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Finding Skilled Shop Operators and Designers... Business Growth.

Discussion in 'Business Management' started by Christian @ 2CT Media, Jul 30, 2019.

  1. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    Back when I was in HS, it was more front end, client side. But then again, it was during the days of CSS1 and CSS2, during that transition time period. All done with Notepad, no IDE when learning then. No syntax highlighting or auto completion. Atom (with a few extensions) makes things a whole lot easier.

    We didn't do much in the games (Flash really wasn't a thing until I was in college). HTML5 though, I do like that platform for game dev. JS can be tricky, but easier to muddle through then others.
     
  2. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    The best art schools tend to have instructors who are actively working professionally in the specific field they teach (graphic design, illustration, type design, cartooning, etc, etc). The best schools also spend nearly all of the time teaching in cerebral side of things. The instructors are not going to waste time showing students the basics of how to click around in a specific piece of software. Anyone can learn how to do that for free on their own free time.

    There are countless hours worth of tutorial videos and other how-to resources freely available for learning how to use mainstream graphics applications. Why pay a bunch of tuition money and waste valuable class time learning that? None of the software or any of the software tutorial videos teaches anything about visually conceiving a project in an effective way, planning it correctly and carrying it through to completion.

    Too many smaller colleges and vo-tech schools offering graphic design education spend way too much time teaching courses on Photoshop and not nearly enough time teaching things like page layout, color theory, typography, visual communication, etc.

    While learning how to code is a valuable skill, it's not graphic design or "art." It's computer programming. It's easier (for now) to get a good paycheck being a programmer than it is being a graphic designer. A graphics person will improve his marketability by learning how to code, whether it's HTML and JavaScript for web-related stuff or more specialized things like being able to code advanced scripts for use in Adobe After Effects.

    I think web development has turned into a waste land of sorts. It's dominated by WordPress and canned templates. As artificial intelligence and automation continue to advance we're going to see a lot of jobs in that area get eliminated. AI is also threatening a good number of software development jobs.

    If the hire is going to be doing any design work that person should at least have at least some raw talent and demonstrable ability to think visually. The visual problem solving thing is good for tasks like installing vinyl graphics. The more advanced tasks, like installing vehicle wraps, takes hands-on practice.
     
  3. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    One could philosophically argue that the code itself could be seen as an art form. But that's off topic.

    Programming could be used as a tool to directly create art (not talking about the code that creates the software that then creates the artwork, but actually going from code to direct finished product; why they would want to, I dunno, but I know some Blender folks that do that with Python). One of my digitizing programs actually has a CLI directly in it, everything can be done with code and math.


    Sad thing there is that HTML, CSS and JS can be used so much more then just web-related stuff. Even have full fledge desktop apps built on those languages.

    It started being that way when you had a prevalence of even WYSIWYG editors. Lead to inefficient code, poor responsiveness (UX). Like with "canned templates", people aren't thinking about what's going on behind the scenes, as such things are being done efficiently.


    At this point, I can see the repetitive areas being the most threatened. Just have to see how things progress from there.
     
  4. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    The earliest computer graphics images were literally programmed. But writing code just to draw an object is pretty time consuming, hence the reason why we have a variety of different computer graphics programs equipped with visual user interfaces, tools and all sorts of goodies to design something much faster. Scripts on the other hand are great at automating a bunch of repetitive tasks.

    I think there's an important difference vocationally speaking between someone whose job is primarily writing code all day versus someone who occasionally has to code scripts to do some specialized things in a creative program, be it Blender, FontLab Studio, After Effects, etc. I don't mean to say one is "better" than the other. But one person is definitely doing a more artistically creative job than the other.

    One thing that is frustrating is there are multiple programming languages involved in this stuff. It would be great if all one had to learn was JavaScript. But there are variations on it (like Adobe ExtendScript) and other programs, like Python, that might be just as important to learn.

    Aside from the important issue whether the code running "under the hood" is efficient or not, the thing I dislike about modern "web development" is any sense of composition has been thrown out the window. A single web page is now trying to be all things to all kinds of screens, whether it's a small smart phone being viewed vertically or a big desktop computer monitor being viewed horizontally. There are many screen sizes and shapes in between. One single "liquid" layout isn't going to work for all of those displays, so multiple big and small screen layouts end up needed. The situation has made it all but necessary to use the stock themes and templates, especially with clients wanting to spend only so much on a site.
     
  5. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    The best art schools…
    Many of the best achievers have an inherent talent. Some have drive. Art degree credentials certainly may help but with enough drive, credentials may or may not have mattered and it’s especially true in the arts. Art schools, after all, have a notorious reputation of making “relationships” is all.

    The best individual…
    Some of the largest organizations placing want ads for key art positions such as creative director are asking for a high school degree only. They’ve been around long enough to know what other key qualifiers they really need. They’re looking for certain individuals.

