Once Upon a Time Up in Jersey, YO!

I’m heading back to school this fall.
Starting next week I’ll be teaching the Motion Design course with Brenda McManus at Rutgers University – Newark campus.
I’m excited because it focuses on storyboarding and concepting as well as execution within Adobe Flash. Learning an application is important, but its the conceptual skills that will get you jobs in the creative field.
Brick City, here I come.

Light up the web?

Microsoft Officially Launches Silverlight

Microsoft has also announced that a number of content providers will be providing Silverlight enabled content online, including Entertainment Tonight, HSN and World Wrestling Entertainment.

What this TechCrunch article doesn’t mention is that Microsoft has paid these companies, or has paid for the deveopment of some of these video players. I know this because the company I work for, Schematic, is in the process of developing some RIAs using Silverlight.
The second thing I’d like to point out is that so far, as of today, I have yet to see any ‘rich internet applications’ built with the Silverlight technology. I have seen a bunch of mediocre video players.
Silverlight is going to try to go head to head with Adobe Flash. If you’d like to see what real rich applications look like on the web, go browse through the featured sites on theFWA.
See the official Silverlight website

Staff this.

I have a word to all you staffing and recruiting agencies out there. I’m going to say this once and that’s it, so listen:
When you sit down to interview me, do not ask me if I have any friends looking for work. Don’t talk to me about how much commission I get per person I find for you.
The focus of my interview is me. I am looking for work, not my friends. Make me feel special (even though I might not be). Stroke my ego for the 15 minutes I’m talking with you. I’m not just a number went I sit down with you, I am your golden ticket. I am your moneymaker.
I promise you, that if you do indeed find me work, I will refer people to you, otherwise, why would I send anyone your way?
Who am I talking about? TTS Personnel, Inc., Gainor, Update Graphics, Artisan Talent, Aquent, Janou Pakter, Randstad … all you clowns, learn some manners.


Starting March 5th, 2007 I will be an art director at the New York office of Schematic.
I’ll miss the crew at Deep Focus and wish them luck with the move to the new office space in Manhattan. I expect to see much more great rich media and microsites from them!

Recruiters, DWMMFT.

I’m still trying to find out what the deal is with job recruiters, some of them prove to be fairly helpful, but some of them act like circus monkies.
I was contacted this week by a recruiter here in New York that had a job opportunity. I assumed from listening to the voicemail message that I was chosen because it had fit my profile.

Continue reading “Recruiters, DWMMFT.”

Old School


Ahh the good old days of Flash 4 and Netscape 4.7 – the best browser ever

Is it me or have web development jobs become very specialized? Specialization is defnitely good sometimes – you don’t want a team of mediocre people just ok at everything. It just seems when I mention a floating div to a flash animator, they just stare blankly at me and blink.
I’ve come to realize that I am from the old school (like many of my collegues) . I was never taught HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, MySQL, Flash animation or Actionscripting 1 & 2. Grandpa voice: When I was in college there were no interactive courses, and we had to work on computers with 32 MB of RAM. We checked our email through command line programs like PINE and MM….
……. and I rode 2 miles to class on a donkey.

