"Make the right thing easy, and the wrong thing difficult." – Ray Hunt
For Paul Schlacter, inspiration is found in the most unexpected of places.
Sometimes it's his daily photo blog, in which his other creative friends also participate. Often, it's a no. 2 pencil. Perhaps it's the simple passage of time.
But regardless, the senior designer at Google Design finds it daily.
He sat down with DesignRush to share how exactly he wrangles inspiration, his advice for landing a high-profile gig, why an out-of-focus video project from years ago is still one of his most prized projects, and the famous quote that gives him an added boost of motivation.
DesignRush: What inspired you to become a designer?
Paul Schlacter: I didn't really know what graphic design was when I declared it as my major. I always liked to draw, and figured design was the "safe" path to a real job after school. Fortunately for me, I liked it. During my junior year, we had a three-day workshop with Matt Checkowski (formerly of Imaginary Forces, currently of The D4D) that inspired me to get into motion graphics, which ultimately lead me to move to NYC for my first job at Trollbäck+Company.
DR: We know you’ve worked in interfaces, graphic design, and motion graphics. How do those types of design differ, and which is your favorite?
PS: Motion graphics taught me to consider how someone might experience a project over time. For a network brand package, TV viewers need to be able to read and understand what you're showing them -- whether it's what's on next, the URL at the end of a commercial, or when to tune in for their favorite show. It's a similar consideration when designing an interface, but now the viewer has to navigate through the system instead of watching it all proceed automatically.
I'm not sure if I have a favorite, but motion graphics are definitely fun to show people.
DR: It's definitely having a moment with the prevalence of social media, too. What's your creative process?
PS: After I read (or write) a design brief, ideally I can spend a few hours sketching, writing, and trying out different approaches. Once I have something I feel pretty good about, I like to share it with my coworkers and teammates to get feedback. Depending on how that goes, I'll develop the more promising ideas, getting feedback along the way, until I have a final design.
DR: Collaboration is always helpful to us, too. Do you have any projects that you are particularly proud of?
PS: I've loved working on the SPAN conference for the last four years. It's Google's ever-evolving design conference exploring the intersection of design and technology. It's the perfect design project -- every year, we update the brand and apply it to digital, print and environmental surfaces. It's the kind of project you do in school and rarely get to do professionally.
DR: That sounds so fulfilling, creatively.
PS: It is!
Another older project that I love is the Ping Pong video Jeff Baxter and I made. We shot it over a weekend along with a handful of other shorts just because we wanted to, and emailed it to everyone we knew. We had no idea what we were doing (it's not even in focus!) but it's still one of my favorite projects.
DR: Hey, it's the projects like those that you learn the most from sometimes! So tell us -- where do you find inspiration in your day-to-day life?
PS: I haven't kept up with it very well, but some friends and I have a daily photo blog where we post an image of something interesting every day. It's a little reminder to be aware of the details we might otherwise overlook in our daily lives.
DR: That is such an excellent idea! Do you have any design tools you swear by?
PS: I love drawing with Bic pens and No. 2 pencils. My design sketches don't look like much, but it's a nice way to start working on a project without getting distracted by the details. When it comes to software, Photoshop and Illustrator are my defaults, but I'm trying to use Sketch more these days so that I can keep up.
DR: We've heard nothing but rave reviews about Sketch. Alright, branching out a bit... You have the day off. What can we find you doing?
PS: I started cycling in high school, and love getting out of the city on my bike. It's the closest I get to meditating on a regular basis.
DR: Are there any designers or brands that speak to you?
PS: I love Geoff McFetridge's work. And everything NASA is up to -- the images from the Juno mission are amazing.
DR: You’ve had such amazing roles at companies such as Google and Yahoo – what advice do you have for landing an interview or job at a high-profile agency or brand?
PS: Be nice to people. In addition to being a pleasant way to live, you never know who people know or where they've worked, and a reference is often the best way to get your foot in the door.
DR: What are your top tips for beating designer's block?
PS: Time, if I've got it.
When I'm stuck on a problem, the only way I get through it is to keep working on it. Sometimes that means spending a lot of time making things, and sometimes that means having that luxury to step away from it for a little bit.
DR: Is there a quote that motivates you in your work?
PS: "Make the right thing easy, and the wrong thing difficult." – Ray Hunt
DR: Last one -- do you have any final thoughts, comments or words of wisdom you’d like to share with someone in the industry?
PS: Be mindful of your posture, and get away from the computer when you can.
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