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Dot asks Chris Do 11 Questions

Know who you are your true, authentic self. This means to embrace both the good and not so good part of who you are.

I had the huge pleasure of meeting Chris Do when I reached out to him after he put out on social that he was looking at coming to Europe in 2018. I helped set up a tour for him from Spain to his speaking engagement at Digital Design Days in Milan. Chris did a great session for me in Barcelona, “How to Talk Money and Budget with Clients” which you can see below the 11 questions. 

Chris is an Emmy award winning designer, founder and CEO of Blind, Inc., where he oversees the creative and strategic direction of the company.

Mr. Do currently serves on the board and is an advisor for organizations including: AIGA/LA, Emmys Motion & Title Design Peer Group, Otis Board of Governors, Saleshood, Santa Monica College and Woodbury University.

He received his BFA from Art Center College of Design in Graphics/Packaging, where he has taught Sequential Design for over a decade. He’s lectured at: California Institute of the Arts, LA Art Institute, Siggraph, Otis College of Design, MGLA, Cal State Los Angeles/Northridge and San Diego City College.

Prior to forming Blind, Mr. Do worked at Cole & Weber, Seattle as an Art Director, Epitaph Records as a designer and freelance designer at broadcast design firm, Novocom and R/GA LA under Kyle Cooper on main titles such as The Island of Dr. Moreau, Celtic Pride and Eraser.

 

You’ve been involved in design since you were 17, how do you keep your creativity and passion going after a successful career in the field?

I think too many designers put too great of an emphasis on their work (what it looks like, if it wins awards and is appreciated by peers). I don’t think this is a healthy way of working and not especially sustainable. If you are driven to learn, have an insatiable curiosity and like the impact that your work creates, you have enough fuel to last two lifetimes. 

I’m happiest when I learn something new (process, technique, style, application or create something I’ve not done before). Whenever possible, I force myself to embrace new tools even if it means moving at a slower pace. I try and ask myself, “Is there anything else I can do to make this process more efficient?” My goal is to be able to generate as many ideas as I can with the least amount of effort—work at the speed of thought. It’s also why I place such great emphasis on mastering the tools, or the tools will master you.

 

What were some of your early challenges when you made the decision to be a freelancer?

As a young freelancer, I didn’t understand or have a process of finding new clients. I didn’t know how much to charge, when to invoice—essentially, all of the basic entrepreneurial skills that is required to run a business. I didn’t understand customer service and took clients for granted. Luckily, I eventually learned this by being around other professionals who understood the business of design.

How do you decide on which clients to accept? 

They need to fit 3 criteria: Can they afford us? Do we like each other? Can we do good work for this client?

You won an Emmy in 2010 for Outstanding Individual Achievement In Animation. Was it an unexpected honor? How was the nomination process?

Winning the Emmy was totally unexpected. My office manager decided to submit a music video I directed. She initiated the application process and determined which category was the best fit for the work. I was later informed that I would be winning a juror selected Emmy. The next thing I knew I was at the award ceremony accepting my award. It made the process seem almost easy to win an Emmy. 
Years later, I served on the board of governors for the title design peer group and learned how tough it is to actually win one. I’m glad I didn’t know beforehand, because the process might have intimidated me. 

Any desire for more awards?

There are only 2 awards I’d like to win—an Academy award for documentary film or animation short, and the British D&AD pencil. I’ve won one before, but had filled out the application incorrectly so everyone on the team and the client got one, but me. So I’d like to win another one and this time, I’ll get the application right.

If someone has a strong social following and wants to develop their personal brand to a high level, what is the one piece of advice you give them on proceeding?

Know who you are—your true, authentic self. This means to embrace both the good and not so good part of who you are. Tell your origin story, share your beliefs, values, opinion and attitude. Don’t run away from it. I think too much of social media is manicured and fake. So people appreciate genuine and unfiltered personalities. 
The other piece of advice is pay attention to your audience. What do they like? What do they want more or less of? Have a conversation with them vs. just speaking at them.

Who has been your best mentor or someone you have looked up to for advice and inspiration?

Number one is my Dad. He has shaped most of my thinking, work ethic, sense of fairness and my moral compass. Number two is Keir McLaren, who has been my business coach for over 10 years. He taught me most of what I know about running a creative business and how to make a life and not just a living.

You travel for speaking and for work. Favourite part about traveling? Least favourite?

I don’t enjoy the prep and actual public speaking aspect. I still get a case of the nerves and spend many sleepless nights working on my talk. But I do love what happens after, which is to connect with people from all different walks of life. I want to understand them, their aspirations, challenges and culture. This is the best part.

As our channel grows, I feel like more people get to know us, but it’s nice to get to know them—see their faces, hear their voices and shake their hands.

 

What made you decide to develop your online course platform, The Futur? Was there a singular moment, or was it a string of events?

There was no grand plan as to how the Futur came to be. It was a series of unrelated events that led to the formation of the Futur. I had been teaching at Art Center for over 15 years, and felt like I needed to do more, but didn’t know how. My college friend, who I hadn’t spoken to for over 10 years came back into my life. He encouraged me to produce videos for YouTube. Reluctantly, I agreed. Once I realized the potential of the platform, I started to write content and made a concerted effort to create education content. Luckily, people started to watch it.
It seemed like there was an opportunity to teach and build a community around the business of design, and the Futur emerged out of this. Now, teaching via YouTube is where my heart and passion is. 
  

Favourite part of your work day?

I’m energized when I talk to people who have been affected by our content. When I hear their stories about gaining confidence, getting a job or growing their business because of our content, I’m filled with gratitude and joy. I’m still blown away that the videos we produce can actually have that kind of impact on people that live thousands of miles away. It is humbling. It’s also a big responsibility to carry and one that I don’t take lightly.

 

Unicorn or Dragon, and why?

Dragon. It is the one mythical creature that I’ve been obsessed over since I was a little boy. Dragons fly, are intelligent, majestic, and feared. My first skateboard was a Steve Caballero “Dragon” board from Powell Peralta. 

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Check out Chris and his talk from Barcelona!

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