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My name is Paul Howalt, I am a 16 year Design / Illustration veteran living in Phoenix, Arizona. I am one of the founding partners in a design company in Mesa, AZ called Tactix Creative. I function as creative director, designer, illustrator and resident Apple product evangelist. We are a fairly traditional design agency except for the fact that we seem to be the only English speaking company on the block (that comment isn't politically charged, it's just a fact). My work days consist of putting out lazy client emergency 'fires' and answering unnecessary questions from vendors and employees. Then at 10 PM the creative work begins and goes until I just can't keep my eyes open any more... Yeah, that's about it. Someone lend me a rope! LOL!
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
I can trace the choice back to 5th grade. My mom came home one day with an album for me (For the younger readers... a flat 12" vinyl disc which plays music when used in conjunction with a device called a 'turntable', excuse the sarcasm :-P Heh Heh!) The record was KISS's "Rock & Roll Over". I was immediately obsessed with both the music and the amazing cover art. I knew immediately that when I grew up, I had to be either Gene Simmons or one of the guys that did the art for album covers. I figured my parents would never get behind me learning to spit blood, breathe fire and sleep with groupies, so I took the path of lesser resistance... the art. Michael Doret did that cover back in 1976, and in my opinion, it still holds up to todays standards... It's brilliantly graphic and timeless! One day I told him that story and he has since sent me a signed press proof that I have proudly hanging on my office wall.
Who or what inspires you?
What inspires my Art? Style? Hmmm... I could be honest and say, "squeezing the most conceptual impact out of a project in the least amount of time, so I can bill it and move on to goofing around with my wife and kids." But I will note back in my early idealistic days, that I LOVED to browse through libraries full of old Graphis design annuals and Popular Mechanics from the 50's and 60's. Back when there was less of a distinction between art director and designer / illustrator.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
I graduated with a degree in Graphic Design from Arizona State. They hammered the basics (Swiss-Style) into me until it hurt!
Then, after graduation, I went and built my portfolio from self assigned projects after extensively studying what was winning awards in the big design annuals (ie: CA, Print, Graphis, HOW) With that portfolio, I landed a design job with Charles S. Anderson in '91.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
I try not to get too ahead of myself, honestly. I really used to overdo it with trying to scoop everybody on the latest and greatest in style and approach. I've learned the hard way that being incredibly edgy will soon make one incredibly broke. LOL! I think that simply staying 'graphic' and 'bold' will always set your work apart and will help it stand the test of time.
What are some of your current projects?
I'm redoing a couple of old classic game identities for Hasbro... 'Operation' and 'Sorry'. I'm collaborating with Ty Mattson on 'Sorry'. He's an extremely talented and prolific designer in California (www.MattsonCreative.com)! I also recently finished designing some beverage packaging for Coke and Pepsi... And I just finished redesigning a set of icons for ESPN's new website. I have a handful of local projects brewing as well.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I'd have to say any project where I am given full creative license and have the time to really hammer it out properly. I love to illustrate for that reason. It's less about boardroom scrutiny and more about "give me a full dose of your style and We don't have time to make changes."
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I'd like to render my illustration in more traditional mediums - Oil, Acrylic, wood block prints. There just never seems to be any time.
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Set yourself apart... only show the kind of work that you want to do... and build a great website to showcase your work.
Look at what's winning awards, and figure out why they are.
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
Everyone seems to have their own criteria, but to me it's successful if the piece is conceptual and elicits a significant and appropriate emotional response from the intended viewing audience.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
I try to get away from design and illustration every chance I get. That way, when I come back to it, I'm excited to do something new.
Finish this sentence. "If I weren't a designer/illustrator I would have been..."
The Fifth member of KISS - I could play the electric Cowbell! RAWK! LOL!
If there was a steady paycheck for mediocre guitar playing, I'd rather do that any day of the week!
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
Does HBO count? I vote for Big Love... Modern polygamy is hilarious!
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