easy to start. Just get a few drawings and a silk screener and BAM you are in. That is true if you want to get in the T-shirt “BIDNEZ” but if you are serious about the apparel “BUSINESS” you’ll have to take a different approach. I had the opportunity to work for a major urban clothing company and took one thing away from the experience. The urban fashion business isn’t about talent, drawings, or dope designs, it’s all about “branding”. So when you think of starting a company ask your self “Will this name be easy to market and brand to my target audience” I hear so many names like “BLAH BLAH WEAR or “YADDA YADDA” GEAR. Now outside of Roccawear adding the word gear or wear to the end of a name sounds lame and it may put you in the wack pack out the gate. Avoid that like an ugly person trying to kiss youat the prom.
KNOW YOUR PEOPLEAbout a year ago I was attending an urban fashion convention and I came across a booth for a shoe company. Out of sheer curiosity I gazed around and inquired about a shoe that looked like a knock off of Nike’s Air Force 1’s. The sales rep soon made his way over to where I was standing. He was a white gentleman who appeared to be in his 50’s. Being that he was a sales person he began to pitch the product to me. He grabbed a sneaker covered in a pattern that resembled $100 bills and proclaimed, “This is what the hood wants”. I stood there, stunned, as he repeated himself “trust me this is what the hood wants”. My response was “sooothat’s what they’re wearing in your hood because in my hood they look like fake Air Force 1’s covered in fake money”. I have seen tons of bad ideas put out on the market because the company has lost touch with their audience or never really had a grasp on their targeted demographic’s tastes. So before you rush out and blaze the scene with your shirts or whatever, take a second to do some research. Bounce the idea off of a few people who aren’t family, close friends or someone you are dating. This may help weed out the weak ideas so you can focus on the stronger ones.


The Alcohol industry spends millions of dollars annually just to come up with ways to tap the urban market (or the Negro market as yall call’em) to get toe back and or tispy. Lets say there is a brand called “Big Time Beer” and they want to increase sales in the “urban” market, so they hire a marketing firm called Dubelyoo, Eckswazee and Associates. In this firmthere is a small team whose sole task is to target the urban customer. Then that small team hires freelancers to come in and make the teams market ideas look good. Now wait!What if their ideas were bad? What if their ideas are painfully lame or chronically corny? This was the case with a project I worked on years ago. I recall sitting at a meeting table as the marketing firm revealed last year’s campaign for their alcohol client and the concept would have been hot. If we all still lived in the year 1991. My business partner and I laughed because we thought they were kidding but much to our surprise they were serious. After mocking their idea and singing “Here Comes The Hammer” we all chuckled and moved on with the meeting. After the meeting I invited them to come out to a party I was throwing so they could test theirnew campaign on the partygoers. They showed up to the club early with 11x17 laminated card and a camcorder. We sat at the bar to chat for a bit before the crowd set in and then I stepped away to talk with the DJ. As the people began to show up The Firm started interviewing someof the “potential” urban consumers to get their opinion on the possible beer campaigns for nextyear. Later in the evening, when I had a free minute, I approached them and they asked my opinion on their ideas printed on the big cards. The first 2 were ok but the 3rd one shocked me. It was an image of a man laying down with a woman laying on top of him in a romance novel pose with the tag line “Big Time Beer All Up in Ya” (the names of all products have beenchange to protect the innocent) I blurted out what the hell is this and the gave a nervous laugh and said “haaaa that was a joke” This is the moment I realized that some people are corny to the core and have no business trusting their own judgement on issues of hipness. Those people need to outsource.