What do you want to become?
MUSIC WEB DESIGNER
Alternate Career Titles:
Front End Developer, Web Developer, Web Admin, Webmaster
Music Web Designer Job Description: Web Designers use their creative skills to design the look and feel of websites for record labels and artists.
Music Web Designer Salary Range: $28,000 to $150,000+
Become a Music Website Designer
Designing websites for musicians, record labels, and other music companies requires skill sets in both back end (coding) and front end (visual) design. Some Web Designers/Developers specialize in one specific area, working as part of a team, while others take on both back end and front end tasks. To learn more about career options in this rapidly changing field, we spoke to three web design entrepreneurs, each with their own unique skills and points of view. Frank Moten is the CEO/Founder of OurGig.com, a web design company with experience in e-commerce, publicity, and web hosting, among other capabilities. His clients include Jill Scott and Ravi Coltrane. Justin Kerr owns Justin Kerr Design, a design consultancy in Rhode Island, and specializes in visual design for the web. He worked on the redesign for the Merge Records website, the indie label home to Arcade Fire and She & Him. We also spoke with Designer and Developer Jeremy Schuler, who works with a range of clients, including Public Enemy’s Chuck D and metal/goth rocker Chelsea Wolfe, plus outlets like Ticketfly. Here’s what they had to say about building a career in web design.
Frank Moten: Back in the early 2000s when I started the company, what people needed more than anything else was a website. It was hard and expensive to get a decent website. They were crappy and the self-made stuff was really bad. For quite a few years, that was the daily. You just rolled out websites every day (although we did some marketing and consulting work for labels and different aspects of the business). Now there are a million ways to get a website. It has changed 1,000% in the last seven or eight years. At the same time, I work with young people all the time and we often have this conversation because, as musicians who are working today, they realize that all their traffic is on their Instagram or their Facebook. In reality, once you’re established as a musician, the only thing you really need your website for is to list performance dates and maybe just to go down memory lane or something. It has a different role, but you really can’t do anything without one. If you have a million followers on Instagram you can’t do much with them if you can’t bring them back to a website.
For someone considering getting into the business, you probably already know that. But for someone considering getting into some of these support things like design, marketing, or e-commerce, there are a lot of different things to think about.
Here’s a typical day at OurGig. Pretty much the only thing that would really happen overnight is potentially a new hosting client. Somebody in the middle of the night will decide to sign up for PR or web hosting. So the morning is checking emails, looking at any potential new orders that came in and any potential problems. Typically we’ll have general conversations with potential clients. You always kind of have to keep track of where something is: if there’s a new CD coming out, typically you’re going to get crazy delays, trying to get things on Spotify and all that. There’s just a lot of maintenance involved. You have to keep following up.
Aside from that, I have some larger clients that I consult for. I have some clients that my people don’t necessarily do day-to-day things for but they do ongoing things. (It depends a lot on what the clients want.) Other than following up and starting projects, you never know what’s going to happen to you. Then, of course, there are the routine things. Credit cards get declined from various services and you need to follow up on those, get new credit cards, get payment. Other than those types of business things, there’s not really a lot of control over what happens at OurGig.
Justin Kerr: I’ve been running my own business since 2016 and services that I offer as a Design Consultant in graphic design are focused in the three areas where I spent most of my career working: website design, print design and marketing (and also identity development and branding).
There is no typical day but a lot of my day involves communication with the clients so emails, phone calls, intake forms, meetings, and feedback. Then it’s digesting all that in order to get a better sense of what the client’s needs are or what the key points are and how to address them in the design. Before I sit down in front of the computer, I’ll spend time looking over my handwritten notes or I’ll do thumbnail sketches just to get an idea out of my head and into reality. Once I do start working with the tools I have a process I go through. I start out with a strategy and a prototype page just to focus on that aspect of web design. Then I’ll move through the visual design things. There are three of those. One’s called the visual inventory. That’s just collecting raw content for the client to respond to. It’s kind of part of the communication process but it’s also trying to have a conversation about what direction do you see this website going, based on your message and what your needs are, what the tone of the design is going to be.
