Monthly Archives: November 2011

Using the Bezier Pen Tool – For Newbies

We’ve all seen it. That little quill pen tip that puts little dots all over your workspace, connecting them with a single line and allowing you to fill or stroke the final result. But what does it do??

If you’re like me, you’ve found the wonders of the lasso tool. Select areas, and if you’re handy with a ball mouse and the OPT key, can make your way around just about any shape. The tighter and more numerous the clicks, the softer the curve. But have you ever tried to lasso a circle? Magic wand works to a point, but what if you have a complicated background? Screwed? Hardly.

Time to click on that nifty little quill pen tip and start working on your curves. Yes, you can work out if you want, but I’m talking about the mathematics and magic of the bezier pen tool.

Bezier pen tool in actionFirst of all, what the heck is it? You love the lasso, but are finding it hard to get those smooth curves you long for when cutting out a hi-res head. You love the magic wand, but hate the pixelated, dirty edge of the moon you’re trying to cut out of the image you just downloaded from MyCheapStockPhotos.com. Either way, you need some smooth curve action and you need it fast. The bezier pen tool was named after Yeyelnitz Bezier, the famous curve maker of Amsterdam who found that using the quill tip of a pen produced better curves than his chalk counterpart. OK, I totally made that up. If you quote the above because you failed to read the rest of this paragraph, I get PWNT rights for the remainder of your miserable, ADD existence. (Do you really want to know what the Bezier pen tool is named after? Google Pierre Bezier. This isn’t a friggin’ history lesson.)

Dragging a point with the Bezier pen tool.

If you’re wanting to draw complex curves, the Bezier pen tool is the tool of choice. By placing points on your workspace and dragging out the handles that come with the point, you can affect a curve based on that point.

Like with other tools, holding the SHIFT key down will allow a constrained “pull” vertically, horizontally, or even at 45 degree angles. Pulling the handles further out will essentially broaden the curve of the line you’re creating. You can also opt out of pulling the handles. In this example, the first point has no curvature. The 2nd point, however, creates the curve of the line. Notice also how the ANGLE of the curve is changed based on the angle of my pull. You know what they say about the angle of the dangle!

You can experiment with pulling the curve short and long. Know this: the curves you see are affected between the points created. In the next example, you can see how the curve is affecte by the 3rd point.

Bezier pen tool - 3rd point
Selecting the Bezier pen tool shapeHence, adding additional pulls to points on the line will affect all curves and lines attached to it. So you’ve messed around with it and found that you can actually close the shape by clicking on your original point. Now what? I can change the position of points with the Direct Selection Tool. I can grab the handles and adjust curves. But how do I USE this newly created path? Took me a minute, too. But the keyword here is “path.”  Click on the window labeled “PATH.” This shows the newly created path with your awesome curves. For me, I usually use the path to cut out or create complex objects.  When I want to select the final path, I go to the PATH panel and COMMAND+CLICK the layer of the path. This will essentially select the entire path area and allow me to use that shape however I want. Whether I delete the area within the shape, inverse the selection area and delete everything else, fill the shape, create a mask…whatever!

Time for a real-world example. Let’s say, ohhhhh, I wanted to cut a building with some curves out of a photo. Not too creative, but it was the first image I came across on Google. Your first inclination may be to jump into the curvy parts. I say, NEE. Think of the end point. What do you want coming INTO your final destination. Do you want to end on a curve? Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s a pain. Either way, these are things to think about as you begin. As for this one, I like to start on a point that’s on a straight edge. That way, I know right off the bat, I won’t be needing to create any curves. And preferably, none going into the end point.

Bezier pen tool - start on a straight edge

Note: My screencapture tool shortcut is Shift+Command+3. Shift+Command is also the Photoshop shortcut for the Direct Selection Tool. That’s why you see the white arrow instead of my Bezier pen. Friggin’ Photoshop. Read my mind!

From here I, can simply drop another point at the corner of the straight edge and the start of the curve.

