After a Twelve Year Arch, It All Comes Full Circle

When I graduated from college in 1997, I had a degree in Ecological Anthropology and Writing under one arm, and a driving passion to jump headlong into the publishing game. As editor-in-chief of my college’s weekly rag, I was sure I’d found my calling…the classifieds section just didn’t seem to agree with me.

break_logo-160square_plainI became a designer (which I had always been passionate about as well), because I figured it could be a way in the side door. After kicking around a couple of shops building up my skills and resume, I figured I’d be working in a publication’s layout department within a couple of years at most. But in reality, two years later I’d already forgotten about that passion, as I was hired to be Media Temple’s (a brand-new web design and hosting company at the time) first Creative Director.

Twelve years later, I’m now working for one of the bigger content companies in the game. I’m no longer designing (full-time, nor by title), and I’m not writing either. I’ve found my way right into a position that fits me quite snug.

October 1st (a day that’s held some pretty important events in my life, oddly), I started as the new Director of Social Media for Break Media (purveyors of Break.com, MadeMan.com, CagePotato.com, etc). My sixth week will start on Monday, and I’m having a blast. The last five weeks have been packed full learning the ins and outs of my new company, and getting accustomed to not working in Photoshop and Illustrator on a daily basis (which has not been the easiest transition).

As I said, this position fits me well. I’m a social person by nature. I love people. I thrive on communication. And most importantly, the last few years have shown me that I really enjoy digging into the strategies and bigger picture.

I’ve spent the better part of the last ten years building websites, corporate identities, and various ephemera for a wide range of clients. It’s been fun, but I’m keen to the idea of backing up a step and being able to implement concepts across the entire spectrum: websites, social networks, mobile devices, offline networks, etc.

I’ll do my best to document this adventure, and I’d love for you to be along for the ride. With that, I’m going to get back to some much needed rest, and I’ll leave you with this quote from the man who said most things the best:

All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.” – Mark Twain

This Blog Has Fallen Silent – It Needs a Rebirth

These words are my first on this blog in well over two months. It geniunely is my hope to use this site as a way to connect with people on a variety of topics that are important and pertinent to me, but apparently, other things find higher priority right now. So, instead of just being completely quiet, I figured it might be best to show you what I’ve been doing, and where I’ve been doing it.

First and foremost, my beautiful wife and I gave birth to our third child, Ameenah Jane Ololade Huntoon in late April of this year. Without a doubt, she has been my primary focus. It’s an absolute joy and blessing to have such a wonderful family and incredible kids. It has always been the greatest goal of my life to be a father, and I’m a lucky guy to get to realize that dream each day.

In the past couple of months, things have been shook up on the work front as well. I left my job as Creative Director of Musicane (which recently launched a new homepage – my last site design work before leaving) in early July to jump back into the freelance world. While I enjoyed my time at Musicane, it was time to move on and get back into client work. Things are busy, but you know how freelancing goes. I’m still looking for the next right fit for me full-time, but for now, am quite happy and busy with the projects on my plate.

For those of you who don’t know, I also opened the doors of a new company, Humanity Snowboards, with my business partners Ryan Monson (also a childhood friend) and ex-Olympian snowboarder and champion, Tommy Czeschin. We’re just getting fired up, but this first season is looking to be a promising one. Ryan and I worked hard on hosting our first online contest on July 17th, which was met with great success. Check out the wrap-up.

Lastly, being a jock at heart, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of writing stories for fan-fueled sports channel BleacherReport.com over the course of the last year or so. In June, I was notified that I had been chosen to be a syndicated writer, and have been doing my best to cover my favorite teams: USC Football and LA Lakers, as well as a couple of articles about USA Soccer. But, as you’ll notice, my writing there has suffered too. Some days I really wish I could just write all day long.

I’m not sure how long it’s going to be until I’ll have the time to be constantly writing on this blog again, but I’m going to do my best to write as much as possible. Right now it has to take a backseat to family, deadlines, job searches, interviews, etc.

What Did You Want To Be When You Growed Up?

Are you doing what you thought you’d be doing with your life? Are you happy with where you’re at? Do you have any regrets about the decisions that you’ve made? Many of us end up down far different career paths than what we envisioned for ourselves. While it’s not necessary that you follow that path your 10 year-old mind set out for you so many years ago, it is important to remember that you can (and should) always try to seek out the same level of joy and satisfaction you anticipated for yourself when you were younger.

All kids have dreams

I can remember as far back as five or six years-old telling people that I wanted to be a dad and a professional baseball player when I grew up. I worked at being a baseball player very hard as a kid along with all of the other sports you play like soccer, basketball and football, but baseball was clearly my love. Once I got to high school, I ditched the other sports and started playing year round.

