I have had a lot on my mind lately. For some reason, for better or worse, I’ve decided to type it out publicly for everyone to see (and I’ll try to keep it short). At the end of December I was laid off from Donnie Bell Design and have pretty much been solo ever since. I picked up a part time job to help supplement income until my business got off the ground. Recently there have been a few options open up for me to take fulltime, which would make life much easier so I could just get paid a salary. With that would also mean that I would have to shut down my freelance company, which I’ve worked so hard, in 6 short months, to get where it’s at. I sat down with my awesome wife this morning to discuss the potential of each. In the end, we decided that we would stay the course. I will remain with Matt Lange….(whatever official name I come up with later to be inserted here), fulltime. I’ve come too far. It won’t be easy but I think it’s for the better. My blog used to be a place for me to air out all my thoughts and this is one of those posts. I want to thank everyone who has supported me and sees the potential. In a couple weeks, I will be welcoming Eve to the staff to help out with day to day tasks. This will be an agency that I feel will be unstoppable. Other wise, I’d have taken the easy road.
To whom it may concern,
My name is Matt Lange, and I am an addict. I’m addicted to creative work. For the most part that work is in the realm of sports. I’ve covered every major sport for both Louisiana Tech University and LSU. I’ve covered the New Orleans Hornets and Saints alike. I’ve been published by Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, The Sporting News and Yahoo! Sports. I love what I do in that realm and I can’t see myself ever quitting…
…now that I have gotten that out of the way, I want to talk about shooting and creating outside of your comfort zones. Breaking free and expressing yourself in ways that people don’t expect. Be cutting edge. Do things that take people by surprise and that, in the end, is going to be what will make you successful in this industry and make you happy in life. At least that’s the way I think about it. With all that said, I will talk about two photoshoots that were done in the span of 2009-10 (I think) for a good friend of mine and I want to compare that to the work of one major pop star, Lada Gaga. Here we go:
Before I start, I want you to watch one of, or both of these videos. After, proceed to the next section.
There is absolutely no denying that Lady Gaga is one of, if not the biggest pop star on earth right now. If you can prove otherwise to me, then high-five to you. She has worked her tail off to get where she is at, but something else she has done to help her reach her level is, innovate. Lady Gaga is constantly pushing limits, breaking molds and experimenting in new ways with her visuals that accompany her music. And it’s worked.
The reason I mentioned Lady Gaga was to lead to up and coming fashion designer Jordan Palmer (Jordy Marilyn). When I was in Baton Rouge, I became bored. I needed to shoot something new. I wanted to shoot fashion. I don’t know why, but it just came to me one day. So I hit Facebook. I stumbled across Jordan, shot him an email and it just so happened, he was also looking for a photographer to do some pictures for him. After some back and forth, we finally came across some time to do our shoot. I wish I could have been a fly and the wall for our shoot. At this time it was in my apartment living room, I had one light and a white bed sheet tacked to my wall. Jordan showed up with a model and an arsenal of props ranging from a homemade jacket inspired by Lady Gaga, electric tape and a glitter skull. It was myself, the sports photographer and Jordan, the openly gay, no holds barred, raw fashion designer standing in my living room. And what did we do? We went to work and made history (for us at least). The result was this:
The reason I mention all of this is, by Lady Gaga transforming from Stefani Germanotta into her current persona, she took a risk. She pushed all of the nay sayers to the side, braved a new world and it worked. It opened the eyes of the world. The eyes of people who would have never seen her before. She caught the attention of Jordan, who honestly, if she hadn’t existed, I don’t think he would have found the passion to do what he is trying to do now. He will no doubt be successful. The pictures I took of him have helped him turn the heads and open the eyes of people who probably would not have seen him before. Like Lady Gaga, I don’t see him slowing down at all. And that’s not all that the shoot had an effect on. It effected my career as well. That one shoot in my living room, with the bedsheet tacked to the wall and us just freestyling the shoot lead to this:
Jordan danced at Denise and Jason Galjour’s studio in Baton Rouge, LA (Precision Athletics). He showed Denise the images I took of him and that lead to a call from Denise. She needed pictures of her facilities. But she also wanted portraits of her and Jason in their environment for personal use and wall decoration. That shoot was a huge success. So the next thing you know, I now had amazing fashion, dance and fighting portraits in my portfolio. None of things things could have been achieved had I not decided to break the barrier and do something new. Something that turned heads and had me noticed by people who would not have noticed me before (see a trend here?). People like….
