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Working from home is a dream for most, and a reality for many. There are many jobs that require time commitments from home. Even if you work at a brick-and-mortar job, you will want to expand your abilities and expertise by honing your work-at-home skills.


Work at home mom with baby

Years ago, when my kids were 1 and 3 years old, working from home was out of the question. The little ones couldn’t understand why daddy couldn’t play whenever it wasn’t nap time, and their playful noises weren’t conducive to a professional sounding environment. Today however, things have changed. With the kids in school, I much prefer working from home.

If you’re planning on working some or all of your time from home, here are some thoughts that you might want to adhere to if you want to be more productive.

Don’t be too Informal While Working from Home:

It’s easy to slip into a productive state of mind when you treat your work at home as if you were at the office. This typically requires you to go through your normal morning routine of exercise, shower and dressing as if you were heading for the office. However, at home you can be a bit lax – dress pants or skirt and a dress shirt or blouse will suffice. You can even work from home with your socks on. Once done, you can change clothes and do your other activities. This will help you create the sense of “clocking out” of work.

Create an Effective Workspace:

You do not necessarily need to have a dedicated room when it comes to working from home. A corner of your living room, bedroom, or garage will suffice. As long as the area accommodates your tools, it will be appropriate. Also take note of your own preferences. Some people like to work alone, others in groups. You can simulate the group environment by working at a coffee shop or café with your laptop and mobile devices.

Use Time Tracking Software:

You obviously need to keep track of your time to make sure that you are meeting your deadlines and working efficiently to meet them. To take into account how many hours it will take for you to complete your tasks, time yourself. You can use a stopwatch or any of the many apps and software programs designed to help you do that on your computer and smart phone.

Take Frequent Breaks:

The Pomodoro technique is a popular way of increasing work output. This technique requires you to work in 25 minute increments separated by short breaks. The thought behind the Pomodoro technique is that you will improve mental agility by including frequent breaks. This method can also help reduce mental fatigue.

If you need more guidance on work-at-home productivity, feel free to contact me. You might also follow me @willsherwood.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to check out these others:

Turning The Hobby You Love Into A Successful Business
10 Reasons Why Positivity Is So Essential For Work / Life Balance
Why Should You Care About Starting A Blog?
Email Marketing: How to Keep Your Messages Out of Your Customer’s Spam Box
Combining Blogging and Social Media into a Truly Effective Strategy
5 Ways You Can Benefit By Using LinkedIn
How To Amp Up Your Visibility With Facebook

Sign up for our monthly newsletter of the best-of-the-best tips of each month by clicking here!

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, salaries for sales jobs range up to $91,830 per year. Since the majority of those job options listed do not require specialized education, they make ideal career tracks for millennials with communication and people skills.



If you know someone who is sales oriented and looking at their career options, please forward this article to them.

Sales is a very wide field, and these seven career options represent a good cross section of the industry. To learn more about different types of job options available and to determine whether the field is a good match for you, you can find more information at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

Sales Engineers

As a sales engineer, you will sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. To do this, you’ll need to have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work. To earn the highest average salary on this list of $91,830 you’ll need a Bachelor’s degree.

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents

As a securities, commodities or financial services sales agent, you will connect buyers and sellers in the financial markets. You will sell securities to individuals, advise companies in search of investors, and conduct trades. To qualify for the average yearly salary of $71,720 you’ll need a Bachelor’s degree and a securities license from your state.

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

As a wholesale and manufacturing sales representative, you will sell goods on behalf of wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. You will contact customers, explain product features, answer any questions that their customers may have, and negotiate prices. The average yearly salary is $57,870. Here’s a link to see how to become a wholesale or manufacturing sales rep.

Insurance sales

As an insurance salesperson, your job consists of making insurance sales to individuals and businesses. You may sell life insurance, home owner’s insurance, business liability insurance, renters’ insurance or other types of insurance. You can work off of insurance leads that you’ve identified or have been provided with. As a novice salesperson, you will generally work for an insurance agency where you will receive on-the-job training. Since these jobs typically are commission-based instead of fixed salary, it can take some time to earn a good wage. Once you develop the skills, you can succeed and may go on to freelance or open your own agency. While some insurance sales jobs have a high level of travel, others are mostly office positions.

Real estate sales

As a realtor, you show properties to potential buyers. You might spend time traveling to view properties, photographing properties, advertising listings, staging homes, holding open houses, taking clients to view properties and attending real estate closings. You can set your own schedule, making this an ideal position for parents or others who need flexibility. The average salary for this position is $41,990, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Commissions play a large role in your earnings. If you enjoy the position, you can get a broker’s license and manage your own business. Both brokers and realtors must be licensed in state.

Advertising sales agents

As an advertising salesperson, your job consists of selling advertising space. You may sell ads for print media, television, radio or Internet. You’ll contact potential clients (by phone or email), make presentations and maintain client accounts as needed and will typically work in an office environment, although some travel may be required. These jobs are generally commissions-based and often come with pressure to meet deadlines and fill quotas for ad space.

Travel agents

Travel agents also make up a part of the sales industry, selling trips, lodging, activities and other travel-related services to individuals or businesses. While you spend most of your time in-office as a travel agent, you may get to travel a bit so you can better sell clients on a given destination or tour provider. The more you specialize in this industry — by providing a certain type of tourism (e.g. ecotourism, Latin America travel) or catering to a certain type of client (e.g. corporate clients) — the more successful your career prospects. The median wage for travel agents is $34,600, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Author: Rob Reynolds is a retired insurance broker who writes about the industry to stay connected and stay busy. He can only walk the dog so often.

If you need more guidance on work-at-home productivity, feel free to contact me. You could also follow me on Twitter: @willsherwood.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to check out these others:

4 Ways to Create A Productive Work-At-Home Environment
Turning The Hobby You Love Into A Successful Business
10 Reasons Why Positivity Is So Essential For Work / Life Balance
Why Should You Care About Starting A Blog?
Email Marketing: How to Keep Your Messages Out of Your Customer’s Spam Box
Combining Blogging and Social Media into a Truly Effective Strategy
5 Ways You Can Benefit By Using LinkedIn
How To Amp Up Your Visibility With Facebook

Sign up for our monthly newsletter of the best-of-the-best tips of each month by clicking here!

“Like” us and/or “Follow” us at these social media sites and we’ll return the favor:

Google+ | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Please comment. We’d like to know if you found this article informative or helpful?

If you want to be totally balanced (in your job, with your friends and family, and in your life), it pretty much all boils down to the same basic set of rules. Here they are:



The 7 Key Strategies to Achieve Work-Life Balance:

1. Balance Family and Work Time.

When I was starting out, I was tempted to put all my waking hours into building my business. After a couple of months of this, my wife called me aside and told me I needed to make a decision. Did I want JUST a family, JUST a business, or BOTH? Since I certainly didn’t want to forsake either family OR business, I said both. She responded by saying that I needed to spend as much time with my family as I did on my business, about 40 hours/week to each (Ah-h-h, the wisdom of mothers). When I thought about it, it made perfect sense, though. Work days would be between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm. Family time would be in the early mornings and late evenings during weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday. It turned out to be a fabulous arrangement, and though it took quite a bit of personal discipline at first, this division of work/family time served my business well and kept the home fires burning brightly.

2. Sleep. (That’s right, sleep.)

If you are the person who walks around bragging about how you only need four hours of sleep a night, you are fooling yourself. According to WebMD, just about everyone needs between six and eight hours of sleep to function at their optimal best. Too little sleep can make you ineffective, unhealthy, and overweight. To get your best night’s sleep, turn off all your electronics at least a half hour before you turn in and make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark.

3. Get up an hour earlier

Once you are getting enough sleep, it’s time to get up an hour earlier than you do now. Henry Ward Beecher’s quote: “The first hour is the rudder of the day – the Golden Hour” has become famous because it is true. If you start your day searching for your keys/papers/cell phone, rushing out the door, getting stuck in traffic, and arriving at your office already stressed out, there is a good chance that you will not have your most productive day. So get up an hour earlier and use that time to exercise, meditate, read something inspirational, or just sit and eat a mindful, leisurely breakfast. It will change the course of your day, and, in time, your life.

4. Eat Right

No, you don’t have to give up your wings and pizza. Just make sure you have five servings of fruits and vegetables with your daily meals. A serving is one half cup. It’s not an unreasonable amount and it will provide you with essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients and also leave you feeling fuller so you eat less of the other stuff. It will nourish both your brain and body.

5. Exercise

Exercise is essential if you want to have a sound body, mind, and spirit. If you’re one of those folks who hate taking time out for either exercise or meditation, try combining the two. I hope on my exercise bike almost every day, and while I’m on the bike I repeat affirmations using Louise Hay’s “Power Thought Cards.” That way I get a two-fer by combining the two, and you can too!

On the days when you think you have no time to exercise, remember – somebody busier than you is working out right now!

6. Never stop learning.

Information is everywhere. Don’t drown in it, use it. On the Internet, there are free online tools, books, and classes that can teach you everything from how to make the perfect cup of tea to how to program a computer. Take advantage of all that the Internet, continuing education, and your local library have to offer.