Bezier pen tool - next selection

As you can see, or not, the Bezier pen tool automatically connects the two points. If you switch tools by accident and want to pick up where you left off (Yes, coming BACK to the Bezier pen tool will allow you to start dropping a whole new set of points), just make sure you click on the one of the open ends of your path with the tool. You’ll a little “/” symbol appear next to the pen. Click on the point and then continue dropping points on your screen. OK, now it’s time for the first curve. My general rule of thumb is to try and find the center point of the curve and drag from there. It doesn’t always work that way. But as you get more experienced with how the tool works, you’ll find what works best for you. Sometimes a curve requires multiple points. Sometimes it requires one point, but one of the handles has to be pulled in a little tighter than the other. I’ll show you how to do this later. 🙂

Bezier pen tool - first drag

Note: Why does my image look so pixelated? For smaller, more accurate curves, enlarge your image by 200% or more. It will help you drag across those minute curves for a more accurate cut. You’ll understand pretty quickly how to drop points and click/drag points to create curves. Now look at what happens at the top of the building. There is an odd curvature to the roof. Here’s where finding the center point doesn’t always work.

See? Where my final point is to the right of the building? I can drag all I want, but I can’t get the curve to line up with the building. I also know that if make this curve match the roof, my angle will be off for the next point! What to do? What to do??

Here’s where we jump to the Convert Point Tool. One of the subtool sets of the Bezier Pen tool! Yay. Click on the Bezier Pen tool and wait for the submenu to pop out. Then click on the big sideways V. This allows you to change the direction/length of just ONE of the handles. Be careful, if you should select the point with the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow) FIRST so that both handles appear. THEN, use the Convert Point Tool to drag ONE of the handles. Clicking on the point with the Convert Point Tool will allow you to change the overall curve, making both handles equal in length and angle.

Again, due to my screencapture shortcut, the Convert Point Tool looks like the Direct Selection Tool. The point here is that my handle is not only shortened, but pointing at a different angle than its counterpart handle. If I were to use the Bezier Pen Tool to continue my path, the 2ndary handle (the one pointing down) would cause a new curve. So I’ll use the Convert Point Tool to shove that bottom handle back into the point. This is like telling my next point that there is no curve to calculate.

Convert Point Tool

With these basic concepts, I can continue around the house til I have clean path created.

You can see by the white/grey outline, that I’ve selected the entire area around the house, following the curves of the house itself. Now, I do a COMMAND+CLICK on the layer in the PATHS tab to select the path.

From there, I can inverse my selection using COMMAND+i, delete the area, and I’m left with a clean cutout.

Note: This is still at 200%. At 100%, the curves are much cleaner:

 

And that’s how you’ve just graduated from newbie to Bezier Pen Tool user! Happy curving.

 

Tight Deadlines

We’ve all been there. Clients need something by the next day. Your boss wants something by the end of the day…and it’s 4:30PM. A friend calls up with an emergency and it was due an hour ago. I actually got called 10 minutes before a deadline for something that, on a normal day, would take about an hour to complete. Luckily, I honed in on that supersonic plane that we all have worked on and got it done in 40 minutes (I EXPECTED a 30 minute extension because I was uninformed that a-I was UNDER a deadline and b-that I NEVER promised ANYONE I’d be done at that particular time.)

What do you do? There’s ALWAYS options. Seriously? You need it by the end of the day? Why? So you can look at it for 30 minutes and turn my files into your vendor the next morning?? Here’s a couple questions you should ask yourself when faced with unrealistic or unknown deadlines that have been imposed upon you:

1. Will anyone DIE if this doesn’t make the deadline? Usually, the answer is no. But by all means, if that answer is YES, move your ass.

2. How important is the client? Have they not paid their bill? Screw it. I’ll get to it when I see the check you owe me. Have they paid their bill but are just big pains in your carpal tunnels? Ask for an extension. What’re they gonna say, No? Fine. Drop some rush fees on them. When THAT happens, they’re usually more than happy to accommodate your hectic schedule. Are they friends and family? How good of friends and family? This scale, however you see it, should relate directly to whether or not you do the work.

3. How important is the project? Does this project reflect directly on you? Or is this one of those anonymous, Alan Smithee projects that you reluctantly accepted a fee for listening to your client dictate why their logo should overshadow the message…you know…for branding? If it’s an important project. Get it done. No? Ask for an extension.