We look at a lot of examples around the web. We look at sites the clients have an affinity for and we talk about things like color and tone and the voice of the content. That really helps us set a direction for the visual component. It gets a lot of questions out of the way because one thing you don’t want is to have any surprises at the end of the process when the client says, “I didn’t know you were going to do that” or “We didn’t discuss that.” You try to front load as much as possible to bring about very clear communication about which direction the design’s going to go.
We’ll take a visual inventory. That’s just a lot of collecting data from around the web. I put together an element collage, which is similar to a mood board or a style file. It’s a collection of visual elements so it doesn’t necessarily serve as a mockup but it deals with the color, the typography, and the imagery that’s going to be used. It shows some difficulties that might show up. It might show a callout or a masthead, a sample of typography or headers and sub-headers. It just gives them a flavor of the look and feel that we’re going for in the visual design. Because it’s divorced from the page layout, then you can really focus on just those elements of color and image and they can tell me “This looks like the kind of space we want to present. This feels right.”
Once we get that, we can go into some sample page mockups and deal with real content and real situations. By the time we hit that, we’ve already had these other conversations about the direction of the design and the overall look and feel so there aren’t really any surprises by that point in the process. That really eliminates a lot of the issues that can pop up in a typical design process.
Daily Music Career Info! Follow Us.
Jobs. Career Articles. Quality Blog Posts. School Info, & More.
Justin Kerr: There are lots of entry level positions out there for web design but if I was advising somebody I’d say if you’re in a place where you’re not on your own yet, you’re going to school, and you’re still at home, find someplace that inspires you, a web development company or maybe a game or app development company. Just offer yourself there. Say, “I’ll come in and volunteer. I‘ll do an internship. I‘ll work for nothing. I just want the experience. I just want to understand how it works, what its like to work on a team, what the environment is like, how to use the tools.” Get some experience under your belt. You can also just look for entry-level jobs. Sometimes they’re great but they don’t always put you in the best environment for growth and development. A lot of what I had was on the job training, in terms of learning the tools and the medium. There are lots of places you can get that experience.
If someone is looking to do just the visual design of the websites they need to look for positions that are advertising that specific thing because a lot of organizations are looking to hire someone who knows both the front end and the back end. There are people who can do that; I’ve met some people who are very skilled in visual design and are very skilled at programming and coding. They’re rare. What you usually end up with is either a really skilled Developer or Programmer who knows just a little bit about visual design — maybe just enough to be dangerous — or on the other hand, you have a really skilled Visual Designer who is kind of hacking together websites with really awful code. If they’re into just visual design, look for jobs that are advertising for User Interface Designers or Visual Designers. Sometimes, if the listing says “front-end design”, that involves some code, an understanding of HTML. That might be a good opportunity but they’d have to know a little bit, too, about the coding of the site itself. Same things go for app development, too. If the team is big enough, they’ll break it down into Visual Designers, Developers, Coders, User Experience Designers. You can kind of find your niche.
When I graduated there was a little bit of an economic recession and I had this four-year degree from a really good school and I thought I was going to go out and conquer the world. The first job I was able to get in my field was working for a very small print shop. The one thing that job taught me about was production, like how the stuff actually gets made. I was able to learn all the ins and outs of how a design gets from concept to production to a finished piece. I took that experience to my next job and was able to build on it. At my next job, I was given some different roles, one of which was art directing photography and photo shoots. I learned that and added it to my repertoire along with the other things and then on the next job I was able to add even more. With each job experience I had, I was able to take things and add them to my bucket of experiences and tools. I didn’t take anything for granted and every experience was valuable. It has allowed me to do the things that I do now, by not looking down my nose at any of the stuff I learned.
