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Loyola Marymount

This episode comes from a livestream we hosted via YouTube in early 2020. In it, Chris fields questions from a group of design majors visiting from Loyola Marymount University.The Q&A covers topics like the difference between art and design, demonstrating your value to clients, what to charge for your work, and why there is truly nothing new under the sun.

The Difference Between Art and Design
The Difference Between Art and Design

The Difference Between Art and Design

Ep
158
Oct
13
With
Loyola Marymount
Or Listen On:

There is nothing new under the sun

This episode comes from a livestream we hosted via YouTube in early 2020. In it, Chris fields questions from a group of design majors visiting from Loyola Marymount University.

The Q&A covers topics like the difference between art and design, demonstrating your value to clients, what to charge for your work, and why there is truly nothing new under the sun.

Hosted By
special guest
produced by
edited by
music by
Appearances

Episode Transcript

Greg Gunn:

Welcome to The Future Podcast, a show that explores the interesting overlap between design, marketing and business. I'm Greg Gunn. This episode comes from a live stream that we hosted via YouTube in early 2020. And in it Chris fields questions from a group of visiting students, seniors actually, from Loyola Marymount University. The Q&A covers topics like the difference between art and design, demonstrating your value to clients, what to charge for your work and why there is truly nothing new under the sun. Enjoy.

Chris:

We're here with Loyola Marymount students here, you guys are all seniors, and I'm happy to see you. So let's kick it off. What would you like to know?

Student:

Maybe from you personally, I... This is a personal question.

Chris:

Yes.

Student:

I'm dealing with this dilemma of being an artist, but also being a designer, and maybe my question is, do you think an artist can be a designer? Do you think a designer is an artist?

Chris:

Hold that second question. Yeah. So I don't know. Carly Simon, is L-Y or L-I-E?

Student:

L-Y.

Chris:

L-Y, okay.

Student:

Thank you.

Chris:

Yes. And so you're struggling with this idea of a artist and a designer. And how do you self identify?

Student:

Currently as an artist.

Chris:

Okay. And do you have definitions in your mind about what one is versus the other?

Student:

I think one's a creator, artist.

Chris:

Okay. Artist is the creator.

Student:

And then a designer would be more of a visual communicator.

Chris:

The visual communicator.

Student:

But I think both are problem solvers.

Chris:

Okay. So they have that in common.

Student:

Both are creative.

Chris:

A problem-solver yes. Both are creative.

Student:

I'd hope.

Chris:

Yeah, for sure. And I am agreeing with you so far, I think. Both are creative. Okay. What else? And you guys, feel free to jump in on this. Okay. I've struggled with the definition of artist for a really long time. I've always defined myself as a designer and more specifically, a graphic designer. I've come to realize that the labels that we assign to ourselves can liberate us, or it can imprison us in our own mind. And it's a really strange thing to think that a word can be so powerful, right? It can be really powerful. I'm watching this video of a hypnotherapist from the UK. I don't know her name right now, so I'm not going to say it, but she says that the words you choose... You guys have heard this before? The words you choose shape your reality.
I don't know if you guys know this. And the more I'm learning about mindset stuff and psychotherapy, words are really, really powerful stuff. So she says, "If you don't like your reality, all you have to do is change your words." And so words can anchor us and can lift us up. And I was thinking about this because when I was seeing my therapist, she asked me this question. She likes to ask all her patients this question, she asks, "What's the earliest memory that you have?" And I told her. And she asked me, "How old were you?" And I said, "I think I was three." And she goes, "I like to ask everybody this. Do you want to know what the answers are? Usually, people have the earliest memory around two to three years old." And she told me then why she thought this was true, because it's not that we don't know and have experiences between one and three.
It's that around three is when we develop words and enough words to describe the world. And so that's it, because the other parts are like, they're soft, they're feelings, they're impressions. But once we have words, we can describe this. And there are a lot of people in the world that start to think, and when you talk about a neuro-linguistic programming, when you talk about cognitive behavioral therapy, that these words are very powerful and they're linked to how we act, we behave, our moods, whether or not we're happy or we're sad. So I'm only going to take this tangent for a little bit. I'm going to get right back to your question in a second, but words really are very powerful stuff. And so we want to be more careful, more mindful and intentional in the words that we choose to describe things, because the words shape how we feel, shape our memory.
And then our emotions are all attached to that. Okay. So the word artists, I'm an artist, I'm a designer, I'm a graphic designer. All those things mean something. Now ,I've struggled with the meaning of artist. When I was in college, I always thought that what these two types of people create on the outside look very similar. Especially today, the lines have blurred so much so that an illustrator is now a fine artist. A graphic designer is an artist because of the whole street art thing that's happened, right? The acceptance of what is art has changed. So what they do is they look similar. The output looks similar. So then what do we have to do? We have to look at the intention then maybe, and in school, I was struggling with this. So I thought that an artist makes things to solve their own problem, whereas designers solve somebody else's problem.
One has commerce attached to it, is a bit transactional like, "I have a client," whereas one asks the questions and then answers. So then people get into a designer answers and artists asks questions maybe. And then I was at a screening with [inaudible 00:05:42], the writers and directors of The Matrix, one of my favorite films. And I forget which [inaudible 00:05:48] said this, but she said that art is an invitation to share a person's point of view. That's all it is. So whether art is performance, sculptural, or painted, or photography, if you're inviting them to share your point of view in the world, I think it becomes art. And the ones that do a great job are very successful.
Somebody else also said that art is, I have a feeling about something, whatever that feeling is and by the creation of this thing, I hope that you have a similar feeling. So we're sharing that. And I don't think I would describe that for designers necessarily. Designers have a problem. Here's the brief, we're very pragmatic and we look at things through variables, we test ideas. And so that's where I see the boundaries of these two. The end product, the output to me feels very similar, okay? Now I noticed while I was talking, Carly, you had a couple of different expressions on your face. Things you may or may not agree with. So I would love to hear your thoughts as this is meant to be a dialogue.

Student:

Yeah, I think to riff off of what you're saying, artists maybe, I don't always want to say always, but create things for themselves or from themselves. And I think that's where I struggle with when it's designed, it's like I'm doing it for someone else.

Chris:

Yes.

Student:

And it's like, where is that passion and truth in that work? Not necessarily that I don't enjoy that, but I'm just like... I think I'm identifying more as an artist right now in my life because it's for me.

Chris:

Yeah. Okay. Now I'd like to say this for everybody, whether you're watching us or here with us live, which is, I wish for every person here to have some point in their life where they feel like they're an artist. And to me, it's still very different. These words are very powerful. And I'm going to explain a little bit why. It's because part of it is the motivation. Where does the motivation to create come from for the designer? I think the designer, I'm saying this in very broad strokes so I'm going to offend people already, that most designers, I imagine sitting in a room they're waiting for their next gig, that they're not necessarily just sitting there creating tons of logos or brochures randomly because who wants that? Maybe they're doing drawings or experimenting on their own and that's a separate thing. But they do that mostly to prepare for when the moment happens, when the phone rings and then they solve somebody's problems.
So the motivation is to solve other people's problem, whereas the artists is, you can't stop them from creating. This is all they want to do all day long. The dilemma for the artist is, "How do I make some money?" And that's usually where the conflict comes in. And traditionally, I think there have been far fewer, commercially successful artists than there were artists in the world. I'm hoping that this is going to change because I think more so now we crave and desire beauty and art in all its form that we, in this age of abundance, and we have more than we ever had, we are living longer, that we want to have transcended experiences. And the artists in the world are the ones who create this. And when I say artists, I also include in that group artisans, people who shape buildings, lay down bricks, carve things out of stone and marble because that's where the art lives. It's not just an idea, right?

Student:

Yeah. And I think there's art in everything. Not only framed things on the wall, but in your hat, in your glasses. Everything is created with a purpose and for a reason. And if you look at the little things, you can see the beauty in it. But I think, to go back to this and why I'm struggling is because we're at a liberal arts school. It's not necessarily... Where did you go to?

Chris:

Art Center. [inaudible 00:09:43].

Student:

Okay. Yeah.

Chris:

Yes.

Student:

So I'm in this position where not everyone is just here to create beautiful, maybe not so beautiful, whatever, but it's more money-driven. I'm a graphic design major. I chose that for a reason because it sounds like I'm going to make some money, but I'm still struggling because as an artist, I don't need to make money, but it'd be nice.

Chris:

I think we all need to make money.

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

I think we all need to make money, right?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

So there's some level of existing and we need that. Otherwise, it's going to be very difficult for us to continue down our path, right? So we all need to make some level of money. I think there's a little bit more perceived security in being a designer than there is probably being an artist just for that same reason. If you grew up thinking, "I'm going to be professional, fill in the blank, basketball player or football person or playing the NFL or the NBA," there's a very small percentage of the population that's going to be able to do that. So the artists that are commercially successful, that are living the life, maybe that's... We have far fewer examples of that. And so there's some assigned security in being a designer versus an artist. But those times are changing and they're changing really, really fast. So that's good news for all of you.

Student:

Yes.

Chris:

Yeah.

Student:

You don't have to be dead to be a famous artist.