4. Is this simply for review? What a fun term. Anyone that wants a project by the end of the day is simply going to take it home and look at it on their own time. Leisurely…several hours later. Ask for an extension. Does the client need to review it with several team members? Ask for everyone’s email address. You can copy the entire team. Do they need to meet and talk in person? Get it done.

5. For fulltime employees, unfortunately, you have more than just yourself facing clients. So often times, REGARDLESS of whose fault it is, the project still needs to get done. And in the end, the more miracles you can pull off, the better you are. Think of it as job security.

For future reference, can this type of experience be mitigated? What kind of processes is your team putting in place to avoid last minute issues. Is your team communicating? Are you laying down CLEAR guidelines for your client as to what their impact is on the schedule and how you are NOT responsible if they take their sweet ass time.

More importantly, remember this: EXTREME DEADLINES HEIGHTEN STRESS. Try to take a step back and dissect the project. What is the client TRULY needing to see. Where can you ask for extensions of time? Can you work directly with the vendor? Is the client willing to stay up a little later to do reviews via email? Hell, they’re asking YOU to stay up late. (I know, I know…every situation is different.)

In the end, it really comes down to a simple needs analysis. Do you need to get this done? If the answer is Yes, stop thinking about how pissed you are and who’s to blame and take the higher road. If not, don’t fret, put out the dreaded email and work on it in the morning.

Divorcing Your Ideas

I’ve heard the term a few times, especially in writing: Don’t be married to your ideas. But so many times, I see the artist or creator confuse that sentiment with giving up your creative morals or principles. I was even confused by the term for a couple years. But as I grew to understand the creative process for myself and others, I began to realize the many levels of accomplishing a goal. And as I always tell my clients, design is ALWAYS subjective. There is never just ONE way to do something. Granted, some may be massively more successful than others…but I guarantee, no one EVER knows if their idea is going to be “the one.” You simply throw what you’d like to see, read or hear out there. And if you’re working with others, you try to find that synergy and reach a solution that everyone can be happy with.

Your idea is the baby of your creative world. You are the mommy and daddy, with delusions of knowing you have all the right answers for your baby. But if you ever work with anyone other than yourself, you may find yourself dealing with, what seems to you, a homewrecker. That insolent being that wants to come in, sleep with your wife and break apart the family that is your project. OK, maybe he’s the guy that just wants to convince you to have dinner with your wife. Either way, your ideal family is no longer yours. What to do?

Unless you’re paying for the project and get final say over the end result, remember one thing: The client is king…or queen as it were. You say, “But what about this?? What about that??” Yes. There’s exceptions to every rule. You have to use your best judgment on when and why to push back. The ideal situation? They absolutely trust you to do what you do best. Yay for you! But more likely, your client wants to hire you for your insight and skill set and then explain to you the vision they want you to bring to life. Because in the end…it’s their project. You may want this cool new opportunity to be the platform that propels you into the awards hall of fame. I’ve been there. And I’ve seen my vision changed into some of the worst choices in design simply because the client has a different vision in mind. So you have a choice. Abandon ship or help your client get to the destination they’re trying to get to, regardless of the end result. Here’s a great example:

Even better are those projects that are run by committee. I see these often with larger corporations. No way around that. You just need to make sure you set down guidelines before you start working so that you’re not trapped in that endless cycle of changes. Like this poor guy:

Haha! “…and our partner logos.” Both of these videos encompass the best of the worst experiences that every designer has gone through at some point in their career. And if you wallow in sorrow that is your vision gone awry, you will never be happy as a designer. Instead, follow that motto: Don’t be married to your ideas.

What does it mean? It means be open enough to understand that design is subjective. What may appeal to you may NOT appeal to someone else. And vice versa. I have a great interview with comedian/actor Robert Kelly that talks about that very same thing. He loves bold contrast and the basic color palette. I love other things.

Divorcing yourself from your ideas means to bridge the gap between what you see for your client and what they want. (And what they’re willing to pay for.)