One great resource is Coursera, an education company that partners with top universities and organizations around the world to offer free online courses. They have over 500 courses that cover a broad range of topics including business, art, and science. Whether it is work related or strictly personal, the act of learning creates new neural pathways in your brain, exposes you to new ideas, and boosts your self-confidence. There is always more to learn about your profession, but don’t stop there — what have you always wanted to learn? learn A new language? A new sport? A new dance?

7. Practice.

In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell puts forth the 10,000 hour rule that states: “to become an expert in a field of study, it merely takes 10,000 hours of focus and practice on the topic at hand.” So, if you want to become an expert at anything, it takes 20 hours a week for the next 10 years. Don’t have that much time? How about an hour a day for one year? You might not end up an expert, but if you spent 365 hours this year practicing the guitar how good would you be in a year? If you read one article each weekday about your profession, how far would those 260 hours take you in your job or your professional organization?

Bonus Tip: Cultivate Integrity.

Towards your family, friends, work colleagues, and, most important, yourself. Be true to your word. If you say the report will be finished by Friday, finish it. If you have a meeting at 9 am, be there and be fully present, not on your cell phone or computer. If you tell your child you will be at her baseball game, don’t let anything keep you from being there. Keep your promises. Especially the ones you make to yourself. If you say that this is the year you are going to lose weight, stop smoking, spend more time with your family or friends – then do it.

Are there more things you could do to balance your life and work? Sure. You can always focus your intentions so that you’re more positive, kind, bold, on time – the list is endless. There are very few truly balanced people in the world, but if you incorporate just the 8 tips listed above, you’ll be well on your way to becoming one of them.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to check out these others:

Free Career and Business Education
Ideas for Growing Your Influence Through Instagram
Combining Blogging and Social Media into a Truly Effective Strategy
5 Ways You Can Benefit By Using LinkedIn
How To Amp Up Your Visibility With Facebook

If you would like more information about our graphic and website design services, contact us. We’re pretty balanced in those areas, too!  😉

Sign up for our monthly newsletter of the best-of-the-best tips of each month by clicking here!

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Career and business education has changed in recent years with many free opportunities now available. Knowing what’s out there can help you build your career and business, especially when you need to enhance your training or that of your employees.


free business education

There are new types of free education from companies like Khan Academy and Coursera to name a couple. Today we’ll give you an overview of how Coursera can benefit you and your business.


If you have never heard of Coursera, they offer free, no cost online education. What makes Coursera unique is range of classes available, from business to art, all taught by talented professors and instructors from prestigious schools, such as Stanford, Duke, and Princeton. After you or your employees finish a course, Coursera issues a certificate of completion.

Most of us can benefit from some continuing career and/or business education, and Coursera might be very beneficial, especially given the current financial climate. Here are several upcoming Coursera classes that will further your knowledge base while keeping your overhead down:

Foundations of Business Strategy

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business, Instructor: Michael J. Lenox, Six Week Session, Begins January 13, 2014

Content Strategy for Professionals

Northwestern University, Six Week Session, Begins on January 13, 2014: This professional Content Strategy is for people anywhere in an organization who have content development experience and now want to significantly improve their abilities to understand audiences and develop strategic words, pictures, graphics, and videos to convey their organization’s most important goals.

Introduction to Public Speaking

University of Washington, Instructor: Matt McGarrity, Ten Week Session Begins, March 31, 2014

Unethical Decision Making in Organizations

University of Lausanne, Instructors: Guido Palazzo, Ulrich Hoffrage, Seven Week Session Begins September 2014

The courses listed above are just a few classes on the Coursera website. Here’s a list of other courses that can enrich you and your employees. Once you are on the website, on the left you will see categories to choose from. I am confident there will be several more free courses that you will find interesting and will help you further your mission.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to check out these others:

3 Things to Know About Google Hummingbird
200 of Google’s Website Ranking Factors [Infographic]
Combining Blogging and Social Media into a Truly Effective Strategy
7 Steps for Getting on Board With Social Media
5 Ways You Can Benefit By Using LinkedIn
How To Amp Up Your Visibility With Facebook

Sign up for our monthly newsletter of the best-of-the-best tips of each month by clicking here!

”Like” us and/or “Follow” us at these social media sites and we’ll return the favor:

Google+ | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Please comment. We’d like to know if you found this article informative or helpful?

Most people are good at something. However, the truly exceptional people, the leaders and innovators, always seem to be successful at whatever they do. Here then, are the 10 secrets to being awesome at everything:



Whether it’s in the areas of technology, finances, or relationships, some people seem to be able to make the most of whatever resources are available to them. The greatest thing about their achievements, is that they can be replicated. That said, here are the 10 secrets to being awesome at everything.

1. Focus on your strengths. Most of us tend to spend most of our time trying to shore up our weaknesses instead of focusing on our strengths and relying on others who are strong in our weak areas to help us balance our lives. According to Tim Rath in his book StrengthsFinder 2.0 you can expect these key takeaways from his book:

  • Your talents are enduring and unique.
  • Your greatest potential for growth is in the area of your greatest strength.
  • As an organization or as an individual you can reach your maximum potential only by using your individual strengths.
  • It’s easy to match your strengths to your roles at work, home and in the community.
  • You’ll always enjoy what you are doing when you use your true talents and strengths.

2. Do what inspires you. Mark Twain once said, “The key to success is to make your vocation your vacation.” When you’re engrossed in something, anything, that you’re passionate about, your excitement not only impels you on to further heights and successes, but also spreads to others. This attitude will also help you to endure when you meet with challenges.

3. People are your greatest asset. I once heard that we become the average of the 5 people we hang out with. By keeping company with many different types of people, especially those who are more successful that you, you increase your opportunities and expand your horizons. Whether through networking or simply providing you with opportunities to improve your communication, connecting with people is a resource you can’t afford to be without. Besides, what good is success at anything if you can’t share it with someone?

4. Don’t get bogged down in the details. You don’t have to be an expert at something to use it. For example, how many of us could easily describe the scientific principles and actions involved in electricity? Not likely too many of us. On the other hand, we’re all likely comfortable with flipping a light switch to turn on the light, aren’t we? Learn what you need to learn in order to accomplish your specific goal.

5. Patience may be a virtue, but persistence to the point of success is a blessing! We see it on t-shirts and company slogans everywhere. Never give up!  The story is told of how Tomas Edison tried about 2 thousand times before he successfully invented an effective incandescent bulb. However, with each failure, he claimed that he had successfully found another way that didn’t work. There are no failures, only learning opportunities. Keep adjusting your actions until you obtain the results you desire.

6. Focus your attention. Imagine a giant piece of chocolate cake sitting in front of you, simply begging to be eaten. That thick, sugary frosting is tempting you beyond what you can bear. Now imagine taking the time to eat the cake first, leaving the frosting for the last (I can hear the 10 year old within you gasping in disbelief!). This illustration translates into doing the hardest or most challenging part of your work first. In other words, avoiding procrastination, which has the power to stop any endeavor dead in its tracks.

7. Prioritize your “to do” list. If you are new to time management or have a system that has overwhelmed you, drop back to the basics and and follow this simple system given to steel magnate, Charles Schwab by business consultant, Ivy Lee. In his system, Lee gave Schwab a blank sheet of paper and told him to:

  • List the six most important things you have to do tomorrow.
  • Number them in order of importance from #1 to #6.
  • Tomorrow morning – start with #1 and stay with it until completed
  • Only when #1 is complete may you go to #2. Repeat this process until the end of day. If you don’t finish your list, the remaining items probably weren’t that important anyway – with this in mind, you’ll know when to say no to a new task or give it to someone else.

8. Copy from the best. If anybody has created the results that you desire, find out how they did it. Save yourself from having to re-invent the wheel, so to speak. How someone accomplishes a specific task is actually the result of a number of factors, so take all of them into consideration, such as their beliefs, values, and what they actually did physically. This will also save you time, which is the one thing that no one can create more of.

9. Maintain a positive attitude. As Zig Ziglar, motivational speaker and trainer, once said, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” There are no failures, only learning opportunities. If the results you achieve aren’t what you’re aiming for, remember that it’s just a another chance to get it right. Keep adjusting your actions until you get the results that you do want.

10. Stay flexible. In today’s world, when everything is in flux and change, flexibility has become both the means to survival, and the secret of success. So, repeat after me, “We are ALL so very flexible.” <g>

We all yearn to achieve great results in all areas of our lives, from personal relationships to leading the market in our businesses. By implementing these few simple strategies consistently, you too can realize the level of excellence you want. Indeed, you can be awesome at everything!

If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to check out these others:

The Power of Telling Stories and Anecdotes in Presentations
Increase Your Credibility by Increasing Your Visibility
Using Social Media to Position Yourself as The Go To Expert
How to Successfully Localize Your Business
How To Increase Your Google Search Results Using YouTube.

