What I Learned This Year #23: Christopher Cox

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1. Doing is thinking.

When I first entered this business, I would sit around and moan about how when I finally got that great job or worked for such and such client I would finally get to produce that project or thing that would catapult me into stardom.

After being laid off several times and moving around a lot, my views have totally changed. I’ve learned that creating is a practice. You have to keep doing it all of the time. If you wait for a reason, you won’t do it and you’ll get stale. If you are bored with your creative life either at your job or just in general, then you have to just start creating. Make an experimental poster campaign, launch a new website, start making a set of typefaces but don’t wait for a reason. Just do it and during the course of action reasons will start to emerge that will push you and the work in the right direction.

I make ‘stuff’ constantly. If I am sitting on the couch, I am drawing. It’s like playing an instrument, you will never truly master it but the only way to get better and feel inspired is to play.

2. Collaborate.

You have two options on how you can look at his whole ‘internets’ thing. You can shit your pants and worry that you are going to be wiped out or just lay down your arms, throw up the flag and embrace the hell out of it. The old walls really are tumbling down and will keep doing so for several years to come.

Don’t look at your counterparts in the industry as competition anymore. Open up to genuine collaboration. We don’t worry about muddying the waters if someone has an agency that does exactly what our does and wants to partner with us on something. The water is already muddy. We look for opportunity. Every person, agency, studio, CD, AD, client or student we meet is a doorway into something new that could allow us to take part in something we had never considered. 9 times out of 10 the clients won’t know or care who’s involved so long as budget is respected and the work delivers results.

3. Put yourself out there.

If you have something you’ve created that you are excited about, then put it on the internet. Share it with the world. It’s one of the best ways to find out what other people respond to in your work and how you might need to shift or change to get better at what you do. The internet is the world’s largest no-bullshit focus group. Put your work on Flickr, Behance, your blog or wherever but get it out there. It doesn’t have to be client work either. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback or comments. You can respond to them directly and also respond by redesigning or reworking your creative. Look at negative feedback as a positive that you can use to tailor your craft and better yourself.

Half of the projects I’ve gotten in recent years came from just making something for the hell of it and sharing it. Then a potential client saw it somewhere on the net, tracked me down and hired me to do something similar. That is one of my favorite ways to get work because when they do find me, they ask me to continue doing something that I was already enjoying. I liken it to going fishing and using work I’ve made that I like or enjoyed making as bait. It might sound crazy but a lot of people are doing the same thing now and it works surprisingly well.

4. Love more and travel.

Go home and hug your wife or partner. Make time for your family. Find balance. You are in charge of your life. You always have choices to make. This industry needs to change drastically to address the cultural earthquakes that are rumbling through society right now. Choose to be an active part of that change. It sounds altruistic because it is, but who cares. Working like maniacs is killing us. Make time for your family and friends as best you can. Nothing informs the creative process more than life experience and your job is only one part of that life. Take your annual vacation and make it count. Load up the kids or save for a flight and go somewhere you haven’t ever been. Take lots of pictures, eat weird food and when you come home you will find new inspiration in your heart that you never knew was there. Half of the experimental layouts I created below were made from pictures I took last year on a brief trip to Europe.

Your family and friends are your rock. Stay close to them and hold on to your integrity. A good friend from college once told me that you can sell your integrity for nothing, but after you do, no amount of money you earn for the rest of your life will ever be enough to buy it back. You can’t get back the time you waste putting up with bullshit. Sometimes you have to push away from the table and say you’re full. Choose how you spend your time wisely. It’s your time. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. If you think someone wants to waste it, just say no.

5. Embrace your fear.

If you hate your job, then quit. If you think Denver sucks, then move or make it better. If you think this guy or that guy’s work sucks, then make something better. If you think your CD is full of it, then tell him he is. This is an old piece of advice and the reason it’s old is because it’s fucking true. If you let your fear for stability, acceptance or whatever else drive all of your decisions in life, then you are wasting your life. If your family and friends won’t support you, then maybe it’s time to start a new family and make some new friends. You can’t compromise when it comes to what’s in your heart. You have to move in that direction or you’ll never be worth a shit for any of the people you surround yourself with. Start doing this today. Just beginning to think about it means you are already making a decision that will inspire you to action in the future.

6. Surround yourself with people better than you.

I learned this from someone I worked for in recent years. Don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people that are way more talented then you are. You will learn more than you ever dreamed. Talented people usually take ownership and responsibility over their decisions because they are passionate and proud of what they produce. If you are going to build a team or start an agency, then fill it with people that are seeking opportunity to experience the fullest expression of their abilities. Then go out there and create that opportunity.

7. Skulls.

They are totally played out and everywhere but damnit people still love them. They are super fun to draw too. I just gave in and decided I would still occasionally make skull art and the most popular thing I made so far this past month was a skull. Everything below actually is stuff I made in the past 30 days or so for shits and giggles, and I had fun doing it too.

Love, hugs and good vibes to all of you and to making wherever you are a better place to be creative.

Comments

Hell yeah Chirs, thanks for the inspirational goodness that got me excited to progress as an artist and make cool shit.

Cheers

truth.

Excited for you and the crew, and we're looking forward to collaboration!

thanks for the inspiration and best wishes to you and Changethethought in 2011

This is one of my favorites so far, Wonderful post!

Nice words man, great stuff. Keep up the great work.

Chris-
Your editorial is awesome. I love your words of create, balance,
put yourself out there, fearlessness, every person is a doorway into something new and most of all make time for your family.

Thank you for your inspiring words just in time for the new year!

Cheers!

nicely said. i especially enjoyed your direct advice to "stop working like maniacs". this industry has convinced itself that the only way to be successful is to never leave the table... & you saying "it's ok to back away and say your full"... is super refreshing.

Very well said Chris.

Awesome post man! It is easy to see your passion for your work and for helping Denver to reach its fullest potential. Happy 2011 and excited to collaborate with you guys this year!

perfect...and YES on #4...again and again.

The timing for reading this post could not have been better.. i've been thinking about doing more this year and start doing things that can help me build a..err..better me actually, so reading this post is a true inspiration.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, wishing you the best for a better new year.

13. What a bugaboo stroller is.

A bugaboo stroller is awesome Gordy. You taught me that. So I am gonna just take that comment to mean 'awesome' then. ;)

do i really get to chair-dance beside you on a regular? i am a lucky little producer, really i am.

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