Designing for Stadiums

If you were to ask my neighbors who the biggest sports fans are on our block, I wouldn’t even make the list. Now…if you were to ask my neighbors who, on our street, knew football and baseball, America’s favorite past times…yeah, I wouldn’t make the list either. I watch Obscure Sports…on the OCHO! Seriously, I have always been into non-mainstream sports: Martial Arts, Soccer, Diving, Gymnastics, BMX, Rock Climbing, and even Ping Pong. These are types of sports not normally shown at your neighborhood bar & grill. And that’s OK. That’s why I have cable. And so I found it extremely interesting that in the last couple of years, I’ve somehow attached myself to the world of mainstream professional sports with clients like the KC Chiefs, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, KC Royals, Sporting KC and more. And in those connections, I’v’e been tasked with designing interactive games for the big screen or on mobile devices. And I’m talking the BIG screens. I mean, the ones that loom over stadiums and arenas and show scores, replays, and anything that can help get the audience hyped up. These are the fillers between the game or event they came to really see!

If you’re new to designing multimedia for stadiums, and we’re not talking the thin LED screens that surround the arena or stadium with looped messaging and animations, the most important thing to remember is the attention span of the audience. Like with TV, you’re trying to grab them at very short clips. LEDs, the scoreboards and even the great visuals that dangle precariously over indoor courts, are like banner and window ads on a website. They just become the white noise on the page. When focus isn’t directed at the event, it’s to talking, finding your coat, keeping kids in line, and anything other than barrage of sponsor ads that grace anything that emits light. In my experience, designing for these venues boils down to two things:

1) How does the crowd get to interact with what’s on the board and how quickly can they do it?

2) What is the incentive for the crowd?

First, let’s talk about WHY you’re engaging the crowd. Pretty simple. It’s really not to keep them hyped. It’s about getting names. Data is the holy grail. Know who they are so that you can stay in contact with them. Sponsors EAT UP anything that lets them get back in touch with the crowd. Brand awareness is another reason. The guys with the money want you to associate this awesome event with THEIR brand. The more you see it, the more association you have with it. Fond event? Fond memories of the people who paid to put it on.

Second, let’s talk about WHEN you’ll be showing your awesome work.

Text-to-screen campaign

It all begins with the time before a game starts. As would be expected, if there’s no action on the field/court, the attention turns to activities available on the boards or throughout the stands. It’s at this time that you should, with your eye-catching graphics and inventive campaign, get much of your interaction. One campaign I worked on incorporated text messaging to the board where audience members texted their messages to a shortcode and, after admins approved the messages, would appear on the board. The message: Text your message to 80802. Simple request for action. Immediate response. It’s the age old vanity of concept of “HEY! I WROTE THAT!”

Miami Heat at Sprint Center

After the game starts,  you’ll be shooting for those moments during the event or game where the audience is basically waiting for the action to start back up. Time outs, inning changes, blah blah blah. They’re short. In baseball, you’re looking at a max of 45 seconds unless a timeout calls for more time. Yes, it’s longer than some commercials, but you’re talking about games, interactivity, and audience members that take their sweet time just to notice that your amazingly awesome interactive feature is even on the board. Not to fear. Most venues do a great job to prep the audience beforehand. But wants you’ve got their attention, get into it. Get the interaction started.

Scanning on Crown Vision

With another team, we developed the first ever Wii game played on the largest screen in the MLB. It was breakthrough! But it took a lot of prep. Imagine starting the clock on your 45 seconds and you’re trying to get the remote out and explain the game to an audience member who may or may not even know what your “Wii” is. Luckily, the stadium crew does a good job of prepping members BEFORE it’s time to play. Often, they’ll have the camera crew and contestant ready to play at the next timeout or break. With the contestant prepped, they truly have about 30 seconds to interact with your game. 10-15 seconds of explanation for the rest of the stadium and a solid 20-30 seconds of game play. So your multimedia elements, whether a 3-card monte, Family Feud, or any other game that requires audience participation, should be easy to understand, easy to play, and quick to execute.

Sprint Center Jukebox

Finally, let’s talk incentive. Most games that simply fill the void are sold as sponsorships. A company buys a game spot, puts their logo at the start and end of a game, and the audience member goes away with a prize if they win. For the audience member, the prize is the thing. For the sponsor, again, it’s either brand awareness or data gathering. So the more times you can incorporate some kind of information gathering on the attendees, the more mouthwatering your interactive sponsorship will appear!

The Gadget I’ve Been Waiting For

There are a few products out on the market today that capture your drawings, sketches and writings. Some require special paper, others only function as an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tool. Others simply capture your drawing as a JPG or flattened graphic from which you are bound to a specific size or resolution to work with later. Not anymore…and in that same breath…not yet.