Education & Training
Frank Moten: It’s important to go down that graphic design route. It’s hard to kind of make a real suggestion there but your first two or three graphic design courses are really probably the bulk of what you need. Then, every school today has a web design program where you can get some basic HTML. They’ll have some basic database stuff and probably some applications. Realistically, you probably need one web design class and a couple graphic design classes if you want to get into web design.
Jeremy Schuler: My journey through school was interesting. Everything I learned in college is now free on the internet. Web design, especially, moves so quickly. I taught myself WordPress just by looking at it and by dealing with friends where people want to be able to edit, control, and publish their own content and not rely on a Web Developer or someone else to jump in.
At the Art Institute, I had really good Teachers and really awful Teachers. The ones that were good were awesome but at that type of school they just didn’t have the retention rate and the program was really, really new. At that time, when I graduated in 2010, I was the third person to graduate from that program and really most of the people I went to school with are no longer working in any capacity related to web design or web development.
The program was well-rounded: it was web design and interactive media, so we did a lot of video, audio, and different types of graphic design. But I don’t think somebody needs to spend six figures to go to school. I had a background where I was able to transfer in and it was still like $80,000. I don’t know if I would really recommend for someone to go that route. If you’re not sure what you want to do, that’s a lot of money.
I think if people are not sure about getting into it and they don’t want to put that huge investment into it up front, what I would recommend is that there are a lot of Meetups. They have boot camps, too. There are pros and cons to the boot camps. You can get an immersive boot camp and spend a lot less money but these boot camps promise jobs where you’ll be paid the top salary in like LA or San Francisco and some of these kids are taking these two or three-month boot camps thinking they’re going to come out and get paid like $90,000. No, you’re not.
I think the best way to learn is to put yourself in a position where you don’t really know what you’re doing and you have to figure it out. You flounder a little bit and you have anxiety and then you figure it out. I still do that.
Justin Kerr: As far as training and education I would say get a good digital design education. You need a basic understanding of form, color, typography, composition, and design history. Once you have that foundation, you can apply it to web design or any of the design fields. But the technical aspects of web design are pretty easy to pick up. You can either learn it in a traditional four-year school or you can go to a trade school. You can do some sort of internship or apprenticeship. You could even spend your time doing something like Code Academy or YouTube videos just to teach yourself to use the tools to design for the web. But if you don’t come at it with a strong foundation in visual design, I don’t think you’re going to be very successful as a Web Designer.
Experience & Skills
Frank Moten: I get emails from people who want internships and people who want to be Web Designers and who are looking for work. I tell everyone that even the big shots who work for the major labels have to have marketing or search engine skills. You’d want to get some basic marketing under your belt because web design, when I started doing it, was a vanity thing. What the artist and client wanted it to look like was very important. It was about showcasing their personality. Now it’s really about what’s going to do the job. Most web visits are less than a second. That’s just the way it is. Honestly, with most musicians, the only place people go is to their “on tour” page.
For record labels, agents, different consultants, there’s a real struggle to get someone to go to your website and then deal with the things you want them to deal with. Say you’re a Booking Agent. Someone can get referred to you and go to your website, click on “roster” and get all these names and nobody cares about it because they haven’t been impressed. They just saw a bunch of names they didn’t recognize. So you need to have some PR and marketing in your toolbox so you can kind of get a sense of what’s effective and have a visual. If you want to talk, you need a video. Nobody’s going to click a song unless it’s by their favorite artist. So you need to have a video and you need a really good thumbnail on it to get someone to click it. You have to have a mind for the marketing and the PR aspects of it. You pair those things together with knowledge of the business and what makes it click. It’s like how if you’re a Real Estate Agent, you better know something about kitchen design.
Jeremy Schuler: It’s going to take time to develop the skill set. It’s just like music. You’re not going to pick up an instrument and know how to kill it. Any kind of trade — I’d really consider this a trade — it’s about putting in the time. The first two or three months you’re just going to be figuring out software and getting familiar with the tools and then your execution on that will be a different thing.
