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Archive for August, 2011

I was recently told that the book I illustrated, The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot, has been included in the Society of Illustrators of New York show called: Original Art: The Fine Art of Children’s Book Illustration.

I’m happy that the book stood out enough to be accepted into this prestigious show. I have to give a lot of thanks to the art director on the project, Lee Wade, who pushed me to find the right visual tone for the book. It’s such a pleasure to get notes that are helpful and educational. They help take a project to the next level. And of course thanks to the author, Margaret McNamara for writing a picture book that held so much possibility for out-of-this-world illustration fun.

I’m getting the page I selected printed, framed and ready to ship. The book comes out September 27th.

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It’s worth your time to pop over and read a very good essay about the pain of failure and the fact that you have to keep doing what you love no matter the results. This was written by Sean Hood, one of the 4 credited screenwriters on Conan The Barbarian 3D. The film was released this past weekend and managed to do badly at the box office and badly with critics.

I’ve touched on the issue of trying to convince yourself to keep working on projects even when it seems like nothing positive is coming from them and nothing moves forward. I often think of the Regal tang fish Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Nemo who repeats her mantra of ‘Just keep swimming!’ when faced with uncertainties and let downs and failures and unknown unknowns. Sean quotes Ed Wood; “My next one will be BETTER!

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I lucked out and had a rare opportunity to sketch again at the park today, while all the kids played on a beautiful, sunny day in Oregon.

 

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I was at the park today and noticed things were a little tense for some people.

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As a designer, illustrator, writer and animator I have hit this issue head-on many times. The dreaded committee decision.

The New York Times has a good article in their technology section by Randall Stross that looks at the issue by seeing how Google and Apple differ on their approaches to producing products.

It touches on many of the issues associated with committees making creative decisions. Having seen this process first hand many, many times, as have many of you, it’s interesting to look at the results the two companies have had with their products.

As a dedicated Apple fan boy (I even got to work for Apple, indirectly through a design agency, when I first moved to California and designed some Quicktime training CD’s and video tapes. I even worked at Apple’s Quicktime booth for a Macworld. I was in heaven.) I am always impressed with how beautiful Apple’s product integration is. Obviously much of the world feels the same way. And I always felt that Google was an advertising company with engineers. They don’t do anything very special, but they use technology to sell adds. Apple uses technology to mostly sell things and experiences.

Nothing is worse for a creative person than to sit down with a big group of people to make a final decision. Advice and feedback can be helpful, but when you have to make a final decision on something as subjective as art/design, a committee can’t do it. In my past when I worked at various entertainment companies there were two decision making processes that really confused me.

One was the idea that sheer intelligence will make the best creative decision. The ‘smartest’ person will make the best decision. As if creativity can be judged by who passes a fill in the blank test about American history with the highest score.

Intelligence is handy, but I don’t know of any circumstance where intelligence alone made the best subjective, creative decision. Often logic fails too when making an aesthetic decision. That’s why it is a creative process.

The other action that took place in the studios was the idea that getting a group of people who have no talent or ability in say, drawing, or writing, or design, or layout to make final decisions about these things. As if by bringing in the people furthest from knowing or caring about the issues involved, they would get a better decision. I hope that when these same executives go to a Doctor they use this same methodology and gather the opinion of an arborist, a sheet metal worker and a baker about their low white blood cell count.

In the article is the following quote: “Apple Is a Design Company With Engineers; Google Is an Engineering Company With Designers.” I’d generally agree. And I have worked in software companies where engineering lead the way and ones where marketing lead the way. Both systems have their problems. The difference was usually the people at the very top, and how they trusted the employees who were in charge of certain issues. If in the end they empowered the particular employees to make the decisions they were being paid to make.

This has been going around the net lately. I short booklet that Chris Sanders did for a Disney retreat that touches on many of the same issues. How can a creative company produce the best products.

For the most part creative processes are inclusive, especially when they are media properties, but someone in charge has to know when to pull off the committees and trust a creative person to make a creative decision.

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