Sunday, March 29, 2009

INTERVIEW WITH AN ART DIRECTOR

(Assignment for OLS Class)

No matter what the profession, people today have been working longer and longer hours, making the time spent on the job longer than that spent at home. Our co-workers have increasingly become the friends and family in our life. Therefore, it is very important to forge strong and healthy relationships at the workplace.

The work community can be a strong influence on a person and their development as a worker. If this “family” is supportive and motivating while instilling the necessary rules, then the worker will develop a strong sense of loyalty, work ethic, and drive.

A company that shows a great family-type of work ethic is The Basement, a graphic design company for the Web and TV. The Basement has eleven employees filling various design functions within the company. I recently had the privilege of interviewing their Art Director, Amy Kingman, who was kind enough to answer a few questions about her job and the dynamics within their group.

  • Me- What are your regular duties on a daily basis?
  • Amy- The Basement Design + Motion is a small shop with only 11 employees in house. As a result my position as art director allows my duties to remain varied so that I do both production and direction on a daily basis. My production responsibilities revolve around design and animation so I spend a lot of time in my sketch pad, photoshop, illustrator, after effects, and flash. At any point in time there are on average around 3 projects that I am working on in tandem, depending on where they are in the production pipeline. I am involved in initial brainstorming concept, initial design mockup, and often pitching the design/concept to the client. Once we get approval, I work with other designers and developers on the team to bring the project to life. As art director it is my responsibility to provide a clear vision of the project to the team and assist with technical knowledge, visual critique, and project organization.
  • Me- What is your favorite part of the job? Least favorite?
  • Amy- I love production, it would be very difficult at this point in my career to step away from that completely, but I also enjoy working with a talented team to bring something together that I couldn't create on my own. I also enjoy initial concepting and uncovering client hopes for the project. My least favorite part of my job would be assisting with project cost estimations, explaining to a client when something does not fall within scope of a project, and all of the financial realities that are associated with this business. Luckily, there are people here that take care of the majority of those details and with a well thought out and written contract, the tough conversations with clients are limited.
  • Me- How many people do you supervise/lead?
  • Amy- There are 5 additional production team members that I art direct on projects. 1 illustrator/designer, 1 3D modeller/animator and motion graphics specialist, and 3 flash developers. I am also responsible for overseeing any freelance designers or animators that we bring in to assist on projects.
  • Me- What are the dynamics of group projects (what is your role, others' roles, who does what, etc)?
  • Amy- We are a close group so the dynamic is casual and friendly and we all have a high standard of what we expect of ourselves and each other. Even though we are friends, we understand that a critique of a project is only meant to make the project better and has nothing to do with personal feelings for each other. We have a lead technical director/flash developer who calls the shots on what we can and can't do on a project. We all work together to brainstorm alternate possibilities if something seems out of scope or impossible technically. I work closely with the other designer/illustrator who is an amazing artist. I often will begin a design, then hand it off for further development as we work together to flesh out the details. Once a design is complete and the file is nice and clean we hand it off to one of the web developers to convert the design into a working flash file.
  • Me- How do you resolve conflict between subordinates/co-workers?
  • Amy- I've been extremely lucky and there is little to no conflict among co-workers. There is a high level of respect and care among the team. If we have differing opinions on what will make a project best we have a discussion and debate the issue. Generally the debate ends with one idea surfacing to the top, but if it didn't we would most likely refer to the Senior Art Director who would have the final say.
I was very impressed by Amy’s description of her team. The interdependence, support, critique, and overall motivating atmosphere had the added advantage of a smaller work unit where each person gets to develop their own special ability while at the same time trying their hand at something new. Creating a family-type work environment is a very smart way to run a business. Whether we are supervisors, co-workers, directors or assistants, we are just as responsible of influencing and motivating those around us to become their utmost best.
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