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General Questions About Claytowne

I've been in business a long time so I've had enough time to see a pattern to the types of questions potential clients have. Below you'll find answers to the most frequent and I think helpful questions. I also have a page devoted to aspiring graphic designers or illustrators that are seeking career advice Enjoy.


Who will be handling my job?

I personally handle every client. There are no junior designers or interns, no project managers, and no secretaries or outsourced customer support. I'm the owner and director. So when someone picks up the phone or responds to your email, you're talking to the guy in charge and the one who you will be working with throughout the entire process.


Who do I talk to if I need changes?

That would be me as well.


Did you really do all the stuff that's in your portfolio?

Yes. My clients come to me looking for a one stop solution. I also thrive on variety and a new challenge. The result is a portfolio, which would normally have taken an entire team of graphic artists, illustrators, website designers, and strategic branding experts to create, being produced by one person.

The only exceptions to this would be flash animation and database programming. Can't do either one, nor will I be devoting myself to mastering these skills anytime soon. So I've collected a team of brilliant flash animators to handle those tasks.

Sometimes I just give them some rough specs and let them run with it. Sometimes I have all the artwork and functionality specs completed ahead of time and they bring it all together. In rare occasions I'll turn the client directly over to them as I would simply be getting in the way.

I've worked with and known them for years and they are all very successful flash designers in there own right with thriving independent businesses.

For all things PHP and database related I have an amazing team of programmers to handle those tasks. They are my little secret weapons so I keep them private.

I also have my associate, Nori Shishido. She handles a lot of my client's routine web maintenance needs as well as some of the SEO projects .You'll know if you're working with Nori as you will be introduced and you will be communicating directly with her.

Can you tell I'm a big proponent of the "hire the best and trust them to dazzle you with their brilliance" school of management?


Are you on a Mac or PC?

I'm on a PC running Windows Vista 64 bit. So which should you use? It depends. I always tell my clients to "buy what your friends have", for they will be your tech support system and your source for free software.

Truth be told, a top of the line PC is just as good as a top of the line Mac, except you'll pay less and have more software to choose from. You'll have to deal with more virus attacks with Windows but that is not inherent in the OS. Virus writers try to hit the biggest target. Windows, with 90% of the world's market, is a really big target.


What if I'm not happy with the design?

The short answer is "we'll fix it until you're happy". However, it's unlikely we'll get to that situation in the first place. The reason is that I don't even start the project until I have a thorough understanding of your business objectives, your product, your market, and your customers. This eliminates most false starts. Secondly, I don't move to the next step until you've approved the previous one. So I don't ink a drawing until you've approved the pencil sketch. And I don't scan and color the final drawing until you've approved the inked version. This approval process is followed on all projects. So it's quite unlikely that we would reach the end of the project and you would suddenly be unhappy with the results. If you are, we fix it. Will you be charged extra? If it's an honest misunderstanding or the requested change is within scope, then no. If you completely change your mind on what direction you want to go and your new idea is out of scope, then yes.


Can you host my website?

Sure. Better yet, I'll even do it for free. However, I'd prefer if you'd set up your own hosting account ( I recommend for most of my clients that don't need an enterprise level solution) or you can check out some hosting reviews on and pick a company to your liking. With your own account you will have both FTP access AND full access to your control panel. If I provide free hosting for you the control panel will be shared with all my hosted domains, so for security reasons, you can't have access to that. However, you will still have your own FTP access. It's up to you really. Sometimes I just add a client's domain to my host just to speed things up and then we move it over to their own account at a later date.


Can you register my domain for me?

Yes, but only if you are so confused or intimidated by the process that you just don't want to get involved. However, we WILL transfer the domain to your own account later. I don't want to own your domain name and you shouldn't want me to either. It's yours and you should have complete control over it including responsibility for annual registration payments.


Can you rescue my website from a flaky webmaster?

Ah yes, the web designer who suddenly disappears or stops returning calls and emails. I've dealt with them many times. I don't know why it's so prevalent in the web design business but the unreliable, difficult webmaster in the norm rather than the exception. Not to worry, there are ways to get control of your situation and quite often we don't even need your old web designer's cooperation to do it. If you're savvy you can probably do it yourself. Here's what to do if you have a website emergency and need to move your website to a new host because your web designer has disappeared or is holding your website hostage.


What are your prices?

Prices are quoted on a per client, per project basis. I generally work with a flat fee structure so there's no need to worry about a surprise invoice at the end.


How fast can you get it done?

It depends. Scheduling conflicts, slow responses to questions, delays in providing feedback to comps and client indecision will all add time to the completion of a project. The faster my client is on delivering on their responsibilities, the faster I can complete mine. If you have a drop dead deadline always tell me right up front. I'll let you know if it's possible BEFORE I take the project.


Do you take rush jobs?

Is there any other kind? Seriously though, I try to accommodate all true rush jobs whenever possible. True rush jobs involve concrete deadlines such as designing a sell sheet or banner for a trade show that happens in one week. Just wanting something really quick doesn't count. The more prepared and focused you are, and the more interesting the project, the more likely I am to sacrifice my weekend to take it on.


Will I own my design and have all copyrights?

Yes. Unless otherwise agreed upon ahead of time, I provide my services on a "work for hire" basis. That means, you paid for it, so you own it. Use it forever, chop it up and rearrange it, recolor it, hire another designer to manipulate, change or update, it's up to you what you do with it. The only thing I ask in return is the right to use it in my portfolio and for self promotion.


Can I have a discount?