Chris:

You don't have to be dead, but I'm talking about even more recently, what's happening is the barriers to entry, the ability to connect with an audience, the removal of curators to decide. I call them the king or queen makers, right? Because they get to decide, Carly, you are the artists to look after. And then the whole machine, the apparatus of the artwork come together and they put you into a gallery that's super hard to get into, they invite super fancy rich people to come in there, they buy your art and then they just make you. And so they held the keys to that opportunity for you. But today with the proliferation of social platforms, whatever platform you're on, you now can have a direct relationship with your audience. And what's even cooler is that when you create something, you can find out really fast if they share the same emotion that you share, and that may or may not inform what it is that you do in the next iteration of your art.
And you may make something that you think is terrible. And they're like, "Wow, that really touched me and you inspired me." And then you have to set back and reflect on that like, "What are they seeing that I'm not quite seeing?" And I think that's the wonderful time that we live in. And that's why I say it used to be this way. It may not be this way, much longer. And these two separate spheres maybe overlapping more and more so every single day. And I think that's really cool. One of the beautiful things that I get to do as a person who makes content, I get to meet old people, young people, people from all over the world, some self-taught, some highly trained and they are building an audience and a community around the things that they do, that they exist mostly because of their connection to their audience.
And it's a beautiful thing to see. And I'm really, really excited about that. So somebody can sit there and paint painstakingly something that they like, and an audience shows up for that. And then they can say, "Look, buy four of these and I have my rent for this month." And that's what happens. So I think that's really cool. Okay. So getting back to this thing, what word should we use to describe ourself? Seth Godin talked about this in our interview with him, and he's said this many more times and he's like, "When it's work, we ask ourselves when are we done? But when it's art, it's like, can I get more?" And that's why I wish for all of you, at some point in your life that you get to look at yourself like this, that whether it looks artistic, whether it's beautiful or not is irrelevant, but you have that freedom to be able to make something that people care about, that you touch, that hopefully then you are able to also receive some kind of compensation for that beauty, that thing that you bring into the world, okay?

Student:

Thank you.

Chris:

Is that okay?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

All right. Cool. Well, let's just start off real easy like that. Okay. Who's up next? And if you guys have follow-ups or you want to challenge something, I invite you to come into the pool, it's safe and where you want to add something too. I'd love to hear your voices. You are after all the educated one, you really are. I don't say that to pander or to self-deprecate. Mostly I studied type, fonts and got super nerdy with that kind of stuff. Who's next? Can you tell me your name and then, and then hit me with your question?

Student:

Yeah, my name's Christian.

Chris:

Christian? Traditional spelling Christian.

Student:

Yes.

Chris:

Great.

Student:

My question was, being someone who is accepting the digital world and taking it with a stride, what would you say your opinion on the effect of technology in the little bit far future is? Over-saturation or AI in the creative world.

Chris:

Okay. Let's see if I understand this. Are you asking me for my take on how technology and ultimately things like AI are going to impact the world? The world of art and design or just the world?

Student:

I think specifically the world of art and design.

Chris:

And are you seeing and reading about things that are giving you some concern?

Student:

I've seen some interesting articles really based around creation of assets and art and visuals just from algorithms or deep learning or neural networks. And it's amazing that we've gotten to that point, but it's also scary because the quality of the work is reaching a human potential.

Chris:

Okay. And how do you feel about that? Are you excited by it, or are you scared about that?

Student:

I think that it opens a world for accessibility and creation. However, it also takes away some of the expressiveness of being an artist so I think that really scares me.

Chris:

Okay. So let's take it one at a time. So that was a complex answer and a question all rolled into one. So let's try to figure out a couple of things. One is the progress of AI is happening, whether you like it or not. And one of the serenity prayer is to know what you can change, know the difference and then the courage to do whatever. I totally butchered that. Somebody help me out of that. But so if I can't change something, I try not to focus too much of my energy in that. And then I realized there's very little I can change, right? If you think about it. And I get asked this question quite often is, how long does it take for you to learn a new thing or to think a new idea? I said, for as long as you want to hold onto the old idea and how quickly you're ready to embrace the new idea.
So for me, sometimes change is 24 hours. I wake up, I think about, I don't want to do that anymore. And that's the moment. And for some people, it takes 24 years. So I know I can't change this because I'm not in a space or in a place where I can influence this. Maybe people like Elon Musk can and will, and the CEO of, or the founder of Alibaba, maybe they're getting into AI. I don't know. So let's just take this to the extreme. Sometimes it helps us to think about things in the extreme. So if AI does exactly do what it is that we are afraid of doing, which is replacing humans, what is the human job then? What function do we have? And I think I liked that idea a lot, because if robots do all the work of humans, it gives us a lot of time to think what is it that we want from our lives? So we don't spend a lot of time, I think, thinking about how much automation that already exists that we benefit from, right?
So when you pick up your phone and you punch in a few things and you swipe on your phone, you don't even punch in anymore. You just touch something. It connects it to some satellite, I think, where it reroutes you. There's computers working all the time. And when you charge something with your credit card at the gas station, it knows within two seconds if it's you, because it spots behaviors that are inconsistent with you and it flags you right away. Sometimes I travel abroad and I forget to tell the credit card company I'm traveling, they stop the payment and then they call me and it's like, how do they know these things? It's incredible. And they're doing this a billion times a second, I think, because of all the transactions that are happening in the world. So there's a lot of benefit from that. But I think what's really cool is if you don't have to work anymore, if you don't have to do anything to live, all your needs are taken care of, what would you focus on?

Student:

Yeah. I mean, I agree with you in that automation of the practical things in life, opens up creative opportunities and ways to fulfill your human... What life is. You'll be able to focus on that more.

Chris:

Yeah.

Student:

And I really love the idea of that. That's truly beautiful, but-

Chris:

But. I knew you were going to say but.

Student:

Yeah. But just, I guess in the space between creation and automation is what I'm trying to get at. Will image making even be... I'm not saying useful, but will it be something that is unique to the human? And I think that that's an interesting thought. To think that AI may someday have the possibility of creating something that we can't even comprehend or that is unique to only that being.

Chris:

Well, I think there's a couple of things here, is that if the AI technology gets so good and it probably will get really good at some point, maybe before I die, I don't know. And then it leaves you to question your existence, meaning of life and purpose and love and beauty that allows you to think a lot about this, I think. So what's really cool is we're already human in this room, right? We're all human, I think. Maybe not me, but we're all human. And that means that are you afraid of what it is that I'm going to do? Probably not. Because we have uniquely different points of view, different experiences, cultural backgrounds, all that kinds of stuff, right? And if you were to give a brief to every single person in this room, the exact same brief with super rigid parameters and give everybody the exact same tools, we would come up with 14 different pieces of design or art.
So I'm already competing with you today for your job. You don't feel threatened by me. So these deep learning neural networks that are artificially intelligent driving things, let's say that they do achieve that human status. Are we afraid of another human? I don't think so because you get this beautiful opportunity to share your very unique voice with the world and now free of the mundane, the monotonous, free of just trying to make a dollar to stay alive. I think I'm looking forward to that time. Now, here's the really cool part, okay? I used Photoshop when it was version 1.0, I think I'm there, okay? Pretty close to it. And we're in creative cloud territory right now, and there's things that creative cloud can do that we never dreamt possible. So I'm going to just date myself here. There was one undo and there was one layer. I know it's archaic.
It's crazy. And that was it. It wasn't called layer because that was just it. That was it. So if you didn't like it, you're screwed. One undo. And on top of that, and I was there with AI, not artificial intelligence, but Adobe illustrator, probably 1.0 or 2.0, somewhere really... We had to work in the wire mode, the preview mode or the outline mode, and then you'd hit command Y and it would draw it. So when the computers got fast enough and tools got fast enough and we could see it while we're working on it, that was a revelation, okay? I know you guys are like, "Oh, my God." And I was also rubbing two rocks together to make fire, but okay. So now we jump forward to CC and there's this thing where you select a magic wand masking tool and you just hit cut this out.
It starts to think and it cuts it out and it's not great, but it's pretty good. Could you imagine that? And is that the task of a human to do, to cut out things, right? Or I give it an image and say, "Match these colors," and it just matches them. So I now become the artistic director of this versus the person who is literally trying to figure out, "Do I do [inaudible 00:22:46], do I do through levels or curves or channel mixer?" I don't know. I just want it to do that thing. Let's keep going with that. The next thing I do is I don't even touch the keyboard. I just say, "Cut it out. Match this color that I saw in this movie in this moment," and it brings the 35 images. This is where Adobe sensei is going, by the way, and this excites me.
You guys see those tech demos that they do? It's so exciting. Where this is going. Now, they do these demos on the stage and it's scary crazy how good it's going to be. So you do something like this, they show this demo. It's crazy. And they draw something like that, right? And so Adobe senses that that's a rocket, those are clouds and it starts to build this from your library. It'll melt your mind. Have you seen this demo?

Student:

No, I haven't.

Chris:

Oh, my God. So it's looking through your image library. It's like [inaudible 00:23:38]. And it puts it together. It shapes it. And it figures out from a drawing almost as bad as mine. It knows. It's been learning. That excites me. That does not scare me because who used to do this job? Okay, you're the art director. Some young intern is like, "Boss, that's a rocket. And you want clouds. What time of day is it?" And they go through and it's days before you...

