An Interview with Cameron Moll

Cameron Moll is a designer, speaker, and author living in Sarasota, Florida with his wife and four sons. He’s also the founder of Authentic Jobs. Cameron’s work has been featured in HOW, Print, Communication Arts, Forrester Research publications, and NPR. Recently, I caught up with Cameron to see how he gets it all done, and what he’s planning next. Join Cameron and AIGA Jacksonville for ConvergeFL, September 11 – 13, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida.

jh: You’ve accomplished a lot over the years and obviously have a lot of drive. What fuels your passion and creativity?

cm: I think, thankfully, it’s internal. I have this incessant drive to be pushing myself to try new things, to accomplish things, to always be working. I don’t know where that came from. I think it’s in my DNA. I think it’s partly from my mother’s side. My mother’s side has a long history of drivers, people who get stuff done.

Colosseo: Reimagining the Roman Coliseum with type (Canon 7D) from Cameron Moll on Vimeo.

Your Salt Lake Temple and Coliseum letterpress posters are intricately beautiful. What inspired you to construct the designs from type? And why letterpress?

I’ve always had a love for typography, in part because I think it’s beyond my mastery. I’ve really made a career out of pushing myself to do things that I had no right to do in the first place, things I wasn’t even close to being qualified for. And that was the case with letterpress. I had done just a few pieces of print. I could probably count them on one hand.

But letterpress is a little bit different. Letterpress printing is a permanent part of the paper. If the ink were to fade away one or two centuries in the future, that impression would still remain. So it feels very permanent. I think I was drawn to that style of printing because of its permanence and because it’s just gorgeous. A letterpress-printed piece – it doesn’t matter what it is – it just has an extra level of beauty that other printed pieces do not have.

So which is a more incredible feeling? Standing in front of the Coliseum or seeing your first print roll off the press?

That’s a great question. I think they’re both a rush in different ways. One is appreciation and the other is gratification. As I stand in front of the Coliseum, I’m appreciative of the enormous effort that went into building it. And all of the effort put in since then to preserve it and restore it. When I see that first print roll off the press, I was just super thrilled and very grateful that it was done. But then, to see it come to life…I guess we have that same experience, those of us who work on the web, when we launch something. But it’s not necessarily tangible. To see a piece of paper come off of a roller with ink on it, impressed with the polymer plate that it just got smashed into…You know, that is a very different feeling.

You spent 12 months on that design. How did you power through it?

There’s nothing more satisfying to me than the process of creation. I’m finding that as I get older, I enjoy the craft of the experience as much as I enjoy the completed project. I think sometimes we focus a little too much on “I gotta get this thing done,” forgetting to enjoy and appreciate everything that goes into that project along the way.

Right now I’m working on my third letterpress poster. It’s been this enormous monkey on my shoulders for three years now. I have to continually remind myself to just enjoy the process. Thankfully, with this third poster, I have screen-recorded the entire design from start to finish. So when I’m done, you’ll be able to see me designing it from start to finish in a time-lapse video. In two minutes, watch me work for three years, that type of thing. For me, that’s a way of journaling the process along the way, and a reminder to remember how enjoyable the process was.

How do you push yourself through creative blocks?

I don’t have a single strategy that works in every single scenario. Sometimes it takes just barreling and working through the block. Other times, it requires pausing and coming back to it later. It might require closely examining how other people have tackled that same problem and what they did to overcome it. But I have yet to find a single solution that works for every single scenario.

An interview with Erik Spiekermann was featured in a book…It’s titled Inspirability, and it’s hard to miss because it has a green, fuzzy cover. Literally, a green fuzzy, like, felt cover. And in the interview Erik’s asked how he overcomes creative blocks. He basically says, “I don’t take walks. Walks are stupid. People go on walks just to delay the problem. I just sit down and go to work.” But I’ve found sometimes the only thing that works for a particular creative block is a walk.

Looking at your success, we don’t immediately see any setbacks or struggles. Have you failed at times in your career? What keeps you going?

I wish the public knew how much I failed, how much I struggled and how many days are spent in frustration. I think we all go through that but we put on our best faces. I’ve said before, maybe we need a conference where everyone just talks about their failures instead of talking about all the stuff that’s been successful. Imagine how helpful that could be.

“I wish the public knew how much I failed, how much I struggled and how many days are spent in frustration.”

I think what’s worked for me is to just keep moving, to pick myself up. When I feel unproductive, sometimes the best way for me to get out of that rut is to just put my head down and try to work and be as productive as I can. Kind of like Erik says. And you know, nine times out of ten, I find I salvage that day. I made it a good day because I tried to work through it.

What have you observed about design careers through your company, Authentic Jobs?

I don’t think we’ve yet effectively as a society figured out how best to tap into and utilize the talent of a given region or area or country. For decades we’ve gone to work in our local areas. We’ve commuted anywhere from one minute to two hours for employment. And yet, sometimes the best individual for the position may be located across the country. They may not want to relocate. I think part of the solution to improving how we do business is being more open to remote working and establishing a culture that allows for it rather than looking at it as a stumbling block to getting things done.

I would encourage employers to be more openminded about remote workers. I live in Sarasota. If I were to try to find a job anywhere close to here…I mean seriously, there’s very little. Thankfully, there are opportunities that allow me to work remotely, but many organizations frown upon remote working.

Living in a retirement town, how do you stay connected?

You and I are chatting about AIGA. We’re talking about ConvergeFL. There are few better ways to remain connected in our industry than to align yourself with something like AIGA or to go to a conference like ConvergeFL. That really has been the lifesaver for me being in a retirement town, where I have very few connections here. I have the privilege and honor of going to these conferences and seeing people that I’ve only met through Twitter. It’s a substitute for not having that in my hometown. So I would absolutely recommend, to the extent that budgets allow and time allows, that as active creative professionals, we be part of associations like AIGA and attend conferences like ConvergeFL. They provide that very critical network.

What are you working on now? Give us some exclusive content.

Well, I can tell you that we are working on an extension of Authentic Jobs that will allow people to find and to post opportunities for small, one-off projects. Today Authentic Jobs is more of a resource that you go to for finding full-time work and freelance projects. Bigger commitments. We recognize that there’s an opportunity to connect creative professionals with much smaller projects, much shorter term projects that will allow them to not only increase the revenue they’re bringing in but also allow them to fill gaps in their schedule.

Is there anything else you want the design world to know?

I think the design world is awesome. Totally privileged to be a part of this community. There are few communities like it in the world.

~ Jen, AIGA Jacksonville Aficionado

By aigajacksonville
Published August 15, 2013