After a mediocre high school career and my first long bout with tendonitis before my senior season, I went on to play college ball at University of Redlands, and majored in everything in the first two years: International Relations, Accounting, Economics, a minor in Chinese, etc. After a great sophomore season (easily the best in my life), I decided to transfer to a better baseball program and a school where I could study my lifelong love of architecture more seriously.

For some strange reason, I changed my mind and returned to Redlands days before classes started and quit baseball to focus on my education. In hindsight, walking away from baseball is the only regret I have in my life, albeit it a minor regret (I don’t really believe in the word, but perhaps that’s an entirely different article). Either way, this decision started things in motion that have brought me to where I am now.

There is life after the dreams change

During my sophomore season, one of my buddies was a transfer from Montana who was about as bright as they come. He was a writer, and since I’d always fancied myself the same, I kinda jumped in his back pocket and joined the campus weekly as a staff writer.

After baseball, I wrote much more extensively for the paper, and really started to feel strongly about my course of study. I was terribly interested in anthropology, environmental studies, and of course, writing. I rolled them all together and majored in Ecological Anthropology, with a minor in writing.

My senior year kicked off early and halfway around the world on the small islands of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Tanzania, East Africa. I was writing correspondence articles from abroad, and studying marine biology and coastal ecology with the trailblazing group of American students (the first group to live in Zanzibar).

My life began to feel focused. I was sure that a master’s degree, PHD work, and an academic future lie ahead. I could feel everything starting to come together.

Upon my return home, I took over as editor-in-chief of The Bulldog Weekly at Redlands, and began my education in Adobe programs as I helped transition the newspaper to a fully digital pre-press operation.

I had no idea that I was beginning my career in those late night editing and layout sessions.

Graduation brought with it a whole new level of confusion and question all surrounding the main theme: “What’s next?” I didn’t want to go back to school immediately, and I decided that temping at Wells Fargo, part-time shifts at Trader Joe’s, and healthy amounts of drunken frisbee golf would be the best bet.

Life was going smoothly until about December, when my first college loan payment notice arrived. Two nights later I stood up at a coffee shop – after probably 48 hours straight searching for editing positions, layout jobs, staff writer openings – and asked if anyone in the room needed a designer. I realized my incoming cash flow was not going to pay the bills, and was willing to do just about anything to find a job that I wanted to work.

Okay, so I’m a designer

Oddly, someone said “yeah, actually, we are looking for a junior designer right now.” I laughed, and double-checked to make sure that the guy wasn’t pulling my leg. But sure enough, he was serious. I interviewed a few days later, and started the job the following week. I’ve called myself a designer ever since.

I didn’t go to school for design. Even though I nearly transferred after my sophomore year to enter architecture school, and have sketched my entire life, I have no formal design education.

So, as soon as I started my career, I started reading HOW Design Magazine, devoured books by Steven Heller, Milton Glaser, and Paul Rand. I read on Helvetica, about Bauhaus, and fell in love with the institution of design. Without classes on color theory, grid, and typographic basics, I felt naked at times. My designs exposed my weaknesses, and I often cursed my inabilities to translate my ideas and concepts into well-executed design.

While I was able to get along and ultimately succeed without a design education, I’m not suggesting that is the right path for everyone. In fact, it’s an uphill battle for years and years without one. You have to constantly be improving and learning.

My career path since those early days slinging Photoshop for minimum wage (literally) has been filled with ups and downs. I’ve had a blast to be sure, and have learned a ton. I have since had a chance to contribute on a variety of articles about design, and a few years back had a chance to be interviewed by the first designer I ever read back in 1997, Steven Heller. That was the point when I felt like I’d arrived as a designer.

As for the original dreams?

I started playing competitive adult baseball a few years back, and really loved being back on the diamond. There’s something in me that just purrs when I get to compete physically. My soul really had a chance to heal playing baseball for the better part of 6 years, from the spring of 2001 until the fall of 2006.

I’m now married as well, and have two beautiful kids and a third on the way.

While slightly modified, my dreams as a five year-old have been reached. Being a father is the most important thing in my life, and I fill my need for competition and sports by staying active and by writing on Bleacher Report. I didn’t ever get to be a professional baseball player, but had I continued playing I can very safely say that I would not be where I am today. And I could not be happier where I’m at.

I did go back to school, to UCLA for a master’s degree, but that was put on hold when I started working at (mt) back in 1999. Someday, I plan to return, finish my degree and work towards that goal of becoming a professor some day.

Please, share your stories about your first jobs and what got you there. Did you take a critical path to get where you are (that is to say, for example, let’s take a designer: high school art classes to design school, intern with an ad agency, and climb the design ladder)? There’s no right answer. Share your experience and maybe you’ll have someone reply that you’re telling their story. It’s fun to find kinship in common experience.