Nick Campbell is the founder of an iPhone App company called BananaCameraCo, he runs a motion design education site called Greyscalegorilla, talks about the business of creativity on Nickvegas.tv, and speaks to students and creatives about how to be creative and get paid to do what you love. ...And all this came about AFTER he already had his "dream job" as an animator and a photographer making title sequences and TV commercials.
His business(es), all started as complementing side projects to his work as a motion designer under the the simple ideas to "help creatives and creators make cool sh$@" and “as I learn it, so do you.” From this he has developed a number of products and mobile apps all stemming from his core focuses. Everything from fun apps like ShakeItPhoto and CrossProcess that reach a general audience, to Photoshop for Photographers and Vintage Films for Looks reaching amateur and professional photographers, to even more technical industry focused products like HDRI Light Kit Pro and HDRI Studio made specific for the program Cinema 4D used by motion designers.
I had a chance to ask Nick a few questions about how, out of his client and agency work, he developed his own products, started spreading the know-how through blogs and podcasts, and created an effective business model out of it all.
1) You'll never regret working for yourself but you might hate yourself if you never try.
2) Put yourself and your knowledge out there (blogging, podcasts, educating), if people trust you they'll trust your products.
3) Use those interactions to help fuel new ideas and product development
4) Start by branching out from what you're already doing. A successful idea is one that is already working for you.
5) Offering education and functional products not only expands your business it expands the business community, indirectly creating more opportunities for everyone.
Interview With Nick Campbell
A quick rundown of the progression of your work, please.
I graduated from Illinois Institute or Arts in 2005 with one of those degrees that don't mean anything. "Digital Media" or something like that, I didn't take enough design classes. I worked around town a bit and ended up at my dream job at Digital Kitchen animating title sequences and awesome TV commercials with some of the most talented people in the city (world?). I was clearly the worst designer there, but luckily they were willing to take me under their wing and teach me how to be awesome like them.
Meanwhile, in "internet land", I started a photoblog called Greyscalegorilla where I posted a photo per day for about three years. I also started posting Photoshop tutorials to the site for people asking me how I processed my photos. Of course, word got around that I also knew After Effects and Cinema 4D, so I posted tutorials of that, too. Well, it seemed as if there were PLENTY of Photoshop and After Effects tutorials floating around the web, but when it came to Cinema 4D, I was one of only a few. Especially when it came to showing how to use 3D for Motion Graphics and Logo Design instead of flying spaceships and crap like that. The site took off like crazy.
During all this, I also started dabbling in making iPhone apps. At the time, the iPhone app store was new and I wanted in. I made a Polaroid simulator called ShakeItPhoto and it was starting to do pretty well, that was really exciting.
I had a blog that people liked, an iPhone App people liked and a full time job that I liked. Lucky me! But, there was a problem. I didn't have enough time. I decided to leave the full time job and focus full time on the blog and the iPhone apps. It was hard decision, but I had to try it or I would hate myself later.
It seemed as if there were PLENTY of Photoshop and After Effects tutorials floating around the web, but when it came to Cinema 4D, I was one of only a few. Especially when it came to showing how to use 3D for Motion Graphics and Logo Design instead of flying spaceships and crap like that. The site took off like crazy.
What percentage of your work is for clients and what percentage is for personal business and other non-business or more artistic projects?
After I left Digital Kitchen, I have had no clients. All my income has been from my own projects and products. Sometimes I do work for my friends if they need a quick logo animation or something like that. But it's never for money. Always for favors or beer. It's quite liberating actually. I didn't get into this stuff for clients, I got into it to make cool stuff.
Educating others has become a big part of your business model, and you're not just educating people about your own products but offering useful tutorials, open forums with feedback to others learning, etc... Has this helped your business grow? Does this interaction help you come up with new ideas for teaching topics and new product development?
The speaking and educating part has been an exciting part of this year. I get to talk to students and try to help them though this crazy design stuff. There are so many things that I wish people would have told me when I got started in all this. Now, I get to be that guy. It's weird, but fun. As far as being good for business. I think there is an aspect of that. People get to know me though the live show, podcast and speaking gigs. They trust me or at least like what I am saying. Then, when I have something to sell that people think is useful, like an iPhone app or a plugin, they trust me that it's not a peice of crap. Really though, the education thing is fun enough to do separately from selling a bunch of stuff.
People get to know me though the live show, podcast and speaking gigs. They trust me or at least like what I am saying. Then, when I have something to sell that people think is useful, like an iPhone app or a plugin, they trust me that it's not a peice of crap.
With some of your products in mind... Why can slight color variations make such a huge difference visually and emotively?
Color is hugely important in the work I do. When using most software, lights and colors usually default to 100% black or white and most people tend to leave things there. Even in Photoshop, the defaults are 100% black and 100% white. When people make things "Black" or "White" they tend to use these defaults. It almost always makes for a boring and unrealistic design. One thing I talk a lot about is the idea that nothing in real life is 100% black or white. You should always add color and variation to everything you design. Adding slight variations in blacks and whites go a long way to making things more realistic and interesting. This took me a long time to figure out, but it's one of those things that makes a huge difference.
What's coming next for you?
What's next? I hope to continue posting fun or interesting stuff to my blog and to continue making more Photo based iPhone apps. I am also playing around with the idea of brining some of my iPhone Apps to the new Apple App store for use on desktops and laptops. Our CrossProcess app will probably be first out. It will allow you to take any of your digital photos and turn them into photos that look like they were shot on film and processed in the wrong chemicals. It gives them a really cool color and adds a TON of contrast. I'm really excited about that one.
Normal Colors Are For Babies
Pulled from the tag for his product, CrossProcess, the phrase "Normal Colors are For Babies" sums up quite well Nick's career path, i'd say. While many could never think of leaving a dream job, Nick choose to, and ended up supporting himself and a greater community of creatives in process.
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