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Hey there. Where do I start? The name is Bass…Andrew Bass. I am the Principal/ Creative Director of my own graphic design studio, adbass:designs with experience that spans over 16 years. My studio focus is on print—ranging from corporate identities, promotion, print collateral to publication design. I got my start in an industry that still makes folk talk—the adult industry. I used to art direct several adult magazines when I first started. The funny thing is that the adult industry is like every other business so there were no wild and crazy antics in our offices. My career has taken me through many companies such as McGraw-Hill, CMP Media, and Essence Communications. My studio is based in New York (Long Island, NY to be specific…kind of still hard to say since I was born and raised in Brooklyn) and that is where I live with my wife, Karen, who runs her own PR/marketing firm and my son, Sebastian. In addition to my studio, I am also an adjunct instructor at New York City College of Technology teaching Typographic Design I and III. It has also been a goal of mine to teach one day and I got the opportunity this fall. Man, I am geeked about it. Challenging but I enjoy it. OK, what else you wanna know? I am a big James Bond fan; big sci-fi fan; big, big, Yankee fan (let’s go YANKEES!)…basically I am just a big guy…’cause I’m 6’6”. Well, onto the thread…

When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
I decided to be a graphic designer in college sitting in my advertising class. I realized when my professor was spewing her profanity-laced lecture that advertising bored the shit out of me. I lost track of what my professor was saying because I was daydreaming about my logo project. BAM! It hit me…I was totally turned on by my design classes. From that time on, design has been my mistress. She has always been there for me through thick and thin. Shhh! Just don’t tell my wife.

Who or what inspires you?
Good question. I ask myself this everyday. Ordinary folks who face a myriad of obstacles but never let them stop their quest. Those stories are what inspire me since growing up I had to endure many hardships but I never let them interfere with my plans or goals. That is why I got a tattoo on my right forearm of an African Sankofa symbol meaning “one who can withstand hardships”. Passion for an interest is also what inspires me. Reading or hearing about someone’s unquenchable desire to do something is very inspirational to me. A lot of abstract feelings and actions inspire me. I tend to like the “unnormal” aspects of life. Being predictable is uninspiring.

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
Well, I spent a year in community college then transferred in my sophomore year to Pratt Institute where I got my BFA. Starting working in the industry while still at Pratt so the bulk of my training came from on the job. I poured through tons of design books and annuals to see what others where doing and what was being recognized. Still do the same thing as the mounds of books/magazines in my office show.

How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
Can I answer that? Am I fresh? All I can do is just keep my mind as open as possible, read EVERYTHING, expose myself to EVERYTHING, learn from EVERYTHING, and try not to dismiss any idea no matter how idiotic I feel it is. Never settle into a familiar, comfortable space. Always challenge you opinions, thoughts and feelings. Push the button…who knows who will answer.

What are some of your current projects?
Getting my studio up and running. LOL! I have only been doing this now for about 2 months. Working on my direct mail pieces and my promotional brochure. Frak, it is so hard designing for yourself. Took me months and 3 redesigns to get my current website up. I just finished up an identity project for a company based in Florida and now doing some signage for them. Not a big deal but hoping it can lead to a repeat client and expose my studio to their connections. Major projects ahead: learning Flash, Motion, Indesign and figuring out how to pay for all my upgrades. Aaaggghhh!

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
One project was the redesign of the magazine I was art directing up until two months ago. Why? Because they were prepared to send it out to Roger Black’s studio and once they saw my presentation, they were floored. They didn’t expect any of their art directors to be able to produce designs that matched that caliber. I won an award earlier this year from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for Best Redesign and that felt fantastic.

Another project was the media kit for Essence Communications in 2000. They had previously produced media kits that were poorly constructed, lack any design impact and had no direct message related to its main product, Essence magazine. It was a battle but I was able to convince the marketing director and associate publisher that economical advantage and impact of my proposed design. I also convinced them to move to a printer I had an established relationship with where I knew how tight the end product would be. Needless to say, once it came off press I didn’t have to go to battle for another project…at least not until 6 months after.

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I would like to try more interactive design. I have been so immersed in the print arena for so long it would be cool to mix up the perspective. Also, I would like to tackle film/motion graphics…always thought about designing the opening to an obscure movie then moving that design over to its poster and other print components. Shamefully, I have not created any work using my own hand. I used to sketch, paint and shoot my own photos but as my career advanced, my time for personal pursuits shrank. Most definitely need to go back to it.

Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Read. Listen. Try everything. Research what you are trying to do. See what others have done. There is so much available to designers & illustrators now that you can take it for granted. DON’T! Use the resources around you. School is great but practical experience is what really gets you growing.

What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
Such a subjective question. My personal barometer of how successful a project is quite simple: if the project’s intended message is heard, if the client is happy they are getting what THEY asked for, if the project makes me proud to have my name attached to it. Most importantly what makes a piece successful, above all else, is if the project has a solid idea behind it. I know a radical thought process but a solid idea will go a long way then just a pretty piece. Are my students reading this?

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
This is an ongoing mission. I have gone through burn-out (or meltdown I like to call it) at least three times in my career. I just came off one now and it was because my old job was just that—a job. There was no longer any real creativity going on; I was just a highly paid layout artist. To avoid that, sometimes you have to lighten your load and carefully balance the work with your personal life. Always remember to live past the work because a meltdown will destroy your work and your life. It happened in my first marriage. Motivation comes to me through the ordinary stories I read day in and day out. If folks who are in such dire straits than me can persevere, then what the hell do I have to complain about. That is motivation enough for me.

And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
I have just started watching prime-time TV again (usually I just check out HBO and other non-TV channels) and the shows that catch me are Girlfriends (yeah my wife watches but it sucked me in too), CSI, Law & Order, Night Stalker, Everyone Hates Chris. The best is still hands down the Law & Order collective…but only if the Yankees are not on.

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