This article is provided here for your business education and inspiration by:

The Sherwood Group, located in Santa Clarita, California, just outside Los Angeles, has over 30 years of experience working with the graphic design, website design, and marketing communication challenges presented by clients, small and large. Clients range from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 companies, through every business sector, from across the street to around the world. It’s not the size or industry that defines our clients. It’s their mindset.

Contact us by phone at 661-287-0017 or through our website so that we can help you think through your objectives and propose the best solution for your needs and your budget.


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Comments: Note that we reject all posts that are clearly leaving a comment simply to acquire a back link. Please comment only if you have something of value to share with our other readers.

We’d like to know: Which tips in this article did you find most helpful?


The Nelson Mandela Memorial consists of 50 thirty foot high, steel plates that were laser-cut and planted in the ground. It was designed and constructed for the Apartheid Museum in honor of the 50th anniversary of the capture and arrest of Nelson Mandela on August 6, 1962. This memorial celebrates one of the world’s greatest human rights activists.


After his arrest, Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years. During the entire time he refused to compromise his political views despite pressure from the South African government and others. While in prison, Mandela’s reputation steadily grew, and he became widely accepted as the most significant black leader in South Africa. He also became a powerful symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gained momentum.

After his release in 1990, he dedicated himself to the continuation of his life’s work, striving to attain the human rights goals that he and others had set out for themselves almost 40 years earlier. Mandela was elected President of the ANC in 1991 at their first national conference since the organization had been banned in 1960. His lifelong friend and colleague, Oliver Tambo, was elected the organization’s National Chairperson.

Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his work.

When a visitor stands at a particular point, the columns show the viewer Nelson Mandela’s image!






Credits on this project:

Sculptor: Marco Cianfanelli of Johannesburg, studied Fine Art at Wits.

If you enjoy this post, you may also want to check out these others:

Fun Television Advertising at Its Best!
From Love to Bingo in 873 Images
Motel 6 Takes a Trip Through Time
34 Excellent Print Ads for Your Creative Inspiration
40 VERY Cool Examples of Concept Art

This article is presented here for your education, inspiration and enjoyment by:

Will Sherwood
CEO/Chief Creative Officer
The Sherwood Group: Graphic Design & Website Design
Santa Clarita and Los Angeles, California, USA

Professional links:
Graphic Design/Web Design | Color Printing | YouTube Introduction

Social media links:
LinkedIn | Facebook Design | Facebook Printing | Twitter

Comments: Please note that we reject all posts that are clearly leaving a comment simply to acquire a back link. Only comment if you have something of value to share with our other readers.


This is a fun animation showing some of the worlds best architecture.

It is an alphabetical listing of some of the worlds most prominent architects with a clever rendering of their best known buildings. Unfortunately, many of the architects’ best work had to be left out since the animators could use only project one for each letter of the alphabet. Still this is a fun and excellent review of some of the worlds best creative talent, and hopefully will serve as great creative and design inspiration for you on an upcoming project.


If you enjoy this post, you may also want to check out these others:

Fun Television Advertising at Its Best!
From Love to Bingo in 873 Images
Motel 6 Takes a Trip Through Time
34 Excellent Print Ads for Your Creative Inspiration
40 VERY Cool Examples of Concept Art

Credits on this project:

Art Director: Federico Gonzalez
Concept and Animation: Federico Gonzalez & Andrea Stinga
Music: The Butterfly from Eugene C.Rose and George Ruble
Check out the alphabetical list of the buildings here:

This article is presented here for your education, inspiration and enjoyment by:

Will Sherwood
CEO/Chief Creative Officer
The Sherwood Group: Graphic Design & Website Design
Santa Clarita and Los Angeles, California, USA

Professional links:
Graphic Design/Web Design | Color Printing | YouTube Introduction

Social media links:
LinkedIn | Facebook Design | Facebook Printing | Twitter

Comments: Please note that we reject all posts that are clearly leaving a comment simply to acquire a back link. Only comment if you have something of value to share with our other readers.


Success Secrets from Rick Valicenti:

  • If you do good work, challenging work, and work that is attentive to production values and craft, odds are you will continue to attract those kinds of projects.
  • You’re only given opportunities when you’re ready for them. Enjoy the process. Enjoy the learning.
  • Should you choose to hurry your life along or do it for the money, you’ll end up being pulled back, pulled aside or pulled into a place you don’t want to be.

Rick’s thoughts on patience when building and sustaining a career:

A lot of young people enter the profession with a great deal of promise, and exit shortly thereafter; wishing that the profession had fulfilled their promises. So, building and sustaining a career is an interesting question. I would say of the different qualities required, one of the most important is actually a simple one — as simple as patience. In other words, your portfolio won’t be complete after one year. It requires some patience. It also requires time, which is a bit different. Time allows you to discover who you are, how you see the world, and how you respond to opportunities. These qualities, combined with good people skills and interesting collaboration with other designers, clients and creative aptitudes that transcend the norm, can allow you to create a great life.

On getting good clients:

There are a couple of mantras that work and have proven themselves. One of them I learned from Michael Patrick Cronin, a designer in San Francisco. He said, “You get what you do.” If you do good work, challenging work, work that is attentive to production values and craft, work that is beautiful, poetic, sensual or compelling, odds are you will attract those kinds of projects when your work gets out to the world. People will ask, “Who did that?” The answer will lead back to you and other opportunities like those will follow. If the work you do is hurried, compromised, poorly crafted crap complete with messages of no value, odds are that’s what you get in return. And one day you will wake up and say, “How come am I getting such crap work?” It’s because that’s what you’re putting out there.

Rick’s thoughts on having faith in your creativity:

I think if you are patient and know that over time your work will be good, it will be. First, you must be true to yourself, true to the work you want to do, and to the level of care you want to devote to your work. Once you commit to that, I think that’s the biggest surrender you’ll have to make. It’s a big leap of faith because you are putting faith in your own ability. You’re putting faith in your own sensibilities and abilities to work with others to get the work done on time, and at the same time, make something of real value. It won’t be long before you’ll be rewarded with similar opportunities.

From what I have seen and experienced, every time I’ve chosen to hurry my life along or do it for the money, I’ve ended up being pulled back, pulled aside or pulled into a place I didn’t want to be. You can be proactive, but I think you have to be proactive in just making that leap of faith; that commitment to yourself; that commitment to the craft and to the continuum that we’re all in as we continue the trajectory and the tradition of the graphic design profession and art.

Thoughts on getting oriented to your location:

Before I became a graphic designer, I was a grad student of photography. I finished my graduate work at the University of Iowa. While there I took a letterpress class at the Writer’s Workshop. And, when I moved to Chicago, the photographic community seemed to be engaged in image making that I wasn’t either qualified for or interested in pursuing. It was very commercial work— hot dogs, corn flakes and beer. I’m sure there was better work going on in Chicago, but I really didn’t see it at first glance.

So, I decided maybe I needed to be on the other side. My other fascination was discovered in this letterpress class, and in some of my undergraduate work in design as a painting and drawing major. I went to various places only to discover I couldn’t get hired because I didn’t have a solid commercial background in design. However, I learned enough to generate a portfolio of magic marker renderings and key-line and paste up examples, which was enough to secure jobs that were production oriented and that fed me during my first two years in Chicago. And, with some good fortune, luck and a personal curiosity, I found myself at a design conference in 1978 and, finally, an opportunity to become an assistant to a very reputable designer here in Chicago who was in his late 50s, early 60s. His name was Bruce Beck. I stayed with Bruce for a little over three years, and when Bruce retired, I went out on my own.

Rick’s thoughts on getting started:

One of the first projects on my own was working as a freelancer of sorts. I wasn’t really working for other designers, but primarily as a textbook art director in a team of designers for a major Chicago textbook publisher. And, one thing lead to another. I started to secure lots of textbook work and work from smaller clients who needed identities, menus or what have you. Pretty soon I developed a reputation of being a good designer, easy to work with and reliable. And that’s what I’ve practiced ever since.

Working with Scitex:

The Scitex people actually wanted to start a school that taught people how to use Photoshop. They were looking at two designers in the final round. I remember one was April Greiman and the other was Thirst. As a fairly early adaptor to Photoshop, back in the days when there were no layers and only one undo, they gave us an opportunity to create magical images in a pretty straightforward piece. Now that was a fun project.

On the rewards of work:

Rewards for me come on a lot of levels. Looking back on all the work I’ve been involved with, whether it be individual or collaborative, I can’t say that this or that design has changed the complexion of contemporary society. There are very little examples of that kind of thing because the only one that comes to mind happened so long ago. I did that little ‘ear’ symbol in 1978. Maybe you’ve seen the little insignia at movie theatres or banks. It notifies/declares information access is available for the hearing impaired. Since then, the insignia has gone through all sorts of variations, as does any design over time. The original, however, was featured in I.D. Magazine and has become sort of a standard. That’s one little gem.

On icons and special projects:

Do I have an icon in my portfolio like Milton Glaser? Not yet. But, I do have work of mine in the Chicago community that is public and visible, and I think, it’s standing the test of time nicely, some better than others. We’re currently collaborating with an artist and group of architects on a 9/11 memorial for the victims from Hoboken, New Jersey. The memorial will be an island in the Hudson River. The island will be a kind of quiet destination, with very smart typographic narrative on the bridge. And, when you get there, each of the victims will be identified in a respectful way. This project continues to be a very good use of each of our gifts.

