It has been so exciting to see the video projects and steady stream of outstanding design work from you in the last year, Matt! I’m so impressed with your creative drive and you’re just one of the most generous, patient, and big-hearted collaborators I’ve ever worked with, anywhere. Thanks for all you do! I’m curious about what the highlights from the last year have been for you.
Matt: I am most passionate about my job when I’m able to be creative. I’m not someone who enjoys repetitive or redundant tasks. To my wife’s chagrin, I only eat leftovers once. That’s because I’m always looking for newness and trying to learn. The most exciting projects for me at NSM are ones where I’m learning a new skill or doing something we haven’t done before. That typically happens for me the most with video and animation.
How did you become interested in those things?
Matt: [Laughs.] Well, it happened for me early on. When I was about 13, I bought a book — I think it was the first one I had ever bought with my own money — about the movie Chicken Run. It was a book about the behind the scenes work of what it took to animate the film. I was captivated by the process and decided from then that animation was where I wanted to go one day. I always enjoyed doodling, and then I got into sculpting. Chicken Run introduced me to a world where you could sculpt and bring it to life through animation. Art and storytelling are two of my favorite things, and I thought, if I could combine them, that would be awesome. It has been interesting to see how it’s come around. This is not the path I would have expected, but I love that I’m getting to live out that dream.
That’s such a cool glimpse into your young artistic mind! How about your graphic design work? I know that’s a big part of what keeps you busy here, too.
Matt: The biggest thing I’ve noticed in my design work in the last year is just a growing sense of confidence in my ability. Any designer will tell you — no matter how talented or experienced they are — they’ll tell you there are moments where you hit this realization that you’ve been paid to be creative, the client is expecting something, and you have no idea what you’re going to do, or how you’re going to deliver. Early on, that used to cripple me, but the longer I work the more I realize that there are methodologies to design you can apply which will help get you unstuck and further down the road every time.
I also want to recognize that we have some very talented designers at North Star that have been very gracious in teaching me and I love spending time around them. I realized early on there was a lot to learn about design and that NSM is a great learning environment. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to avoid always reinventing the wheel. You can spend enormous amounts of time asking, how do I make this e-book something that hasn’t been done before? and creating something that is 100% unique. I’m seeing that a better skill is sometimes taking what already exists and making it more relevant to the viewer or giving it a personal touch. Improve it, don’t reinvent it.
What’s happening these days? What are you focused on now?
Matt: The big change for me these days is that I’m working out of my master bedroom [laughs] and you can probably hear my kids playing right outside my door. It’s definitely an adjustment, but I’m grateful I have a job and for Andy’s leadership as we weather this storm with all our clients.
As far as client work goes, to be honest, we’re fielding a lot of projects and requests from folks that are feeling some panic. They are worried that their story isn’t as relevant to people as it was before the pandemic hit. So they are wondering how to stay relevant and meaningful through all of this and we’re helping them with strong storytelling and messaging work, among other things. Everyone keeps saying that these are unprecedented times, but it’s true in a sense that there is no expert right now because nobody has been here before. We’re forging ahead though, and I think maybe North Star’s greatest benefit these days is coming alongside our clients to help them see how they are still relevant and how to keep getting their message out quickly and effectively.
What about the year ahead, Matt? This will be your eighth year with us. What do you hope to tackle?
Matt: I’m really into more illustration and hand-drawn work lately. I enjoy that process and work a lot. For one of our newer school clients recently, we made a video and I got to do the character design. In order to pull it off, I had to create a whole rigging system so I could animate the character that I had drawn. That meant watching a lot of tutorial videos and picking up some new skills. But getting to design a character from scratch and being able to bring it to life and see it interact in a movie is pretty cool. It goes all the way back to that little childhood dream I had. In the future, I want to push deeper into that skillset. I don’t enjoy leftovers. I want to continue to learn new things.
What about on the homefront and your personal life? Any updates you care to share?
Matt: When we all first started working from home, I thought I would hate it. I’m not a huge fan of Zoom meetings and virtual collaboration, and I was worried about missing that time and space with my colleagues. But, one thing I’ve become very thankful for is how all of this has given me tons of space for quality family time. My beautiful wife and I have a six-year-old boy, a three-year-old girl, and another son who will be two in about six months. When I get up from my desk for a coffee, they are right there, ready to pounce on me and wrestle. It’s been amazing to spend a lot of time with them.
I want to succeed in my workplace and grow as a designer, artist, and leader, but more importantly, I want to grow as a husband and a father. I’ve always had big dreams in my life. I wanted to be a college basketball star. I wanted to be a phenomenal artist. Dreams like that have come and gone. I’m not going to be the next Michelangelo. And that’s okay because I’ve realized that in the field of fatherhood I can absolutely compete with the best of the dads out there. That is something I can do. Some of my favorite memories that I deeply cherish are of my dad taking time out to spend with me. And right now I’ve got special opportunities to be here with my kids. That’s one of the greatest gifts I could give to them — my time — and that keeps me motivated.