Chris:

...what time of day is it? And they go through and it's days before you see something. You're like, "That's what I want." It would try to guess at what you want, and then there's a slider somewhere. They pull it up, because it's still data. It just slides like night, day, more clouds, less clouds, and it's crazy just cycling, and it's cutting it out for you automatically. That means your ability to think and create the gap between those two are getting closer and closer and closer. That's very exciting. So, who came up with this? Sketch then. Now, is the computer with all this AI learning going to look at a brief and figure it out? Maybe, but it's going to be a long time from now. So, here's what I say to you. This we cannot control and how we look at AI right now, their tools.
And I'm excited about more powerful tools that allow me to concentrate on thinking, more than finding images and cutting them out. I don't know about you, but I have thousands of images on my drive. Legally, of course. Thousands of images, and I have to go through and I have two boys. One of them is 13, the other one's 16. I pay my 13 year old to go through my files and name them for me. He'd rather play video games. This is not the job of a human. Adobe Sensei is renaming all your files for you. It's meta-tagging every single thing, so you just say, face, left, woman, 40, and it will just pull it up, and it'll show you the best ones. And it's crazy where this is going to be in a few short years.
So, literally my son's like, "Dad, I don't know what that is." I'm like, "Go on the internet and figure it out. If I have to tell you, you're wasting my time." So, he's going through and naming these things. And then after working for me all of one day, he quit. Even a 13 year old is tired of doing rote work like that. We don't want to do that. Okay. You guys understand that, right? So, I look at the tools and I say, well, there's two feelings we can have about it. There's probably more but I like to think in a binary way, being that I'm a robot. So, we can be happy about it or we can be miserable about it. And every time I start to feel miserable about it, I start to rethink what words I want to assign to these tools. I say, it's empowering, it's saving time, allows me to think. I move it to a happy place and that's what I try to do with almost everything in my life. I try to change the words so that my reality's different.

Student:

Yeah. I really respect that. That mindset is very, very powerful, and how you perceive reality and what you experience. I think the core of what I was trying to get at, now that I'm having this dialogue-

Chris:

Now you're shaping it? Okay, perfect.

Student:

...is the expressive, the human touch. I've actually seen something very, very similar, so I think it might have been connected in some way.

Chris:

Yeah.

Student:

I feel that the tools and their accuracy and perfection will take away, like Bob Ross said, "Happy little accidents."

Chris:

Yep. I don't know. Do you think so? The fidelity of the finished product is still in your control, because you could say, computer, or mother, change it to be rough, change the time of day, make it like a kid drew it, not with a crown but with a pencil. So, these are all just tools. You are the director of this. These are just instruments, you get to compose the song. You can make it like hard rock or you can make it metal, or you can make it punk, or classical. In no point in this equation does the computer tell you what to do.
I mean, maybe they will one day, that's a different story. The T3000, and that's what we have to live with. But not right now. I mean, one day you'll show up and talk to a computer and it'll tell you what to do, I suppose. And then the world is upside down. That's when Skynet has taken over. But until then it's like, we still get to control how clean, how dirty, how crude, how refined. Make the rocket metal. No, I mean rusty metal, and I want to see the rivets, and I want you to age it 10 years. I mean, wouldn't that be a wonderful tool?

Student:

I agree. The freedom that it allows us is unimaginable right now, or well-

Chris:

We're imagining it so it's imaginable. Yeah.

Student:

But I think it's just like the room for mistakes from your own being are deleted, so to speak.

Chris:

The mistakes? The happy accidents?

Student:

Yeah. I feel like, yeah. As humans we are flawed.

Chris:

I like this.

Student:

The mistakes that we would make in creating that image specifically how we want it, could just fall away.

Chris:

Okay. Let me ask you something, because I actually do a lot of of work, and over time its given me more exposure. I'm not saying I'm any smarter than you, I just have more exposure than you. Look at this word, happy accident. You see that that's a change in words. Accident, most of us don't like, when you get into an accident they're not favorable. So, Bob would talk about it as a happy accident, meaning I discovered something I didn't intend to do. It was a discovery. So, he changed the word accident to mean discovery, that there was something called chance. And there enters a randomness to it that I think we like, and that there's some kind of exploration that you don't always end up at the same spot.
Now, I don't know if you've ever been in a situation like this, where you go and look for an image on the internet, because you're trying to finish up an assignment the night before. Let's just say you were there. And you're looking through an image and then you see another image that you didn't intend to look for, and then you go down that rabbit hole. And if you're on Pinterest, this happens every second, and you're like this, and you're lost in the exploration of chance. I find great pleasure in this, and I look for a word and I find an artist and I find a video and then a review of something else. The danger is actually we get lost in the chance and the randomness of it all. And so, we're like, focus. What does the brief say? What do we need to do? How much time do I have left? And you get it done.
So, in this example of the AI taking over, maybe they misinterpreted your drawing. Maybe this was meant to be a crown with some scribbles around it, but they instead showed you a rocket, which then spawned a new idea for you. And I know this, working in solitude is actually a really hard way to work, because we need feedback. We need to know, is this idea communicating to you? Because art is a transmission of a signal, so the receiver has to get that same signal. But what if the computer or partners a collaborator, that you tell it an idea, it tells you something back, and then it's this dialogue that you have with it? That would be very exciting. Don't you think?

Student:

Yeah. I really think that that's a beautiful idea. The infinitesimal possibilities that's... Yeah. I think you've changed the way I'm seeing things.

Chris:

I hope so.

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

And I'll tell you something. If I didn't like it, I would just change it in my mind, to then like it, because there's not much I can do about it. Really, I'm just being totally serious with you. And I've shared on different live streams, very personal stories where I'm like, "Oh that sucks. That really, really does suck." And I have to work really hard to choose new words, and I'll give you an example, and I like to do this because it's not me, I'll just embarrass my wife. I have been driving, I've never had a moving violation in my life. I've had a few, one or two parking tickets, so I'm a pretty good driver, despite the stereotype. I'm a good Asian driver, okay. And then my wife, who's also Asian, she gets a ticket, and it is an expensive one. And then I look at her, I'm like, "Honey, you're just throwing money..." Let's say it's $350. I'm like, "Can you..." And she goes, "No." She just stops me there, because I'm about to nag her a little bit.
I'm about to say let's be prudent, let's just be more careful. She goes, "No. I love the city that we live in." I'm like, "What's that got to do with your ticket?" "It's a donation." So, she stopped the conversation. I don't know who she learned this stuff from. This is BS. I'm like, "What the... Okay. Let's watch Breaking Bad then. I don't know what to do." So, she just moved it from a penalty to somebody has to contribute to the city to maintain the city. It's a donation. That's it, and we have to support this. And I find, okay, that's fair. That works for me. You see how it's like, I could be upset, she could be upset. You just move the words. New reality. Same exact situation. That's how powerful this stuff is.

Student:

Yeah. Thank you.

Chris:

So, we haven't talked about design at all, but this is cool. I like these kind of conversations. You're welcome, Christian.

Student:

Hi.

Chris:

Hello. What's your name?

Student:

My name's Alyssa.

Chris:

Alyssa?

Student:

Yes.

Chris:

With an E?

Student:

It's A-L-Y-S-S-A.

Chris:

Thank you for spelling that for me.

Student:

Yeah, of course.

Chris:

Thank you.

Student:

So, I think something that a lot of us are talking about a lot and thinking about a lot, and trying to make decisions about is pertaining to this idea of how to determine your value or worth, as a designer or artist. And I personally think there's some overlap in the definitions of being an artist and a designer.

Chris:

Yes.

Student:

And I think... Yeah. I just think it's definitely a difficult thing to try to determine your worth, especially as you're starting out in the industry. And so, I just wanted to know your thoughts and opinions on that.

Chris:

When you're starting out... Could you reframe the question? I followed you, but I couldn't find the question in there.

Student:

Yeah. So, I think a lot of us are struggling with that, because... Well, I think as we live, like you said, in such an age where we're living with more stuff everywhere than we ever had before, and there's so many... I don't know. Visual graphics and photographs, and there's just art everywhere. And so, I think people tend to expect that art is free or art is just guaranteed. And same thing with design, it's just everywhere, on every screen we look at, and every billboard, especially in a place like LA.

Chris:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Student:

And so, I think the only people that are going to advocate for us starting out as designers and artists, are ourselves. And I think that's a difficult thing to be able to determine what your worth is when you're looking for jobs or freelancing. So, what is your advice on that?

Chris:

Okay. There's a lot there.

Student:

Sorry.

Chris:

First off, I want to throw this out. And guide the ship back on the rails if I jump off the rails here. So, first you say, art and designs everywhere, and okay. I accept that. This is why people don't like me at LMU because I'm like, well, I don't know if I agree with that, but okay. Art and design is everywhere. We can say that. Yeah? We can agree, yeah, everybody?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

Yeah. But good art and design is almost nowhere. Can we say that? All you have to do is go to the store.

Student:

Sure. Yeah.

