Interview with David Childs, Commercial Artist

Professional & Academic Perspectives of Commercial Art

David Childs is Creative/Art Director for Interior Services Incorporated in Cincinnati, representing over 200 manufacturers of interior furnishings, accessories, signs, fabric, and floor and wall coverings. Mr. Childs has created advertising, illustrations and graphic designs for clients including Proctor and Gamble, Roto-Rooter, and the Cincinnati Ballet. Privately, he is also currently working on a mural for the Refreshing Spring Church of God in Christ in Hamilton, Ohio.

Mr. Childs is graduate of Antonelli College with an associates degree in Commercial Art. He also received a Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFAs) in Graphic Design and Painting, with a minor in Illustration, from the College of Mount Saint Joseph.

Mr. Childs & His Career

Tell us about your career. Where did your professional work in the arts begin? How did you discover your talent?

From a very young age, I can remember creating artwork and drawing. As far back as the age of 6-7 years old, I recall having the ability to draw. So, I have always been aware that art would be a part of my life. Upon attending High school, I had teachers and classes who were key to honing my artistic skills. As a result, I was awarded an art scholarship to the Columbus College of Art and Design. At CCAD, I began to be exposed to the world of Commercial Art.

After a brief stay at CCAD, I enrolled at Antonelli College, where I began to do a variety of work in Commercial Art, including jobs such as designing identities for companies and creating murals for travel agencies; I even had an internship at the Aronoff Center’s art gallery. Upon graduating from Antonelli, I decided that I wanted to pursue the disciplines of Graphic Design and Illustration. Thus, I enrolled in the College of Mount Saint Joseph, where I received a BA in Graphic Design and a BFA in Painting with an Illustration Minor. While at Mount Saint Joseph, I had a variety of Commercial Art experiences which included being a graphic designer and illustrator at Gibson Greetings, a graphic designer at Sanger & Eby Design and an industrial and graphic designer at Cooper Watchworks.

You’re currently the Creative/Art Director for Interior Services Inc. How did you come to this position?

While attending Mount Saint Joseph College, I had the opportunity to be an intern at Interior Services Incorporated (ISI). I fit in very well and began to get more and more involved with various design projects. Thus, upon graduation ISI asked me to come on board as Director of Graphic Design full-time, and I accepted.

Who or what have been the biggest inspirations and influences for your career?

First and foremost, my personal walk with Jesus Christ has been the biggest influence in my career. The lord gives me the courage and confidence to continue to carry on in such a competitive and talent-driven field.

My lovely wife Alundra Childs, for sticking by my side through good times and bad.

Others who have been key to my success as an artist and designer are my mother and father, Jacqueline and Hezekiah Childs, along with my 8 brothers and sisters. They believed in me and prayed for me when no one else did. Also, Steve Sowell was a local artist in my neighborhood as a kid who first introduced me to the field of art. Lastly, but not least many of my teachers like Julie Staudt (high school art teacher), Beth Belknapp-Brann (graphic design professor), Rondi Tshcopp (design mentor) and Ceile Doerger (art history professor).

You still work privately as a fine artist. Tell us about what you’re doing currently and why you extend your artistic practice beyond the workplace.

Currently, I am working on a mural for the Refreshing Spring Church of God in Christ in Hamilton, OH. I extend my artistic practice outside of the workplace because art is a part of my life. It is one the things that makes me who I am. It is more than just a career, it is a lifestyle.

The Actual Work

What exactly do commercial artists do? Can you describe a typical day in the field?

The term “commercial art” is a general one. It is an umbrella term that covers a wide variety of disciplines, which includes (but is not limited to) Graphic Design, Illustration, Fine Art, Industrial Design, 3D Design and Animation. A typical day for me as a Graphic Designer/Illustrator consists of opening up Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop or QuarkXpress (after a number of hand sketches and, sometimes, detailed drawings) and spending hours designing posters, postcards, logos, ads, websites, signage, etc.

You’ve worked in the field as a graphic designer, an industrial designer, an illustrator, and in the fine arts. What are some of your proudest accomplishments and favorite projects and why?

One of my favorite projects was, in 2001, ISI had a series of booths in Cincinnati’s Home and Garden Show for which I was responsible for coming up with a new identity for ISI. I was able to create an entire campaign single-handedly. The campaign included t-shirt designs, name tags, direct mail pieces and banners, which all included an icon system that I developed to tie it all together. It was a lot of fun.

One of my proudest accomplishments was a signage system that I created for ISI’s new satellite office in downtown Cincinnati. It included a number of banners and other signage which I thought aesthetically fit well with the space. I had a very tight deadline, but I pulled it off.

