Things that I've learned from working in a creative studio
I met a lot of great people and I’ll never forget the things that we’ve done together (hat parties, indulging in copious amounts of Chinatown buns, yummy cakes, breakfast meetings, lunchtime yoga, karaoke where someone rocked out so hard that they knocked a tooth out, delicious cakes, biggest loser competitions, beer tray service on Fridays, where-have-you-been-all-my-life cake, horror movie nights in the conference room, discount cakes… I could easily go on but I think you’re getting the picture).
Instead of talking about how much fun I had working there (and eating cakes), I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’ve learnt throughout the years. Hopefully, especially if you’re starting out as a new graduate, these small things might help you as you embark on your new job:
Done is better than perfect.
Let me expand on that a little. For my own work I never feel that it’s the best it can be, there always seem to be something that can be improved. A long time ago I found it hard to finish personal work. After a while I realized most people don’t notice the minute details that I notice and that the important thing is to get the overall messaging across. As long as that’s visible in the final product, then you’ve done a good job.
If you’re working in a team environment, do what’s best for the team not for you.
The work made at TheVisualMD is produced by multiple artists, which meant that projects were meticulously scheduled to make sure that the hand-off from one artist to another runs smoothly. Sometimes I wanted to try out a new method or further develop a shot, but I needed to consider how this would affect my teammates. Rather than making the rest of the team wait for me as I tested a new animation technique, I made sure that I had done the basis of my shot and delivered it on time before trying out new things.
Plan ahead and remember to communicate.
This one kind of rolls off the “…do what’s best for the team not for you” point. Having experienced working in both production and management I really appreciated forward planning and being kept in the loop from my teammates. One example that stands out is when I was writing out assignments for artists. At the time it was a large team and I felt like I was continuously writing out assignments and having very little time to provide quality art direction and feedback for their work. There were a few artists who would always give me a heads up and an ETA on when they ready for their next assignment. It’s a small gesture but it really did wonders for me. I had enough time to prep art direction for them and not feel like I was rushing around as they sit with nothing to move onto.
If you need more time ASK for more time, don’t always stay late to get things done.
I’ve worked with artists that have wanted to take work home or stay later to finish off projects. I think this is pretty common when going straight from school into full time work. I was definitely one of those artists when I first started my job in production. Working late in the lab during my graduate years seemed so natural to me that I thought that I could continue this lifestyle when I started at TheVMD. I quickly learnt that this is not practice that could be sustained. It’s not healthy to be constantly under stress (even if you thrive off it). You’ll burn yourself out and be less likely to work efficiently or creatively.
Unless you’re on a deadline to deliver to a client, project managers have expressed to me that too much overtime for a team is something they want to avoid. As part of project planning, they’ve always created schedules with ample buffer times to accommodate requests for more time on an assignment. It’s important for PMs to know if it takes a person 2 days or 5 days to create that type of animation or illustration so that they can plan for similar work in future. All of these hours are be billable hours that affect final project cost and, more importantly, they want their team to thrive in a happy and healthy work environment.
Share, share, share
If you’ve figured out a technique or a quicker workflow, share it with your managers and teammates. Better yet, write out a tutorial on how to do it. Your teammates can try it out for themselves and also add to it.
If you see a cool video or image on the web, share and inspire your friends. Yes that even goes for pictures of cute animals (because we all need it once in a while). When I was at TheVMD, we were also big fans of sharing animated gifs and music, it got us through some stressful times and also made Fridays a blast.
Oh and baked goods…always good to share…pi(e) day…ahem.
Celebrate the little things
Big moments like landing a major client or getting a project in on time are definitely big moral boosters for everyone. Just don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for the smaller accomplishments that have brought you to that point. Maybe you’ve finally got that particle system to work or you’ve learnt a new Photoshop technique, remember to celebrate and congratulate each other on your achievements. I don’t care how you do it, high-5 yourself or do the truffle shuffle, just do it!
It’s a small list and there’s definitely more that I’ll think of when I lie in my bed tonight, but I’ll leave it like it is for now. Do any of you have similar experiences? Feel free to add to the list.