Rick’s thoughts on doing things differently:

Some have said that I should spell my name with an ‘s’ instead of a ‘c’ — Risk. But, I don’t feel that I take a lot of risks. It’s just been the natural way I’ve gone about doing things. And, I don’t know if I would do anything differently. Though, I would be curious to know, what would have happened if I would have landed in New York or London instead of Chicago?

On new business development:

Doing this interview is at the heart of my new business development program. I often tell my story to other people with the hope that they will pass it along. So far it’s worked. This year is the 20th anniversary of Thirst. At the end of 2007, we moved the studio back to the City proper which has brought us new energy and a reduced staff. The four of us in the studio now are planning to take a more aggressive and targeted stance toward business development which should be fun. All of us want to turn our direction to people, places, and things we’ve never explored.

Thoughts on the inspiration of attending workshops and seminars:

Absolutely I attend seminars and workshops. Having been a presenter or attendee at various conferences and workshops on four continents so far, has provided me with the opportunity to meet hundreds of designers, both in and outside of their environments.

Two years ago, I took Milton Glaser’s week-long course at the School of Visual Arts in New York. And, for the two summers prior, I attended the design inquiry at MCAD in Portland, Maine. The first year I enrolled as a participant; the second, I was invited to be a workshop leader. So, yes, I do try to stay fresh. By attending conferences one can become inspired. I also try to do as much creative work outside of the studio as I can; without the influence or permission of the client.

Giving back as a new business development strategy:

For the last 10 years, every five weeks or so I’ve traveled to a different university, college or AIGA chapter. That’s a lot of visitations, and for most, I don’t charge a fee. My reason for going is to share my work. I sit in on critiques and have assigned projects for the students to complete before I arrive. Then we review those projects while I’m there. It’s a good exchange of energy, I see the future generation of designers and get a lot of enjoyment out of doing it; hopefully the students do, too. Interestingly enough, over the years I’ve had the chance to continue to work with some of those people whom I’ve met. And occasionally designers I’ve met want to collaborate with me, or provide an opportunity, and it all works out.

Final thoughts for those just starting out:

I would just like to remind those who are just starting out that this is not an easy profession to stay completely excited with all the time. It is difficult, and it requires us to put ourselves out there. When we share an idea with someone, that idea comes under scrutiny. The scrutiny that it comes under often isn’t an endorsement of our idea. Sometimes it’s a harsh critique of our idea. And those ideas come from a special place within us. It hurts when your little baby of an idea gets kicked around. So the only message I can pass along is to enjoy the process; enjoy the learning. You are only given the opportunity when you are ready to take it. Find ways to conceal compromise. Reach out to other people. And, put some good things out into the world for us to see!

About Rick Valicenti of Thirst: A Design Collaborative

Rick forms relationships with his clients, and he earns their trust. What results is a personal conversation which draws on all of the clients’ experiences and fuses the boundaries between expression and promotion. While each individual piece may at times seem bizarre, slick, cold or inscrutable, the work as a whole has continuity, passion and depth. While Rick’s style has been emulated, the essence of his work is seldom recaptured.

Rick has juried countless design award competitions, including the Presidential Design Awards for the National Endowment for the Arts. His work is included in the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and the 2006 Triennial, Design Life Now, and has been featured, critiqued and lauded in design publications worldwide, and has garnered awards from AR100, Graphis, CA, Print, Step, New York Art Directors Club, ACD100, Tokyo Art Directors and I.D. Magazine, among others. He has lectured extensively and exhibited his work around the world. Rick is a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI), has served as president of the Society of Typographic Arts and was awarded the AIGA Chicago Fellow Award in 2004 for his steadfast commitment to the education of design’s future generations and the AIGA Medal in 2006, for his sustained contribution to design excellence and development of the profession. The Medal is the highest honor in the graphic design profession.

Rick Valicenti designs in collaboration with John Pobojewski, Bud Rodecker, Matt Daly, Tom Vack, Jeanne Gang/Studio Gang, and Janet Echleman.

Interview by Will Sherwood, MA, MSP
CEO/Chief Creative Officer
The Sherwood Group, Graphic Design / Web Design

24402 Vista Ridge Drive
Santa Clarita, CA 91355

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Success Secrets from Milton Glaser:

  • You have to work your ass off. You have to think about [work] as being the primary issue in your life. You have to pursue whatever talent you have and develop it.
  • I think entering award shows can be questionable because very often you don’t understand the vested interest that’s involved in putting them together. And they become a kind of trick of magazines and institutions to support their own efforts.
  • I’ve never had a new business development plan of any kind in place.


What does it take to succeed?

That is one of those cosmic questions that have absolutely no answer. And I’m going to be very evasive about general questions because I don’t believe many of them are answerable. They end up in jargon. They say, yes, hard work, conscientiousness, early talent, good luck, support of the mother, and all the rest of it. But it’s so rarely informative that I have to admit that I truly don’t know. The only thing I can think of was an illness in early childhood that forced me to become introspective. I rheumatic fever when I was a kid, about 8 years old. That kept me bedridden for about a year. It seems to me that there are trials that occur early, that provoke introspection, and that may be responsible for the commitment to your own invention.


Of all your work, what are you most gratified to have done?

I can’t say I am most gratified by anything. I think the issue for old-time professionals is sustaining. Right? What you want to do is keep working until you die. My great hope, and I’ve said this before, comes from an essay that I think is by, T.S. Eliot on the subject, where he says: “ The greatest blessing in life would be to die in the midst of work.”



Would you do anything differently?

Glaser: Oh, Probably thousands of things.

Sherwood: (Laugher) Anything that stands out?

Glaser: Not really. It’s so hard. As the Buddha says: “ Good yields evil. Evil yields good.” So it’s impossible to understand the consequence of any single action. As Groucho Marks said, “If I’d known I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” But, outside of that, I don’t know if I could have done anything else.


Views on business development:

Sherwood: Do you have a new business development program in place?

Glaser: I do not. I’ve never had a new business development plan of any kind in place.

Sherwood: Really? How do you get clients? By meeting people and networking?

Glaser: Stumbling into people. Doing work that people noticed.

Sherwood: I recall the coffee table book, “Milton Glaser: Graphic Design.” Do you think that helped you to become recognized? Perhaps award shows?

Glaser: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t even know how to answer that. I think people seeing your work helps your business.



On entering award shows:

I think entering award shows can be questionable because very often you don’t understand the vested interest that’s involved in putting them together. And they become a kind of trick of magazines and institutions to support their own efforts. And you have to be wary about it, although it is the way that people get noticed. It indicates that somebody approves of your work, and therefore it must have some credibility. But I haven’t done very much of it in recent years because I became well known enough without it.



Ongoing training:

Sherwood: Do you attend workshops or seminars? I know you give those on occasion. However, have you ever taken those to improve your skills?

Glaser: The only one I can think of recently was about 10 yrs ago. I took a workshop on how to make monoprints. And, I used the information that I learned to produce a series of drawings to illustrate Dante’s “The Divine Comedy.” That particular workshop was exceedingly useful to me.



On building and sustaining a career:

Sherwood: If someone new to our industry were to ask you how build and sustain a carrier, what would you say?

Glaser: (Laughter) Well, you have to work your ass off. You have to think about that as being the primary issue in your life. You have to pursue whatever talent you have and develop it. Oh, I don’t know. All of the banal things that people will tell you about your own energy and desire are true, but you simply have to work hard. I don’t think of work as my job. I think of it as my life. The engine of desire is what drives the accomplishment.


Additional thoughts:

Sherwood: Is there any additional advice you might give to someone just starting out?

Glaser: Not outside of working hard. I mean what else is there to do? And it’s probably very good from a business point of view to be nice to people to people that you meet because they may re-enter your life. And is suppose networking for business is an important part to sustaining a livelihood. I’ve never done it, but I suppose from a business point of view it’s an essential part of building your career.



About Milton Glaser:

Milton Glaser (b. 1929) is among the most celebrated graphic designers in the United States. He has had the distinction of one-man-shows at the Museum of Modern Art and the Georges Pompidou Center. In 2004 he was selected for the lifetime achievement award of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. As a Fulbright scholar, Glaser studied with the painter, Giorgio Morandi in Bologna, and is an articulate spokesman for the ethical practice of design. He cofounded Push Pin Studios in 1954 and founded Milton Glaser, Inc. in 1974, and continues to produce an astounding amount of work in many fields of design to this day.

Success Secrets from Michael Bierut:

  • Clients are most afraid that you’re going to go off and design something without really listening first.
  • Just keep asking questions: the more you ask, the more you’ll understand what the client is looking for in a designer.
  • Life’s too short to spend your time talking on the phone with people who make your knuckles white during the course of the conversation.

