I’m excited to share my very first (of hopefully many) Design Idol’s interview with Graphic Designer and Digital Artist, Roberto Blake of RobertoBlake.com. I first encountered Roberto on his YouTube Channel where he puts out a lot of great videos on design and entrepreneurship. He also regularly writes for a variety of design publications including:
He is a guest or contributing writer for both:
Roberto’s article for HowDesign, 5 Reasons Why You Need a Design Blog was one of the things that inspired me to create this blog in the first place, so I’m very honored for the chance to interview him for it not even 3 months later. So let’s get to it!
You wear a lot of different hats, from freelance Graphic Designer, YouTuber, to contributing writing to several different design-based publications. How has working in so many different roles effected your “elevator speech” and how do you describe yourself now?
I describe myself as a storyteller and brand developer. It’s the realization that I’ve always been interesting in telling stories in anyway I can, whether with my drawings, my photography, writing or making videos, and I’ve spent my entire life exploring all of them.
What made you want to learn about and work in the design industry originally? Is art something you’ve always loved and had an interest in, or was there something in particular that helped you realize that interest?
I decide to become a designer because it was a skill set I already had and enjoyed. Originally I wanted to go into animation and possibly film, but I felt I wasn’t talented enough and didn’t have the resources to pursue it, and design was something I was already making money at while being a viable career. I still think it was the right choice but I honestly wish it had been based purely on pragmatism rather than fear. This may be why I am so passionate about helping designers and other creatives be more confident in their abilities.
Once you realized that the design industry was something you wanted to be a part of, how did you make that happen?
It was a matter of execution and commitment. I went to school for graphic design, had been a web designer already since I was 14 started getting paid for it around 15, built a solid body of work and before I even graduated I was offered my first job. Execution is what stops most people from achieving their goals. If you want something and you work at it every single day for years if that is what it takes, eventually you have results. It may not be exactly the result you were looking for but you have something to show for it. I can’t count the unintended but tremendous results that just being engaged in YouTube and social media have brought me. I now have built plans around some of those results and the doors are still open to opportunities I can’t anticipate.
What was your first “real” job in the design industry?
I know what you mean by “real” job, but I really don’t like that phrasing or the thinking. Any job that pays you is a “real job” and there is a stigma around freelancing that their shouldn’t be since regular steady employment for a single individual or entity is truthfully a very modern concept. It was something throughout human history only the minority of people had. Most people have always been vendors or work for hire throughout history and it still amazes me that we forget that. In the United States it’s predicted that by 2020 over 45% of our workforce will be freelancers or self employed.But to answer your question, it was working as an In-House Web Designer at an IT company.
Which job had the most influence on your skill as a designer? Was there a certain position that taught you the most or allowed you to really explore and grow your skills?
I think my experience working for an ad agency played a big role in how I approach my work today.
How did you know when it was time to make the jump from traditional employment to working for yourself full-time?
I think I knew that I was going to have to do this eventually from a very young age. I won’t go into details but a traumatic event usually wakes people up and makes them realize that the world is not going to wait for when they are ready. I took a much harder look at my hour-glass, and that is all there is to it.
I love how you talk about leaving a legacy. What do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to be having a positive influence on creative culture, and to have made the creative services industry more accessible for a broader range of people. I feel that I can educate, encourage, enable, empower and set a good example for creatives, whether they be designers, artists, photographers, youtubers or what have you. I feel my content, my body of work, my social media engagement and the products that I’m working on putting out will help me accomplish this, as well as the community I’m developing through YouTube and social media and the “Create Awesome” philosophy and culture. That is my legacy.
What do you think is the most challenging part of our jobs as a graphic designer?
For me its time management. I am great at “time utilization” I get more done in a day than some people do over the course of two weeks. I just don’t feel I’m efficient enough sometimes. I’ve got plenty of room to grow in this area.
What do you think is the most important skill/trait for a successful graphic designer to have?
It may sound cliché, but communication. I can teach someone Photoshop, I can teach them design principles, and in truth they don’t need a ton of “artistic ability” to be a good or great designer if I can teach them “design thinking”; and while you can teach creativity you can stimulate it or inspire it. What is very difficult to teach, is how to be a good listener and how to concisely get an idea across, and pull something out of your head and articulate it well or demonstrate it in a way most people can grasp. At the end of the day that is what designers have to do.
Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on?
I wouldn’t say there is a favorite. Each project has its own experiences attached to it and there is also the experience and relationship with the client. If I were going to choose out of personal work I’d say maybe my YouTube channel because of the value it lets me create for other people and the relationships I have built as a result of it.
What do you think it means to be a “Design Idol?”
I’m not sure, and I don’t necessarily agree with that phasing. I think if you’re good at anything you have a responsibility to enable, encourage and educate others and set a good example for them.
What are you working on right now? Are there any big projects you have in the works or lined up you’d like to talk about?
There are few big ones, I can’t talk about so I will talk about big projects for where I am taking my own brand and the YouTube channel. I’m moving into Phase VI which is product development. It’s great creating value for people through YouTube videos and articles, but I want and need to go deeper and give people something they truly execute on from start to finish. I’m working with HOW Design University, Udemy and Skillshare to develop some E-courses that will accomplish this. I’m also working on my first paid video guide that will be a direct download people can purchase.
*Roberto is also a big Game of Thrones fans, you can find several videos on his channels talking about the series. If you’ve read many of the blog posts here you know I never miss a chance to geek out a bit so I had to ask him at least one question related to the show. *
Finally, what do you think will happen when Daenerys Targaryen finally reaches Westeros?
She’ll probably have to fight the armies of the dead along side people she thought were here enemies, and she will probably save them, but might die a martyr doing so…I hope not but that is my best guess.
I want to say thank you to Roberto once again for taking the time to do this interview. Be sure to check him out on his YouTube channel and on his website!
I hope you enjoyed the first edition of my Design Idols Interview series and I hope to be bringing more of them to you in the future. Let me know what you thought in the comments below and don’t forget to like and subscribe so you never miss a post! Thanks for reading the Pink Glasses Productions Blog!