An interview with Contrast Black

Over the last 2 year I have spent many hours on a site called graphicriver a place for selling design templates of all sorts, it is a great place with many talented authors so I have decided to interview artists from the site and this is one of many more to come. I hope this will help people understand how other designer work and what processes they go through. I do not censor what the artist tell me I try to keep in all they say as it is good to know how different artists work.

1. How did you get started in the design industry, and what is your advice for people thinking of doing the same?

My first contact with the design industry was back in the days while I was still in school. All my colleagues were busy back then playing football or watching cartoons, while I was busy sketching and “visiting” subway depots with a few totally innocent spray-cans in my backpack. It wasn’t what you’d call a classic approach to wanting to become a graphic designer, but rather the later became a clear goal upon advancing with age. Mind you, this was happening somewhere around the age of 14. A few years later, and a whole lot of sketchbooks and repainted interior walls, I finally settled down on illustration and received my first few clients based on my urban style. Those were the good old times. No worries, few clients, and any payment was good, as it was instantly invested in another batch of spray-cans.

My only advice towards people thinking about pursuing a career in this domain would be to “stop thinking about pursuing a career” and rather pursue their own style, their own passion, and if good design and intricate works are a by-product, then I can only guarantee that they might be successful later when it matters. Stress is good if you use stress as a motivational factor, not if you burden yourself with it instead of using it to your advantage, so keep your focus, maintain a clear overview of what you do with joy, and keep doing it. Only through passion can one obtain greatness, never through “need”.

2. What is your process for starting a new piece of work?

The process of starting off a new piece… hmm. Well, this one is a pretty hard to describe issue of mine. As you might tell from the previous question, I wasn’t exactly one of those neat and tidy designers caring about my own looks, owning iphones and ipads and iwhatnots. I am NOT the most organized person, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I have nothing against Apple products either, actually find them quite awesome. I usually start off by sleeping well. Dreaming in my case has rather developed into a sort of “pre-production” state, that allows me to test out certain modelling techniques if we’re talking about 3D, before actually doing the poly-pushing… It also lets me experiment with colour and contrast before touching the paper with the tip of a pencil. As soon as I wake up, typically if I find the project really interesting, I get straight to the computer and start without a clear plan of what I’m doing, and then problem-solve issues as they arise. Others might carefully plan, take their time, then do it right in one go… but to each their own. I just personally enjoy this back-and-forth and constant problem solving “while” working is part of the stress that I need to get things done properly.

3. Do you have any favourite websites for finding design inspiration?

I have a lot of favourite sites, but I never use them for inspiration, as in… I can’t possibly accept the countless hours spent procrastinating while marvelling at other people’s posts as something useful. I’d call it “brainwashing”, which some might find a bit harsh, but then again, if you look at the way trends propagate nowadays, you’d have to agree that most of the work that is being put forth ends up being the result of a single collective brain, following the trends and criteria induced by a group of chosen few industry leaders. Part of the fault is that of clients… who just go “look, I saw this, can you make something LIKE it?” but the other part is also that of general fan-boys. There are people out there, who genuinely depend on sucking up to others with every inch of their body and mind…and that often transpires through their creations as a cheap knock-off from the original. Soooo… inspiration and sites. Yeah, a sort of mixed bit for me, constantly pairing relaxation, waste of time with a bit of rage. The result is a bit of anger and the feeling “I can do that better” which leads to me actually starting a personal project once in a while.

4. What do you think are the most important skills for a designer to have/develop?

The most important skills a designer should have in my opinion are : self-confidence but with great care, curiosity and patience for their chosen set of tools, fear and yet passion to overcome it with the known risk of the result looking bad. No trial, no error indeed, but also no step forward. These are the most important if you ask me… beyond that, you have the general idea which rather applies to work-environments. Pick a speciality, focus on it, get amazing at it, and if time permits, pick a second “more general” set of knowledge as a safety-net. This can guarantee you won’t starve if at one point your main skill goes unwanted, and you have just enough time to find another.

5. What does your work area look like and what make it special to you?

Well, my work area is pretty clean usually, and I like to keep it somewhat tidy for the sake of mental sanity. What makes it special is the fact that I share the same room with my fiancée and I feel that even on the darkest of days, I have no need to worry, because she is there, just a few feet away from me. Check out a picture of my side of our double office here.

6. What trends will emerge and be popular in 2012 in your opinion?

Since already a few months passed, trends are starting to be quite obvious. In terms of webdesign, I believe a major focus on “responsiveness” is the main focus and the general pin in the eye of that collective brain I was talking about earlier. This is another great example really. It’s not like the need for mobile flexibility and generally fit web-design and development wasn’t around for ages, it’s just that it wasn’t interesting enough, or “trendy” enough until someone higher up the food-chain said it’s a must.

Humanity is well known, especially in the fashion business, for “creating” trends, but actually recycling old ideas, with a slight twist or not even. Hence I personally find the concept of “trend” one of the most annoying things ever. For a designer especially, it should be annoying to be a trend-setter for one, as while it might be fun to gain a huge set of admirers in a short span of time, it should also be shocking that they all try to do your own thing… it all takes away from the natural design dialogue. There’s no more input, just positive feedback and sucking up, no room for bouncing ideas for improvement, and for a designer, even if at first glance the initial idea was brilliant, that can be quite a bad thing. To follow trends as a designer however, is the “required evil” in order to be paid, as clients often much like the previously mentioned “fan-boys” only with less dedication, end up being simple minions and mindless followers of something that they see “sells well”… so even if you could offer them something far superior, it is often better not to, just for the sake of mental sanity and cash-flow.

7. When you are not designing what do you get up to?

When I’m not designing? when are we not designing? Every day and every thing we do can be described as “design” if one were to open up the philosophical Pandora’s box of meta-linguistics. The process of design is for me personally synonymous to the process of thinking. The more thinking you invest into something, the better the outcome, or it’s “design”. Hence, I’m always designing, even if not graphically visible, it’s the patterns, the visual study of human interaction and existence that have leave their mark into my subconsciousness, only to pop up later when I start working. So to put this simple, I try not to think, when I really don’t want to design, and the only way to do that is to watch TV. Period. Best brain-wash ever!

8. Which piece of you work are you most proud of and why?

Pride is one’s highest enemy. I am not a proud person, and never could I ever be proud of anything I personally created. I need outside input to feel “ok” about something, but no matter how good the feedback, I will still find lots of room for improvement. So I have no work that “I am really proud of”. I just have an image that I would like to further invest some time into, maybe create a set number of iterations until finally maybe the collective result is pleasing even to myself. That first shimmer of hope of liking it is for this image It combines my previous passion with my current pleasure. Graffiti and 3D

9. What do you do when get creative block and how do you overcome it?

When I get creative block, I am usually too damn tired to be able to think further than basic bodily necessities, so my first attempt at solving that issue is a long sleep, very important, with no alarm clock
set. This allows me to sleep as much as the body actually needs. Next a good cup of coffee, depending on the time of the day I wake up to, and a short walk help quite a lot.

10. What are the current design goals you’re looking to achieve?

I am currently learning animation and pondering about looking into mograph. Fun months ahead!

Thank you for your patience to read my rant/interview. I am not that “angered” as I might come forth through these lines in real life though :P.

6 comments on “An interview with Contrast Black

  1. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of An interview with Contrast Black | Darkstar Designs Blog . Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely return.

  2. Pingback: ContrastBlack » Got featured in an interview recently…

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