Coming toward the end of my second day at Ascentium with my muted left earphone in my right ear, I am filled with excitement for the projects I’ve been assigned and can’t wait to see whats to come in the next week and a half. So as I mentioned in my video, I’ve got a lot in store for you so so here goes. I’m going to focus on my conversation with Rich for the most part because I got lots from him but in the meantime… a little about my other experiences. I can remember vividly when I first entered Ascentium’s Portland office. From a meeting room straight ahead, lots of eyes focused on me through spotless panels of glass. Intimidating. I know. With my pearl in my hand, I immediately call Mason to let him know I’m there since everyone else seemed so perplexed with my presence. I got the typical orientation with the tour and paperwork and immediately after began working on an assigned project. The rest of the day was history.
Today is my second day and continued to research and also worked on some SameUnderneath projects. I was able to do a good load of research and by 2PM I felt it was time to take a break from the computer screens and conversate with some of the genius’ in the office. One of which was Rich C.
Rich C. – Senior Art Director (Ascentium)
Rich is an Art Director + Designer + Web Developer from Idaho who moved to Portland about two years ago. He spent 9 years in Boise working many different design jobs and one day was swooped into Ascentium’s Portland office by their Creative Director, James R.. Knowing that Ascentium’s focus is on the interactive side of the market, it is the perfect fit for a guy who hasn’t had the best experiences with the printing process and loves immediate results. He has done work for big-time clients like Nike and Nordstroms.
Now a quick course – CLIENTS 101:
Rich’s philosophy is to learn what your client wants and taking that into finding what your clients client wants because in reality, your client is focused on giving their client what they want so if you can give your clients client what they want you’ve made all parties involved happy. Did you get that? (now how many times did you have to read that to wrap your head around it?) He also believes tht clients like to think they’re in charge and they like to feel that they know more about design then you do, therefore, let go of your ego and make them feel good about themselves. 😀
I was given the opportunity to ask him some questions that I think will come to use for you guys so here they are.. I will just outline it for ease of digestion:
What are the peak times when business is total chaos and when is the slowest time of the year?
JAN + FEB: kick back… chill out
MAR + APR: Kick start to the craze
SUMMERTIME: everyone is off on vacation so go get some sun
MID AUG – DEC 15: Ramp up and prepare for some sleep deprivation.
How long did it take you to get to the Art Director Position?
About 5 years but every agency is different. For example here at Ascentium, being a Senior Art Director is like being Senior designer at a traditional agency because I don’t actually art direct anyone. Everyone who works here is capable of all that and also we don’t really have the junior design positions so we all basically take on the projects and take it through the end on our own. This also leads me to believe that a designer these days should be a jack of all trades because one who can posess a specialty in design as well as knows HTML and some flash can take a project from point A all the way through Z on their own is more desirable in the industry and can save a company a lot of money in the long run. It just makes life easier for you.
When you’re fresh into the industry and doing the job searching, what kinds of questions should I be asking myself and the company I am researching?
- Make sure they have a diverse client base. This equates out to less chances of getting laid off. There are many companies out there who are heavily reliant on a certain client and when things like bad economy creeps up on them, they either lose the client or has a major cutback on work which means they have to give up a bunch of people. These people are normally the ones who were hired on most recently so watch for that. Make sure that over 50% of their business consists of a good variety of clients.
- How much learning experiences can I get on the job? Being someone who just came out of school, you want to make sure you place yourself in an environment where you are able to learn from the people you’re working with. You want to get the best out of your job at this time of your career because you’re still fresh and eager to learn the most that you can.
- Are there opportunities for me to work on other types of projects like flash, HTML etc.? This is also another way for you to learn in the workplace and learn from those who have the expertise in those mediums. If they say yes, this company will probably be sticking around for a while. Again, another opportunity for growth.
- Is this company in the process of expanding? Will I be the last on the hiring process? You want to keep this in mind because if you find out that they are suddenly bringing on a ton of people right now and the economy isn’t doing the greatest, you might be thrown out after a few months because they may crash. In these situations, a company that knows how to be conservative is a good thing.
- What do you think is a good size for a design company? 15-20 man shop is a good size to get into because there are more opportunities for growth. There agencies like CMD and Wieden and Kennedy that are bigger but sometimes you get stuck in working on the same thing everyday and you don’t have the chance to break out into different mediums. This restricts your learning experience and when that happens, you burn yourself out.
- What are the pros and cons of working in a larger agency? You have bigger budgets, bigger clients, more exciting projects but you don’t really get to do much more besides working on the stuff you were hired for. Lots of egos. You’re worked until you eventually burnout. Less of a family and more cliques.
- What does it take to become a successful designer? If you can’t sell yourself, you’ll struggle… badly. I think that in order to be a successful designer, you need to be able to expose your skills and sell yourself and make your potential clients feel like you are the best person to work with. You need to be able to take what you have and make it great. Write out every idea you have everytime you get one. This book can get you a job because your ideas may be amazing and only those who see it can understand your way of thinking and how skilled you are.
Those were some of the questions that I was able to ask in the hour that I had with him. Some names and rondom things that popped up throughout our conversations:
- Oliver Russell
- Pentagram Design
- Kit Hinrichs
- “When you jump, jump big!”
- “Which is your bread & butter?”
- Premier Press
- Design Workshop just outside of washington…
- Callouts for development process are important
- Nick Chapman > James’ best friend
- differentiate yourself!
THANK YOU Rich for all this great information! I look forward to working with you during my time here.
Now let me introduce you to Brian E. He is the Business Development manager and he basically gave me the lowdown on what he does at Ascentium. Here it is.. Can you comprehend this web I made during our conversation? Let me dissect this for you. Basically a BDM is the equivelent an Account Executive. They find business, they own accounts, bring resources and work closely with the engagement manager to keep the team busy. How do they find business you ask? They do things like cold call potential clients, they take them to dinner, take them out for golf and basically make them feel good about what Ascentium has to offer and make them a part of the company. The job of the Engagement manager in short is to keep a healthy ongoing relationship with the clients. 😀
This is all I’ve got for you today. I hope you were able to get something out of it and let me know if you have any. I’m gonna leave you with some photos: