Industry Profile: Spacecraft Designer Colby Smith
27 Aug, 2009
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Colby: My name is Colby Smith, and I’m a graphic designer living in Seattle, WA. I’ve been in this city the last 4 years and I do a lot of snowboarding, hiking and camping. The Northwest is where it’s at.
Shay: What is your job title?
Colby: I’m the Senior Graphic Designer at Spacecraft Clothing
Shay:How did you get your start in the industry, what opened up more opportunities for you?
Colby: I lucked out when I moved to Seattle from Boulder and went back to school for a better design education. I was taking night classes and started hanging out with a professor who was a friend of Spacecraft. He got me a non-paid internship and I fell in love with everything Spacecraft was about. It was a small very close-knit crew who traveled Asia, surfed and snowboarded as much as possible. They made sick graphics which were slapped on stickers and clothing to be easily purchased by anyone. I came in at least 40 hours a week for about 5 months before they had to hire me. I wouldn’t leave and basically created a dream job for myself. I love it and have learned a ton about the industry and design in the last 2 and a half years that I’ve been here.
Shay: Did your parents question your job choice?
Colby: No, my parents have always supported whatever I’ve wanted to pursue. They’re pretty rad in that way. I’ve taken art classes since I was really little, so it was no biggie for them to accept it.
Shay: What was your first set up?
Colby: Geez…I think it was a Lamar board, Solomon Bindings and boots. All from Sniagrab sale. I didn’t know what I was supposed to get, so I started super cheap.
Shay: What is your current set up?
Colby: GNU Riders Choice, Northwave boots and bindings all thanks to my bros at Mervin and Northwave.
Shay: What was your first job?
Colby: Maintenance crew at a golf course in Southeastern Missouri when I was 15. Mowing, weed eating and such. I got fired when I forgot to put oil in one of the maintenance carts which killed it.
Shay: What’s a great day of snowboarding to you?
Colby: Hip deep pow all day with my friends back in the hills.
Shay: Who are your influences?
Colby: Stefan Hofmann, Aaron Draplin, several design blogs, random things I see and whatever I dream about.
Shay: How long have you been snowboarding?
Colby: 9 years with a season pass.
Shay: How many days do you get to ride a year?
Colby: Around 30 nowadays.
Shay: What is your role at Spacecraft?
Colby: I am in charge of creating the buyer catalogs, the website www.spacecraftclothing.com, the Allstar and Gallery sticker sheets, print advertising, collaborating with Stefan on product designs, managing the design interns, and whatever else needs to happen.
Shay: What programs do you use for your job?
Colby: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Dreamweaver, and Microsoft Office.
Shay: Is your graphic design background self taught or did you go to school?
Colby: I went to school for studio fine arts at the University of Boulder Colorado, where I emphasized in digital art. Then I went back for more school in design at the Art Institute of Seattle.
Shay: Is designing for Spacecraft a collaborative or individual effort?
Colby: It is very much collaborative. Stefan Hofmann is the VP, Creative and he and I work together on most projects. Plus we have a new VP of Production/Merchandising, Paul Mainwaring, and a crew of interns that kill it.
Shay: Do you focus on an individual product to work with?
Colby: I work with everything from headwear to clothing; stickers to posters; belts to wallets. Not a specific product, just anything that needs to happen, I make it happen.
Shay: What are the stages of creating a new design?
Colby: First is finding out who the audience is and on what possible mediums it will be applied. Next is finding out the most important elements that need to be visible within the work. Then I’ll do a couple quick sketches for layout. At this point I can start in on the computer, organizing all the main elements and sub elements until I’m satisfied with the layout. I’ll do a couple color variations and then save the final draft for its intended use.
Shay: What is your favorite product you have designed?
Colby: Either a t-shirt with a drawing of an old pickup that has snowcat tracks with an outhouse on the back and a hillbilly playing the banjo which will be released to the public Spring 2010 or the latest Gallery Sticker sheet. But the top secret stuff I’m working on right now for Fall 2010 is super fresh.
Shay: Was there an adjustment from being an intern to working for Spacecraft?
Colby: Yeah, I was put on the payroll and had a lot more responsibilities.
Shay: What’s your average day like at work?
Colby: Come in, get some water for my puppy, check my email, check out a couple design blogs and start on whatever graphics need to be completed first. There’s always something that flies out of left field and needs to be done right away, but otherwise I work off a long to-do list.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Colby: A couple months after I came onboard at Spacecraft I was flown to Bali, Indonesia for 2 months to design and recreate the website. I learned to surf on some of the best waves in the world while watching the best surfers. Bali’s a magical land of superstitions and rituals with the kindest people I’ve ever met.
Shay: How is working at Spacecraft (any cool work events, work environment, job perks)?
Colby: I’ve never worked in a job with more awesome perks. Free season pass, free gear, powder days, I can bring my dog to work, cool people, art shows, no dress code, creative freedom, etc…
Shay: What education/experience did you have before getting the job?
Colby: I managed a print shop, freelance for a hip hop clothing company, catalogs for a high end entertainment furniture company, was a real-estate photographer, and assisted at a web design firm.
Shay: What’s the best perk you’ve gotten from your job?
Colby: Being sent to work in Bali.
Shay: Any disadvantages of your job?
Colby: Every once and a while somebody will use spray paint or some other kind of toxic art substance inside the building and I’ll have to work with a gas mask.
Shay: Since you started in the snowboarding industry, what’s been the biggest change?
Colby: The economy. It tanked this year and it seems like all the big hitters are hurting bad, while the smaller guys like us are charging like ninjas.
Shay: What’s the busiest time of year for you?
Colby: Catalog time. 70 hour weeks and lots of coffee.
Shay: Education vs. Experience…which do you think is more important?
Colby: Hmm… I did learn a lot in school, but I’d have to say experience. Your portfolio will speak for itself.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in design?
Colby: You will only be as good as you are passionate towards design. Work your ass off and never stop learning. Find out the design area you want to work in, find out who is at the top of the game in that field and ask them how they got there. Designers are generally open to being a mentor to those who are serious about it.
Shay: Final thoughts?
Colby: Anything is possible; you just have to work harder than the next guy. Make it happen.