Chris:

Like look at this-

Student:

There's a lot of bad design and bad art. Yeah.

Chris:

Yeah. If we were to say the tipping scale, the scale of justice or whatever of art and design, of good and bad design, and good and bad art, in my mind, and this is probably the one time I'm going to get dark and negative on you, I think it's like that. Like that's the floor of bad, and there's good. And I look at this as a good news, because if you're a maker of good things, there's a lot of opportunity for you to put another pebble on that side. Don't you think? All you have to do is go to the store. Now, it's odd, I find this quite odd, and maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but when you go to a supermarket, when you go to a Vons or a Ralphs, I don't know what the other normal supermarkets are, and then you go to Whole Foods, or you go to Erewhon, it's like, everything looks more beautiful.
It's like the packages look better, and everything looks refreshing and amazing, and why is that? What happened there? So, do rich people deserve better design? Does good design cost more money? These are questions that I look at. I stare at the Selzer water aisle, or I'm just looking like, this? I've never even seen these brands before, but every single one of them is beautiful. You go back to Ralphs and Vons and almost everything is ugly. Right?

Student:

Right.

Chris:

Everything. And I'm not talking about just the packaging, I'm talking about what's inside of it is ugly. Processed foods made in the cheapest possible way, and made with all kinds of preservatives. I guess I will pay more. So, I think the world is full of bad design, and I would say, and I'm being mean here, it's probably 99% bad. This is why we celebrate good design, because it's so exceptional. This is why we remark on good design. Go to the bookstore, if it still exists, go to the bookstore, look at the jackets, which ones appeal to you, which ones draw you in, which ones are crappy? And I think there's a correlation, not causation yet, of the bargain bins. Almost all those books are ugly. Cheaply made, poorly written. And when I say ugly, all the way through. Very rarely do I walk into the bargain bin and I find an amazing book. But it does happen.
It was so good that nobody bought it, and I mean that in all seriousness. And that the general population couldn't understand that this was beautiful, and I picked up this Chris Ware box set, I'm like, why is this 40% off? I'm taking this. This is a steal. So, I think there's a lot of bad design in the world. This is opportunity for you guys, if you're good, and if you know how to make good things, good art and good design. Now, you talk about self-worth and value when you're first starting out, how do you communicate that to somebody? Well, this is the challenge. I guess we're going to get businessy on everybody now. The challenge is, how do you communicate your worth and value? That's a good question. Is that the question that you want to know?

Student:

Yeah. I guess just how the two are related. I was just saying, I think people just have an expectation that they deserve good design, or just that they-

Chris:

Really?

Student:

I don't know. It seems to be... Yeah. I think in working, especially freelance, I think working with clients and stuff, it seems like a lot of people just have expectations that design is free. I think maybe more so related to what Christian was saying, because there are so many websites and online programs and things that you can design your own stuff for free. Or there's just a bunch of free graphics-

Chris:

Okay.

Student:

...that people expect that stuff is free, or that like-

Chris:

I get it.

Student:

...they'll market it as, oh, let's collaborate, or you do this and let's do it together. And it's like, it's just an expectation that you're going to do what you do for work for free, because-

Chris:

Yeah. Okay. We're going to get into some business principles here in a second. How many clients have you worked with as a freelancer, total? Roughly. Nobody can tell, by the way.

Student:

Roughly... I don't know. 10 to 20.

Chris:

Perfect. I'll take the high number of 20. So, you've had 20 different clients?

Student:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:

Beautiful. You're doing well, by the way for a person still in school. You're doing fantastic. You're making a lot of people self-conscious right now. Like, I've done one and it was my mom, and it didn't even count because she made me pay her, that was rough. So, you worked with 20 clients. Damn. I don't know if I worked with 20 clients first year out of school. So, you're doing well. Everybody needs to take a marketing lesson from Alyssa and her networking class later today. So, 20 clients. Of the 20, what percentage expected good design for free?

Student:

Well, if we're going with the high number of 20, I think-

Chris:

We are, just nod, like that's the reality. Once it's on the board, it's real.

Student:

Well there's some clients that I recently had to stop working with for that reason, of-

Chris:

Sure. What percentage? Help me out.

Student:

Oh man.

Chris:

Just give me to the finish line here. Come on.

Student:

Maybe 30, 40%.

Chris:

What?

Student:

I don't know. Yeah.

Chris:

Okay. Maybe she's not that good at marketing because half her clients... I'm going to take the high number. You guys never mind. Everybody's canceling out of that class right now. They were just auditing, they just dropped. So, 40% of the clients... Now, I have to use the [crosstalk 00:40:41] on you want it done for free, or for next to no money.

Student:

Right.

Chris:

Well, okay. Can we say that a free client is not a client? That the definition of a client is a trade of money for services, yes? Because otherwise it's charity. I call that charity.

Student:

Right. Yeah.

Chris:

And are these charitable organizations, are they?

Student:

No.

Chris:

No. So, that's usually when I give them the one finger salute, you know what I mean? I'm not going to do it. Just take a long walk off a short bridge, or go swimming and hold a big rock. That's what I usually feel about those people, like I don't need you in my life because we have to distinguish charity from clients. Big difference.

Student:

Right.

Chris:

They have a cause, and they truly are broke. They really are broke. Most of them. They have no cause. Their cause is capital. And they're not broke, they're just broken. No, really. They are, because they're willing to take advantage of people who are in the greatest need of opportunity. They never take advantage of the big firms. I shouldn't say never, they rarely take advantage of the big firms. So, I think that's terrible. So, we need to distinguish the two. So, somebody who has money, who can pay, who's in commerce, should pay a fair market price for the creative services that you do. This is wonderful now, so now we've established, you have not 20 clients.

Student:

Right.

Chris:

How many clients do you have? You have 12. 40% were bad, we dumped. So, now we have 12. My math okay? You math majors, come on. It's a long time. We're not math majors either. So, we have 12 out of 20 that are legitimate clients, because 40% were bad. Now, of those 12, now we'll focus on this. So, you've had, I would say a total of eight bad clients, and we're going to label them bad clients because that's what they are. You have eight bad clients and you're struggling with this. And one of their excuses to you is, well, isn't it really easy? And don't you have all these tools? And you know I could just call Fiverr and do this? That's usually what they say. That's the crap that comes out of their mouth. How many have had that experience? Okay. A couple of you. Oh it sucks.

Student:

Kind of. Well, I think a more common experience for people working, I think with peers specifically, is people our age don't have a super large budget to spend on design, slash they have those expectations as well-

Chris:

People your age?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

Really? How old are these people?

Student:

Early twenties.

Chris:

Like 24?

Student:

Well, yeah. I mean like 20 to 24 maybe. I'm not sure.

Chris:

Okay. So, we're going to make another broad statement. People that are 20 or 24 are just broke. Is that right?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

They are? I feel like you're looking at each other like, yeah. We know what that feels like. Yes. And they're starting businesses?

Student:

Well, different types of clients, I guess.

Chris:

Are you talking about classmates that are clients? That's another category.

Student:

Not classmates necessarily, but like musicians or like-

Chris:

Oh, those broke people.

Student:

...people starting clothing lines, or that kind of thing.

Chris:

Okay. All right. Okay. So, let's just talk about this.

Student:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:

All right. You may say that musicians are in the charity case, you may. That's for you to decide. I wouldn't. I'll tell a story later maybe, that we'll have to see how fair about this. With one of the world's biggest bands who said that we have no money. I'm like, "Really? I saw your Christmas special. Are you sure you have no money? It looks like you spent a lot of money. In fact, I think your catering budget is bigger than what we're talking about." So, you may consider artists, musicians. Are you charity cases? Do you consider them your charity case or not? Put them in one of two categories, charity or clients?

Student:

Man, I want them to be able to be clients.

Chris:

Because you want the chatter?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

Really? So, it's like forget about them then. No more charity. Maybe your new rule has to be, I'm going to do 10 clients before I give one away.

Student:

Okay.

Chris:

Maybe, because you got loans don't you? You got bills to pay.

Student:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:

Yeah?

Student:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:

Okay. You're saying that you don't have loans.

Student:

Oh yeah.

Chris:

Do you have a scholarship?

Student:

What was that?

Chris:

It's too personal. Okay. Stay on target here. Here we go. So, there's got to be some ratio that you're happy with. Some people do... I have a friend. He does 50% charity, 50% client, but he's very careful. There's a whole auditing process about who's going to be considered for charity.

Student:

Right.

