Brad Holten is a #shillony graduate currently working as a graphic designer at Big Idea. He juggles a wide variety of design projects, but we’re especially enamoured with his digital illustrations. Today we hear where he finds creative inspiration, nerding out with typesetting and why he chose to study at Shillington.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
Outside of any other artist or creative, I find most inspiration from stories and ideas. When I was younger, I wanted to be an author. I read a huge amount of science fiction and collected an array of posters from my favorite books and artists. Appreciation for storytelling and world-shaping is still with me, but in a visual format. It wasn’t until my late teens that I discovered a passion for digital art specifically and began to value what Photoshop had to offer as a medium. Behance is irreplaceable and I continually browse many of the online art collectives which first introduced me to this craft. Also, quiet time. The quieter, the better.
What’s the best thing about living in New York City? How does it affect your work?
Access. Being surrounded by ambitious and creative people who do things I’m interested in is commonplace. This not only sharpens my skills, but it improves my workflow and encourages me to think outside of my box. The onslaught of networking and design-related events in the city are non-stop.
You’re currently working at Big Idea. What’s your typical day like?
Some days can entirely be spent laying out material like annual reports or infographics, while others might involve juggling a variety of projects ranging from logo or icon design to posters or website landing pages. Ultimately, it’s busy but very rewarding to have the responsibility and creative freedom that comes with a smaller team.
Could you tell us about a recent professional project?
Right now I’m working on an 80+ page annual report for a private school.
Luckily, I really nerd out when it comes to typesetting unreasonable amounts of text. Character and paragraph styles are my friends.
What’s the key to becoming a Photoshop master? Any tips?
I’ll let you know when I get there. Honestly, Photoshop is a massively intricate piece of software with a steep learning curve. I have much to discover still. Understanding channels, masking, custom brushes, layer organization and working in a non-destructive manner are all important. I started with Photoshop as my digital playground to create posters for local shows in town using brushwork and photo-manipulation techniques. A drawing tablet is an absolute must for illustrating. Outside of just messing around for thousands of hours, I found assistance from online tutorials and the wonderful Advanced Photoshop magazine, which is ironically where I saw my first ad for the Shillington School.
Thank you! Black Pearl is a favorite as well. It’s composed of three photographs, some digital brushwork, and of course a ridiculous amount of layer adjustments. Stylistically, I like high contrast, fine detail, and lots of texture. I’m currently studying Cinema 4d so that I can import detailed, 3d renders into Photoshop and then paint over the scene for an impressive amount of depth.
I chose Shillington because I wanted to have a solid understanding of graphic design. I wanted to learn concepts that I didn’t get from my four-year technical graphics degree and going back to college for any amount of time just didn’t feel like an ideal option. I researched graduate portfolios and was impressed with what I saw. I hoped I would emerge a competent designer with at least a handful of friends in the industry and I acquired much more than that.
What was the best thing about the course? What was the biggest lesson you learned?
The best thing for me besides learning graphic design from the ground up was acquiring the ability to present the material in an impactful way.
Shillington did a powerful job in introducing this way of thinking which has assisted me both personally and professionally.
I’d say it was the best decision I made in pursuing graphic design, particularly considering the timeframe of the course. After one or two days in class, I knew I had made a valuable decision. No small part was due to my passionate group of teachers who I enjoyed thoroughly.
Check out more of Brad’s incredible work on his website.