Interview with Todd Motto

I interviewed Todd Motto (@toddmotto) recently, the Creative Director at Smash Six Limited.

You can view the interview before.

Full Name: Todd Motto
Age: N/A

When did you graduate?

Never! I did college for two years though studying art and design, but that really did not help. It was more for credibility and giving myself time to get more clients.

How many design agencies have you worked for?

None, but I did some experience with one for a week back in 2008 and realised it was what I wanted to do. I came in the next day after downloading Illustrator with a tonne of designs and showed them to the MD. He really liked them so took it from there. Taught myself everything, Twitter has boosted my skills unexplainably, the people I’ve met through it are phenomenal, and have contributed to success.

Current Employer: Smash Six Limited (own company)
Current Title: Creative Director

When you graduated from University/College did you find it difficult to get a job within the creative industry?

Built my business up by freelancing through school at 16, then college, and at 19 had decent turnover.

If yes to the above question, what did you find difficult? –

Sales! Sitting infront of a laptop doesn’t generate sales. Digital is great, but will not get you business. Well maybe some, but not enough to sustain :-)

Since graduating, what are the most important factors you have learned about working within the creative industry?

That it’s hard to find genuine workers, there is a lot of noise in the industry, it’s extremely difficult to tell who will actually help you deliver, and know what they’re doing. There are tonnes of trends always buzzing round, but don’t get distracted – stay focussed on sales and delivery.

What do you like about your job??

Waking up and reading my iPhone full of new client emails! Starts the day off really well then have a shower, take my time, get started around 9.30-10.00am and work throughout the day. Taking breaks is key, and I usually spend an hour or two popping out to break up the day. You can get more accomplished in short bursts than making yourself sit there from 9-5.

What do you dislike about your job?

Trying to develop the business through sales and delivery at the same time, being customer facing and a designer is hard. Two jobs at once.

What programs do you use on a day-to-day basis, if any?

Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Outlook for Mac, Skype, Word, Google Chrome, nothing out the ordinary.

Which browser [‘s] do you tend to use most and why?

Google Chrome, it’s fast, flawless and streamlined! Beats Safari because Safari opens too many new windows instead of tabs.

Which projects do you prefer doing most?

Start to finish, usually working with startups, design their branding, web presence, advise them on which steps to take, and help grow their business with them. There’s a lot more value in that than a simple transactional fee for a quick web design.

How much has the creative industry changed since you first started working?

The web has changed dramatically, and it’s a lot easier getting into Web than it is Print work (in my opinion). Web is evolving super fast!

Has the industry become easier to work in, then when you originally started?

It’s stayed the same, people make out it’s got worse, but you’ve got to channel out the ‘noise’ around you in the industry and keep focussing, don’t get distracted by ‘new toys’.

Where do you see the creative industry being in the next five, ten or twenty year’s time?

We’re experimenting with a completely new website interface at the minute, which is in Alpha testing mode at the minute, and incorporates multiple web pages within side one web page, like an App basis, but for browsers. We’re trying to create new things and innovate, so stay tuned for this one!

What do you think about Flash? Is it alive, or a dying product for websites?

Flash is okay for adverts and websites that ‘need’ flash, such as things that seriously cannot be coded. But apart from that – stay away. Flash isn’t good for SEO or design, it’s buggy and quite irritating. Not as seamless as a HTML page.

When building a website, please explain how you start each project..

I know a few people who actually start by just coding things without design, which I thought was complete madness – like building a car without even designing! I start by understanding the client needs, what they need on their site, what their message is, is it a promotional site? Marketing site? Portfolio site? Brochure/reference point. After gaining everything you need to know, you can then translate the scribbles into your software (I use PhotoShop).

Do you think the bridge between design and programming is closer?

No, it’s definitely further. ‘Back in the day’ a ‘web designer’ would be assumed to do both design and development, but nowadays they usually pick one or other. You do get the odd person who can do both, but always one with a strength in the other. If I had my time again, I’d be a multilingual web developer, as things are incredible nowadays, but then I’d love to be able to design (hopefully) nice things. It’s a hard compromise. If you’re looking into web design, assess whether you’re a designer or developer – or maybe both. A lot of great developers I know seriously cannot design, but try so hard and think they can. I admit I am not the “best” at coding, but it depends on the level of complexity. Pick your strong point so you don’t become the ‘jack of all trades, master of none’.

Do you see HTML 5 changing the way the Internet works?

In all honesty, it just makes it a little more experimental, like you can code things instead of using Flash and so forth, but unless people innovate, the web won’t change, it just makes accessibility and compatibility easier.

Do you see HTML 5 changing the way animation is seen on the web?

Covered this one! So yeah. I’m sure you’ve seen www.drawastickman.com

From seeing many graduates who you interview/take on for work experience, what do you think they are/may be missing?

We handpick people, but I’ve had past students email me portfolios telling me they’re great at web design + development, and I look at their Portfolio and it’s full of paintings and stuff, it’s not great. Need to see practical work. I’d consider someone if they’d built 10 fake websites which were truly awesome and installed them all on their website, and said ‘this is what I can do’, over someone who has built one client website that was good. When I was in school, I created a bunch of fake logos and put them up pretending I had done them for clients. Then when I’d get a client, I’d remove a fake one and add a real one. That way you don’t start off with an empty bag :-)

What skills do you think are missing which you feel graduates should posses, before coming to see you?

A clear mindset of who they are, what they do. “I am a php, flash, .NET developer” is better than “I do websites” because it’s specific. Cut to the chase! And have confidence. We do a lot of different stuff, so tailor the skills to what you’re looking at doing, and you’ll get somewhere. I studied ‘art and design’ the most vaguely named course ever – but I picked what I wanted to do which was branding and websites, was it even taught on the course? Nope! But this was because I wanted to study at University, therefore had to do that course to ‘step up’. But things took their toll and I got somewhere on my own and kept evolving it. I used to class time to code up websites and email clients. I wouldn’t advise doing that too much though – they never liked me that much because work was slightly delayed ;)

Best piece of advice: make use of those around you and don’t think you can do or know everything! :-)

Todd came up with some great answers, which I hope will become useful for me later in my research.