Chris:

Yes. Very nice. No, that's his company. That's his company. You know, I was complimenting like, well played. Beautiful. Very nice. No. He is very nice, he is. He gives 50% of his business away for free. Yeah. Wow. That's a good business model. It's also part of his marketing and his platform. It's really cool. Now, if a musician can't pay you, you have some choices. Now, I want you guys to just remember this. Is you're not a prisoner of this, you have choice. And choice is a powerful thing. You have freedom and free will to make these choices, so we don't do something and then later complain like, why did they force me to do this? My business coach would say to me for a number of years, he would say, "Chris, there are no victims. Just volunteers," because I would complain to him. And every time I would complain to him, he would look right back at me, "Are you a victim or a volunteer?" I'm like, "My employees are driving me crazy, Kier."
"Who is the wise person who hired them?" "Me." "Who allowed the boundaries to slip for them to be able to do this?" "Me." "Who allows this behavior to persist?" "Me." "Who hasn't fired them yet?" "Me." "Are you a victim or are you a volunteer?" See the words are crazy. I was playing a victim, but I was in control. If you accept a job, you've accepted terms of the job. If you don't like it, just say no. There's only a couple instances where you have to take the job. Design client points a gun at your head, do this logo for me now. Then you can say I'm a victim and that's okay. Until then, no. So, if they don't have money, we have to go back to ancient times. People didn't trade with money before. They traded with other things that they had, services. They had things of value that are not based on currency. What could a band give you that you think would be valuable?

Student:

Well, I think that ties in a lot. I think a place that all of us are in is portfolio building and publicity. And so, I think that's a big thing with jobs that you're not paid for. I think a lot of people believe this idea of paying with exposure, which is very frustrating.

Chris:

I have some exposure bucks at home, I'll give you later. Literally I do. Somebody made them, sent them to me.

Student:

Oh my God.

Chris:

Exposure bucks. Yeah. Literally. Okay. Let's say that you're going to do something for a band. What market value-

Chris:

Okay. Let's say that you're going to do something for a band, right? What market value would you place on whatever it is you do? We don't need the specifics, just give me a number.

Student:

Sorry. What's the question?

Chris:

What would you charge the musician to do this thing if you could just charge them the fair market value for what it is that you're doing?

Student:

Oh boy.

Chris:

Just say a number. It doesn't matter.

Student:

Okay. A hundred.

Chris:

Thousand? A hundred bucks?

Student:

I don't know.

Chris:

You're not going to pay off a loan on a $100 job. Are you kidding me? Are you watching our channel?

Student:

Oh my God.

Chris:

Are you watching our channel? No. Okay, that's why. You've done a hundred dollars. Try again. You get three guesses.

Student:

See, this is why I'm asking this question because I have no idea what my work is.

Chris:

Yes. This is like family feud. Your first guess is, [bam 00:48:46]. You have three guesses now, what should you charge? Come on. They'll never come back again dude.

Student:

Oh man.

Chris:

Yes. It's like fresh batch of seniors, and after that it's a year later.

Student:

God, I don't know. A thousand. I don't know.

Chris:

Let's say $4,000.

Student:

Okay, perfect.

Chris:

Okay. So that was strike two. You only get one more strike. Okay. Let's say what you want to charge them for what you're doing, and now I'm starting to question your whole 12 clients now, okay, 4,000. 4,000, okay? Okay. $4,000. You say, "Musician, you want something done? It's going to cost you $4,000." They say to you, "Woo hoo. We're broke." Sob story. "We don't have any money. We're just musicians, that's all we know how to do," right? You like, "Okay, fine. What are you going to give me? What are you going to give me that's worth $4,000?" It can't be exposure because they can't even give you exposure.

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

You can get yourself exposure. You can get yourself the portfolio piece, but that's on you, that doesn't count against this $4,000 debt they have. What could they give you? Let's get really creative. You guys are creative people, let's try and figure out what can they give you?

Student:

Tickets?

Chris:

Yes. Concert tickets, right? Yes. You like their music?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

Look at that. You're so fake. Okay. That's really fake. "Yeah." So you don't even like this band you're working with, this is truly not charity then. Concert tickets, okay. So what are concert tickets cost? What do they cost? I don't know, I hadn't been to a concert a while.

Student:

It depends on a concert.

Chris:

30 bucks?

Student:

Well, if it's a good concert-

Chris:

Small band. Small band. I mean, come on.

Student:

Okay. Okay. Yeah.

Chris:

You have basic cover charge here.

Student:

Yeah, sure.

Chris:

So it's $15. That's going to be a lot of concerts you're going to be going to. What else can they give you that's valuable? Don't bands have merch?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

They have merch.

Student:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:

Okay. So there's a value on the merch? Put a dollar sign on that somewhere. Yes?

Student:

A guitar.

Chris:

A guitar. Because they do that, right? They can't give you the tools in which they need because they'll be air guitaring the rest of the time, right?

Student:

Right.

Chris:

Okay. So they can't give you the guitar. What else can they give you?

Student:

They could give you connections, like referring you to other bands or other people in their business.

Chris:

Okay. Yes. They can refer you. That's the minimum they can do. So they'll tell all their band friends that have no money that pay nothing. So it's like you're going to in debt forever. This is the problem. It's true, referrals are valuable from valuable people. This is the problem. It's like, "I got four homeless friends. You guys want to help them. Cool. All right." So a referral. Okay, yes. That might be valuable if you can trade those in for money. Is there anything else they can do? I think so. There's more. Come on guys, get unstuck on this. Don't get fixated with the number. It's just a trade. What can I do for you? What can you do for me?

Student:

Play at your birthday?

Chris:

Yes. You can invite this band that you don't like to play at your birthday, right? That's going to be wonderful.

Student:

Give guitar lessons.

Chris:

Yes. Lessons. Okay. What are lessons worth? You're very creative.

Student:

150 bucks and hour.

Chris:

150 bucks?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

Woo. They're doing all right. Now, they're moving up in the world. 150 an hour. This is awesome. Okay. They can probably literally make posts on their social media on your behalf. So when we say, "Give me exposure," this is an act that they have to participate in, right? So if they have a decent following, they can say, "I want to really thank Alyssa for doing this work for us. And she's amazing. And here's her Instagram handle and you guys should definitely hire her." Boom.

Student:

Right.

Chris:

That's worth something. Small audience, it's worth less. Big audience, it's worth a little more.

Student:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:

And then you can ask them for metrics and just measure all this stuff. So you get really creative, okay? Now we've established a few things. We've established that you don't like their music. You may or may not like their merch, so definitely you don't want to take lessons from them, but you can trade this to somebody else. You can give these away to your favorite nephew or niece. Instead of sending them a 150 bucks for their birthday, you're like, "Guess what? Guess what auntie did for you? You're going to love this band. They're amazing. Check on this shirt I got you." You can trade it all. We're just bartering, that's all. You got to get your value though. So all this stuff has to add up to this if not more than this, because it's hard to change this, this requires work. So I would not do an even trade here.
Maybe you think they got potential then you can say, "I want a guarantee on something. I want a percentage of this or that and I'll do all your design and branding for you. Is that cool?" And some bands will do that. Does that make sense? Yeah. You got to just get really creative on how to get paid and you have to learn how to charge more value for your work more than the hundred bucks you're charging.

Speaker 1:

Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back.

Speaker 2:

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Speaker 1:

Welcome back to our conversation.

Chris:

So what you want to do, I hope. I'm going to give you some advice even though you didn't ask me is, this is my motto in life, it really is. I want to do the least amount of work for the fewest number of people to get paid the most amount of money. I don't want the opposite. I don't want to do the most amount of work for the most amount of people to get paid the least amount of money. We have to invert that equation for you. So a lot of people hear this and say, "Well oh, you can't tell the kids that, that's bad advice." It's like, "Now you're going to create a bunch of monsters that are egotistical and arrogant, running around thinking they're worth so much money." Maybe. But I'd rather create those monsters than the ones who sell themselves short and wind up broke, living check to check, not having anything for themselves and getting into either some real accident and then not being able to take care of themselves. That would be a bigger sin for me.
The other thing that I think of is when I say that, then you have to start to ask yourself this question. What can I do that would be valuable to whom for doing what? And then acquire those skills. That's the critical part of this equation. I want to do something that's worth a lot of money, and I know that there's a gap between where I am and where I want to be, and then I work really hard to get to the other spot. I'll tell you a little side story here. I heard from a friend of mine that he hired a coach and the coaches got a very specific way of working. This coach flies into town, which you pay for, and the hotel, and he charges $10,000 to meet with you for one day. At the end of the day, he gets back on the plane, he goes home. He writes up a summary and he sends it to you and that's it. 10,000 bucks. And I thought to myself, "Wow, that's amazing. I want that."
But I didn't just sit there and start saying like, "I want 10,000 bucks for days worth of work." I started thinking about like, "What can I do that somebody would then also feel equally satisfied with me doing that work for 10,000 bucks?" Blair Enns calls this the double thank you. Where I genuinely thank you for paying me and you genuinely thank me for doing this wonderful work for you. I thank you, you thank me. That's a relationship I'm talking about. I'm not talking about cheating people, okay?
So then I worked for a couple of years to develop the skills, the positioning of my own brand and what it is that I do that I started to get paid $10,000 for a day, then I got paid more, and more, and more, and I just kept learning what those skills were necessary so that the clients would feel that. And they do genuinely thank you afterwards. So I wanted to plant that seed your brain right now. Do something that's valuable for someone, you won't be there today, but start working to acquire those skills. There are things that you can learn, okay?

Student:

Okay.

Chris:

All right. Are we okay, Alyssa?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

Are you going to have fun with this band?

Student:

Yes. Thank you.

Chris:

Okay. All right. Jonah?

Jonah:

Yeah?

Chris:

Do we have any questions from the audience?

