We recently caught up with Cesar, the man behind Pencil vs Pixel. From cabinet deliveries to how you must read, read, read he shares his life lessons.
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?
Some of my earliest memories of making things is in the classroom back in grade school. I would draw things from sports figures to cartoons. The thing that led me to design was a rock band. I was a drummer in a band and we needed posters, flyers and t-shirts. I volunteered to do it all, even though I had no experience doing it. I remember being so proud of my first t-shirt design. It was really well received (sold out at one of our shows). The positive experience motivated me to pursue art and design.
What are your three must-read design books, blogs or podcasts?
My three go-to’s are: 1. Creative Mornings (both, recorded and in-person) 2. Design Matters by Debbie Millman 3. Twitter (my news resource)
What are the three worst jobs you have done leading up to where you are now, and how did you learn from them?
I believe that past work experience is what molds you. Whether you had a terrible experience somewhere or great experiences, they’re learning lessons. The three jobs that I dreaded the most, but learned a lot from, are: 1. Cabinet delivery person. I used to deliver cabinets. It was one of my first jobs out of high school. I had to wake up at 5:00 am and it was dreadful. I played music at the time and I would spend ‘dead time’ thinking about and strategizing new approaches to my music and visuals. I was excited to practice after work. Working taught me some big lessons like having discipline, not letting current circumstances get in your way, and staying positive. The environment wasn’t positive. I had to make the best of it. It taught me to think outside the box. 2. Restaurant worker. I started as a dishwasher, moved up to cook, busser and finally to server. Working in the restaurant business taught me empathy. I knew what everyone’s role was and I learned to respect it. I knew the difficulties and rewards of every position. 3. Retail stock associate. This was a place where I learned about the importance of customer service. I would go the extra mile to fulfill my duties. I learned that it was crucial to keep track of every single item in stock. The moment something went missing, inventory would get out of proportion. I learned that every single detail counts in business. Crucial learning experience that taught me what it takes to run a business.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
1. Keep learning and continue to work that creative muscle out. 2. Challenge yourself. Learn new techniques. 3. Read more and more often. Reading helps spark new ideas, plus, it just makes you a better person. 4. Share what you know. If someone asks how you did it, it really doesn’t hurt to tell. 5. Be nice to everyone. Even those who are not as nice back.
What advice would you give students starting out?
Don’t be afraid of failing and don’t let rejection get you down. It’s part of growing as a designer and a person. I know it may sound cheesy or cliché but it’s true. Failure is the one thing that I can say was the building block to getting a clearer understanding of design and what I wanted to do.