Matchstic’s Creative Director Blake tells us being a good human is important, you will learn a lot from travel and the world. He also elaborates in such a beautiful way of how everything needs to be balanced.
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started? As long as I can remember, I’ve been a big doodler, drawer, and dreamer. It was actually my 7-year-old self way of dealing with a divorcing family. After 18 years of marriage my parents split and I retreated to my safe place: pencil, paper, and a weird little brain. I remember just drawing and drawing. A series of eye-ball muscle men characters, soccer logos, and fun little fanciful worlds. So much so my first grade teacher had to talk to my parents to get me back on track academically. As I grew older and into High School, drawing remained my thing. I didn’t really want to be a fine artist but I also didn’t want to do anything else but draw. In Dickson, TN, where I grew up, there weren’t really “artists” (there probably were but those folks were just called Hippies). We had a lot of farmers, preachers, and salesmen. My Dad was most like the latter and kind of a big deal in our small town. He had started several successful businesses from scratch and other people (not him) put pressure on me to take them over and follow in his footsteps. But, there was this love of art that I couldn’t let go of. The Fall of 1998 my Step-Mom handed me a Communication Arts magazine and it changed my life. I thought “computers & drawing” in one place as a career where you get paid. What. *Mine blown*. I instantly became obsessed and ended up studying graphic design at the University of Tennessee.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs? I’ve done everything from making sandwiches to stocking medical shelves to valet parking cards, but I’ve only ever really had two design jobs (one that paid and one that didn’t). I interned at Sony Music is Nashville in summer of 2001 and quickly learned I wasn’t as good as I thought. In fact, I was quite bad. My first assignment was to design an ad in Billboard magazine for the twangy BlackHawk country trio. It was terrible. Quark Express was wonky, my type skills were very grude, and my art director, Rallow Welch, almost fired me after my first few comps. Luckily, he was patient and I learned a lot that summer (like how to typeset endless pages of liner notes and I got to work on a Johnny Cash tribute album called “Kindred Spirits”, so yes, heaven). After college I moved to the great big city of the South, Atlanta. I interned at a music management business, doing package & web design for Sister Hazel, Dexter Freebish, and a few others. I thought it was a big deal back then. It felt super glamorous to go to shows and see my work in the merch booths or hang out back stage with the bands. Truth was though, I was making next to no money. I was easily below the poverty line, sleeping on a friend’s couch, and valet parking cars for $10/hour. It was in that season though where Matchstic was born. I partnered up with Craig Johnson, a friend working at Sixthman, the music management company where I interned. He and I have been great friends and business partners ever since, 13 years later.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.
I’m the creative director at a small brand identity agency in Atlanta. We partner with our clients to build brands of substance, helping them define who they are and how they express that to the world. We believe identity is essential. It is the soul of a brand; the singular thread that anchors an organization around all activities—inside and out. Tangibly, that means we do brand strategy, naming, messaging, visual identity, and print & digital design. I oversee our practice areas, thinking, principals, and process for producing great work, and work with an immensely talented team to make the magic happen.
What career advice would you give your 16yr old self? 1. Don’t stop making.
Fall in love with the process of making and never stop. Get your hands dirty! Make time in your “busy days” of playing PlayStation and eating EasyMac and make more art. It has real value. Paint, print, and break stuff. The more you make, whether good or bad, the higher your taste levels will rise. Become a master with the tools to make stuff, on the computer and off.
2. Ideas always win.
Focus on the core-idea, not the visual tricks. Don’t waste time getting sucked into endless art boards. Get off the computer and think. Be enamored with other topics. Travel and learn from the world. There is a great big planet outside of the corn fields of Tennessee.
3. Make More Life-Long Friends.
Being a good human is more important. Love people & have faith in something bigger than yourself. Make memories and take adventures with people you love and don’t lose touch with them. Soak in every minute. Make a concentrated effort to keep those relationships alive no matter the distance between them.
2016 for you in a sentence.
Everything in balance.
Life comes in seasons and balance is a life lesson I’m currently learning. How do I balance my tremendous love for my wife & kids, yet continue to push our work, team, and design practice? How do I balance my time to invest in exactly what I should spend time doing? All things in balance. Design isn’t about you, but you have to pour your heart and soul into it. It isn’t about the money but it has to be profitable in order to be sustainable. It’s about serving the client well but also pushing back at times. It isn’t always about results, sometimes the people are the prize. Family and aspirations are important. Neither can exclude the other. They should be in sync with one another. Life isn’t all about graphic design. There is more to see, do and consider than strategy, type, and logos.
Balance is a universal truth and I want to embrace it more.