Really, in the beginning, you’re just going to be working for free. I’d equate it to how in construction there’s the apprenticeship idea. You want to build a body of work and in the beginning, you’re going to be doing a lot of stuff for free while you work on building a book. If you don’t have a book, there’s no point in it. A lot of people end up paying $100,000 to go to art school but they have no design skills. They can teach you design but if you’re not a Designer it doesn’t matter.
Frank Moten: You probably have to be a little outgoing and you certainly can’t be a pushover. You have to give people what they want but someone could make you work a thousand hours on a website. So you really have to be assertive. You have to be able to not take too much junk from people. You have to be able to interact with and adapt to your audience. You need to be able to understand who your client base is.
Jeremy Schuler: When I founded my design collective and was trying to bring other people on board, what I realized is important is critical thinking and problem-solving. Outside of critical thinking and problem-solving, it’s knowing no one’s going to be there holding your hand. When I was finished with school, I thought it was going to be like sunshine and rainbows. That was my idea of what the work field was supposed to be like! I freelanced at a lot of places, at some of the bigger ad agencies and at some awful boring corporate jobs I just did for money. When you freelance or even when you’re not freelancing, they’re hiring you to do a job and if you can’t figure things out on your own and are asking a ton of questions — of course, you should ask questions if you’re not clear — but if you’re not able to work in a high-stress environment and be able to problem solve on the fly, it’s going to be a little tough.
Justin Kerr: The most important things are humility, a good sense of humor and a willingness to listen. Those are the best things you can carry into a job like this. I think a person can go far if they understand that the things they are going to create and design are not for themselves. They’re for a client. They’re for an end user. Oftentimes I think Visual Designers get caught up in thinking they’re designing things for themselves and what their particular tastes are. That’s probably the biggest learning curve for a lot of young Designers, realizing that what you’re doing is for an end user. They’re going to dictate some of the things involved with what it’s going to look like and you have to have the humility and the sense of humor. You certainly want to provide your best advice based on your skill set and experience to say, “Well, this is what I would recommend,” but ultimately it’s going to be for that client and end user so you have to not take yourself too seriously.
Frank Moten: The concept of OurGig was that I wanted to bring together all kinds of different clients who did all kinds of different things in the music business and basically be a business meeting, referral, and networking solution. I never wanted to publicize that and it’s not on the website but I have clients, even just for web hosting, who have recording studios all over the country and all kinds of musicians. I’ve always kind of put my clients together as needed. If I suggest a recording studio I’m letting them know they better not mess up my other client or whatever. With the name OurGig, the concept was bringing other people together and you couldn’t necessarily go to any other web design or marketing company and get those things. That was a key element and it still is. Many of my clients work together in various ways and don’t even know I’m making it happen.
Because of OurGig I hardly ever get to make any music anymore. I haven’t been part of a band in probably twelve or thirteen years. I’ve just been a consistent guest artist, which is a role I always liked, sitting in with people and being a special guest. I run a couple record labels and own a piece of a record label. I used to produce music and through doing that I get to sit in from time to time but me being a musician today is kind of a non-existent thing. But having OurGig has allowed me to produce some artists I wouldn’t have gotten to produce and get closer to certain situations that wouldn’t ordinarily have been in my vein.
I run four companies so I don’t have any work-life balance. I’ll put it this way. You could get the right situation where you could be the In-house Designer for a distributor, record company or PR company and pretty much have a 9-5. But even in most media companies, you’re going to work weird hours and long hours.
If you’re going to be in any direct “dealing with the client” kind of space, it has kind of changed in the past few years but it used to be my biggest days for getting new clients were Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. You know, musicians and even heads of companies are sitting around and they go through whatever they go through. The CEO of a big company might be looking for a Web Designer at three in the morning and if they’re having problems with their hosting or something they’re sending me emails.
I don’t really know many people who are able to work in a shared environment, which is where most Web Designers work today. You can exchange ideas, learn new things, train on things, and maybe mock stuff up but it’s hard to be creative mixed with technical stuff outside of your own space. So I think most people are probably still working at three in the morning or on a Sunday afternoon. You probably don’t want to be a 9-to-5er to do this kind of work. You know, if a company comes to you and has a CD release on a Monday and they didn’t give you the content until Friday afternoon, forget about it! Forget about the 9-to-5. I don’t think there many good jobs that are going to get you a 9-to-5.
