I was sitting in a coffee shop, across from Mark, my buddy and longtime friend. He looked up and said to me, “So your oldest is a senior in college and your youngest just graduated high school. Wow. How does that feel?”
“Uhh, scary.” I replied. And not just because of the money. Because I HAVE two daughters done with high school. When did that happen? How did that happen? Why do years go by so fast these days?
That got me to thinking… a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from UNLV, and then graduating from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh got everything rolling. My first job making $5/hour at Identified Advertising, a Jr Designer job at Vance Wright Adams working on bigger accounts like USAirways magazine. It was always a cool career direction to choose.
My next job led to Mirage Visuals, and that one was a cool gig. Just myself and the CD made up the art department at the time, but the two of us were able to create some great work and grow the department to 5 by the time I left. We were doing advertising, design, web design, multimedia, just about anything creative we could get our hands on.
The owner, Curt, would meet with a client, and when they asked him “Can you guys do (fill in the blank)?”, he would inevitably reply, “Sure, we can do that!” Then he would get back to the office and announce to us, “We need to figure out how to (fill in the same blank)”, and we would meet him with blank stares. He would look at me and ask, “Can we do this?” to which I would always reply “Sure, we’ll figure it out.” Those were good times.
Then we moved to Seattle. Goodbye to old friends, and hello to new opportunities.
Mark asked if I wanted more coffee. I reminded him mine was tea. Having been born in England, I think tea was just part of my DNA. As is the soccer.
Moving to Seattle without a job lined up was a pretty scary thing at the time, but my family and I knew it was worth the risk. We haven’t looked back since. While pounding the pavement, I managed a few classes at the School of Visual Concepts downtown, and eventually landed a job as Art Director for SPEEA, the Boeing Union that represented engineers and technical people. Since they had their own print shop downstairs, and I was the only “art guy”, I wore a lot of hats. Newsletters, flyers, posters, buttons, anything they printed, I designed and output the film negatives for the printer. I redesigned their web site twice, and their very old looking logo once. It’s still the one they use today.
But eventually life came calling and I changed direction to start working for myself from home. That meant finding work and landing clients, so sales and marketing became a big part of my daily routine. And although I was looking for more traditional print design jobs, a large majority of the work I found was web design and construction.
I spent the next 2 years designing and building a lot of web sites! Thank you Dreamweaver. But when new doors open, you have to at least be willing to peek inside. That door opened at my current job. They are an importer of souvenirs and gifts, and needed someone with design and illustration skills for their art department.
Now I’m the Art Director and running the department, and it is a great place to use illustration skills as well as design chops. They have some great clients, like the Statue of Liberty, Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, Las Vegas accounts like MGM and Harrah’s buying groups, and of course the Space Needle®. (The register mark is required).
I tell my kids now to pursue their passions and the money will come later, because I’ve always wanted to get up in the morning and enjoy going to work. That hasn’t always happened, but mostly it has.
Mark takes a sip of coffee and says, “So why are you getting your feet back in the water? The economy isn't doing that great and nobody is hiring right now.”
“That’s very true.” I reply. “But smart, savvy people are always on the lookout for talent that can help their business grow. If the timing is right, things happen, regardless of the economy.”
“You’re probably right”, he said. “So your daughters are both out of high school now, your wife is growing her yoga studio, and you are getting your feet wet in the job market. That closes out a pretty big chapter in your life. What do you do then?”
I reply, “I turn the page and keep reading.”