The Wacom Inkling is a new take on some current technology. And a logical next step! It allows you to sketch as you normally would with a ballpoint pen. However, like Wacom’s digital pen technology, captures pressure. It uses a proximity device that requires a clear line of site to the pen. The writable area maxes out at about an 8.5×11 sheet of paper. Perfect for me because I use a much smaller sketch book. The most important features about this new device (at least to me) are:

1. Can import into Photoshop AND create layers on the fly. No more trying to magic wand around your drawing. No more trying to create channel masks to recreate your drawing.

2. Creates vector lines. WHAT?? No more scanning at super high resolutions! No more importing into Illustrator to convert to vector lines. It imports the lines directly into Photoshop for easy editing with the Bezier Pen Tool! Yes, please!

The bad news. It’s not out yet. It’s SUPPOSED to be! Since I found out about this gem in August, I’ve been waiting patiently as Wacom updates its website with delivery dates to come. In October, the site said “Available mid-October.” And so I waited. November 1st rolled around and nothing. Communication with Wacom’s Facebook team rendered me a simple “Sigh.” response. Finally, a new update. “Available mid-November.” Oh, Wacom. You tease of a technology vixen. I will wait for you. Until someone else beats you to the punch. 🙂

Is Facebook Creating Pages For Us?

I’m definitely not a big fan of Facebook policy to change design and direction on a dime. There are actually a lot of issues with Facebook that don’t sit well. “Why do you keep using it then??” Because I’ve spent the better part of 2 years looking for friends, connecting with friends, and creating a network of people. I don’t want to spend another 2 trying to convince everyone to go over to Google+. But recently I began looking for family members I haven’t spoken to in a while. Most of my cousins seem technology immune, living in the desolate reaches of wherever they are. Just haven’t been able to find them. And then last night, one of them showed up in a Facebook search. So I clicked the link. I thought, “HUH! He finally got himself a page!” But something was amiss.

Is facebook creating profiles for us??

First of all, “my cousin” set up what looked like a professional page. “A FAN page?” I thought. OKaaaaay. Whatever floats your boat. (You see, he’s not a celebrity or public figure…so it didn’t really make sense.)

But then I thought..hmmm…maybe so! He’s a professional. Maybe he’s utilizing Facebook for his marketing ventures. Smart guy! But on closer inspection, I found that Facebook had created this page on his behalf. And I don’t think he requested it…or had knowledge of it in any way whatsoever (referring back to my comment of technological isolation.) Whether they went through the digital phone book or through their own members’ contact lists…I don’t know. Somehow my cousin, who probably has only heard of Facebook while walking by a conference or ordering a latte in a Starbucks, ended up on Facebook with a page that highlights his professional standing. Odd. How do I know he didn’t make it? Because why would you make a page that anyone could claim and edit?

Turns out, Facebook is kind enough to let you “notify” the owner of the page if you know them or claim it for yourself! Really? I can simply claim my cousin’s page?? What else can I do?

I can even edit the apparently public information.

Although not immediately obvious, this page does look like some kind of a business listing. But it comes with a Friends Activity page. So really, it’s my cousin’s business as an identity page. And if left unclaimed, COULD be used by unscrupulous individuals.

Pre- and post-internet, I guess you automatically get listed in the phonebook. But that’s because you have a phone. For a fee, you can even opt OUT of being in the phone book. Which was always a little odd to me. So, in this new digital age, does Facebook as our new private, expanded phonebook, get to create a page for you because you have an identity somewhere? Seems a little presumptuous of Zuck. What do you think? And what happens if you don’t make it in time to claim your identity?? Isn’t that identity theft? Even though technically, it was simply there for the taking. Makes me shake my head.

 

The Kims of Comedy

In case you haven’t rented or seen this video, it is the FUNNIEST set of takes on Asian life in America you can ever have the privilege of watching. I did this promo for Steve and the gang a couple weeks before they were going to release it.

It’s funny for me because my name is distinctly German/Irish/European. You could almost say it with a distinct German accent and no one would be blink an eye. And after working with entertainers for years over the phone, I always get the same reaction when I meet them face-to-face for the first time: “Holy sh**! You’re not what I expected.” I’m so well spoken.