Justin Kerr: When I was working for other folks I had a typical forty hour week. I had my weekends to myself. I would work on a small team within the organization. Now that I’m running my own business it’s significantly different. Sixty hours a week is not unusual as far as the amount of time I spend running the business and doing the work. The other significant difference between now and when I was working for other people is that then I might spend 80% of the time doing the work and 20% of the time on administrative things. It’s pretty much reversed now. I spend 80% of my time running the business, networking, and marketing, then I spend 20% of my time actually doing the work. I do love it, though.
As far as working with people I work with far more people now then I did when I was working with other organizations. I have a network now of Developers, Photographers, Social Network Marketers, and Writers that I can bring in for any project and say, “Hey, I need you to work on this because this website needs some writing or some photography or we need to leverage this site with some social media marketing.” Whatever the project calls for, I have a much bigger pool of talent to pull from now than I did when I was working for the web development company.
Jeremy Schuler: I feel like a lot of Web Designers and Graphic Designers are kind of into the same thing. They’re super into music and they just do their friends’ sites. All my school projects ended up being my friends’ sites because they were all involved in music. Ticketfly found my work and I ended up working with them. They’re the big independent music live event company that did a lot of hand curation, bringing different venues and different Promoters on board. I would do a lot of custom websites for them. I had an ex-girlfriend who worked at an artist management company so I ended up doing a lot for them, too.
I’m now kind of the music venue guy. I do some stuff for a big Promoter in the Northwest who has shows in Portland, Seattle, and a bunch of other spots.
Get inspired and do as many projects as possible. During the process, you’ll discover what you like doing and what you don’t. If you have trouble getting work, try linking up with creative staffing companies like 24seven, Creative Circle, etc. Note, they take a percentage but they’ll help you find work, gain experience, and build projects for your book.
Justin Kerr: I price by the project so if someone comes to me and says they’d like to have a website done I’ll sit down with them and gather all the information and give them a project price, which breaks it all down into components and give us some options. If you’re working for someone else, you’re getting a salary. A lot of Visual Designers work on a full-time basis for a company. Some of them work as contract workers. Some are freelance, Some are like myself, a sole proprietor. The compensation varies quite a bit depending on where you are in the country, what your skill level is, what your experience level is and also what your availability is. If you’re someone with a family and other responsibilities, you might only be available forty hours a week so that might determine your compensation level. If you’re a young single person, you can work sixty to seventy hours a week and that can have an effect on your compensation level, as well.
You can go online and you can look up salary surveys for a particular job. You can go on Glassdoor or one of these sites and do a salary survey for a Visual Designer or a Web Designer and you can hone in by different markets like the New York market, the LA market, or one of the smaller markets. It’ll give you some idea of how much money you should be able to make, based on how much experience you have.
Jeremy Schuler: I feel like Designers don’t do a very good job of selling themselves. They’re a little timid. If you’re going to do project work, cover your bases. I feel like a lot of times people don’t put themselves in the best position to get as much money on a project based on their skills. What I do now in my workflow is I do my own proposals. It takes some time up front but I don’t do any work unless I get a 50% deposit upfront, 50% on delivery.
Then in that proposal, you can outline your process, including discovery, design (and what’s in design), and what’s in development. Then you can reinforce your phone call and educate the client on what that process is. It’s managing expectations. A lot of people you’ll work with don’t know what it takes to make their logo or to make their website or come up with print collateral. The proposal is you getting things out in as much detail as possible. It lets the client know what the process is. It really shows the amount of work that’s in there. If you design it really well, it justifies the price you’re asking. If you put that in an email, you’re setting an expectation there.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
Jeremy Schuler: I taught myself WordPress through Lynda.com. It costs like $20 or $25 a month but even before that, if someone was getting into coding, there’s Code Academy and that’s free. That thing’s pretty rad, too, because you can go through and there’s a WYSIWYG editor. You can make edits to code.