Another reason for my perspective is obviously my environment. First off, for interactive design, you either get it, or you don’t get it. Just like art (and interactive design can be art, but I’ll save that discussion for another day). Most of the people I went to design school with didn’t get it. They didn’t get why I was installing the Flash 3 player and why I thought Urban Desires was so damn amazing (somethine like this was ground-breaking in 1997). In a nutshell, there were no interactive designers and I had to teach myself.
In my senior year of college the head of the design program said he had a job in NYC for me, if I knew HTML. I partially lied and said, sure I knew HTML. The truth was the only HTML I knew was from the handful of tutorials I was taking on WebMonkey. I had never built a website.
When I got hired at Dan Miller Design in 1999, my first web project was to design and build the site for the documentary film Shadow Boxers. I was able to get through it with the help of Dreamweaver and constant nagging of the senior web designer at DMD. Once I had completed Shadow Boxers, I was asked if I knew Macromedia Flash 4. I said sure. A month later I designed and built Art Base Inc (I’m amazed both these sites are still up, if you view the source to Art Base, the Flash version is still 4!).
I decided that I was now going to strictly be an RGB designer. No more CMYK.
From DMD and the other companies I moved on to, it was a constant learning process and never having the luxury of large teams for web projects. It was always just me, or me and a few other people working on a project. I never experienced the glory days of the DotCom bubble everyone recounts. As Flash become more and more essential in web design, I realized that I needed to learn how to make my life easier and so I learned how to automate things with Actionscript. The fact that I learned how to parse XML within Flash had nothing to do with client requests – it was to save my ass time when I had to update Anything to avoid opening up Flash again to change a few sentences. And the concept of separating form from content with CSS just made sense.
I also bring this up, because I’m also in the process of finding new homes for many of my freelance clients and I’ve found it difficult to hand them over to one person who can help them with design AND development. Someone that can design an email newsletter AND use Campaign Monitor to send out the blast.
Update: Luckily Jory at Analogue has stepped up to the plate and has the skills to pay the bills and uh, navigate the terrain over interactive hills….
So I guess I’m wondering – What and how do people learn web design and development these days? Is code still scary to a lot of people? Is money good enough to specialize within the field web design into areas like Flash Video Designer or HTML Expert?
Are there people out there that still design – inside and out?

Job Resources for Interactive Designers

Here is a list of solid resources for web professionals, designers developers, flashers and everyone in between:
37signals Job Board – I just discovered this one, and it’s great, I just wish there was a way to filter the results by location or job type.
Newstoday – Click on ‘Find a Job’
Creative Hotlist – I can’t tell you how many calls I get from people who have found me on the Hotlist. In my opinion, it’s a steal at $35 for a 6-month membership.
Moluv – take a look at the job section of the forums on the right, you might find some gems in there.
k10k – they post job opening fairly often in the News section on the right.
Craig’s List – results from Craig’s List can be so-so. I have gotten some great leads from this site, but I’ve also had to weed through a lot of crap to get to them.
I’m sure that many people have benefitted from recruiters. Not me. I’ve found that emailing the top companies on my list has gotten me most of my interviews, coupled with using the links above.

Stroking Egos

It always drives me nuts when a job interview turns into a chance for the interviewer to explain to the interviewee how wonderful he/she is and how much knowledge they have. This happened to me yesterday when I was on a call with a potential employer. The call started out how a normal phone interview does, where the employer explained his business, what they do, who their clients are and their specialties. Fine. This is good information.
At some point between this guy’s explaination of his company’s services and asking me what I do, the conversation unraveled into a chance for him to go on and on and on and on about all the cool shit he knows. Now I guess part of the reason this guy pissed me off is because I have a big ego as well, but I’m not vocal about it. He was vocal about it.
He knew from seeing my resume that I was an interactive art director, and the job he had posted for was for someone with Actionscripting experience, but yet he felt the need to ask me if I knew all sorts of things outside my skillset. I began to see that each thing he asked me if I knew, he not only knew, but he was an expert at it.
The conversation started to go something like this:

Ok Michael, let me quiz you a bit. Ok, um, let’s say you have a photography with the tops of all the people’s heads in the image cut off. Would you be able to fill in the missing pieces and make it look real?
No, I don’t think so. (What the fuck does that have to do with Actionscripting?)
See, I can do that. In fact, I could do it in Illustrator …Alright, how ’bout this: I have an old photograph will big chunks missing from it, like peoples’ noses. It’s an old photo. Would you be able to fill in the missing areas?
Uh, friggin’ no, son.
See I had to do that for my sister, she had all these old photos that needed retouching.
That’s wonderful for your sister.

By the end of the conversation when puke began rising in my throat, I gathered that this dude was an expert at – PHP, XHTML, XML, Flash, Illustrator, Photoshop, high resolution photo retouching, database development, quantam physics and curing AIDS.
Now first off, I don’t know anyone that is an expert at everything and even if he was an expert at all that stuff, I’m not jealous, just try to be a bit more humble, ok?
And if he was a jedi master at all those things, what the fuck does he need me for? Sounds like you have everything under control buddy, I’ll leave you to your top-of-head-retouching work.
I guess if there’s a point to all this it’s:
a) Be humble and if you’re good, don’t speak, let your work speak.
b) Make sure you keep wise-ass thoughts for your internal monologue (or blog) or risk not being hired anywhere, because there are plenty of people in this world that you’ll have to work for that need their egos stroked.