About Michael:

Michael Bierut is a partner in the New York office of the international consultancy Pentagram. His graphic design work has been collected by major museums around the world. He has served as the president of the AIGA’s New York chapter and of its national organization. He was elected to the Art Directors Hall of Fame in 2003, received the AIGA Medal in 2006, and received the Design Mind award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in 2008. He is a co-founder of the world’s biggest design blog,, the author of 79 Short Essays on Design from Princeton Architectural Press, and on the faculty of Yale University’s School of Art and School of Management.

Early Beginnings:

I decided when I was in high school that I wanted to become a graphic designer without ever having met one or really knowing that much about what they did. I liked art, and I particularly liked commercial art.

I’m from Ohio, and in my state the University of Cincinnati had a program in graphic design at their school of design. I got my degree there. And right after I graduated, I moved to New York and got my first job working with Massimo and Lella Vignelli at Vignelli Associates.

I worked there for over ten years and then joined Pentagram. That was my second, and last job.

The business structure at Pentagram:

Pentagram currently has 17 partners and probably just as many retired partners or ex-partners. So there’s an enormous body of work that’s been done on Pentagram’s behalf by people working at Pentagram for the past 35 or so years.

And because of that, our name is fairly well known, and a great deal of business comes from referrals.

But also, because of the way we’re structured, we actually don’t need that much work to stay busy and to run a good business. Our overhead is really low. We don’t have account executives or new business people.

Every one of those 17 partners is a working designer with clients. Each of the partners hires his or her own design team to support the work that they do.

Each team runs its own profit and loss. So each team is financially accountable, and tends to be very careful about how it uses money and how many people it hires to be as efficient as possible. As a result, each of those 17 studios within Pentagram really doesn’t need that much work to keep busy. It’s not like a typical multi-national firm that has a pyramid structure, where they need constant new business activity just to feed a big monster that consists of a lot of non-billing overhead people.

People who’ve influenced Michael’s work:

I could name thousands and thousands and thousands. While I was in school I interned for a guy in Cincinnati named Dan Bittman. He’s a star in Cincinnati, but isn’t as well known anywhere else, but he had a real influence on me. I also worked as an intern in Boston with Chris Pullman at WGBH. That had some influence on me I’d say. And then, I’ve been working in these two jobs, my first job for ten years with Lella and Massimo, and my second job, here at Pentagram, for 18 years and counting.

When I was younger I had dozens of heroes who ranged from the obvious people, like Paul Rand and Milton Glaser, to less obvious ones like Corita Kent and Don Trousdell. From classic designers like Armin Hofmann and Josef Müller-Brockman, all the way to great MAD magazine illustrators like Don Martin or Mort Drucker.

You can see I’ve always had very eclectic tastes and have admired lots of different people. And now at Pentagram, I have six partners that I work with side-by-side. They’re just as influential on me today as anyone else.

Favorite Accomplishment:

About 15 years ago, I was having a conversation with one of my partners, Paula Scher, and we were talking about our clients and our work and I remember saying back then, “If I only had a half dozen clients that I really liked, that I really liked talking to and who I really respected for the way that they made their money, and I really felt I was making a contribution through my talents, and that I could give the best of what I do, if I could just have six of those people, that would be all I’d ask for.”

I sort of dreamt about that for a while, and a few years ago, around seven years or so, I just decided life’s to short to spend my time talking on the phone to people who make my knuckles white while I’m having a conversation. I decided that I was not going to do that anymore.

I think I’m a very polite guy. I don’t have it in me to actually fire clients outright. You can probably tell that from the fact that I’ve only had two jobs and I’ve been married to the same woman for 28 years, and she’s the first girl I ever kissed. So I’m not much for breaking up with careers or with women or with clients.

I can’t say I went out and fired all of them. But one by one, I managed to trail off from doing things that I didn’t like. So if I’m proud of anything now, it’s that I have clients that I work with where the client is someone who I first met as long ago as 1981 or 1982, and I’ve done every single thing that they’ve ever commissioned a graphic designer to do between then and now.

When one of them comes back and they have some new project they think might be interesting for me, it’s always really, really nice to feel that I have those kind of relationships over the long term. I end up learning a lot from people like that who are smart and do interesting things and who introduce me to worlds that I wouldn’t have access to having just gone to design school.

Michael’s thoughts on the keys to success:

Most of the stuff we work with in our profession has some kind of text that goes along with it. Graphic design is about putting together words and pictures, and I’ve always sensed, even in design school, that a lot of designers weren’t into the words. To them, the words were just areas of gray space to be manipulated, moved around, and dispensed with.

I’ve always been a very faithful reader, even a compulsive reader, and I’ve found that if I read and try to understand what I’m working on, that the words gave me a surprising edge in the situation. At first I thought it was just other designers who weren’t reading the text, but then it turns out, a lot of times, that the clients haven’t read the text either.

It’s amazing how many people don’t take the time to actually read the stuff that they’re saying, the stuff that is so important and has to be designed and mass-produced and distributed to the public.

And a lot of times, if you engage with the content, you find out ways to design more precisely for the assignment. You find out ways to improve it. And sometimes you can make the suggestion to throw it out all together and replace it with something better.

The designers that I’ve always liked, the ones that I’ve always hired, the ones that I’ve liked working with, the ones that I respect, always seem to be ones that are very attuned to the content of what they’re working with, and connected to whom the audience is for that content.

I think there are plenty of designers out there who are good at resolving a formal composition. I’m not even sure I’m really that good at that to tell you the truth. But I’ve found that if you sort out the substance of the message, you end up getting a result that’s not just more effective, but actually might have more resonance with the people it’s intended to reach.

On doing things differently:

I have three kids, and if any of them proposed to me that they want to go directly after an MFA in design, I probably would try to stop them from doing it, to tell you the truth.

Instead, I would recommend that they get some general knowledge first. For example, right now my daughter’s about to graduate from a four-year liberal arts college, and she’s spent four years reading books and learning about everything. When I was her age, I was spending hours and hours and hours doing the kind of things one did in design school: hand lettering type, cutting things up with Xacto knives, hand painting color swatches, and cutting them out and combining them, things that people don’t do at all today in the computer world.

I spent literally months on end doing that sort of stuff and my daughter meanwhile has been reading the great books and communing with really intelligent professors and engaging in stimulating discussions with fellow students.

Throughout my adult life, I’ve been imagining that a time will come when I’ll be able to go back and do all that. And then you start to realize that point may never come. That would be my greatest regret I’d say.

The toughest thing Michael’s ever had to do:

The hardest thing to do is to own up to making a mistake. A few times in my life I’ve made big mistakes that, in some cases, have ended up costing me a lot of money. If I’ve gotten inspiration from where in these situations, I think it would be from the story of a structural engineer named William LeMessurier. He was the engineer for the Citicorp Tower in Manhattan. After it was finished and occupied, he realized that he had made a miscalculation that meant the building might topple over in a high wind. This is a career-ending mistake. But instead of covering his butt or calling in an army of lawyers to protect him, he simply went to the head of Citi and said he had made this mistake and he wanted to fix it. They were so disarmed by his forthrightness that they actually worked with him to fix the problem and he came out with his reputation intact. Being honest like that requires real bravery, but LeMessurier’s story proves that it’s worth it

Michael’s tips for getting new business:

I am really good at getting new business. And there are simple tricks for doing it. But sometimes I’m reluctant to tell many people these tricks because I feel like I’m able to go in and get a lot of work just because no one else seems to know them.

One is, if you spend a lot of time asking questions and are sincerely interested in the client and his or her business, a lot of times they’ll think that you’re really smart and you really “get them.” You may not be smart or get them at all, but because you’re open to the idea of learning about them, they’ll give you more credit than you perhaps deserve.

What to avoid in a new business pitch:

Most designers, when they’re going in to pitch a new client, have prepared very, very carefully. They’ve selected the portfolio they want to show, they get all their talking points worked out, and they’ve perhaps even researched the client in advance and actually are going to demonstrate their acumen by telling the client what kind of conclusions they’ve drawn about their business already.

All those things are worth doing, but a lot of times the result is they’re so eager to start rolling, that if they’ve got sixty minutes for the presentation, then they have sixty minutes worth of solid material to fill that, and then some.

I’ll go into meetings and I’ll put off the moment where I have to present my work as long as I possibly can. I’ll just keep asking questions and questions and questions and questions and of course, the more questions, the more they’re telling you what they’re looking for in a designer.

Thoughts on how to present your work to new prospects:

The more you talk with them, the more they tell you what they want to know about you. So, after you’ve asked a lot of questions, when you start showing them your work, you know what to focus on, things that you know now are relevant to their situation and that are answering questions that they have, that are in the spheres of interest to them.

I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t present this way, but every once in a while I’ll get a client who will tell me what the other presentations were like. And it’s funny to hear sometimes.

Dealing with prospect insecurities:

Clients just want to be sure they don’t make the wrong decision. And if they don’t have that much experience working with designers, they’ll go into a presentation ill at ease and feeling insecure. It’s just the way it is. For them it’s new and uncomfortable. It’s different from other situations in their life because they usually feel very capable and in command.

But when meeting with designers, they might not think they have any taste or know anything about design or something like that, right? They have a kind of fear and insecurity.