I stopped giving people books. For learning woodwork, you can learn a lot from reading a book but you’re not really going to understand it until you’re on a table saw or soldering. Code is the same thing. If you’re not actually coding something and you’re just reading, you’re not retaining anything. But Code Academy’s really good and they have really basic courses on HTML, CSS, and they break it down into really small digestible pieces.
Justin Kerr: There are lots of technical and how-to resources out there but I think what’s really important for someone just starting out is to get connected to other people. Get connected to other Designers and other professionals in related fields because this is important, just in regards to your own personal development as a Designer. A lot of Designers end up working in sort of a bubble. They don’t really get out and connect with other Designers. There are a lot of different groups, depending on where you are.
The AIGA has different chapters around the country and they often have meetups or get-togethers or different activities where you can go and meet some of the other Designers working in that city or that region. It’s really good just for building some connections and for the camaraderie, for bouncing ideas off each other and just getting to know these other people doing the same kind of work you are. There’s another site called Meetup.com — it’s not a dating site! You can find interests groups so there might be a Web Designer or Visual Designer group. Those are good. I’ve been to some of those. It’s just good to be connected to people who are doing the same thing you are.
Get connected with people working in that field so you can get familiar with it and understand what the personality of that market is because it’s vastly different working in the music industry versus the financial market or the healthcare market. You want to get a sense of what the people who make up this industry are like and what the vibe is.
- If they’re still in school, track down a few musicians and build a few websites. If they’re out of school, go on Craigslist and do some cheap ads. I had an Intern this year who doesn’t have a specific goal in the music business, he just wants to be in it. I think he’s leaning towards A&R. What I’ve kind of encouraged him to do, apart from going to see bands and how they work and trying to interact with them, is to do some things. If you’re thinking about it, start trying to do it. There’s always someone that needs you. You’ve got to do it before you get that job anyway and you’re trying to be good enough on the job. Get really good at it in the real world, not just in mocking up sites. Get some people to be your clients, even if they’re for free. Go hang out with the local musicians. — Frank Moten
- Offer to do a pro bono website or maybe some branding for a band, performer, recording studio or even a music store just to get some work as part of your portfolio. When you’re just starting out is when you have the bandwidth to do some pro bono stuff and you’ll get a good start on your portfolio. — Justin Kerr
- Get yourself a website where you can feature your work and start building your own personal brand. You can have a blog where you can publish some articles and feature your contact information. Just have a presence on the web where people can come find you and find out more about you and what you do. It’s important you have your own presence on the web even if it’s just a simple one-page site because it establishes your professionalism. — Justin Kerr
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
Frank Moten: If you want to work for a record company, I’d say go and get an internship. But if you want to design websites, you don’t have to work that hard. You just have to find some people and start doing it.
Look at a lot of websites. Whatever skills you have, work on them, and start doing it. It’s a weird kind of profession because you can bang out a really cool website in a couple of hours that someone would be willing to pay $1,000 or $2,000 for but you could also spend all weekend working on something that you could basically add-on for a few hundred dollars. It’s a challenge because it’s a design thing. That’s why I made my nephew take graphic design.
With the tools and technology, it’s pretty easy to make it happen. Graphic design and Photoshop abilities are the things you really need, knowing what looks good. Our sites are very clean and simple and very aesthetic.
Jeremy Schuler: Love what you do. I know it sounds cheesy and cliche but really, if you don’t like it and you’re just going in for the money, you’re going to get burnt out and there’s so much stuff you have to keep up with. With the advent of mobile, you’re creating these design systems. Essentially, Web Developers are working in a lot of different fields. There’s a lot of overlap. If you’re working as a Developer, having understanding in UX, design, and development is essential. Everything is getting more and more integrated. Your design systems should be more adaptive.
