I moved to Central Florida in August of 1986. Tired of the cold gray winters, I transferred from a school in Philadelphia to Rollins College in Winter Park.
It seems like a lifetime ago
Within a week of my arrival, I found a job as an illustrator with Florida State Distributors – a souvenir vendor in South Orlando. I designed souvenir items including full-wrap decals for ceramic mugs which were sold at theme parks in Central Florida.
I graduated in 1988 from Rollins with a B.A. in studio art and found myself without any of the computer skills which were suddenly becoming an employment requirement in my field. In 1988 Macintosh and desktop publishing were showing promise of becoming a viable tool for design and most companies wanted their entry level employees to have some experience. I was an artist… I hated computers and I had planned to make a career of avoiding contact with the confounded devices!
In what was becoming a pattern of good fortune, I answered an ad for an artist with Crofton Publications. Susana Crofton had created a successful home business writing and designing newsletters on a Macintosh SE. For those who don’t remember, this was a funny-looking box with a 9 inch screen, 1 Mb of RAM, an 8 MHz processor (no, that’s not a typo) and a price tag which required a second mortgage. But, wow! I had no idea you could do this stuff on a computer!
When I began designing newsletters on that Mac SE, we were providing camera-ready laser prints to the printer for traditional prepress. Within a year, we had learned of a new imagesetting process in which composite film could be produced directly from our Pagemaker files. This new technology was rapidly changing everything in the graphic design and printing industries.
In 1990, I was hired as art director for Mid Florida Press. I set up a desktop publishing department and purchased the state-of-the-art equipment (at that time a Mac IIci with a whopping 25 Mhz processor and 19″ color monitor). I learned the ins and outs of the printing business… a valuable experience which I still think is important for young designers to have. I also gained valuable experience working directly with clients. And I took every opportunity to push the envelope with the developing design technology. When Adobe released the first version of Photoshop and my employer couldn’t justify purchasing it, I bought it with my own money. I was on a roll!
My career blossomed in 1991 when I became director of print production for a national public relations firm in Winter Park. Marketing Resources Group was a full-service PR and government relations firm working primarily with the boating industry. During my four years as a part of the MRG team, I helped create public awareness campaigns for the Personal Watercraft Industry Association, National Safe Boating Week, the U.S. Coast Guard, Miller Brewing Company, National Fishing Week, etc.
In March of 1991, I was hired as a consultant to train the staff of a newly-established desktop publishing department at Winter Park Memorial Hospital. Deb Watson, then director of community relations for the hospital had been a client of Mid Florida Press and has since become the most instrumental person in helping me create a successful business. The new in-house design department at WPMH became such a hit that they soon had more work than they could handle. I became a freelance designer for them.
At the end of 1994, MRG was winding down. Due to unfortunate personal circumstances, the owner decided to join forces with another company and use contractors for the video and print production projects. My freelance business was growing and it was time for me to take the leap into self-employment.
Has it been that long?
January 1, 1995, I set out on my own – armed with a 40 Mhz Mac Quadra 840 AV, a scanner and a tiny HP laser printer. I had a steady load of freelance work from the hospital and several nice contracts from my former employer.
Countless equipment upgrades and dozens of new skills later, I’m still at it. My core specialty remains technical illustration, but I enjoy publication, curriculum, web design and animation.
In 2010, I turned my attention to combining my love of bicycling, teaching, curriculum design and illustration to co-creating a traffic cycling program called CyclingSavvy. I also designed, administrate and write for CommuteOrlando, an alternative transportation blog. A lot of my design, illustration and animation work can be seen there.