Welcome Crush Fans. In this review, PageCrush has been given the opportunity to mingle with Art Director/Photographer, Mike Plymale. Mike is currently the Art Director at LBi – Atlanta and comes with a BFA background in Graphic & Interactive Communications, and Photography. Upon graduation, Mike accepted a position with American Greetings Interactive in Cleveland Ohio as Creative Developer. He had taken that position to better his development skills and focus more on interactive design. After AGI, Mike moved to Atlanta to try and progress his career and get into a larger interactive agency. Along the way he worked for several inhouse design groups.
Mike started out with a traditional curriculum at Ringling, but started to lean towards interactive design his sophomore year. If that’s not enough, he’s also a photographer, and recently started a wedding photojournalism company “Mike Plymale Weddings” with his wife Erin. They shoot a lot of portraits and prefer to snap people but have interest in many kinds of photography, from fine art to action. Mike also creates illustrations for projects that call for it. Additionally when time allows for it, he finds his hobby in painting, which has been lost recently due to his excessive workloads, but hope to get back into that some day.
PageCrush is pleased to give you Mike Plymale…
Q. Where are you located?
Q. Can you briefly tell us how you got your start in design and the passion that brought you to what you do best?
I have been captivated by art and drawing since childhood. That fascination naturally provided direction through my education. Drafting was my main focus during the four years of high school, but it lacked the color and creativity that design offered. I enrolled in Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL to break free from AutoCAD. Ringling offered a very traditional artistic curriculum I decided to apply those fundamentals to interactive design. There is a certain sense of fulfillment my artistic inner child gets from building something people can interact and play with. I still do freelance print work today, but my passion lies in the interactive industry.
Q. Where do you most likely seek inspiration for design?
My best inspiration comes from experiences outside of the office. Sure, we all do our own due diligence keeping up on the latest techniques and technology, but true inspiration comes from life: off the screen.
Q. Did your college education teach you much of what you have learned from real world experience?
I can’t give Ringling enough credit for the techniques and theory I learned there. While there are no real substitutes for the real world lessons of collaborative team environments and client interaction, the critiques I received did help me prepare for the real world. I had some instructors who were awesome at simulating frustrated clients who’d trash your designs before you even had a chance to explain them.
Q. What is your current title and position?
Q. What does a typical day as a Senior Designer/Art Director involve? Do you work directly with clients in this position as well?
There is no typical day, really; every day is different. Yes, I do work with clients. I basically juggle meetings and design time every day.
Q. How do you deal with “hard to deal with clients” that just won’t listen to your best advice? Many creatives hit this wall constantly.
As directors/designers, we really need to understand the goal of the project and what we want to accomplish. It’s not just about making things look pretty. I try to guide the client in the direction I feel would best convey the brand and objective. Of course, many clients think they are Art Directors as well, but you cannot forget that they came to you for a reason: your expertise and talent.
Q. What is your biggest project(s) to date you are most proud to mention?
I put my best effort in every project I take on. I don’t have a favorite or one specific project that stands out, but keep an eye out for Home Depot Racing come next season!
Q. You also make mention you are in business for yourself. Can you elaborate?
Besides working at the agency, like most designers, I freelance a lot. In addition, I’ve recently begun to take on more photography assignments. While majoring in Graphic and Interactive Communication at Ringling, I minored in Photography. Together, my wife and I have started a wedding photography business in Atlanta specializing in a photojournalistic style of shooting. It gives me a different creative outlet for my weekends!
Q. Do you find yourself quite busy juggling a full time job and part time business? How do you balance your creativity?
Yes, I am extremely busy. I’ve always been that way though. I feed on deadlines and Starbucks coffee. I have to be very conscious of how I manage my time; if I have freelance to do, my personal time is sacrificed . I also try and balance a personal life and have to travel a lot. Starting a business is no joke; it can be very draining. I have been training myself to work in my sleep to make up for lost time. Three things I always have with me: my Blackberry, laptop and camera.
Q. Is your day employer flexible to this? Some folks may have a hard time making extra income due to conflict of interests.
Most of the designers I know freelance. I think it’s a given that its part of our creative life to work a lot. I’m not sure how my employer feels about it, but as long as it doesn’t interfere with work projects then it shouldn’t be an issue.
Q. How do you feel small shop design firms or freelancers come out in the long run when competing against larger agencies?
I’d love to art direct for a boutique firm as long as they were going after quality clients. That is the best thing small firms have going for them: the quality of the work they focus on. I tend to see larger firms selling themselves short just to get paid and move on to the next project.
Q. What’s the best advice in accomplishing the growing competition out there and to stay on top of it?
Q. Your portfolio reflects some fantastic branding designs. How do you get your inspiration for creating a company’s identity?
This is the part where getting out of the office is nice. I try to wrap myself around the culture that the company is looking to pursue. There is so much inspiration to grasp and most of it is not sitting on your desk.
Q. What have been your toughest challenges in the experiences you’ve had? Have these challenges ever made you second guess your career?
It has never been easy, but that’s what designers do: solve problems. I have had more life challenges than career challenges, but overcoming them has helped me stay focused on what I love in design. You don’t call it work if you love what you do.
Q. Do you consider your current role a dream job? Whether you say yes or no, where would your dream job exist and what would you be doing?
The last question kind of answered this but yes, I love what I do. I guess if I had to choose an even better career it might be getting paid the same salary to skydive every day.
Q. Do you believe the general public isn’t aware of the time, detail and dedication it takes to accomplish projects in this industry? If so, how do we as designers with respect, convey this message?
No. Many people have no idea the dedication that is put into complex sites these days. We see it all the time when outrageous deadlines are sold and under budget projects are managed. We do what we can within limits of course. The true payout is when, after months of the same screens, the final site is live and complete for the world to take in.
Q. How do you think digital multimedia will be in the future?
Who knows? I see mobile computing getting more and more intelligent. User experience is key; micro blogging and social networking have been turning heads for some time now. I’m just going to enjoy it and keep producing.
Q. Any advice you’d like to leave inspired artists and designers with?
Never stop learning and never run with scissors.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share that was not covered above?
Thanks for the time and effort to keep sites like PageCrush going! They are valuable for many designers and artists out there.
PageCrush would like to say:
Mike Plymale, your work has talent and dedication behind it. Keep the creative rolling! It has been a pleasure to have you aboard for this review. PageCrush thanks you for your time and dedication.