Jonah:

No.

Chris:

Okay, thanks. You said that so like nobody's watching. I got it. Okay.

Jonah:

We have 285.

Chris:

285. 285, hello. Okay. Yes?

Student:

Hi.

Chris:

Hi. What's your name?

Student:

Annika.

Chris:

Annika?

Student:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:

I'm going to need help.

Student:

A-N-N-I-K-A.

Chris:

Oh, okay.

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

All right, Annika. Okay. Not as hard as I thought.

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

Okay. It's more intuitive. Okay. What's your question?

Student:

So we've been talking about how there's design everywhere and there's technology advancing. So with this technology advancing, we have access to a larger library of information than ever before. How do we go about creating content that hasn't been seen before and isn't sampling from other work when we're exposed to it on a daily basis? Because sometimes we can even do it subconsciously, like we create something and we're like, "Oh, this looks like this." How do we avoid making something repetitive and create new and interesting content?

Chris:

Okay. That's a very valid question. You want to create new, never before seen. Wow. Okay, that's super ambitious. Okay. It's a noble thing to try to strive for this and I think especially people in school tend to want to do this. And then you get old and jaded like me, and you're like, "No, maybe not possible. I don't know." So I'm going to ask you this question, all seriousness and all due respect. When's the last time you saw something new and never before seen or never seen before? You're going to search your mind a really long time.

Student:

I know.

Chris:

Okay? Now I have had this debate since I was 20 years old with my classmates. Okay, let's talk about new, okay? The word new is awesome. New, okay? What is new, okay? So if you, this is you and you look at something and you say, "Wow, that's new." It'd be because why? Why is it new, okay? You see that and you're like, "That's new." Why is it new? Because you've not seen it. It's new to you. But then somebody like me comes along and says, "New? No, I've seen this already." So is it still new?

Student:

Maybe it's semi new.

Chris:

Really? So this is now called semi new. You guys and your language skills, okay. Tell me why you say semi new?

Student:

Well, especially because we are people who study design, we're probably going to have more exposure. Like you said, you have more exposure than we do to certain elements of design.

Chris:

Yeah.

Student:

So it depends on who your audience is.

Chris:

Oh, okay. It's just new to the audience?

Student:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:

Okay, that's fair. Is that what you're looking for when you say never for before seen? There's a big asterisks there. The asterisks is, to you. Is that okay?

Student:

Yeah, I think so.

Chris:

Okay. So if I share new ideas with you today that you've not seen before, you're like, "That guy comes up new ideas," when I'm like, "Nope, everything I know is from a book, or a thing I read, or watched or somebody else coached me on, and most of my new ideas are terrible." All I'm doing is presenting to you information that you believe to be new. And so, this is a much more realistic goal to hit. I like this, so new to you. So how do you create work that's new to the audience? You have to first understand who the audience is. Okay?
And this is going to lead us somewhere here and I think this is going to be good, I think. Okay. So the target, the bullseye is much clearer now versus creating just new, like never before seen. Because I think there's very few things that are never before seen because everything just gets remixed, it really does. And technology allows us to remix more creatively now, right, and so where like, "That's a new application of an old idea." That's new enough. Okay. So new to this audience. So you have to say, "What is this audience looking at all the time?" So this is a bunch of little people, okay? I hope you can see this. That's a bunch of people, okay? So we'll call this the creative watering hole. So they all come in here and like, "Wow, that stuff is so new," okay? No, it's all really old stuff, it really is. So all you have to do is go over here and say, "Hey guys, there's this thing," and you bring it over there and you're like, "Hey, what about this thing?" And then they'll say, "It's new."
So here's the thing. If you're in fashion, look at architecture. If you're in photography, look at cinema. If you're in cinema, look at musicals or plays, all you do is go outside. So I think there's a quote, I don't know who said this, but the secret to originality is to hide your sources, that's all it is. So I remember back in the day, the pre-internet age, designers, classmates of mine literally had a secret stash. They'd have weird obscure magazines and catalogs, you know these people, and they would hoard their secret sauce. If they had a font that not everybody had and they're just busting out this design, everybody else was using Alverta or Alphatauri. And you look at them like, "Dude, what is that?" "I don't know. I don't know man." "It's a commercially made font and you just won't tell me? I see." So they're very protective of the sources, right? And so that's how they held onto their value by hiding their sources.
And so, there's a degree to that, that if you don't show people your secret sauce, so to speak, you'll be more malleable and a lot of creatives think that. Do you guys know of any creative person that hides through all their secrets? Do you? No? I do.

Student:

I don't know.

Chris:

What's that?

Student:

I don't know because maybe they're hiding and I don't know.

Chris:

Yeah. But do you ever go to one of your friends and you're like, "How'd you do that?" "Ah, you'll figure it out." "How'd you create that texture." "Yeah, yeah, yeah..." Under the rug. That's what they do. You guys maybe live in a different era where everybody shares everything, but I know people my age, right? They're amazing. What's that? Hypercompetitive. And-

Student:

There's a lot more sharing now.

Chris:

Yeah. And so they look at me like I'm this Charlotte because I just share everything. Is there anything you want to know? If I know it, I'll share with you, I don't hide anything. And then they're like, "Chris, what are you doing? You're creating a lot of animals out there. What are you doing? Why would you do that?" And I invite them to come on the show and, "Hey, I love how you did that. Will you tell us how to do that?" "Nah, no. I don't want a lot of competitors. I don't want a clone." And then sometimes I talk to them like, "How's business?" "I don't have any work." "Is there any surprise? You're the best kept secret."
In the meantime, here I am. Really, it's what's happening, they won't share jack because they think we can't figure it out, but I'm not that stupid, I can figure out just about anything. So here we are, we share and we openly expose every single thing, even how much money we make or whatever, we share it all, and yet we're turning down clients. So we live in this new society now where sharing is powerful, hoarding is selfish. Sharing is more powerful than hoarding because when you share, people invite you, you go and speak at things and then you onboard fans, and then they have bosses and those bosses need people, and then they get referred and they get work. You enroll people into your art and your art making process. So if you want to do something new, go where nobody's looking, bring it back to this world, they get excited and then tell them exactly what you did. That's powerful stuff. Okay?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

There's also this idea of new, and I'm talking tomorrow about this. So if you'd like this and you want to go deeper, I'm going to talk about this in tomorrow's live stream is about, new is just showing me old. It really is. Show me something old in a new way, that's all it is man and that's what technology allows us to do because there's very little new. And if you think about it, how many times have you seen a story about a guy who loves a girl, but they can't get together because he's a jock and she's an artist, right? Or he's poor and she's rich. We see the same story over and over and over again, yet you are so happy to give money to people to make these stories. It's because we figured out what ideas work and we figured out what ideas do not work, and so we like to repeat the ideas that work.
And that's why the story of Romeo and Juliet is just told over and over again, it really is. They just changed the variables. "Oh, guy wants girl. Can't get the girl. She's not interested in guys." Okay. "Guy wants girl. Can't get the girl. Why? Because his business is at war with her business," it just goes on and on. So we're not really looking for new. We're looking for familiar but presented differently, okay? So I'll give you one trick, just one trick. One trick is the big small. Have you got guys heard of the big small? It's exactly what it sounds like, the big small, okay? All you have to do is make something big, small. It really that it, that's simple, okay? Have you seen these sculptures on a grain of rice?

Student:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:

Something big, small. Have you seen people build miniature sets of real places and then they zoom out and it's like the size with their hand? That's fascinating because I've never looked at it like that. So what we're doing is we're reintroducing an old idea as new, and we could do the opposite, we can make the small, big, have you seen that? Have you seen sculptures that look like this and this is the size of a person?

Student:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:

We made something small, big, and it forces us to look at something in a way that we've never seen before. Because here's the truth. You and I, we walk around the world to differing degrees, oblivious to the world, we really are. And then one day you stop to notice a crack in the sidewalk, and you look at it, and you stare at it and it looks like the face of Jesus or something, and that's the revelation for you that one moment. Obviously I know that something was happening, but you see that and you're like, "Guys, guys. Instagram." And it blows up. And I find Jesus on the street of LA, that's what it is. So you're just showing them something that they've missed.
And there's a good reason why we ignore all these things. And the reason why we ignore these things is because it's too taxing on our brain to process every single thing that's happening to us the whole time. You would just fall over in fatigue and burn all the calories. So this is all you need to do. So one of the assignments I would give my students is, I would tell them to go and get a macro lens and shoot something, and show me something that we never pay attention to. The backside of a keyboard, the cracks in between something, or the printing on the bottom side of a package. Show me something that I don't think about. And that's how you discover the new in the old, that's all it is, okay?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

You have a follow-up? You okay?

Student:

Yeah. I'm just listening.

Chris:

All right. Cool. All right, excellent. I have tucked my shirt in here. It is popping out. I shouldn't have had that chicken. Okay, somebody else? Okay, finally to the front row. What's your name?

Student:

Diego.

Chris:

Diego, like San.

Student:

So sorry.

Chris:

Like San?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

Okay. Great. Okay.

Student:

So I was really preparing to go into the workforce. I personally feel this pressure to specialize or like, instead of saying, "I'm a visual artist," you're go to say you're a graphic designer, or even specialize even more and say you are a typographer.

