12 Questions: Meet Maximilian (USA)

In our 12 Questions blog series, we feature interviews with someone from the crowdSPRING community. For these interviews, we pick people who add value to our community – in the blog, in the forums, in the projects. Plainly – activities that make crowdSPRING a better community. Be professional, treat others with respect, help us build something very special, and we’ll take notice.

We’re very proud to feature Maximilian (crowdSPRING username: maximiliandesign) today. Max lives and works in Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

1. Please tell us about yourself.

Crikey!  Who, …ME?
For real?  Why me?
Is this a joke?  You’re just gonna make me write all this stuff, and then laugh at me when I send it in, right?
Wow.  I am … hmmm, … flattered.  Yes, flattered!
Well, OK… here it goes.  But be warned.

My guess is, if you are still reading this, you are either:
A.) drawn in by my devilishly handsome looks in the picture, or
B.) bored senseless to the degree that you’ll do almost anything if it just kills a few minutes of your day!

Alright, so B.) it is!  I thought so.

What can I say about myself you don’t already NOT know?  After all, I am a virtual unknown in the crowdSPRING community, but I guess that’s about to change, eh?  Muu ha ha haaaar!

How does a central European expatriate (yes, that would be ME) end up in one of the dullest cities in the USA (yes, that would be Jacksonville, Florida)?  Long story, but I began my exodus to the US as an exchange student when I was still a spring chicken (albeit not a crowdSPRING chicken, which is what I am today!).  After my year as exchange student, one thing led to another – I came back for college (in West Virginia of all places), got married, got a job, moved around a couple times – you know, the usual things people do.  And despite my wacky self, the US Government actually allowed me to stay.  Indefinitely.  I guess they figured it’s best to keep me close by, so they can keep an eye on me!  Just in case.

2. How did you become interested in design?

Well, what else is a dorky kid to do?  I wasn’t any good in sports, so they always made me the goalkeeper, to minimize the damage I can cause to the team.  I was also really awkward around the ladies.  So those two factors eliminated what the COOL kids did while growing up (i.e. having LIVES) – which left me to ponder my youth at the easel and the drawing board.  It helped that my elementary school teacher recommended I join a school with special emphasis on artistic development.  So I spent 7 years of my education in Europe with other loonies who enjoy drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, heck, even music (which I have NO talent for, but I can play the iPod like Horowitz!).  I even dabbled around with some of the early home computer programs that would let you draw in the stunning array of 16 (!) colors.  Oops, I dated myself.  Strike that last part.

Anyways, when time came to decide how to pay my future bills, it seemed a good idea to choose something less to do with goalkeeping, but something I am not TOO bad at.  After almost picking industrial design, I instead ventured into land planning and landscape architecture with a later specialization in golf course design.  It turned out to be an awesome feeling (in a megalomaniac-ish kind of way) to move buildings and other “stuff” worth gazillions of dollars with the mere stroke of a pencil.  The spatial aspects of designing directly on the land are fascinating, and it’s great fun to see things you draw actually take shape on the ground.  And scary!  (As in: Whoa!!  What the heck is this thing they just built??  Oooh yeah…  I guess that’s what it shows here in my plans…)

Since that line of work is very project-driven, during inevitable downtimes I poked around an unnamed website somewhat similar to crowdSPRING: featuring photoshop, illustration, writing and photography competitions, and eventually also some logo design projects for real CA$H!  Yehey!  I had to try my luck at that.  So whenever things at my “real” work were slow, here I was, attempting self-taught methods in graphic design, submitting some entries, and slowly getting better… even winning a few bucks.  Then winning more.  Too bad the admins of that unnamed site seem to have a God-complex, and to be favoring certain site insiders, despite their repeated unprofessional conduct.  But that’s another story.  Leaving that unnamed site behind led me to CrowdSpring: a better place in the design universe.  So here I am!

3. Which of your designs are your favorites and why?

Oh burn!  There are so many I thought turned out really great.  Then there is nothing worse than getting a shocking 2 buyer rating stars on a design you are soooo in love with yourself.  It’s absolutely heart-wrenching.  They’ll instead pick an entry where the designer misspelled their name using Times Roman, and surrounded it with an elliptical crescent.  Go figure – these are the joys of design competitions!   Anyways, I guess some of my favorites will be shown here with the interview, so I’ll try to choose wisely which ones I send along.

Wisely?  Me?  Riiiiight.