    Individuals make the world go ‘round.

    To the OP and any others; Tell the designer what you’re looking for. Ask if they are interested. Ask for how long they might be interested. Ask to see an example or so of what you’re looking for them to do. Maybe ask for the link to their Behance page because one doesn’t need to fill their In-box with 500 videos. Also know many times creatives in advertising agencies only last two years. It’s the way it has been and it’s the way it is.

    Sign shop jobs for creatives are not necessarily “forever” positions.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    This is actually handled in CSS with something like:

    @ media screen and (max-width: 680px) { } -No space between @ and media, but for here, had to do it that way.

    Everything in the curly braces would be styles that come into affect on screen sizes 680px and smaller. So in effect, different styling are used at different screen sizes (which would also control the layout and that can be vastly different from device to device). This would essentially be like having different versions of the website. I don't much care for when people do a single layout and it's positioned in such a way that looks kinda funky for a desktop, but on a tablet looks better and on a smart phone (there are numerous sizes on each of these categories, I'm just using the broader categories) it's starts to get wonky again.

    There are also attributes that one could give that would have more control over min-max values and there are diag tools that will allow "you" to debug at various screen sizes and either portrait or landscape mode on a desktop browser.

    Clean that up in the code part, also helps correcting the code if something is wonky during the debug stage (using the Inspector can help locate it as well). This also helps the site load much much quicker and efficiently.

    Now, the one instance that I would say templates are for sure going to be needed is if client and their funds for the project dictate that, but there isn't any reason to have to resort to that mess otherwise if one properly knows hows to do something and for those that only know WYSIWYG editors and use mainly the design view, not even the split view (even if it's just for show) are ones that are going to have a harder time at that.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
  7. Dukenukem117

    Dukenukem117 Member

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    Problem is that the best art/design schools also charge a ridiculous amount of money, hence why they expect relatively high starting pay. I've taken night classes at ACCD just to learn random stuff, but the people who actually get a degree there can come out with $100k+ in debt. Why someone would take on that much debt to enter a profession where few people make more than a middle-class income is beyond me.

    I do agree with a previous post on graphic design students seeing sign shops as not particularly sexy and 'beneath them'. None of my friends who work in graphic design ever mention wanting to work at a sign shop, just like how none of my classmates from industrial design ever mention wanting to work in manufacturing (even if it will help them be a better designer). They want to one day be a creative director and make 80k-100k, and I don't think they see working at a sign shop as a stepping stone towards that. And with more and more things being automated, I think any type of 'labor' work is perceived as a career dead end.
     
  8. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    I'm one of those that believes knowing production and what works and what doesn't, will make you a better designer if your target market is that type of production work.

    I agree that is the perception, the irony is even with things being more automated, it would behoove someone to know production if what they are doing has to deal with production (automated or otherwise). I might be skewed though as what I do is directly applicable to this.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  9. Dukenukem117

    Dukenukem117 Member

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    That's the problem. Most of them want to either work in a design firm (not many of those left that do strictly graphics), branch into UI/UX, or work in-house on packaging and marketing material. The closest to sign shop work I can think of is exhibit design, and word is that the expected pay is pretty high.

    No, I agree. I'm doing a manufacturing startup and the amount of stuff I've had to learn about production is almost overwhelming. But if you're taught to go work in a big company and be a cog, then you may never be forced to learn this. I'm not in the same situation as the OP yet, but I think I will be in a similar one by the end of the year. I will need an assembler who can learn 3D printing, wide format printing, and various other assembly tasks. I don't mind training someone who will stick around, but in this day and age, it seems like the general advice is to shop and hop.

    I thought about looking for a student from either my industrial design program or an engineering student, but I don't expect them to stay after graduation. I've met some very technically capable students that I really wanted to recruit, but unfortunately they flaked out and basically ghosted me. What I've been considering is reaching out to a local nonprofit that try to help veterans find work and seeing if I can find someone who has technical talent and is looking for something long term. But its the same conundrum where the ideal person is also likely to have 'sexier' offers.

    Maybe its similar to wanting stuff "cheap, fast, or good - pick two". If you want someone with good technical skills (fast) and work ethic (good), they simply won't be cheap in this job market.

    Oh, and to make matters worse: I'm in CA. It's basically impossible to try someone out as an independent contractor now before fully hiring them.
     
  10. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    It's a pretty big financial gamble for someone to attend one of most prestigious art schools, regardless of which creative field the graduate would choose. I'm thankful I went to art school nearly 30 years ago when the tuition and living costs in New York weren't so freakishly expensive. I certainly couldn't afford to go back there now.