Chris:

Yeah.

Student:

And I feel like I have all these interests, all these passions that as society on, it's like we're trying to make these specialized humans instead of having this well-roundedness. And even going to a liberal arts school I still feel this pressure, so I can't even imagine if you're like-

Chris:

Really?

Student:

... in an art school. Yeah. So yeah, my question is, do you believe society should prefer the specialization or a more well-roundedness?

Chris:

Okay. I will tell you. I've answered this question many times before and I'm prepared.

Student:

Cool.

Chris:

Because I don't know the exact location. Is that okay guys?

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

Okay. It's the specialist versus the generalist's debate. And you may think you're specializing now at LMU, but you're not, not even close. I promise you that. I promise you, okay, versus the generalist. And even at a school like art center, they're still pretty generalists, they teach them a lot of different skills. Okay. So I'm going to help you answer this question in a number of different ways. I'm not going to tell you the answer, but I'm going to make hopefully an argument or present some data for you to consider, okay? Okay. The generalist knows many things, right? And the specialist tends to focus on the one thing, they just go deep and we go wide, okay? When you want to hire somebody to solve a problem, do you want to hire somebody that has surface level experience on many things or the person who has great depth in one thing? What do you think? You have a problem. Diego has a problem. Diego, tell me what a problem might be. It could be any kind of problem. Any kind. Anything that you need help with. Any job you're trying to get done.

Student:

A math problem.

Chris:

Not that problem.

Student:

Okay.

Chris:

You find the one problem like what the... Okay, fine, fine. I'll work with that, you rat. Okay, math problem, okay? You try to derail me right here. You've got a math problem. You suck at math, let's just assume. You're going to hire a tutor. This tutor knows English, History, Philosophy, Math, Political Science, Art...

Chris:

English, History, Philosophy, Math, Political Science, Art, Design, Typography, or the Mensa Math genius. Who do you wanna tutor you?

Daigo:

The Math genius.

Chris:

Okay. You have to hold it closer.

Daigo:

The math genius.

Chris:

The math genius. And why is that?

Daigo:

Because they know more, I guess, about the topic.

Chris:

They know it inside out, upside down, they do it in their sleep, right?

Daigo:

Yeah.

Chris:

They've seen this problem probably one thousand times, right? They've seen it a thousand times. How many times has the general seen it? One time. Okay.
There's another way to look at this. Allan Dib in his book, The 1-Page Marketing Plan. It looks like pimp, but it's not. So the 1-Page Marketing Plan, Allen Dib. He says, "look at it like this, let's say you have $10,000. You have $10,000 for marketing budget. If you had to acquire a market to 10,000 clients, what's your budget per client?"

Daigo:

$1.

Chris:

$1. You're pretty good at math. $1.
So if it's a thousand, same thing, how much is it?

Daigo:

$1. Oh what do you mean? Oh, $10, sorry.

Chris:

Yeah $10, good. Otherwise, they have to get a refund on the LMU. Okay. You got a hundred. What would it be?

Daigo:

A hundred.

Chris:

Okay. Let's say you had to get 10 clients.

Daigo:

A thousand.

Chris:

Yeah. Okay. So this is the power of focus and it works both ways. One is we have to hire and then we have to spend, it works both ways. So if you had to market to 10 people and you had the budget of $1,000 per client, I bet you could come up with a lot of creative ideas. And I bet if you had to market to 10,000 clients and your budget was $1, you would say, dude, what am I going to do with a dollar? What can that buy me per client? And unfortunately, is it Alyssa? Are you Alyssa?

Student:

Yes.

Chris:

Yes. With Alyssa. She's like, yeah, I have these clients. It's a hundred dollars. I can't do anything. My hands are tied, man. I can barely like get out of bed for that. So this is the power of focus. So if you focus on a few things, you'll have much better results. So it's just potency the same thing. If you've seen a problem a thousand times, you kind of almost know the answer already. The generalist versus the specialist. Now I can tell, because I read faces for a living. You're not convinced, Diego. Tell me why you're not convinced?

Daigo:

Do you think that maybe that focus could cloud you to new ideas or like new-

Chris:

For sure-

Daigo:

ways to achieving something?

Chris:

Yeah. So this is all that's new right here. That's new. That's new. That's new. That's new. I love this. Oh my God. This is so, what's this over here. We call that shiny object syndrome. Right?

Daigo:

Mm-hmm.

Chris:

It's still shiny over there and I'm bored of this. So guess what? Have you ever tried to get good at anything that you don't know? Like what?

Daigo:

Composing.

Chris:

Composing music?

Daigo:

Yeah.

Chris:

Great. You tried it one time. I'm done. I'm as good as I need to be. And then whether you like his music or not maybe Hans Zimmer, you know, he's worked on it for a while.
It's the same thing. It's like we get distracted. So Blair Enns talks about this. You guys know who Blair Enns is? I'll write his name here for you guys. Blair Enns. He says that, "creative people have an addiction". We do. I mean, not just the drugs, but to the new, the novel. We tire of doing the same thing over and over and over again. Right? So this addiction to the new and the novel actually work against our ability to market ourselves, to develop expertise and command the greatest value for our efforts. It really does. Now there are some places where the generalist is the preferred way to go, but there are only a few, versus the many. And now I'll ask you this question, okay. You guys are hungry, you guys go to the food court at the mall, right? And you go to the food court and you're really hungry.
And you're feeling like you want to have a great barbecue rib. Let's just say, that's what you want. So chances are, you're gonna go to the smoke house that does the barbecue ribs. But what about this amazing new food court vendor. They have a little Chinese food, a couple of ribs. They've got Korean, they've got Mexican, they've got Indian, they've got middle Eastern food. They've got all American. It's like, how often do you go to that person versus the person who's focused on this? Like, do you want your hot dog vendor to make you sushi? And do you want your sushi vendor to give you hot dogs? I don't know. I don't think so. The only time you go to the all you can eat people, right? The hometown buffets is when you're either super hungry and you're super indecisive. And no offense to the hometown buffet. I've never even been there. Anybody hometown buffet fans? There goes our sponsor and you just don't care about the quality of food you eat. That's it. It's harsh.
You guys watch that film? The Netflix documentary I think, not Netflix's documentary. It's called Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Somebody who have seen it?. It's amazing. I didn't think I would like a movie like that, but I watch I'm like, dang, this is amazing. I went from like, I don't like you to like, I respect you, master. Okay. In 90 minutes, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Okay.
Jiro is regarded as the world's greatest sushi chef. He lives in Japan. He's got a tiny sushi place. I think there's nine peoples by appointment only. Six months wait list time. It's incredible. And Jiro is meticulous about the amount of preparation, that he puts into everything. Like he has people hand massaging squid or octopus for like hours and that's all they do. You have to work for him for seven years before you're allowed to even cut a piece of fish. It's intense. And his son works for him and there's this conflict that unfolds in the narrative. And he's just sitting there and they're just doing this and their hands are just beat up, massaging the octopus.
Jiro has his philosophies. It's like people don't like eating octopus because it's very chewy. It's because they haven't eaten the octopus the way it's been prepared properly. It's you break down all the muscles and the tendon, whatever, and then it just melts in your mouth. He said that his greatest dream and what his legacy is, he wants to be able to do the same thing, the same way, forever. And he knows it's not possible because they are so meticulous. They mix seven kinds of grains of rice together. They toast all the nori paper like moments before he eat it and everything is done, and he pays for the most expensive thing. He tries to do everything the same way. And when I first heard him say that, I'm like, oh my God, just kill me now. But what he was saying was he has such an impossibly high standard of food prep and delivery. His greatest goal in life is to make sure he maintains that level of quality. That really blew me away.
You know, before you eat there, he asks you questions. How tall are you? Are you left-handed? Are you right-handed? How much do you weigh? Yeah, it's crazy. Right? Like why would you need to know that? Because when he serves you the fish, if you're left-handed, he puts it on your left hand side, he arranges the plate differently, depending on who you are. And depending on how big you are, changes the proportion of the fish and the rice, he gives you. It is incredible attention to detail. So to be the greatest at something, I have to start to think, you got to do it a lot of times to a very high degree. So we have to get rid of this desire to do so much because it works against us.
Jordan Peterson talks about this. He's like creative people are amazing, create immeasurable value in the world. And he talks about the Sistine Chapel and how much commerce that's made and there are studies about how much revenue the Eiffel tower's made for France and, merch and souvenirs. Not even just tourists. It's crazy. It's like over a billion dollars. That's what the power of art is. But he said that we are by nature, divergent thinkers versus convergent thinking. And this works against our, like success in the world of finance and business because we're scatter brains. So if we exercise a little discipline, we pick a lane, we can probably do really well for ourselves. So I'm going to tell you something that hopefully won't make you want to jump off a bridge after this, which is this, that you probably should specialize externally. Okay? While you remain a generalist internally, this is the critical difference. Like I said, I've prepared this argument many times before. Okay. What I mean by this, to the world you are the greatest math problem solver, whiz kid, graphic designer. That's what they know you for.
Inside, you're composing music, you're studying photography, you're writing poetry. We don't even care, we need to know. Here's the cool part. Here's the really cool part. When you get so much work and opportunities from this, this is one form of bias. Okay? Do you guys know of the halo bias? I started looking into cognitive bias. Have you heard of the halo bias? It's pretty cool. So there are hundred kinds of bias, prejudice that we all have, shortcuts that we make about things to explain the world, because mostly it takes up too much energy to think about things. The halo bias is, if you're good at one thing, you must be good at everything. It really is true. And let me show you how this works. You guys are young. You're still good looking. You walk into an interview and they're like, Diego's fine.
I bet you he's really good at logo design. And you just get by because you're good looking. You ever notice that? Okay. If you're good at doing logos, they're like, I bet you, he could design websites. He's really that good. This happens all the time. Okay. You see somebody who is smart at one thing, you just assume they're smart at everything. This works the opposite. God, he sucks at logo design, he must suck at web design too. God, he is ugly, he must be terrible at everything. This is what happens. So when you show the world just one thing that you're really good at, they just assume you're good at everything. And I have examples too, I'll talk about that in a second. Okay. So what happens is you got so good at this. They're like, Diego, we're working a new movie. can you write the music for us?
So other opportunities open up over here, once you've established this superstar status. And to remind you, I just draw star, okay, once you achieve this level of fame or expertise, credibility, then they start asking for all kinds of stuff. So people hire me for all kinds of things, I'm not qualified to do. I don't know if you know that.
So I was working with a client and I was designing their identity system, started talking about their brand a little bit. Next thing I know, the client hires me to design their facade, the signage, which is still close to what we do. And then they're like, Chris, can you design the inside? And I'm remodeling this building and these properties. Can you also design that? And I tell him, and I say to him, you know, I'm not an architect. He goes, I know, I know I'll hire an architect. You just do the concepts. So I get to do the best part of being an architect without the tedious work. And it would suck to be that architect. And that's exactly what happens. I design these things in illustrator. I render them in Cinema 4D, when I say I. Somebody here who knows how to use it? Renders it in Cinema 4D, the client approves it. It's wonderful. Later on, he shows me a picture. I never have to deal with like, oh yeah, I'll move that over there. And like try these things. It just worked. And I got paid to do that. Isn't that wonderful.
I got paid to be a consultant for virtual reality experience. I didn't even know what that is. And I told him, I don't know how to do that, but you know how to tell a story? I'm like, yeah.
Okay. I'll do it. Just pay me and I'll do it. No problem. Internally, I'm studying Philosophy, I'm looking at Psychotherapy, I'm looking at typography, I'm looking at lots of different things. I don't put that out there all the time. This makes me richer internally. This makes me rich externally, meaning money in the bank. Okay. Does that make sense? Yeah. So don't throw yourself off a bridge. You could still love all those things that you like to do. You can just pick a lane and go deep on that and put that face into the world because the halo bias works for you. It also works against you.
Now here's the rule. Many of you guys are going to get out of school in a few months. When you put out your portfolio, edit out all the garbage. And I promise you right now because your program is not that focused, there's a little bit of garbage in there. Just take it out. Don't get this idea that you have to have 14 pieces. You need 3. I said, you need 3. I got my first job in advertising by sending 4 pieces in a FedEx box. I was offered a job. I did it because my portfolio was not advertising base. So I picked four pieces that might feel like advertising. That was conceptual. And that's it, got hired because of that. So some of the things that you think are true, are not true. It's not the quantity because what they do is they look at the worst piece and they imagine the rest of your work like that. If you could put that piece in your portfolio, I wonder what you're going to do to us. So don't put anything that you're not super proud of and be merciless, be vigilant in what you keep.
If you walk into an art gallery and you see three amazing pieces on the wall, that's all need to know. You walk in a gallery, a couple of crappy pieces, like what are they thinking? The whole credibility of the gallery goes down. Okay. You know? Yeah. All right.
What time is it? How many more questions do we have? 8:57. Okay. So one more, and we're done, or was that the last one? One more. You got it? Yes. Take us home. It's a lot of pressure. Okay. You're like, no, it's not.