4. Do you prefer visual creativity or coming up with a great new name or
tagline for a company?

Visual creativity is in my blood (and sometimes in my sweat and tears, too!), but to be honest, occasionally it’s great to just be lazy and not have to DRAW anything.  With writing competitions you never know where you stand, because you don’t see your competitors’ entries, or even your own.  Sometimes I forgot what I wrote and entered, and had to go back and check my entry.  But then that’s probably just ME!

Ultimately there is a greater sense of satisfaction in putting together visual designs, and occasionally browsing through the old folders.  You also have more to put in your portfolio, even if the client didn’t pick it (sigh!).  It’s kinda pathetic to put an unselected text entry into your portfolio, isn’t it?  Can’t really do that!  So visual is definitely better, but I’ll gladly take any writing prize out there, as well!

5. How do you come up with ideas for concepts after you read a buyer’s
creative brief?

Read the WHAT?  Just kidding… but I am certain that some people never read the brief at all, and submit a design based on the headline, or other people’s previous entries (some famously even copying the spelling mistakes).

That moment of inspiration after understanding the objectives of a project is the key element in the design process, and I can’t really explain how it happens.  It’s like a small spark in the back of my mind.  Sometimes a very clear (or occasionally murky) picture appears before my mental eye of what the concept shall be, and I’ll immediately jot it down.  Usually these projects are the most fun, because you have a real VISION to kick it all off, a concept that is relevant and hopefully unique, and one you feel it will work well within the framework of the assignment.  I have sheets and sheets of papers with tiny chicken scratch doodles taken down in an instant.  Many of them turned into the final design for a project.

Then, there are other projects where you just stare at the brief and have NO clue what to do.  Those can be painful and often end in bitter tears and senseless drinking.  But wait!  Thank goodness I don’t drink!  Or cry.  At least not over projects.  Well, not usually.

The MOST frustrating thing in design is when that vision in your creative sub-mind somehow doesn’t translate into the real world… when it just doesn’t want to come together, no matter how hard you try to draw it, how often you fiddle with the details or change the colors.  It just doesn’t want to work on paper, even though you KNOW it’s a good idea.  Then, I feel like crying!  Or drinking.

Sometimes I just get the gut feeling that there is a great solution out there, and I’ll ponder it over and over, chewing up my brain, especially while swimming.  I try to swim almost every day (it’s the only form of exercise I can endure), so while there’s nothing else to do other than counting laps, it’s a great time to think about a design problem.  Often times I’ve spurted out of the pool with an idea that came to me in that semi-conscious state while freestyling my way up and down the lanes.  Unless there is a bikini babe in the next lane.  Then the idea can wait.

6. Mac or PC?

If I tell you what I am using, you’ll laugh.  Or puke.  Or both.

I can’t even say for sure when the last time I used a Mac was… probably back in the college computer lab, when they still had colorfully striped Apples as logos, and were called “Macintosh”.  Argh, I just dated myself again.  Strike that.

So yeah,… I am a PC user.  Please shoot me (at least I own other Apple products).  Not only that, but get this: my primary design tools are AutoCad 2000 and Paint Shop Pro 7.  Uhuh, you read that right.  Not even PhotoShop.  PaintShop.  And release 7, from the 90’s (yes, the 90’s.  Some of you weren’t even BORN yet.)  You laughing yet?  Or puking?

I don’t even own a real camera… my so-called photography is done with a Canon IXY.  The good thing is, I don’t look like a tourist walking around with an SLR, as the IXY fits snugly into my pocket.  I love that little rascal.  The bad thing is… obvious.

See it this way: admire me!!  I am doing all this KILLER work with tools older than dirt.  And be thankful.  Because if I had the tools YOU guys are using, I would really kick!  Or wait… I’m not good at kicking.  That’s why they always made me the goalkeeper.

I admit, I recently got a newer version of Adobe Illustrator.  I had to, since most clients want scalable vector format output.  But I’ve only scratched the surface of learning how to use it.  Maybe one of these days I ought to take a class.  But I have never taken a software class all my life, so why start now?  Anybody wanna give me free lessons?

Right, didn’t think so.

7. What is your dream project?

Well, we all wanna get insanely rich on some fantabulous multi-billion dollar project for the Sultan of Brunei, but there’s nothing new about that.  Neither is it realistic.  The beauty of being in the creative field is, you never know what you might be working on next, and it’s always great to venture into areas you’ve never tried before.