FYI. I’m half Asian. And I dig it. And yes…we DO all know Tae Kwon Do. Karate’s for Japanese. Everyone in the Kims of Comedy is Korean. And so am I. 🙂

P.S.
Want to read up on them? Here’s an older article!

Features comedians: Steve Byrne, Dr. Ken Jeong (The Hangover, Community), Kevin Shea and Bobby Lee (Mad TV)

The Android vs. iPhone Debate

I’ll admit it. I’m an Apple snob. I’ve been using Apple products since 1990. That’s right. When the mouse looked like a dinky transistor radio, the screen was bluish grey and white, and when DOS was something programmers used. For creatives, Apple represented a breakthrough in how we did our digital work. I was there for the first version of Director. I made the switch from Director to Flash. Reluctantly at first, but when Flash finally came into its own, I embraced it whole heartedly and dumped Director like a middle school crush. And as Apple grew (and became more expensive) I stuck with the habit. I still have the first generation iPod! And because of Apple, I became a gadget junkie. And THAT habit led me to my first Android device. The Hero.

My geeky friends would constantly challenge me to jailbreak my iPhone and root my Android devices. They would admonish me for not diving into the Unix underbelly of OSX or use Gimp “because it’s free.” By the way, now would be a good time to let you know that I’m a loyal Macromedia and Adobe user. Don’t ever talk to me about Corel Draw or Microsoft products. I’ll have to slap you. Seriously.

So when I finally got a job designing mobile apps, I found myself in a curious position. I don’t GET to choose sides. Sure, silently, I can continue my love affair with Apple. But my clients want a product that goes everywhere…including Blackberry (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.) Thank God there are no Palm requests in there, but it gave me unique insights into the 3 big platforms. And so when people ask me what phone they should get, I ask them what they want to use it for. I disagree with Gizmodo’s recent article that you should keep your opinion to yourself. That espousing your love for one platform or another is just your opinion. Well…YEAH! That’s why they friggin’ asked me. But I don’t blindly charge into the discussion saying that Android is the end all be all. No, no. I say to my friend, I says: WHAT do you want to use your phone for??

So here’s my general responses. Keep in mind, it could change depending on your specific needs.

Friend 1: I want to surf the net and download apps!

Me: OK. Well, first of all, that’s a lot of data. So you want to go with a service that allows that kind of data transfer. Most services do to some degree (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint.) But companies like Sprint don’t have limits and they won’t throttle you down. Also, you’re going to need a smartphone. Android has them. Apple has them. If you’re used to iTunes, get an iPhone. If you’re used to Google and Amazon, go with an Android. Oh…by the way, do you realize that you are AUTOMATICALLY signing up for the premium service? You HAVE to have a data plan to have a smartphone. Just keep that in mind.

Friend 2: Mostly texting, phone calls and checking email.

Me: Flip phone should do for you, my friend. OK, OK. If you like the sexiness of the smartphones, let me ask you this: What kind of email account do you have? That can determine the complexity of setup you’ll have to go through just to access your email. Got gmail? Android. Plays nicely with your calendar and contacts. Use Mail for Mac or some other POP3 account? iPhone rocks. Android will do it, too. And how do you sync your contacts? On Google? Android. Use a Mac? iPhone. Type them in manually to each phone you buy? Move away. Move far away. Because if I see you again, I’ll have to slap you.

Friend 3: Need to sync my calendars and use it for work.

Me: Do you work with a ton of Microsoft products and Outlook? Blackberry. But for the love of Zeus, at LEAST get a newer one. If I see you fumbling with your filthy little clogged up trackball, I’ll…you guessed it…have to slap you. Hard. Maybe even a bitch slap. I haven’t decided. Depends on if you start waxing poetic about how you can’t believe the Palm Pre didn’t do better in the market place. Working with iCal? iPhone. Working with the Google Calendar? Android.

Friend 4: I want to do everything on it.