Student:

Yeah.

Chris:

it's fine.

Student:

Okay. My name is Jane.

Chris:

Jane. Okay. Perfect. Jane.

Student:

So my question actually comes from a comment you were making at the start of this, where you said, "you make a lot of videos, but people don't care unless the audio is good."

Chris:

Yeah.

Student:

And I'm wondering if you apply that to design at all, if there's an element in design that you notice that if that's the weakest link, everything just comes crashing down, kind of.

Chris:

That's an excellent, okay. So we know that video is an audio visual experience, right? That most of us are visual people. We're in the design space. So we tend to focus on the visual a lot. It's an audio visual experience, and when I heard George Lucas say this, he's like, "when the audience comes to the screen, all they care about is what it sounds like." You guys know THX, that's George Lucas's technology. You know that, not that he invented it, but the scientists, the engineers, and the wizards. And you, when you go to watch star wars film, it is on a new level, on another level than most films. Today, films have caught up to that, but there was a time in which you would listen to the way that the bikes would race past you, it was incredible.
So it was like, they don't show up for the picture, they show up for the sound. So here's what we make, if this is the part that people care about, this little pit in the olive, we focus on that olive and make sure that that's fine, because without that, they don't care about this at all. So when you make a piece of design, you have to figure out what does my audience or my client care about. And hopefully they're the same things. What is the client, and the audience care about? What's going to move the needle. What's going to make an impact and then solve for that problem, because everything else is not important to solving this. Once you nailed that part, everything is fine.
So in your classes, your professors might say, concept, that's what people care about. You know? And I think that's true that I would rather have something that looks ugly, but really be powerful and conceptual then something that's beautiful and empty, although I like both. Ideally those two things are right here, so you have the beauty and you have the concept and it's right there. That's the sweet spot. That's the stuff that people take notice of.
So I would tell you, or advise you just to look at what people care about, and they're not always what you care about. Some clients don't even care about the quality of the work. They don't. Some just want to make sure you hit the deadline. That's all, that's their status. Like, get the deadline, you're good. Some client, might care because of cost. And you want to make sure you're on the same page or do we care about the same things? If you don't and that bothers you don't take the job. But once you understand that, you have to prioritize that. As you get more experience, become more well known, you get to decide then what you care about and they hire you because you care about that thing.
It's not always the case at the beginning. Sometimes it is when you get out, and you're already a superstar, it can happen. Does anybody here a superstar already? Because it does happen. Anybody get a giant social fallowing? Okay, I'll tell you a little story. I think seven, eight years ago, I had an intern here and she had a pretty big social following on Instagram, and she was interning from me. It made me feel very insecure. I'm going to tell you, I'm like, damn, my intern has more followers than me. Not by little bit but by a lot. I checked recently, I'm okay now. But for a while, I was like this weird.
And so sometimes, especially I don't want to call them kids, but like 15 year olds are already starting to do design work now. So by the time they get into college, they already have a lot of experience, and they've already built up a following, which is incredible to me. It's like what's happening in the poker world, you know, where these old timers are getting displaced by internet stars and what is happening because they play online, so they play hundreds or thousands of hands versus like in the real table, it takes time to play a hand and they have 6, 7, 8 tables playing at the same time. They put in the mileage, and so when they show up in the scene, people are like blown away how good they are and how fast they got there, because they've been able to experience that. Did I answer your question, Jane?

Student:

Yeah. A hundred percent.

Chris:

A hundred percent?

Student:

A hundred percent.

Chris:

That's really good. That's going to be an A. Well, if I did a hundred percent, I'm going to end it on a high note before something else breaks, so I want to thank you guys for coming out here, for asking the questions. I know we only hit, I think, four or five people. If you want to know more about what it is that we do, I would strongly encourage you to check out our channel, It's the Future. And you can find us on YouTube. We have created over a thousand videos, believe it or not. And we're just getting started. So if you want to know more about pricing and value-based pricing, tons of content there.
If you want to know how to deal with those really nasty clients, we do a lot of live role plays and we address those. Those are some of our most popular videos. Okay. And we also produce like how to design stuff, but it's not really what we spend a lot of time thinking about. How was this for you guys? We're still rolling, so it's okay. How was this for you? Is it okay? You guys going to see [inaudible 01:32:14] , the mother trucker. Okay. Last class they're like, yeah, whatever, and then they left and they told Dave, "I sucked". And that was it. You can tell me to my face, if I sucked. I appreciate that. Okay. All right. Great. Okay. Well, that's it then.

Greg Gunn:

Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app and get a new insightful episode from us every week. The future podcast is hosted by Khristoff and produced by me, Greg. Thank you to Anthony Barrow for editing and mixing this episode. And thank you to Adam Sandborn for our intro music.
If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor by reading and reviewing our show on apple podcasts. It'll help us grow the show and make future episodes that much better. Have a question for Chris or me, head over to the future.com/heyChris, and ask away. We read every submission and we just might answer yours in a later episode. If you'd like to support the show and invest in yourself while you're at it, visit the future.com. You'll find video courses, digital products, and a bunch of helpful resources about design and creative business. Thanks again for listening. And we'll see you next time.

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