Most designers, when they’re pitching, when they’re selling themselves, think the way to allay the client’s insecurity is by demonstrating absolute confidence. They try to let the prospect know that they shouldn’t worry: “I really know what I’m doing. I’m a real expert. Look at all this stuff I’ve done. I really know your business. I spent time researching it. I’m on top of everything. You have nothing to fear. I’m really competent. You have no reason to worry.”

The prospects greatest fear:

And the problem is they miss the one over-arching fear that clients tend to have, that you’re not going to listen to them. That’s what they’re really afraid of. They’re afraid that you’re going to go off and design something, and not really listen to whatever it is they need. And, if you’ve managed to fill a sixty-minute presentation with sixty minutes worth of bragging about your skills, you’ve basically confirmed exactly what it is they’re most afraid of.

They’re not afraid that you’re a bad designer. They’re afraid you’re a good designer who is going to go off and do something that has nothing at all to do with what their problem is.

Thoughts on the importance of curiosity:

If you read a lot and you’re genuinely curious about the world, you’ll go far in this profession, because there simply aren’t that many people who are able to combine graphic design talent with genuine curiosity about the world.

The great thing about our profession is the nature of the designer/client relationship. You’re always put together with someone who is coming in with a new perspective. And I think designers complain about that sometimes. They say, “My biggest challenge is educating the client.” I never, ever talk about educating the client. I don’t believe in it.

Avoiding bad design:

In fact, when I see bad design, it’s not because the client hasn’t been educated. It’s because the designer hasn’t been educated by the client. I don’t mean taking orders from a hack client. I mean genuinely becoming sympathetic and interested with what the client is trying to communicate, what makes them interesting and special.

Success Secrets from Hillman Curtis:

  • There’s a lot to gain by approaching this field as craft that can be developed.
  • Do things you love to do. The Artist Series started out as a purely personal project and became a serious part of our business.
  • When you have the attitude of looking at the client as a collaborator and not as a hurdle, you’ll often find that every client is a good client.

Early beginnings:

Both my parents were high school teachers, my mother an art teacher and my step dad, history. My step dad also collected books and as a kid I was drawn to these huge poster books in his collection…mostly dealing with world war two propaganda. I would spend hours looking through the images. Big bold posters with strong imagery and often little or no text. I didn’t know it at the time but I was looking at graphic design. Later in my twenties, I was a Rock and Roll musician in San Francisco. I was on a couple of different labels, MCA was the last one, and my story is not uncommon; built up by A and R people, managers and agents and then unceremoniously dropped. I was 30 years old when MCA pulled the plug… I’d just gotten married, and after chasing the music thing for 10 years, working the odd jobs that go along with that – waiter, bartender, house painter, all that stuff – I decided that I was done. It was time to get a career of some sort.

The problem was I didn’t have a clue as to what that career would be. But during the time that I was in bands I was also the guy who made the posters and the flyers. I started with rub-on letters and so on and some of them were actually pretty good. I definitely drew on the bold and simple imagery of the propaganda posters I’d seen ten years earlier in my step-dads books. Other bands started asking me to design their posters and fliers and so when I got dropped I took what little money I had made in music and enrolled in a Photoshop class at a night school.

Because I was older than everyone there, even the teachers, I was desperate. When I started, I couldn’t move a mouse, but I picked it up really quickly. I got some internships and worked my way up. And after a year or two got hired as a contractor at Macromedia and eventually became the Art Director at there.

Hillman’s thoughts on going into business:

When I was at Macromedia, I learned a lot. It was really my first real job. And it was exciting. After six or seven months, I met Neville Brody, who came in to redesign the brand and identity of the company. Neville had this confidence and a sense of purpose. You immediately sensed that design was serious and that your work, the choices you made, had to be justified. He showed me that design was not to be taken lightly, and that if your were going to do you needed to do it without compromise.

What I experienced working briefly with Neville made me think about next steps. I’d been at Macromedia three years at this point…and I felt that I’d done what I could do there.

At the same time, my wife and I decided we wanted to live in a world city. San Francisco is a beautiful city, but small, slow with a provincial mind set. So we moved from san Francisco to New York city. I stayed at Macromedia, working long distance for a few months, but that clearly wasn’t going to work so I decided I’d give my own business a go. I sold what little stock I had in Macromedia and used it to fund the start of my company.

First clients:

In 1998, every one was interested in flash, and my business grew by word of mouth. Having come from Macromedia, and having been there when they acquired Flash, I knew a lot about the then new software. I had also designed and implemented the first Flash website for Macromedia, and I had a few other, high-profile Macromedia jobs under my belt that were Flash-based. It was a small portfolio, but it made it easier to get projects .

When I got to New York, I rented a desk at a design company called RazorFish. This turned out to be extremely beneficial to me both as a designer and as a person new to new york. The people at Razorfish welcomed me into their community and I remain grateful for that to this day.

It became very clear, very quickly that New York City was a big and intense place, but it had this incredibly tightknit and very supportive design community. As soon as I entered the community, I started to make contacts and get referrals and advice.

The first job I got was making small web ads for Intel through an ad agency called DSW out of Salt Lake City. I did those ads for a couple hundred bucks a pop.

This was around 1999-2000 and the dot com boom was just getting fired up. Pretty soon the projects got better and the rates got higher.

I’d worked hard to put myself in a good position and was able to take advantage of some of the opportunities. The dot com boom allowed me an opportunity to move from small flash ads to larger site design. And that’s where it continues today. I rarely do Flash anymore, just for prototyping and for components on larger website designs.

Business development today:

I’m in a fortunate position in that I’ve done some large jobs and they’ve turned out well. That has led to new design opportunities. My film work is growing quite well too. It’s followed a similar course starting small – with short personal films – and growing into commercials, and directing.

Influential figures in design:

I’ve been influenced by everyone who’s profiled in The Artist Series, a series of short films I did on designers. They were chosen specifically because of that.

I fund the series myself, and it’s a very personal work. One of the rules I made was that I would only interview people who had a direct influence on me as a designer, or somehow made it easier for me to become a designer.

I haven’t had time to interview a lot of the people whom I’d like to include in the series, though. One would be Neville Brody. Another would be Kyle Cooper. Another would be, if he were alive, Tibor Kalman.

Marketing to diverse audiences:

Quite often, people look to us or to me specifically for web design, or they come to the site simply for the films, and they have no idea we do both. But we just launched a redesign of our site…Hopefully it will be easier for people to understand that we do design and film (and occasionally write a book).

On my site, in the section on film, you can watch all of The Artist Series videos as well as short films and commercials. AIGA is also a good place to go to see The Artist Series, but it’s not the most current.

Turning personal work into serious business:

The Artist Series started with design, and now it’s expanded. I’ve produced shots on a film maker — Mark Romanek — and the one on the conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner. I am always looking to expand.

The Artist Series has led to commercial work as well. We probably did 10 or 12 web commercials for Adobe’s CS2 about a year and a half ago, plus one for BMW, a series for SVA, and four for Blackberry. This thing that started out as a purely personal project has become a serious part of our business.

Most outstanding accomplishments:

The Artist Series on Milton Glaser certainly is one of my favorites. It turned out particularly well. The new one on Sagmeister is very good. I particularly like the Mark Romanek piece. And the latest – Lawrence Weiner – is quite good. I am also excited by the dramatic films we’re doing.

So far we’ve done about 6 or 7 short films. We won “best dramatic film” from the last year’s Webby Awards. And this year we have three competing against each other.

I’m trying to focus on writing scripts and working with actors at this point. I’m still doing The Artist Series and the commercials, but my goal is to make a feature length film.

Hillman’s thoughts on the keys to success:

I’ve found something that I’m good at. I think that was part of it. Design and Film both utilize a lot of the skills and talents that I was fortunate enough to be born with. That’s not to say it always comes easy. It doesn’t. I’ve worked very hard over the last ten or twelve years. I often tell students or my interns that one reason I’ve been able to do what I’ve done in this industry is simply because I worked harder than other people. That’s changing as I get older, but for the first five or six years of my running my business was often 6am to 8pm, 5 or 6 nights a week.

I like doing commercial work, but I often struggle with it. I think all commercial artist do. There’s always a time in any given project where you question your values…or your choices.

Commercial work encourages me, or maybe even forces me, to explore other purely personal and artistic endeavors, such as the documentary film work and now the dramatic film work, which then in turn… feeds the commercial work.

It’s been an effort to move in directions that are pro-active and not reactive. In this business it’s easy to be reactive and go where the work is. For example, we designed the Yahoo! Home page and we worked with Yahoo! for three years designing or helping them conceptualize many different things.

That brought in a lot of phone calls from other companies that wanted the same thing. They wanted that same sort of portal design. And it would have been really easy to aggressively pursue that business, and probably quite profitable, and possibly very beneficial to the company. But it didn’t seem like the right path for me.

I fear complacency. It’s important to question your work, stay involved and engaged in the work.

