June 7, 2021
My Life Before Code
Long before I took interest in design or code I was a musician (and still am). I don't talk about this much so I figured I might summarize who I was before my life of design and code. This is a quick vlog/blog of how I ended up where I am and the journey so far.
I grew up in the middle of nowhere in the central United States. Being from a smaller town meant your chances of finding really neat things to do were pretty slim. I didn't want to be a sports hero or get into farming like a bunch of people at my school. Instead, a group of friends and myself luckily took a similar interest in music.
That spark started in about my sophomore year of high school. Three friends (two of which were friends of friends at the time) got together on a super cold day inside a garage with no heat. We were freezing but little did we know our future ahead was one we thought could be a career.
Fast-forward about 5 years. We all graduated high school. We were either working dead-end jobs or attending the cheapest colleges we could attend to have a "plan B" in mind in case music didn't pan out. There's a 95% chance it usually doesn't and unfortunately, after an impressive attempt, we called it quits.
I played guitar and sang in the band. As a group, we shared roles in writing. It was mostly me and the drummer who came up with initial ideas and later shared them with the group to evolve collectively.
Around this time was when things started getting more serious. We needed merchandise to help fund our travels since we were starting to tour regionally and open for national acts. Every little bit helped get us from point A to B. We had to live on virtually nothing to get by but the experience was life-changing in a positive light.
To save money I decided to try my hand at designing our own merchandise. Looking back the designs were awful but it was the birth of my career as it stands today.
I enjoyed designing stuff and still do. Creating is a nice way to be expressive no matter how you do it.
It never felt like work to design and I think that's why I pursued it professionally after the band called it quits.
After the band slowed down, I decided to attend a more formal college and earn my Bachelor's in graphic design. There I met some new friends and learned a decent amount. If I had to do it again and knew what I know now I would have done more of a Bootcamp approach. Zeroing in on typography, art history, and design fundamentals I think could be taught in less than a year. Sadly, what I think I could have learned in a year took me 3 years thanks to the college's agenda. At the end of the day, they just want your tuition money so there are a number of "credits" they require that really were a waste of time in my opinion.
During that time I taught myself to code. I was a couple of years older than most of the students in my class because I took some time off to try the music thing. It didn't necessarily make me any more experience but I saw the way of the world transitioning from print to digital media. Newspapers, magazines, and similar were becoming outdated. From this shift, I took it upon myself to start coding. On the side, I was freelancing. I was designing websites for ultra-cheap but didn't know how to code them. I wanted to earn more and get more clients so I knew expanding my skill set was going to make a big difference.
I started off with basic HTML + CSS following the likes of Chris Coyier, Dan Cederholm, Jeffery Zeldman, and a number of others. These folks were heroes working in public and teaching me along the way. They inspired me to create Web-Crunch so I could have some accountability and maybe make a name for myself at some point.
Fast-forward to today and I've come a very long way. I'm a product designer who has worked with some of the biggest names and now works professionally on products that help other creators make money. It feels good to make things easier for others be it teaching or pushing out design/code that makes someone's life better.
If I were a professional musician today still touring I think I would be just as happy. Things don't always pan out as you hope but somehow life has a way of working things out. Some things you can control but most you can't. Learning to go with the flow has allowed me to live happier and more fully.
Whatever your aspirations are my advice is just to follow through. You'll never look back ashamed of trying.