Me: iPhone or Android. It’s really your call. NOW…Sprint has the 4G, but dang if I’ve ever gotten it to work for very long on my Epic 4G. Got my wife an EVO and it works GREAT on that! And it’s fast. But if you like the sleek Apple feel and interface. Get an iPhone. I WILL say this! I do love the added functionality you can get with Android’s menu button. Yes, you can solve some of those functional access issues with more graphic interface tweaks on the iPhone, but it’s kind of convenient. That’s all I’m saying.

There you have it. I’m torn. I LOVE my XOOM tablet and Epic 4G. My wife LOVES her EVO. I LOVE my MacBook Pro. I REALLY LIKE iPads. I LOVE that Apple has a stringent policy on what goes into their market. I LOVE that ANDROID simply lets you post apps without going through the SERIOUS amount of rigamarole you have to go through to be an Apple Developer AND put something in the market. I LOVE that Android plays Flash. I LOVE iOS’s native interface elements (drum wheel, interface designs, tab structure.) I LOVE Android’s ability to design a little more freely on the interface. I hate Blackberry. (oops…did I say that out loud?)

Bridging Gaps – Part 2

OK. Yay. You got to work in the field you wanted. But how? How did you bridge the gap between corporate communications and entertainment work?

Quick side note. I worked in the music industry for a little bit in L.A. and I would always listen to these stories of how writers, musicians and artists went from being broke to being successful. And 99% of the time, they skipped the part about how. I take that back. They always left out the details. The story always went something like:

I was broke and didn’t have a job. And I figured, no one is going to make my dream happen but me! So I worked hard and 1 year later, I landed my first deal. We went around the country playing small clubs and they got bigger and bigger until bam! Carnegie Hall! A great story. But if I want to follow in your footsteps, I’m going to need a little bit more info.

So here’s some more info. If you recall, I reached out, by accident, to the booking agent of a comedian that I wanted to work with. The world wide web was just emerging as a viable medium and I had just graduated from Future Splash to full-fledged Flash. The internet was finally able to handle some coolness and I was out on the cusp of its development. So I sent an email. The booking agent wrote me back with the simplest of responses: “Call me.”

So I did.

Here’s something you should consider before you run headlong into a working relationship. Know what you can get before you offer. You see, I had never been to a comedy club. I didn’t KNOW that often times the comedians simply hang out to talk. But to me, that was worth the design of a small website. And so I offered to design one with the promise that I could get some free tickets and meet the comedian backstage. Well, for a booking agent, tickets to ANY show of their client is like lint. Always available and they can produce them at any time. Insert Price is Right Fail music. So he hooked me up. And it was my good fortune to have accidentally emailed the BOOKING AGENT because now he had OTHER clients that could use my services.

Second note: When making sales calls, reach out to the people that have more contacts. While it’s great to be speaking directly with the end client, sometimes it’s better to set up a relationship with the guy who knows all the clients you’re trying to reach. For clarity: the booking agent works with a bunch of comedians. I wanted to work with some comedians. Had I reached out to ONE comedian, I would have relied on him to spread the word for me. Working with the booking agent, I could provide added services to his clients. Win-win.

Baptism by fire.

How did I gain these web and multimedia skills? Let’s start with web. I was a graphic designer. Knew Photoshop, Illustrator and Desktop Publishing. There was no web ability in there whatsoever. Not even an understanding. But my company didn’t know that. We were JUST starting to understand the web. So I jumped in with both feet. “I know how to design a website!” The marketing manager looked me for a second, knowing he had no other alternatives or budget to hire an agency. “OK.” So I got the gig. I went straight to the developers and said, “So…I’ve been asked to do this website. Do you have any resources you can recommend?” And they did. A great starter book. And so began my web design career.

I began devouring books. Watching tutorials. Found great CD-ROMs from Lynda! Eventually, I jumped into a couple classes here and there. All to expand the skills I knew would get me the kind of work I wanted to do. And the booking agent did his part. He recommended me to other comedians. They recommended me to each other. THEIR contacts wanted me to do THEIR websites. Eventually, I could barter my skills with favors from these entertainment professionals. What kind of barters? Here’s an example. I bartered a website for a promise that my client would read a new script I was working on. They loved it and passed it onto their son, a film icon back in the 80’s. THAT relationship sparked a writing partnership that would last 3 years. So I went from Corporate Communications to web design to designing for entertainers to becoming a script writer.

It’s how I tell people to use the side door.