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Personal Growth

Steve Bullock: Keeping Ideas on Track

Steve Bullock, an independent designer, illustrator, and interactive developer talks about accountability and ritual cleansings.


Steve Bullock is an independent designer, illustrator, and interactive developer based in Boulder, Colorado. Steve’s work has been recognized by numerous organizations such as the American Ad Federation, HOW and INC. magazines, and the Art Directors Club. His firm, SB Design, focuses on a growing client list, some contract work for a few agencies, and some unique independent projects. Steve Bullock took some time to discuss accountability and ritual cleansings with Behance.

For Steve, the process of launching new ideas is akin to red wine. As he explains, “letting an idea proverbially ‘stew’ for a bit is a key factor for me. If I like something two days, two weeks, two years (yeah it happens) after I initially thought if it, then there’s a good chance is has legs and is worth pursuing. I tend to prefer to flush out an idea in detail, mentally, before starting any work. At the same time I have to be willing to let that vision change and evolve during the execution process.

Some ideas start out as one thing, but end up as something completely different – for the better. I have also found that you can’t be intimidated by the need to learn a new skill in order to make an idea happen.”Steve is an advocate for organization and a ritual cleansing before new projects. He recalls, “I had a slightly looney instructor when I was a student that told us how he liked to clean his office before every new project. …Cleaning up really helps clear my mind and put me at ease, so I can focus on the next project. I have also taken that approach with organizing my virtual workspace as well. I save and archive all relevant email with the project files – keeping my email app clean and orderly. Email has become such a ball-and-chain for some people, they spend most of their time just dealing with email rather than getting any work done…”

Among Steve’s greatest challenges, he stuggles to “not let his work be commodified.” As he explains, “this has been a pressing issue in the graphic design profession for a while… Creatives are too often reduced to ‘technicians of craft,’ asked to produce a single end product according to a layman’s homogenized specifications. It forces you to be selective with the projects you take on. …If you spend your time jumping through hoops for those clients that care more about cost than quality, then you don’t have time to find or nurture a relationship with those clients that understand and appreciate the value of good creative.”

Understanding a multitude of crafts broadens what you can accomplish.

While client work keeps you accountable with deadlines and expectations, independent projects often get neglected. As Steve explains, “For non client commissioned work, [accountability] is much harder. To stay on track I try to leverage the same sort of obligation that comes with a client project. I tend to look for a reason to produce a project. There are lots of competitions and annuals around that are great reasons for creating a project. I have developed a few web projects so I could experiment with seeding and tracking traffic results – two insights that I can then leverage back into my client projects. …Experimenting for the sake of experimentation doesn’t work for me.”

Steve Bullock questions the conventional wisdom that it is best to “narrow your focus and specialize in one thing.” As he explains, “…I have always felt learning as much as I can about an array of crafts has made me a better designer. I often get asked the question ‘are you a print designer or a web designer?’ which always struck me as an odd way of looking at things. I am a Designer. The design process translates into so many mediums (if not all) that creating for a new medium is primarily about learning the specifics of that craft. Understanding a multitude of crafts broadens what you can accomplish.”

Steve’s advice for the broader creative community? “Understanding your particular learning habits is invaluable. Once you have a good grasp on how you best digest new information, skills, processes, etc., it opens up so many possibilities. Learning is a lifelong pursuit – get good at it and you will undoubtedly be good at many other things.”

Comments (2)
  • blakekimmel

    Colorado design on the rise.

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