Meet Daniel Held, creative director at Big Six Media
Over his seven years in the industry as a professional, Daniel has worked in places such as Berstein-Rein, Reactor Design Studio, Wunderman, and Intouch solutions. But today he finds himself the sole designer in a local start up called Big Six Media.
When did you decide to pursue design?
“So in middle school I had this photo shop class. And I just thought it was fun, I’m like, “that’s something I can do.” I took the class with a teacher like twice because it was fun for me, then I got to high school and they made the marketing teacher teach the Photoshop class, and you know he had no idea what was going on. And after I took that class the first time I spent more time just helping other students because the teacher just wasnt able to in a lot of cases. Eventually, he made a deal with me; I didnt have to do any of the homework and could utilize the time however while mantaining an A grade in exchange for being the teacher’s assistant. I got to take that class I think 3 or 4 times. When I was in high school that was the only reason my GPA was remotely acceptable. When it came time to go to college all I knew was, I like computers. I wanted to do something with that and I like Photoshop so thats really where graphic design came in for me.” When hiring managers are selecting a designer, how much is personal style considered as opposed to technical skill and experience? “If you have a really distinct style, then you’re better to freelance than you are to work for somebody. If you have a really distinct style, you can succeed in big markets. You can succeed really well in LA, or New York, or Chicago, some major city where there might be an agency that specializes in doing work like that. If you want a job at an ad firm and you’re just a baller hand lettering artist, you’re going to have a tough time. VML doesn’t necessarily need a full-time lettering artist. Hallmark probably does. Hallmark definitely does. They have like, five of those, but you don’t set yourself up to succeed that way. If you’re just looking for a good job and to figure out what’s next in the industry, that’s a tough route to go down. Unless you want to make your own income stream. (continued)You want to make phone cases and sell stuff on society6, make crafts, and go to fairs, and sell them at those places - yes, do that. That’s a great way to kill it and I know lots of people from school who did that and do awesome. If you want to work in a corporation, work with a bunch of people, and traverse it that way, you want to have more technical design skills. Those other things are the things that you’re using to separate yourself. Whereas if you have a certain style, that more just gets you cut off from those opportunities.”
If you’re just looking for a good job and to figure out what’s next in the industry, that’s a tough route to go down.
“Skillshare is the shit. I think it’s $10 a month and you get to do as many tutorials as you want. The thing I would recommend doing is finding a designer who you like, and doing the tutorials that they put out, because they’re less skill based and more thought process based. It would be something like, how to illustrate your own character or, how to create a brand from scratch. Instead of how’d I technically build this logo.” So it would be more of a lesson in thinking and work methods than it would be a follow steps one to ten kinda thing? “Exactly. It’s all about building out a process, comparing decisions, making a decision tree and then coming up with the end product. In your portfolio, you can show a process like that and they love it.”
What do you have to say about the balance between art and function?
“Definitely. That’s the other thing that’s tough too, you need a level of artsiness and clarity, because if it’s too artsy nobody understands it, they’re going to be frustrated. If it’s too clear and not artsy enough, people think you’re boring. You have to hit this really fine line between designer and artist to make really good work. If you can show potential employers that you can pull it either way, that makes you more valuable, too. If you’re given free rein and you just create something totally beautiful and awesome, that’s worth its weight in gold. If you have to fit something - say if you’re working for a brand like Microsoft and you make it be very safe, very secure, fit the brand guidelines and still get the message across while still being interesting, if you can do both those things you’re like the perfect employee. You’re the kind of person who can move forward and progress enough in order to see additional roles at a business. If you’re a designer and you’re just a killer designer, but you can’t ever get to the point where you’re helping the other people grow too, you’re only this valuable. If you can get to the point where you’re helping other people too, and doing your job, that’s a whole next level. That’s the real goal.”
So how important would you say work ethic or personality is in the hiring process as well as your refrences?
“Super important, because if you have somebody who will just vouch for your attitude, that means a lot in itself. The most important thing that people are looking for in a new employee is somebody who adds positivity and energy to their team because everybody has to work so close together and you get beat up enough by the client. You want to be around people that are good to be around, so that you can all enjoy work and do good work. There’s enough divas that if somebody’s really good and they just suck to be around, it’s not even worth it. If you have that good book and you have people willing to vouch and say that she’s a pleasure to work with and she does good work, they’re going to bring you on really quickly. Knowing people is huge.”
So networking would have to be a big concern?
“Network is super hard. When you network, don’t just meet people at a networking event. Set a time to meet with them one on one afterwards. If you meet someone at a networking event and you’re like, oh you’re awesome, send them a follow up email. The next week invite them to coffee and buy them a coffee because for that, no one is going to turn you down. Especially as a student. While you’re a student, everyone’s super happy to meet with you. The second you’re done with school they’ll be like, ‘why do I want to meet with this guy? I have no interest at all’.”