Friday, April 8, 2011

Why not Utah?

I have to admit that it is a sacrifice for me to live in Cedar City. I could potentially make a lot more money if I moved into a larger city. Other artists have given me professional advice to move out of Utah and go somewhere where I can do better work. So why am I still here? The answer is simple... I love it here. Although I am passionate about design and I love my work, my philosophy is that I work to live not live to work.

With that in mind you can imagine that I was excited when I heard that Forbes named Utah the best place for business. It seems that Utah is beginning to make a dent in the business world. Recently Adobe announced that they are setting up a branch here in Utah. Adobe Vice President and General Manager Brad Rencher met with business owners in Utah to encourage them to keep innovation going. "Innovation has no zipcode" he said. (Here is a link to the full article:

There have been some epic business failures here in town but there have also been some innovative and successful companies that have made Cedar home base. So why not us? Why not Cedar City? I believe that Cedar has an incredible potential for business and growth.

For those who are still doubting, here is an incredible little video about business in Utah:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Artists are bad at business—Dispelling the myth!

I've had plenty of friends that have graduated in business school. Some of them have gone off and started their own businesses or work for financial companies, most of which I still don't really understand what they do! These friends get very excited about things like investments, financial projections, tracking cash flow and expenses, etc. It takes about .003 seconds before I feel like taking a nap to get away from these awful conversations. Because of experiences like this I've grown up thinking, "I'm not a business man! I'm just an artist and I'll never get into business!" Most of us right brian, creative oriented thinkers just do our thing and let the so called smart people run the world right? WRONG!

I still suck at crunching numbers and I still don't really know what it means to make an investment projection or whatever but I now own two businesses and both are growing and becoming more successful. Sure I don't make much of money from either one but there is potential. So the golden question is: What changed? Well... nothing.

I'm still just a creative right brained artist. My primary role as a graphic designer is to find visual solutions to problems. I have to figure out how to communicate a million things including something as intangible as the very essence of a business and put it all into a logo that needs to be read and understood in less than a second. In short, creative people are problem solvers. This quality is essential in creating a successful business.

A great example of this is a friend of mine named Jason that recently started going to college after years of doing odd jobs and maintenance work. He is a creative person who thinks quite a bit like I do. His brother somehow became interested in cooking pizza which led him to learning about hand build, wood fueled pizza ovens. They got together and built one and decided to take it to a local fair to sell pizza. The pizza was excellent and people loved it. His brother moved away and is still interested in pizza but Jason took the idea to another level. He continued to work on the idea of selling wood fired pizza to help pay for school. Jason considered all of the problems that they had when he sold pizza with his brother and spent the time and effort to develop inexpensive solutions to these problems. He has now created a very successful business in Cedar City selling affordable (and in my opinion the very best) pizza from the side of the road. It is called the Pizza Cart. It is simple and it fills a niche that nobody else thought of. People rave about it and they have a very loyal customer base. Jason simply used his creative thinking and his skill in working with his hands to create an incredible business. Many others with more business experience have come to town making pizza and failed.

There will still be many things that creative right brianers need help with like crunching numbers. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses but starting a business is more than just knowing about how the business world works. It is about having a vision. It's about taking a product and making it function the way it should. It's about good design.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Know before you hate

This semester I have a studio lighting photography class. We will be learning all about different types of lighting set ups and what works best for different contexts. Today we brought in samples of photos in which we liked the lighting. One person brought in an image of some flip flops with some flowery designs around them from some kind of advertisement. The teacher looked at it and said, "I don't think this is a real photograph. I'm pretty sure this is all CGI (Computer Generated Images)." One of the more outspoken class members exclaimed with some bitterness, "I hate graphic designers!"

Now it may be true that a few designers out there work with CGI software but the the popular belief is that someone who manipulates images using a computer is a graphic designer. That is far from the truth. Designers are communicators. Rather than communicating with our voices we use visuals to communicate. Digital imaging DOES NOT EQUAL graphic design! Some of the greatest designers right now hardly touch a computer. Most of the work they do is done by hand and then they pay someone to digitize it so that it can be mass produced. Some designers spend tons of time on the computer but that is not a requirement. You are free to hate us but before you hate please know who you are actually hating.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Business of Art Conference

I'm gearing up for the Business of Art conference in Kanab, UT this weekend. This year is the second annual conference here in Southern Utah. I went last year not knowing exactly what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised. Even though some of the content was not applicable to the mediums of graphic design and photography I fount quite a bit of it to be applicable. It was at least a good experience to get out and network with other creatives.

This year a fellow artist submitted my name as a possible candidate to speak on marketing and publicity. I was contacted and asked if I would be willing to do it. I, of course, was nervous and wondered why me but I agreed to do it. Although the work I do is very closely linked to marketing... it is not marking. I will not be speaking about doing market research or writing press releases because that would make me a fraud! I am, instead, going to focus on a few marketing related things that I know about. The two main things I will be speaking about are: 1. Determining your target audience & creating appropriate materials for that audience. 2. Branding yourself as an artist or your business to achieve maximum brand recognition (from the right people). I will touch on a few other ideas but those two topics are key.

The conference is free and they feed you breakfast and lunch! It is worth the drive to Kanab for that! If you are interested in more info here are a couple of links:

Thursday, October 28, 2010


These images are a preview of a series I'm working on for class. I'm interested to see what response I get before I write what they are about. Let me know what you think...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Editing and Re-touching photographs: What and Why

Sometimes people will ask me to "edit" their photos in photoshop. The words "edit" and "re-touch" are words that have caused some confusion when I talk to clients. They are often interchanged and thus many people think they mean the same thing. I, therefore, would like to clarify a little bit about what these words mean, what they include and why I do or do not do certain things with my photography.

If you have ever looked at all the credits in a magazine you may have seen somebody who is the photo editor. Their job is to decide which photos actually make it into the final cut and which ones do not. The edit out everything that doesn't hold up to certain standards. After every photo session that I do with clients I edit the photos. Don't worry, I still like to give my clients the freedom to choose between different poses, etc. What I edit out is anything that is slightly out of focus, or not composed as well as I would like. Although it would be nice if I could make every single shot perfect it just doesn't happen. Even the best photographers edit out certain shots. I base all of my editing decisions on technical factors.

Once I am done editing out photos I begin to re-touch them. Sometimes when people get their photos back they think that I skipped this part. They think that every photo should have super high contrast or unrealistic colors. Sometimes changes like that are okay but most of the time they are inappropriate. Re-touching includes subtle corrections and changes to things like color, contrast, blur, and might even include some minor changes to skin tones and highlights, eye color, or skin enhancement. If someone has some minor acne or a scratch I will smoothen it out but I will not change the way someone looks. The point of a photograph is to capture a person's personality and appearance, not to make them look like someone else. Because these changes are so subtle some people don't actually notice them. This doesn't mean that I have short changed them. It just means that I have used discretion in re-touching. Some might even argue that the most difficult part of re-touching is knowing when to stop.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to exchange somebody's eyes from one photo onto their face from another photo and other such extreme changes. This should only be done in extreme situation (usually a group shot in which somebody refuses to cooperate). Food scientists have gotten processed tofu to taste similar to ground beef but there is always something different about it. It is impossible to duplicate exactly. The same is true for an extremely re-touched photograph. That head that was photoshopped onto the same person's body from a different picture will always look a little unnatural... because it is.