On working with consultants:

Sometimes I question my need to keep my company very, very small. I’ve certainly had opportunities to grow bigger. And I suppose, I probably could have managed the business better and not had as much worry or stress. But I like the way a small company works and I still love the hands on designing, directing and editing. I’ve never been a natural manager.

Hillman’s thoughts on building and sustaining a career:

All I know is how I built my career. I may have benefited by coming in as an outsider, someone who hadn’t had schooling. I was always, and still am open-minded about the craft. I’ve never gotten cynical, and I know I’ll always have a lot to learn…which is good. For example I still have trouble identifying a lot of fonts. (Laughter.)

I always try to remind myself that whatever situation you find yourself in, there’s something there for you. There’s some building brick there for you personally, or for your career… something to learn. And that’s how, that’s really how I’ve always approached it.

It’s really about maintaining humility. It’s coming in and being quiet and very careful and thoughtful with the work and your responsibility to whatever brand or person you decide to work for.

On getting good clients:

That’s harder. I would say that almost every client is a good client. Some people might argue with me about that, but it’s how you relate to the client. I’ve always advocated including the client in the early stage, the middle stage, and the late stage of the design process. That seemed to work for me. I know that it doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s an attitude of looking at the client as a collaborator and not as a hurdle. That has made most of my clients really good clients.

If you’re looking for marquee clients who have big brands behind them, and are going to look really nice in your portfolio, that’s something that I don’t know that I can answer. I am attracted to that as well, but usually I am influenced more by how open or just plain nice someone is. I want to know I can work with someone…that’s the most important thing.

I think that no matter who the client is, we need to include them as creative partners in the process. I believe that everyone is creative and sometimes their creativity is manifested in different ways than my own. And, I shouldn’t take them for granted, and I should approach them with respect and be open to their ideas…to a point. Part of my job is listening and considering ideas and feedback and part of it involves saying no from time to time.

Outside activities:

Family is most important.. So my life now is maybe 9 to 6:00 at work, and then it’s all family.

I don’t play golf, and I don’t hunt or ski or anything like that. The main thing I do as a hobby is make my short movies. Working with the actors and writing scripts has become my main outlet.

I still do accept some speaking engagements. They help keep me on track too, because I have to think about what I’m going to talk about, and thinking about my speech reminds me of what’s important to the design or film that I’m doing at the moment.

Meeting new people is also refreshing.

Additional thoughts:

It’s a wonderful craft. There’s a lot to gain by approaching this field as craft that can be developed. It’s something you can grow with. And I think it’s a wonderful thing to be able to do as your life’s work. You just need to find ways to fight the cynicism that can come from doing commercial work. It’s easy to get cynical.

You have to believe that even in the driest and most bland corporate work, you can reach someone. And that’s sometimes hard to imagine or remember, but it’s there. What we do is concerned with communication…reaching people…and if you’re lucky, moving them.

About Hillman Curtis:

Hillman Curtis is the Principal and Chief Creative Officer of, inc., a digital design firm in New York City. His expert and innovative design solutions have garnered him and his company the multiple Communication Arts Awards of Excellence, the One Show Gold, Silver and Bronze, the South by Southwest Conference “Best Use of Design” and “Best of Show”, the New Media Invision Bronze, a Web Award, How magazine’s Top 10, and multiple Webby Awards.

Hillman was named as one of the top ten designers by the IPPA, included in the “ten most wanted” by IDN magazine, and as one of the “Worlds best Flash designers” by Create Online.

He has appeared as the keynote and featured speaker at design conferences worldwide and his work has been featured in a variety of major design publications. Hillman’s first book, Flash Web Design (New Riders, USA) has sold over to 100 thousand copies and has been translated into 14 languages. His second book, MTIV, Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer, has become required reading at design schools worldwide. It’s currently in its third printing, and has been translated into 5 languages.

Hillman’s recent work includes major projects for AOL, Yahoo!, the American Institute of Graphic Designers as well as a documentary series on designers and artists and a series of short narrative films. Additionally, his music videos have been added to MTV2 USA, MTV Nordic, MTV European, MTV France, MTV Italy, and Much Music Canada.

His latest book, Hillman Curtis on Creating Short Films for the Web was released in September. Hillman is currently busy leading multiple design initiatives for Yahoo!, including the recent homepage redesign and My Yahoo concept designs. He is also producing online commercial documentaries (documercials) for Adobe, BMW and others and continues to write, direct and produce personal films.


Success Secrets from Mirko Ilic:

  • If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, they can never pay you enough.
  • It’s much easier to think for 8 hours and work for 2, than the opposite.
  • Follow your dream. Do whatever it takes. If it happens, that’s great. And if it doesn’t, at least you’ll know you tried. That’s how I built my business.
  • Getting good clients is like dating. It’s about building a personal relationship, building trust.


Early beginnings:

Going into art was just easier. I was not good at sports. I’m okay in mathematics and in most other things, but somehow art was much easier for me than anything else.  It was a simple decision.

When I first started out, at that time I was living in Yugoslavia, I was leaving my illustrations at different newspapers.  The first illustration that was published, didn’t even have my credit line. I was so eager to publish, that I was leaving the illustrations around without my name on them.

They liked them, (Laughter) but they didn’t know who to give the credit to. I showed up a week later and said, “Oh, that was my illustration.”  They said, “Great, do more.”

That was basically how I started, going round and knocking on the doors.  When you’re young and arrogant, you don’t have anything to lose. So why not?

NYT opEd: Pafko at the Wall (1992). Art direction, design, illustration: Mirko Ilic.
Pafko at the Wall

Broadway Book War

Russia Comes Apart

Starting his career:

I was born in a Communist country and the only employment available at that time was working for a government controlled company. So instead, I chose to freelance. I was one of the few, maybe even one of the first freelancers in my country.

Since I didn’t want to work for the government, it turned out that my first full-time job was when I became art director at Time magazine for all the international editions. I was 31 at the time.

I was there only 6 months. I quit, disagreeing with the look of the redesign of Time magazine. I was supposed to use the new look in Time International, which I was in charge of.  A few months later, I got an offer from the New York Times op-ed pages.




Influential figures from design:

During different periods, I’ve been influenced by different people.  As I grew up things changed, and over the years, I enjoyed many styles and many professions.

I gained lots of influence from European designers and illustrators because I was born there, but also from Americans.  I didn’t know much about famous designers, but the American underground had quite a huge influence on me too.

In 1972, I saw the illustration work of Brad Holland published in a Graphis Annual. It was so powerful. I figured that illustration was serious business and I started to pay much more attention.

Then around 1974 a friend of mine showed me Milton Glaser’s book. When I saw his work I thought, “Wow, I could be an illustrator and a designer at the same time!”  After that, I found my passion.







The Anatomy of Design
Gate-fold book by Mirko Ilic & Steven Heller uncovering the influences of graphic design (Rockport).

Thoughts on planning:

When I was 19, I made a list of the 10 most important comics. I promised myself that I would publish my work there, and everybody was laughing.  But by the time I was 26, I had published in all of those magazines.

When I came to the United States, I had a list that included The New York Times, Time magazine and Playboy.  (chuckling)

Apple’s Growing Ecosystems

This is a funny story.  My first week in New York, I got to do cover sketches for Time magazine.  During my second week I got to do an illustration for The New York Times.  But Playboy was in Chicago. So I didn’t get to do Playboy at that time.

Then, maybe three or four years ago I mentioned this fact to someone in an interview and I got call from Playboy! Now I’m regularly drawing and doing illustrations for them.


Mirko’s thoughts on changing directions:

I get bored doing one kind of thing for too long.  For example, I was doing editorial illustrations for a long time, but I wanted to do book design. And somehow I muscled myself into designing books.  Most often you need to have designed a book to be able to show around because everybody wants to see something before they give you a job. Fortunately for me, I stumbled into that first assignment and it got me started.

Then because I was designing books, I started to write books.  Then one of the people for whom I was designing a book, architect Adam Tihany, asked me if I wanted to graphically design a hotel with him. Of course I said, “Yes.”  And now I’m designing hotels, buildings and restaurants, and that is something that, if you’d asked me at that time, I would have said, “Are you crazy?”

But I like it.  And now I’m pursuing that.  And I’m getting some awards, and publishing some work here and there.

Le Cirque (restaurant)

Favorite accomplishments:

There is no one thing that’s my most favorite accomplishment.  The most exciting things, for me, tend to happen at first: my first illustration, my first designed book, my first cover for Time magazine, my first illustration for The New York Times. It’s all quite amazing. Those sorts of thrills allow me to run empty for quite some time.  (Laughter.)

There are some things that I like more than others, of course.  But I’m quite happy with a few of the books that I wrote. The Design of Dissent: Socially and Politically Driven Graphics, which I co-authored with Milton Glaser, is a kind of achievement which is very dear and important to me. Not to mention the pleasure of working with Milton.

Also, I’m very pleased with my latest book, The Anatomy of Design: Uncovering the Influences and Inspirations in Modern Graphic Design.” I did that one with Steven Heller. We managed to squeeze almost 2,000 pieces of art into the book, which is quite an achievement.