….LSU. I recently edited this video of the Tiger Girls for LSU. The video has 9,500 views on YouTube right now. It will help tremendously in my current solo venture that I am on due to a lay off last year. Oh yeah, the Tiger Girls….coached by Denise at Precision Athletics. AND, she has coached them to be National Champions. See how this works? So in the end, by taking a risk and doing something very new to me a year and a half ago, I now have a solid portfolio, along with a video for LSU that will more than help me get my foot in the doors at LSU and many other schools. Doors that may not have been open before.
I want to encourage everyone reading to do something bold. Talk to people you may not ever think about talking to. Do a project that is a complete 180 from everything you do now. And when you’re doing it, just turn up the music and go with the flow. You never ever ever know what it will do for you or the people you work with. I thank these people with my thoughts every single day. Jordan, Denise, Jason and Lauren at LSU. Because of you, the road ahead for me is brightly lit and the future is not dim at all. It may be for those that crossed me in the past, but that’s a different story . I am proud to call you all friends now! So proud.
I do quite a bit of web surfing looking for inspiration for various projects. 2, maybe 3 years ago, I came across a site that blew me away. Walkdesign is the portfolio of sports designer, Matt Walker. Last year I finally bit the bullet and emailed Matt some simple praise he deserved. I received a quick response and that boosted him in my ranks of online coolness. It’s always a great feeling when someone who’s work you admire takes the time out to email you back.
Well, as most of you know, recently I was laid off. After that occurred I hit twitter, facebook and email harder than ever. One of the people I looked to for advice, and to simply become online friends with (since I work alone now) was Matt Walker. Matt couldn’t have been better about giving me advice and just being all around cool. So I reached out to Matt again to see if would share a little bit of his world, with….the world. He obliged. Enjoy.
How did you get your start doing sports design for athletes?
I always loved sports and art since I was a kid. I spent a lot of time drawing Don Mattingly and Ken O’Brien in class when I should have been paying attention. When I became a professional designer I never lost my passion for sports. I did a lot of volunteer work for various sports projects or fan websites so I could apply my design skills to sports. A close contact of mine knew about my love of sports and design and worked at MLB interactive. He heard that Albert Pujols’ people were looking to build a charity site for Albert and my contact really went out of his way to recommend me. I did a pretty good job with that and it showed I could work in this space for athletes, which was a big deal because trust is very important to them. They need to know you can handle working for them and not have any ulterior motives. After that I was able to work for Barry Zito and his charity Strikeouts for Troops based on my work for Albert. I built a reputation for good work, I was trust worthy and my player sites started to stand out from others sites.
You also work at ESPN. Do you find it difficult to juggle both your fulltime job and your side work?
It can be very hard at times for a number of reasons. The work is very separate. I had my core athlete sites first, but a lot of people think I got them at ESPN, which is funny because I have little or no interaction with athletes in Bristol.
When I am at ESPN I tend to focus more on usability, game play, sponsorship opportunities, etc. When I do work for Walk Design after hours it’s more entrepreneurial and I spend more time focusing on social networking, marketing, branding, etc. So it can be very tiring to balance all of those things all at once. Mentally it can be very hard.
Physically it can be a grind as well. Deadlines are deadlines and they all have to be met. In an ideal world I could do well enough at either ESPN or Walk Design that I could just focus on that, but I have 4 kids and a wife that depend on me, so whatever I have to do to pay the bills is what I do.
There are a lot of positives to having the two jobs too. I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom. It’s nice to have variety. Sometimes it’s vital that I get challenged in one area because it keeps my ideas fresh and keeps me motivated across all of my work. It’s also good to be able to always have work. I don’t do well sitting around, I get too antsy and Call of Duty can only fill so much of my time.
Which project was your favorite project to work on and why?
That’s hard to say. I have been at this for over 15 years so I have really had a number of things I really liked for different reasons. I also have certain designs that have defined me and while I appreciate what they stand for, in hind site working on it at the time wasn’t anything more enjoyable than normal. If anything I would say that all of these projects have similar things about them that I loved and that was a difficult challenge that was hard to solve that I was able to make simple. I always want to make things easy to use and easy to understand. I love trying to figure out people, they are the ultimate puzzle.
In no particular order, here is a list of projects that I have worked on that have resonated with me for one reason or another: Zamboni logo, Kennedy Gaels logo, CC Sabathia site/iPhone app/iPad app, ESPN Fantasy Sports logos, United For The Troops, Strikeouts For Troops, PitCCh In Foundation, ESPN Tournament Challenge iPhone App, Nick Swisher’s Dirty 30 apparel, Waterford.com (their first ever website), Cartoon Network “How To Draw” cereal prizes, ESPN E Ticket Logo
What’s the coolest experience you’ve had, dealing with athletes or the sports world?