Setting the Hook: Or How Finding a Job is Like Fishing

I was part of a bachelor party a few weeks ago in Key West. Among other activities the 15 of us spent a day deep sea fishing on 3 chartered boats. Charter boats are the opposite of party boats where large groups of people all fish together, bring their kids, puke all over and get lines tangles – we got a little personal attention with only 4 to 6 people fishing per boat.
On each boat we had a captain and a first mate. We were trolling which means that each of our fishing poles was cast out into the water with bait and dragged behind boat and it was the captain’s job to steer us into good fishing waters. The first mate’s job was just as important – he was responsible for keeping an eye on all our poles, and being ready to ‘set’ the hook when a pole got a hit. I found out that setting a hook in a fish is a subtle art. You couldn’t yank the pole too quickly because the bait isn’t always all the way in fish’s mouth and you also couldn’t wait too long because you might give the fish a chance to get the hook out. Some guys jigg the line along as they reel it it and SNAP the pole back real quick, and some guys do a series of small yanks on the line before giving it one big YANK back.
Out of the 15 of us that day, we caught a total of 4 fish – 3 Dolphin fish and 1 Cero Mackerel. A slow day for fishing to say the least. One of our boats didn’t catch anything and those guys were pretty bummed.
As I reflected on the shitty (but relaxing) day of fishing, I realized it paralleled my challenges in finding interactive design work in Miami. So yeah, those previous 2 paragraphs were to help me set the scene of my metaphor for the day – looking for a job is just like deep-sea fishing.
When my wife and I first moved from the East Village to Miami last August, I didn’t have to look for a job since I had worked out a long distance agreement with my company, but 2 months ago I left my company to go freelance and I’ve been having a bitch of a time finding solid work. I’ve linked up with a few recruiting firms down here (my first mates) and despite the fact that I think the bait on my resume is pretty tasty, they’re just not finding me companies that will bite. I’ve been casting my net pretty wide and trolling in employment waters from Ft. Lauderdale to South Miami.
The work I have found is at small shops and not of the caliber that I’m used to. My advice to anyone in the interactive/web design field is don’t move to Miami. Aside from a few great places down here (lift-here, elastic people, CPB), the Miami design scene is non-existent. Period.
The one shark I was able to catch just last month was Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Having that fish on my wall has definitely given my career a much needed boost and given me good leverage as I begin to steer my employment ship back into the waters of NYC.
This also reminds me of my other point about job hunting – you have to go where the work is. Unless you’re a superstar in your field and everyone knows you (which I’m not), or you’re a seasoned veteran (Which I’m not yet), many places will not front the money to relocate you and the other places don’t even know you exist because you’re not even on their radar. This means you have to start fishing in new waters.
Within the day (!!!) of me changing my address on creativehotlist and monster to my brother’s address in NYC I started getting emails and calls from recruiters and companies. I was suddenly back in familiar waters with schools and schools of fish. I haven’t set my hook in any company but its been good fishing.
I’m not suggesting to lie about your location, but it definitely helps to move first (if you have the money) or at least have friends or family in the city you’re targeting.
And once you get a bite from an employer interested in you, don’t immediately YANK BACK and set the hook, you might lose em. It might be a huge fish that can break your line of you decide to try to pull it into your boat – so that means you’ll have to keep em on your line and wear em out. Or it could be a smaller fish that hasn’t taken the whole bait in their mouth yet.
I’m not going to tell you the formula for getting a job, because their isn’t one. Everyone has a different style of fishing. Some use lures, some use live bait, some throw chum in the water and some troll. Each employer is different too, which means you might have to make up a few different resumes that highlight different skillsets depending on the job description so that they bite what’s on your hook.
Fish on everyone.