There are many things in my main line of work that I would like to design and build on the land.  In the arena of graphic design however, a dream project to me is any project where my client is left happy and extremely satisfied with the design.  Our clients here pin their hopes, dreams, and even livelihoods on our designs, which become the new identity of their to them very important ventures.  Our designs become how their enterprises are identified and represented to the outside world, and to THEIR clients.  When my client is excited about something I created for them, whether big or small – that’s just really good stuff!  And a happy client is also the best way to get more work – either repeat work, or referrals to friends. Warm and fuzzy feelings all around!

8. How do you promote your work?

Aw, you know,… the usual:  neon billboards, nude flashers holding up banners while sprinting through crowds at big sporting events, candy dropped from airplanes, one billion spam emails sent out by my Russian underworld connections.

Or not.

I guess my only kind of promotion is the (hopefully not too indecent) exposure I get from participation in these here contests.  Every so often, a buyer will send me an invite to their project after noticing some other entry of mine.   Probably more times than that, a buyer will set their contest to “PRO” after seeing my work, just to make sure I can NOT enter!

I do have my design portfolio online at www.maximilian.us, but who ever goes there?  Not unless I tell them to, anyways.  You could go there now!  But, you aren’t really THAT interested.  So you won’t.

9. Please describe your typical work day.

I work at home, so it’s pretty flexible.  I tell people: I always work, and I never work.  I feel mostly useless in the morning, so it takes me a while to really get going.  Seems like my most productive time is in the evening, but it totally varies, depending on when inspiration strikes.  Or deadlines.  Or procrastination.

I can’t say I miss working in an office and dealing with superiors looking over my shoulder.  But I do miss the weekly office sports pool, or the occasional office putting contest.  But it’s a very small price to pay for having a 6-second commute in the morning!  And each day is different.  When I reach a good stopping point, I’ll go swim or run some errands, take out the puppy, or have a bite to eat, just to decompress.  But sometimes I keep cranking until I get it out the door.  It just depends.  Needless to say, some days I also end up just goofing around, if there is nothing on the board.  At least I don’t have to pretend to be busy when the boss comes looking into my cubicle!  But when there are things to work on, I am usually eager to get on it.  Especially if it means I get to send out an invoice with it.  Chi-ching!!

10. What are the challenges of being a photographer in the age of stock
photography sites?

I dunno.  Ask a photographer.

I never tried to sell any of my photos (who would pay for them anyway?), but I would imagine it’s hard to get custom photo jobs when it’s so easy for a client to pull stocks for just a few bucks.  Then again, I suppose there is money to be made selling stock photos, too.

I’ll take pictures for you, if you buy me a REAL camera.  How about it?  Barter deal?

Alright… how about for a bag of pretzels, then?


11. If you weren’t designing, what would you be doing?


Sometimes I tell people I am a forensic anthropologist just to see their reaction.  But most don’t really know what that is, anyways.

My other career path consideration was commercial pilot, my childhood dream job.  Then again, can you imagine a nut like me flying a plane with 400 people inside?  It’s probably better this way.  Besides, being an airline pilot lost most of its glamor since the days when I was a young, wide-eyed airplane afficionado.  Nowadays, being a pilot has almost as little glamor as being a designer!

12. What do you do with your free time?

I answer interview questions!  Well… today, at least.

Free time?  When you work a job you really like, even work can seem like free time – because it’s what I enjoy doing anyways.  Lucky, huh?  I love fiddling with a design and drawing things.  If I didn’t get paid for it, I would probably STILL do it,… at least sometimes – just for fun.

But other than designing, I like my daily 2K swim.  Or a nice round of golf.  Arts and sciences of all sorts (especially any design field, and Astronomy), hiking, traveling and cultures, going on photo safaris.  Most things to do with computers, gadgets (love my music collection), and the internet.  I feel naked without the internet.  I like watching auto racing and sumo wrestling.  Yes, you read that right.  Sumo wrestling.  Of course I neither wrestle nor race myself, though.

I can’t read a book, because I fall asleep every time.  But games!  I am a sucker for games, as long as they have less to do with pushing, throwing or kicking things for a long distance, especially outdoors – but I can handle things like bowling, billiards, cards, board games… and of course the occasional electronic games device, although I try to stay away from those, due to the addiction factor!  crowdSPRING is already addictive enough!!

Thank you for reading all this.  If you really made it all the way down to here, consider yourself hugged!  Now please go and do something more interesting!  Cheers!


Thanks a million, Max!