2 moments stick out to me here;
The first one was the first time I was ever a special guest on a Major League Baseball field. I was able to watch the White Sox take closed to the public batting practice and sit in the dugout at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. I sat next to Ozzie Guillen and Ken Williams while they discussed business and I was able to just take it all in. I was a guest of Nick Swishers, so when he was done he came in the dugout and we shot the breeze for a while and I just felt like I was part of something special. For the first time of working for these guys for so long, I felt like I was on the inside and I felt like I belonged.
The second time was when I went to Old Yankee Stadium for CC Sabathia’s press conference as a Yankee. I spent most of the day with the Sabathia’s, the Burnett’s and guys like Joe Girardi in the Yankee locker room just hanging out like we were at a friend’s house. When CC made the walk from Old Yankee Stadium to the New Yankee stadium, I walked with CC as crowds gathered and walked with him across the street like something out of a movie. We went right into the new stadium, down the steps on onto the new field right to home plate. I was taking in this amazing new structure in the most ridiculous way you could imagine. The Yankees also let me take special pictures while the New York media had to stay off the grass and wait for me to be done. It was mind blowing to think I was on the field before almost all of the Yankee players. I will always think of that as my first New Yankee stadium memory and I can’t think of too many people who could beat that. After we finished, CC, Steve Reed (a member of CCs team) and I walked back through the bowels of the old stadium through the centerfield entrance and along the darkly lit hallways of the old stadium talking about spending Christmas with our kids. That is something I will never forget.
If there is one dream job you’d want to have, design wise, what would it be or what would you do?
My ultimate dream job (other than making Walk Design a fully functioning design firm) would be to work for the New York Jets as the head of design for their website, social media platforms and mobile apps. They have always been my favorite team in any sport, but more importantly, they truly seem like a great organization from the owner on down who gets the direction the new role of communications in this world.
What advice would you have for anyone, myself included, on how to break into the world of sports design?
I would say to work your ass off. Be creative. Don’t be worried about compensation until you get your foot in the door. Do whatever you have to do to establish a portfolio that would get someone’s attention that you can handle their brand. In my case I did logos or websites for every local sports group, fan site, or idea in my head so that when the time came that I was in front of someone who could give me a shot, I never had to say “well this isn’t exactly what I could” or “I don’t have anything to show you right now”. Study the great sports designers out there. Follow every sports designer on Twitter and try to figure out how they executed their designs and why. Break down the reasons for what they did rather than what they actually presented. Figure out what you could add that they couldn’t. Carve out your spot.
How long did it take you to get to the point you’re at now, dealing with the athletes and organizations that you deal with?
It took me about 5 or 6 years of doing sports stuff until I felt like people know what I offer and know what they get if they go along with me. Now my focus is on creating relationships rather than proving I can do the work.
I know that working with sports, for me, comes along with a lot of hobbies and recreational things that I’m interested as well. Like I’m an avid card collector and that’s branched out into designing my own cards for fun. Is there anything that doing athletic work has led to, in your personal life?
Not really. I am a father of 4 ages 6 and under. I don’t really have hobbies anymore rather than I have distractions like Xbox that help me take my mind off family or work stuff.
Well there it is folks. I hope you enjoyed. See all of Matt’s work here.
And who’s got yours?
Great post from Seth Godin. Think about it.
“I’ve got your back”
These are the words that entrepreneurs, painters, artists, statesmen, customer service pioneers and writers need to hear.
Not true. They don’t need to hear them, they need to feel them.
No artist needs a fair weather friend, an employee or customer or partner who waits to do the calculus before deciding if they’re going to be there for them.
No, if you want her to go all in, if you want her to take the risk and brave the fear, then it sure helps if you’re there too, no matter what. There’s a cost to that, a pain and risk that comes from that sort of trust. After all, it might not work. Failure (or worse! embarrassment) might ensue. That’s precisely why it’s worth so much. Because it’s difficult and scarce.
Later, when it’s all good and it’s all working, your offer of support means very little. The artist never forgets the few who came through when it really mattered.
Who’s got your back? More important, whose back do you have?
Today I woke up surprised to see my work featured on none other than Scott Kelby’s website.
This was very very cool and I appreciate this very much Scott.
Also, I want to share a commercial I put together for Seasons Wellness Clinic in Ruston, LA. If you’ve been to the theatre recently, you may have seen it.
More work is coming soon from LSU Athletics and Blowout cards. Very exciting things.
If you’re in the Southeast U.S., chances are it’s COLD where you are. Here in Ruston, it’s ice outside. Literally. Everything is frozen. Lucky for me, I work at the house. Some of you however may be ’stranded’ at the house and looking for something to occupy your time. If that’s the case, check out these amazing photographers. It should keep you for at least an hour.
Click the image to go to their site*
If you guys have any other photographers, please share with the group in the comments section. And always feel free to swing over to my site and check out my work. Link located to the right .