If you can understand the other facets, say what the UX team is doing and be able to interface with Designers and everyone has the same language or can understand each others’ points of view, that’s going to lead to a better program.
Obviously, if you don’t love what you’re doing, you’re going to get burned out or lose interest to explore the different facets of the design process.
Justin Kerr: Stay up to date with the changes that are going on in web design because from year to year it’s a dramatic change. Technology is always evolving. There are trends, too, you want to be aware of because your clients will ask you, “Hey, I saw this thing on this other website. I want to do it on my site.” If you’re not aware of it, you won’t be able to advise them for it or against it, depending on what their needs are. Always be open to learning new things.
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
Frank Moten: The biggest mistake is sending your resume to 1,000 people. That’s what most of them are doing, sending their resume to any kind of company that might potentially hire them. I get those every day. It doesn’t do anything for you. Think a little bit more about how you can get that job. It all goes back to the same thing: you need to have a body of work. If somebody was interested in working for my company as a Web Designer, they’d need to have a body of work they can show and they need to reach out via networking opportunities directly. You need to be able to explain what you want to do and what you bring to the table.
If you don’t have the personality where you can just go track down musicians on Craigslist and stuff then you should be trying to intern, not necessarily for a company like mine, but maybe for a Booking Agent or a record label that’s just overloaded. Maybe they’ll let you come in. Again, you just really have to do it [build websites]. Photography students, by the time they’ve graduated, they’ve probably taken about a million pictures, right? It’s kind of like that.
Jeremy Schuler: Immediate gratification. No one’s going to give you a pat on the head when you do a good job. The mistake is I feel like people are trying to run before they can even walk in search of that immediate gratification. It took me about three years for everything to really click. That was going to school and learning the software and starting to learn the tools. But then you’ve got to understand how to work with people: different types of people and different types of clients.
There’s a Bukowski quote that says something like — I’m paraphrasing — “the intellectual says something simple in a hard way but the artist says something hard in a simple way.”
It’s knowing and understanding your audience, not speaking over them and knowing that it’s going to take time to put the work in.
Justin Kerr: I think that’s the biggest misstep I see is when someone who’s a talented Programmer and is trying to do the design side or vice versa. If you’re somebody who can do both, if you’re a talented Visual Designer and you can program and code well — great, do it because you’re going to be a very valuable individual. But if you’re a Visual Designer, focus on being a Visual Designer, being the best you possibly can be and partner up with people who can help out on the back end stuff. Don’t try to scramble in that sense because there are very few people who can do it and do it well.
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
Frank Moten: It’s about the money. It’s getting to be less and less. You really want to have a couple of other categories you can work around in. It’s a shrinking effort. It’s like coal mining. You have to have something else.
Justin Kerr: What is your “why”? The first question I’m usually asked is what I do, followed by how I do it or for whom I do it. But rarely does anyone ask me why I do it. I’ve given this considerable thought recently and I believe it’s because I get deep satisfaction from helping others be clear and communicate their message to the world through visual design.
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
Frank Moten: Fearless. I have no fear. You’ve got to be able to take risks and if someone asks you something, have an answer. Never say “no” or “I don’t know.” You find out or you learn. I think that all falls into that one word, “fearless.”
Justin Kerr: The thing that makes me most successful is other people.
Frank Moten is the CEO and founder of OurGig.com, a firm specializing in web design and development, PR, e-commerce, and web hosting. Clients include Jill Scott, David Sanborn, Ravi Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie Bands, and Hidden Beach Records. He also runs Jazz Legacy Records. Moten is an accomplished Music Photographer.
Jeremy Schuler is a Southern California-based Web Designer and Developer. He works with artists like Chuck D, Chelsea Wolfe, and Spencer Moody, Promoters like Another Planet Entertainment, and organizations like Ticketfly.
Justin Kerr is a Graphic Designer and head of Justin Kerr Design, a Rhode Island-based firm. He partnered with Merge Records, home to Arcade Fire, She & Him, and Caribou, for their recent website redesign.