    Most people go to such schools intending to be their own boss one day, selling enough of their art through galleries or doing commercial illustration or graphics work on a freelance basis to earn a good living. Some artists do very well doing just that. Plenty of others end up having to get a steady job working for someone else while trying to work toward snaring that dream gig.

    I don't think any of the job fields in graphics are safe at all or without downward pressures on wages. That makes the high tuition some of these art schools charge pretty hard to justify. Take 3D modeling & animation jobs for instance. Much of the CG work available in movies, network TV and streaming services has been outsourced to shops overseas. Local TV can be a fall back plan, but those jobs pay even less than the sign industry unless one lands a job at a major market station. Gotta end up thinking outside the box looking for work.

    Design & production jobs in sign companies aren't "sexy." But at least the jobs can be pretty steady. At least for now. The sign industry has been home to some important innovations in graphics in recent years, large format printing and LED jumbotrons being two of the most obvious. 3D printing could be a very big deal in the future. Current sign designers need to update their skills ahead of these future trends. Ageism is a big problem in most creative fields. Learning new skills, like how to code, is one way for middle age designers to fight it. The other is finding new ways to be creative and not let one's work get stale or (worse) dated.

    Regarding my "at least for now" comment, the sign industry is facing two troubling trends. One is how online businesses are decimating the retail brick and mortar market. Eventually these store closures are going to eat into our business. The other trend is communities adopting very strict anti-signs ordinances as a backlash against trashy, ugly signs. Some of these sign codes can just plain kill a sign company's business. That's all the more reason for any veteran sign designer to continue updating his skills and resume.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019
  11. Big Rice Field

    Big Rice Field Electrical/Architectural Sign Designer

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    I have hired college students as designers and they are good as they are up to date on software and also they are more flexible. From a management perspective they cost less too, compared to experienced designers (like me).
     
  12. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    I would be careful with this statement. There may be a difference between short term costs and long term costs. Some that is "cheaper" in the short run, may not be so in the long run.

    Doesn't always happen that way, but I would be cautious enough to evaluate it on a case by case basis.
     
  13. Big Rice Field

    Big Rice Field Electrical/Architectural Sign Designer

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    Agreed. Each company has its own graphic design culture and the newbie has to adjust to it. But artists tend to be freewheeling and independent because of ther creative art school training. Desingers who went trough technical drafting school, like me, are more used to conformity. qnd working with constraints when it comes to design as a whole.
     
  14. BluetailGFX

    BluetailGFX Journeyman

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    I have almost always been disappointed to see recent college grads portfolios. Mostly because outdoor signage design, font usage, and color theory that we have been taught or learned by working in the industry is not typically taught in most college programs. I went through immensely more layout and font direction, working as an apprentice with a journeyman sign maker then I did during the same period in the college classrooms.

    Plus, I know of 2 different shop owners over the past 10 years, that hired on new, young, fresh college educated designers only to them leave their shops after a couple of years......WITH the company's client design files and client lists to aid them in opening up their own new shop. Obviously some litigation ensued..........
     
  15. Dukenukem117

    Dukenukem117 Member

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    Curious, but whats the going rate in your area for a competent shop operator?
     
  16. Dukenukem117

    Dukenukem117 Member

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  17. Christian @ 2CT Media

    Christian @ 2CT Media Major Contributor

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    That is a totally different type of position that what we are looking for.

    Seems experienced pay is around $18-22/hr here in AZ, which is about what we expected. People with color management experience are on the higher end. Those with design/prepress experience are worth more obviously.... But a lot of the production issues we face can be solved by better software and equipment it seems, along with people willing to learn. After talking with other shops big and small, automation may be a better option along with finding a less skilled employee or employees to train up on the shop operations side. We still need to find an experienced designer.
     
  18. CenturySigns

    CenturySigns Custom Sign Shop Designer

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    It has been 10 years since I was in school and I still have weakness in font selection and color theory. I have mastered the computer programs but I think it was because I went to a vocational type college. That being said, what I learned there has kept me working in the field for 10 years I feel like I have much more to learn if I'm going to stay working for another 10 years.

    A side question that I have is for a designer at a small shop what do you all feel is the next step for me career wise? I do not have the management training, and I'm not the best at sales. I've heard that those are the two directions that you need to go in once you have some experience with design under your belt. I've considered relocating to a bigger market but am sure the cost of living will balance out to be about the same ratio of income to expenses.

    Anyway, I'm looking for others with similar experience to give advice. Not sure if this is the right place to post it or not.
     
  19. Christian @ 2CT Media

    Christian @ 2CT Media Major Contributor

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    We are still struggling to find quality people for our Print Production Operations position(s) and creative designers with Print experience. What methods are you guys using to find the right people?
     
  20. Dukenukem117

    Dukenukem117 Member

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    Is training them yourself out of the question?
     
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