Generally, no. I have more than enough work and I feel my pricing is very fair for the value received. It can't hurt to ask but you better have a darn good reason. An example of a good reason would be that you are a non-profit with a fixed budget and you deliver free organic meals to AIDS patients. A bad reason is that you have a really awesome idea, and you know it's going to be really big, and the exposure will be really great for my you swear you'll send me lots of referral work! Wait, my mistake, that's a REALLY bad reason. Go pitch that one to a design student who doesn't know any better, I'm sure they do a great job.


Wow, you returned my email at 4:45am. Do you really get up that early?

Yep. I"m one of those people that never needs an alarm clock. I wake up early with a clear head and a ton of energy. The downside is I'm pretty useless past 8pm. So if we're working on a crunch deadline I won't be burning the midnight oil. I'll be burning the morning tea!


Where are you located?

When speaking to locals I say I'm one block from Soquel Village. To everyone else I just say Santa Cruz. Since Santa Cruz is by far the largest and most economically and culturally dominant city in the county, it's just easier. Plus, all the towns run together around here. If I turn right out of my neighborhood I'll pass through Soquel Village and then into the town of Aptos two minutes later. If I turn to the left I'll be in the city of Capitola in 30 seconds and then two minutes later I'll be in Santa Cruz. I'm five minutes from the beach and five minutes from the Redwoods. 30 minutes west of Silicon Valley, an hour and ten minutes south of San Francisco and 45 minutes north of Monterey. Yep it's pretty nice to live here and the waves are phenomenal.


How long have you been doing this?

If by "this" you mean working professionally as a designer, then that would bring us back to 1984 during my senior year in high school. My first job was designing the logo for JP's Body Shop, a local gym I worked out in Mesa, Arizona. This lead to designing t-shirts and posters for local bodybuilding competitions. That year I also did fashion illustrations for a line of maternity wear. So you could say I've been mixing up my repertoire since day one. So when you see edgy t-shirts of exploding heads and skulls as well as corporate logos and gourmet food packaging in my portfolio, it seems perfectly normal to me.


Have you always done art?

Yep. I was an odd little kid. It's been said that one needs 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to really master anything. Golf, playing guitar, karate, drawing, engineering, it doesn't matter. You need to put in the time. Conservatively I had about 5,000 hours by the time I was 12. I was passionate about my creative projects and constantly trying to improve. I invented games, complete with rules, playing pieces and boards. I created dioramas and built three dimensional paper dolls. I drew dinosaurs, superheros and spaceships. I studied anatomy and biology. And this was in elementary school.

By the end of sixth grade the kitchen table was no longer suitable as my private studio, so I got a drafting board for Christmas when I was 12. I would spend hours in my room drawing away and listening to my clock radio. By the time I was 14 my work was comparable to a professional illustrator's and my sound system had been upgraded to a portable record player. Queen, Rush, Doobie Brothers, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin kept my hand relaxed and my mind focused. Around age 15 I discovered technical pens. By the time I graduated high school I had a tight, identifiable, marketable style and mad skills.

The weird thing was that I didn't have any goal other than to get really good at something I love. Growing up, I didn't even think about it as a serious career. There was some art inclinations in my immediate family; my grandmother discovered painting late and life and got quite good and my mom had natural art talent that she never explored. But I didn't know a single professional artist. This was decades before the Internet, so anything beyond your immediate experience (friends, family, television, books) was largely an abstraction. Today a budding artist has access to the world's top portfolios, excellent tutorials and a wealth of professional advice with just a simple mouse click. Likewise, distributing your work and communicating with others, anywhere in the world, requires nothing more than an email account or My Space page. Much different than in the past.

So it's not surprising that I didn't think I could make a living at it until my senior year of high school in 1984. I had been getting some local gigs and I had just took first place in the National Scholastic Art Competition for the portfolio division. The prize was a scholarship to the art school of my choice. I was looking for a commercial art program that was quick and intense so I chose Colorado Institute of Art (now called Art Institute of Colorado). Unfortunately the program was too heavy on production layout skills and type specing (no computers...all by hand) and I was more interested in illustration, package design and logo design. It was a fixed curriculum so you either took all the classes or none. I was only interested in the life drawing class at this point so I left school after the first year of the two year program.

Through the subsequent years I painted customs designs on ceramic sinks and tiles, developed a line of nationally distributed t-shirts, cranked out dozen of novelty tee-shirt designs, painted murals, created a line of greeting cards, developed logos for local businesses, was staff editorial cartoonist at several papers, self syndicated my own alterative political comic strip, and designed posters and graphics for bay area metal bands. This was done the old school way. No computers, you either lettered by hand or used press on type. Mistakes were fixed with white out or you just did it over. Research was done at the library. Simple changes were a nightmare. The neighborhood copy store was your second office and you were dialed into the idiosyncrasies of their machines as if they were your own children. And of course, your clientele was local.

It wasn't until late 1998, when I got my first computer, that I was able to take my career to the next level and establish a global presence. It was a bleeding edge work station running Windows NT4 . It was loaded with 384mb ram, had a blazing fast Pentium II 450 processor, a huge Quantum 9GB SCSI Ultra Wide hard drive, a rocking 40 speed Toshiba SCSI CD-ROM drive, a 3Com 56k modem, a beefy Nvidia TNT 16 mb graphics card , an Omega SCSI zip drive and a Hitachi SuperScan Elite 750 monitor. And all for just $4,500! Though I've upgraded my system many times since then, I still use that monitor as it simply blows way any LCD monitor I've ever seen.

So this brings us back to the original question. Did I always do art? Yes.

Will, I continue to do art? You bet.

Do ever I see that changing? Not a chance.