Howdy, my name is Saul Rosenbaum, I'm an illustrator/designer/developer (man that's a lot of slashes) working just outside of Philadelphia. I love the weird mix of work that I get being *FLEXIBLE* - and I honestly think each skill-set strenthens my ability to do the other.
When did you first decide to become a designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
It's a truly silly story - my mom and dad where both hard working typical suburbanites, I was a very hyper child - I'd annoy my father so much in the evenings that he'd send me to my room to draw - when I asked him what I should draw, the response was always the same -"You'd be lucky if you could draw flies", I swear I never understood that until I was an 23 - I used to go to my room and actually draw flies, eventually I drew robots, when I mastered that I drew robot flies. The designer in me is really just the illustrator in me, illustrating with a different set of goals, I have no problem considering a galley of text a palette, and a blank page or screen my canvas.
Who or what inspires you?
I'm not one to look at trade magazines or annuals, so it's certainly not that - I get a lot of visual inspiration from nature, nature is the ultimate artists - look at a field of wildflowers, a flock of geese - amazing colors, patterns, and textures. I get almost all my conceptual inspiration from two things - playing with words, and massive amounts of doodling.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
I'm a art school grad, But those where analog days, I graduated on the cusp of the digital age, Needless to say all my technical learning has really happened since I graduated - I spent years and years in the trenches - learning all the minutia of publishing and package design (all pre-web). Working by day, freelancing by night.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
So much of my work in web related anymore, so staying fresh is both a creative and a technical pursuit - both are pretty challenging, techically the web is moving forward at a breakneck rate, and to compete I read 100's and 100's of news feeds a week - drinking in as much as my brain can handle, designwise, I think the web is stagnating, with the proliferation of blogs - the focus has really shifted from presentation to content, and a majority of content creators (writers) are more than satisfied with generic or off-the-shelf templates. To fight this I try to take every client to the edge of their comfort level, I push a lot of very strong concepts, I use words, color and space and poke around the perimeter of a clients brand - sometimes they love it, sometimes they hate it, but the real fun comes when they ask to go further.
What are some of your current projects?
I'm designing some packaging for a DVD series, where I'm visualizing what various music and moods looks like, I'm working with layered textures on abstract shapes, I'm also working on a few web-based games and a series of alphabet illustrations, which eventually will become a mobile for kids.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I worked on a project for PBS Parents a few years back - it was a series of 32 childrens illustrations of really difficult concepts, things like "how your child deals with loss" - they turned out really great - quite a few of them are on my site saulrosenbaum.com - if you hunt and peck through PBS Parents you may find the rest.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I'm all about bold/strong graphic statements, I'd love to take that to a massive scale and try some outdoor advertising, murals or environmental graphics, break out of the confines of paper and screen. Mediumwise, I really miss the tactile nature of traditional analog illustration, digital is great, but it's clean, there's almost no opportunity to get dirty - I try to pick up a sharpie everyday just to get a bit of ink on my skin, I'd like to do more of that. I'm exploring texture in most of my new illustrations - something that I've always avoided - I still have a lot ore of that to play with.
Note: The next two answers aren't very 'arty' but as a self-employed designer they need to be said!
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Spend the time, learn how to talk to clients, how to write a proposal, how to budget your time - the time you spend on these 'non-art' skills are ten times more valuable than all the talent in the world
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
Simple, it accomplishes it's goals - I get the biggest charge out of a client telling me that a piece positively impacted their business, It's visual appearance is really secondary to it's effectiveness.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
It can be hard, I have an excellent network of friends who can talk me off the ledge if need be, I try to be very organized, I'm a list guy and find that as long as I keep myself on track - the stress is manageable. Aside from that, fear-of-failure is an excellent motivator, as is poverty.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
I'd have to say 'House' if I'm ever deathly ill - I want a doctor like House.