Energy Roundtable

Energy Independence

Mirko’s thoughts on lifelong education:

Throughout my life, I’ve done what I call continuous education – educating myself whenever I can. I notice how lots of kids, especially here in the United States, don’t know much about design history. We all stand on somebody’s shoulders.

I decided to create books for kids so they can learn a little bit about the past. And it’s quite achievement for somebody who can barely speak English and is dyslexic. (Laughter.)



The Sexual Male

Mirko’s thoughts on the keys to success:

In my class in school, there were two extremely talented kids who became my friends.  They were able to draw blindfolded. I figured that only way to equal them was to work harder and try to be brighter. Then I discovered that working is not enough.  One needs to think about what one is doing. I discovered that it’s much easier to think for 8 hours and work for 2, than the opposite.

Thinking about what I do before I sit in front of a white table or computer screen is really, really important. Then once when I have the idea, I work like a dog.  (Laughter.)

The Scent of War

Not Much Has Changed in a System that Failed

The Havoc in Yugoslavia


On doing things differently:

I would love to build, be an engineer and build bridges.  I think bridges are amazing.  They’re like birds that fly on the ground.  They connect people. They’re such positive things. They’re like sculptures, floating in air.  It’s quite amazing.

Mirko’s Toughest Challenge:

Probably the toughest creatively challenging period was in 1991 when civil war broke out in the former Yugoslavia. I managed to see my primary school in my small home town in Bosnia on CNN, which was showing Serbian militiamen killing women who lay face down on the sidewalk in front of the school. As war was spreading, I was glued to the television set for days and nights, trying to reach my mother on the phone, who was still living there. It was very hard to find reasons to draw or create pretty images.



Liberty and Justice

Mirko’s hobbies:

I collect old books.  I visit all the book fairs, and collect magazines.  I do research.  I’m especially interested in the 20’s and 30’s.  I have lots of Russian Dada. I enjoy old papers.  I enjoy touching them and playing with them.  And I think that’s my biggest hobby.

Thoughts for someone just starting out:

It’s very tricky because our industry is in a big shift. It doesn’t seem to have a clear future at this point in time. We are now focused on the promise of new technology while we’re forgetting that there are still ideas that might be left behind.

There seems to be too many vice presidents making the design decisions instead of the designers.

But one thing’s for sure, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, they can never pay you enough. You must feel pleasure.  You must feel like you want to wake somebody up and show them what you’ve done.  You must feel like you’d like to run out and say, “Look, look, look, look what I did.”  That kind of feeling is more important than any amount of money.

I think when one sees the design of another person and thinks, “Wow, why didn’t I come up with that one?”  That’s the kind of design you should strive to create.

SVA: To Help See Possibilities

Thoughts on getting good clients:

Getting good clients is like dating.  It’s about building a personal relationship, building trust.

It’s tough, especially today, when most of us communicate through the internet and we don’t even see the faces of the people we’re working with. And sometimes they’re just two blocks away.

If you like what your client is doing, if you like their product, and if they like what you’re doing, if they feel the same kind of honesty from you, I think you have a chance to build a relationship.  And look, I arrived in this country in 1986, and I still work with 5-10 of the people whom I met during the very first year.





Tihany Design (booklet)

Ideas for people just starting out:

Follow your dream. Do whatever it takes. If it happens, that’s great. And if it doesn’t happen, at least you’ll know you tried. That’s how I built my business. Now, of course, I’m old and tired, actually mostly lazy; I wait for the telephone to ring or the internet to beep.  Here and there I push a little bit, but mostly the telephone rings or the internet beeps.

Additional thoughts:

It’s very important to introduce new ideas into your design. When you’re listening to music, going out to the theater, visiting museums, socializing with friends, and so forth, you will accumulate additional ideas, and from some place other than looking at other designers’ work or at the design annuals. The best ideas come from cross-pollination. Not from just recycling the same crap again and again.

Sav Taj Crtez (All Those Drawings)

About Mirko Ilic:

Mirko Ilic published his first works in 1973, and has since been publishing comics and illustrations in magazines, such as Omladinski tjednik, Modra Lasta, Tina, Pitanja, and has become the art and comics editor of the students’ magazine Polet in 1976. That’s when he helped organize an informal organization of the comic book creators Novi kvadrat (The New Square), that has been widely connected to the Novi val musical movement in Zagreb. That connection also allowed Ilic to design album covers for some of the most prominent Yugoslav bands of the time, such as Bijelo dugme, U škripcu, Prljavo kazalište, Parni Valjak, Parlament, and many others. He also wrote the song Covjek za sutra on the first album of Prljavo kazalište, but he wasn’t given the credits for the authorship. Ilic appears in Sretno dijete, Igor Mirkovi?’s documentary about the Novi val movement in Zagreb, as one of the most prominent figures of the movement.

In 1977, Ilic started publishing his works in the established comics magazines outside Yugoslavia, such as Alter Alter, Métal Hurlant and Heavy Metal. In 1980, Novi kvadrat ceaseed to exist and Ilic entirely stopped working on comics, focusing upon illustration and graphic design. In 1982, he started working for the Italian magazine Panorama, as well as for the Croatian magazine Danas. in March 1986 he left Yugoslavia and went to New York “with $1,500 in the pocket and no idea what to do upon getting there.” He soon started publishing his illustrations in Time, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and many other prominent and influential newspapers and magazines. In 1991, he became art director of Time International, and the following year he became art director of the op-eds in The New York Times.

In 1993, Ilic became one of the co-founders of Oko & Mano Inc. graphic design studio, and in 1995 he founded Mirko Ilic Corp., a graphic design and 3-D computer graphics and motion picture title studio. In 1998, he created the title sequence for the romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail.

He is a co-author of several books about graphic design: Genius Moves: 100 Icons of Graphic Design, Handwritten – expressive lettering in digital age, and Anatomy of design (all of them co-authored with Steven Heller) and Design of Dissent (with Milton Glaser).

Mirko Ilic Corp.
207 E 32nd Street
New York, NY 10016
Tel. 212.481.9737
Fax. 212.481.7088
Best Life Magazine
Published: 2005
Art director: Chris Dougherty
Illustrator: Mirko Ilic Corp.
New York Times Op-Ed
Year: 1992
Title: Pafko at the Wall
Design: Mirko Ilic
Illustration: Mirko Ilic
New York Times Op-Ed
Year: 1992
Title: Broadway Book War
Art direction: Mirko Ilic
Design: Mirko Ilic
Illustration: Mirko Ilic
New York Times Op-Ed
Year: 1992
Title: Russia Comes Apart
Art direction: Mirko Ilic
Design: Mirko Ilic
Illustration: Mirko Ilic

Time Magazine cover “Canada”
Art Director: Rudolph Hoglund
Illustrator: Mirko Ilic

Time Magazine cover “Germany”
Art director: Mirko Ilic
Designer: Mirko Ilic

The Anatomy of Design
Art director : Mirko Ilic
Designers: Mirko Ilic, Kunal Bhat
Description: Gate-fold book by Mirko Ilic & Steven Heller uncovering the influences of graphic design (Rockport).
Client: Rockport

Apple’s Growing Ecosystems
Business Week
Published: 2007
Art Director: Steven Taylor
Illustrator: Mirko Ilic Corp.

Darfur poster
art director : Mirko Ilic
designers: Mirko Ilic, Daniel Young
description: Poster to help raise awareness of Darfur crisis
client: Paradoxy Products

Le Cirque (restaurant)
Art director : Mirko Ilic
Designer: Mirko Ilic
Description: plates, stationary, and other graphics for the restaurant
Client: Le Cirque

Energy Roundtable
Client: Stanford University
Art director: Amy Shroads
Illustrator: Mirko Ilic Corp.

Energy Independence
Client: Mother Jones magazine
Art director: Tim Luddy
Illustrator: Mirko Ilic Corp.

The Sexual Male
Playboy Magazine
Art director: Rob Wilson
Illustrator: Mirko Ilic Corp.

The Scent of War
Village Voice
Year 2002
Art director: Minh Uong
Illustrator: Mirko Ilic Corp.

Not Much Has Changed in a System that Failed
The New York Times, 2002
Art director: Tom Bodkin
Illustrator: Mirko Ilic Corp.

The Havoc in Yugoslavia
Published: 1996
The New York Times Book Review
Art director: Steven Heller
Illustrator: Mirko Ilic Corp.

Liberty and Justice
Village Voice
Art director: Min Uong
Illustrator : Mirko Ilic Corp.

SVA: To Help See Possibilities
Client: The School of Visual Arts
Creative director : Anthony P. Rhodes
Art director: Michael J. Walsh
Designer: Mirko Ilic
Illustrators: Youngmin Kim, Mirko Ilic

Tihany Design (booklet)
Client: Tihany Design
Art director : Mirko Ilic
Designer: Mirko Ilic
Description: Look-book & stationary set for interior-design firm

Sav Taj Crtez (All Those Drawings)
Client: Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rijeka, Croatia
Published: 2009
Art director: Mirko Ilic
Designer: Mirko Ilic
Illustrator: Mirko Ilic, Lauren de Napoli

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