Tell us about your responsibilities as Creative/Art Director for Interior Services Inc. What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

My responsibilities consist of running the Graphic Design and Advertising division of ISI. Specifically, I am responsible for aesthetically-pleasing print magazine ads, banners, posters, signage, logos, photography, illustration, web work, TV graphics and much, much more, including any task that is required to promote ISI, as well clients we work for that require graphic design services. The most challenging aspect of my job is being creative on demand and coming up with better and more innovative designs day after day.

Are there any common myths about the profession?

A common myth about the profession of graphic design is that you don’t have to know how to draw – that the computer does it for you. This is incorrect. Some of the most successful graphic designers come from fine art backgrounds.

Education Information & Advice

Tell us about your art education, including schools and degrees earned.

I received an Associates in Commercial Art from Antonelli Institute of Art, and Bachelor of Art in Graphic Design, a Bachelor of Fine Art in Painting and a minor in Illustration from College of Mount Saint Joseph, wher I graduated Cum Laude.

What did you like and dislike about your commercial art-related education? Would you change anything, if you could do it again?

I liked the introduction to Graphic Computer programs such as Quark Xpress, Illustrator and Photoshop. They prepared me for the real world of graphic design. I disliked the broad educational approach to the field that I received. I think that the program should focus specifically on the various disciplines, i.e. graphic design, industrial design and illustration. These fields are to specialized to learn so broadly. If I had to do it again I would probably go the same route.

If someone has the artistic talent already, should they go to school for commercial art and why?

I think a person should go to school and learn some of the technical aspects of the field. Also, I think a person should always fine-tune raw talent. Furthermore, one tends to get better jobs with a degree.

As a working professional, what advice can you give to prospective students who are just now thinking about an education and career in commercial art?

Know as soon as possible exactly what it is that you want to be doing when you graduate. Research the field, look at the various options, and visit students. Make sure you like what you’re getting into.

What are the top three factors that prospective students should consider when choosing an art school?

  1. Job placement success
  2. Co-op or internship program
  3. Quality of teachers (whether they are actual professionals in the field)

At the top of my list is whether or not a school produces professional successful artists.

Based on what you hear in the industry, what do you think are the most respected and prestigious schools, departments or programs for commercial art in the US?

Job Information & Advice

What kinds of jobs can graduating students expect get in the field? What are the best ways to get a good job in the field?

Graphic Designers, Web Designers, Computer Animators, Illustrators, Industrial Designers, muralist and production artists. The best way to get into the field is by what I learned at Antonelli College: Networking.

The best way for a student to network is by doing what’s called informational interviews: Get a list of all the local design firms, ad agencies and in-house art departments (ask for the art department). Ask to speak with the creative/art directors; tell them you want pay them a visit; then, either shadow them all day or get a tour of their studio; ask questions! Get a business card and contact this person on a regular basis. Get a portfolio critique, as well. Some people will be busy, but many will be more than happy to help you out. This has worked tremendously for me.

As someone who might interview others for a position in the field, can you describe your ideal job candidate and your nightmare job candidate.

My ideal job candidate is someone who has an inherent sense of design, a fine art background, a great work ethic (shows up to work on time), attention to detail is critical, fluent in all Mac graphic software and just an all around nice person. A nightmare candidate is a person that knows how to use the computer software, can draw a little but has no clue about good design.

How can the reality of commercial art as a career differ from typical expectations?

Some expect to make more money as a graduate. But you have to crawl before you can walk.

Does graduating from a prestigious school make a difference in landing a good job?

Yes. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, credentials and a prestigious name mean alot. In addition, many schools have a prestigious name because of the great results and the graduates they produce. From a potential hiring point of view, though, it would not make a difference to me, as long as the candidates’ work is up to par.

How is the job market now in the commercial art industry? How do you think it will be in five years?

The job market is super-competitive in the field of design, especially in light of the recession. Five years from now, it will probably be just as, if not more competitive. My field tends to divide the mice from the men.

The Industry

What are some of the recent trends and hot specialties that you see in the field of commercial art which could help students plan for the future?

The biggest trend in design is the Internet. Web Design has become its own profession. I would recommend that graphic design majors learn software such as Flash, Director and Dreamweaver to couple with their basic design skills.

Closing Remarks

Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself, your career, or the profession that would be interesting or helpful to others aspiring to enter and succeed in commercial art?

Don’t give up – there is a lot of competition and talent out there. You have to be in it for the love of it and not simply the money. Although money helps.

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