At the close of 2014 we celebrated in style Max Spector’s 15 years of working at CDA. Full speed ahead into 2015 and we’re eager to see what fresh work he’s got for us all going forward… for another 15 years at least! Enjoy this January’s staff highlight including personal stories from CDA’s tried and true brand storyteller.
Q: How was creativity explored and encouraged in your upbringing? Your early education had some pretty formative influence, yes?
Creativity was thoroughly encouraged by my parents and the larger community. My grade school allotted hours each day to creative pursuits, everything from woodworking to weaving, pottery to painting. I spent most of my time in the art room drawing hideously violent comic books with my friends. I’d say my first foray into graphic design however, was drawing football and baseball players as a child, crafting unique combinations of colors, stripes, helmet logos… I loved the constrained space in which to create — all football uniforms have lines running down the legs, but will you use a thick double line? Three thin lines? How many different colors? etc.
Q: Having started out in Architecture at Cal Poly, how did you know you needed to switch? What was it like after you changed majors?
The reasons to leave architecture were so numerous… eventually it just became crystal clear, it was not the field for me. I fell into graphic design in a way that was almost by accident, but in another way represented one of the single best life choices I’ve ever made. Once I knew I would be leaving architecture, I figured most likely I would graduate college without a career path, so I simply asked myself, “What classes will I enjoy the most?” The answer was a no brainer: art! As it turned out though, Cal Poly didn’t have a studio art major at the time, so I ended up picking the next closest thing: graphic design. It’s safe to say I loved it from the very beginning. And of course, my two years of architecture proved immensely valuable.
Q: As Design Director, what aspects of your role do you especially enjoy? Are there types of projects you particularly love to tackle?
The thing I value about my role, more than anything else, is that I get to take a leadership role in our projects, and with our clients, without sacrificing the thing I love the most: doing the work of graphic design! I’ve found more and more over the years that I love directing our team as well. And the project management component comes with its own rewards as well: shaping the arc of a project and building relationships with clients. I appreciate the role I’ve been given so very much. I don’t think it exists very many other places.
Q: Advice for designers starting out? Lessons you’ve learned?
There’s just no substitute for killer chops. Make sure your portfolio shows your immense talent. If it’s wild and off the wall, even better. I want to see the coolest, craziest stuff you can come up with, not some stiff buttoned-up book that follows all the rules and takes no chances.
In terms of attitude or approach, there are two main attributes I value: eagerness and conviction. If you’re a young designer who can believe in your work without losing your open-minded spirit, and if you can stay enthusiastic without turning into a push-over, then I want to hire you.
Q: Any funny/unusual/harried project-related stories to share?
One of my first really cool projects was for WebAppFactory. We made this super cool business system -- metal business cards, debossed folders, wrapping labels -- and only received a handful of samples. Not long after the project ended, during the dot com bust, the company went under. We called them up asking if we could get a few more of their samples (now that they didn’t need them anymore), only to learn that they had thrown everything in the trash. We cried many tears.