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Jun 29 2015

Art Application Advice Pt. 3

This is the third installment of a three part blog aimed at graduates and junior arti...

Jun 29 2015 By: matt Close

Art Application Advice Pt. 3

This is the third installment of a three part blog aimed at graduates and junior artists applying for a job in the Games Industry. In part one (available here) we covered the CV and covering letter. In part two (available here) we looked at Portfolio and Showreel, and finally we shall conclude this week with Web Presence and Social Media. 

 

Web Presence & Social Media

Being 2015, of course you will be distributing all of your content via your own website. Many artists I have seen opt for DeviantArt or similar sites, as an alternative to a personal website. Strictly speaking there is nothing wrong with this, on some level it even makes sense as it takes far less work to maintain it. Nonetheless in my opinion it is not your best option and here’s why. DeviantArt as you will be aware has a LOT of art, the majority very very good art. I love looking at awesome art, as I’m sure you and any other employer you may be applying to does, and so if I see a thumbnail of something cool I’m going to click on it. Through no fault of your own I’m diverted away from your work and will no doubt fall down a rabbit hole of beautiful artwork. By sending me to DeviantArt you have just taken me to the place containing all of your competition. I am not in any way suggesting a boycott of DeviantArt, I love the site and if you are present on it then awesome, but it is not your best option for a portfolio. Use it for inspiration, the community and the C&C, however if want to grab my attention then be selfish with it, take me to a place that I can immerse myself in your art and your art alone, after all that is what you are trying to sell me.

Social media is probably one of the few points here that does not solely apply to artists but to anyone who actively participates in any industry’s public social media channels. Basically it boils down to this, DON’T BE A DICK! The amount of people who are either just entering or trying to break into an industry being dicks to others on public forums is astonishing to me. In the past year alone I have added about three or four people to my ‘do not hire’ list simply because of it. I have never met them, never seen any of their work and have obviously never worked with them, but if I see their name on an application it is immediately dismissed. All because of the way they have conducted themselves on social media. This may seem unfair but it is important to remember you are not just being hired on the strength of your work but the type of person you are and ultimately how easy you will be to work with. We all enjoy a good workplace environment and business owners & managers work very hard to instill this. Speak to any business owner and despite all the stresses and strains of running a company, you can be pretty certain that none of them get that dreaded Monday morning feeling, at least not in my experience anyway. And thus if you are viewed as a potential threat to that positive work atmosphere then it doesn’t matter how great your work is, you will not be brought on board for fear of disrupting it.

Lastly, and I’m sure this is common knowledge by now, but you will be Googled and your personal Facebook will be viewed if it pops up. You have two options at this point; either present yourself as a professional, reliable and sensible person or make your profile completely private. Personally I opt for the latter.

 

Final Considerations

Breaking into a new industry, whether as a graduate or professional, is always an arduous task which involves dealing with rejection, no responses and massive amounts of frustration. There are two ways you can tackle it; you can bitch and moan about how special you are and how no one will give you what you deserve or you can, much like game development, persist through every challenge and iterate on your CV and portfolio making it better each time until you finally land the job you want. As a result you must be incredibly critical of yourself and your work. Ultimately no one owes you anything; it is up to you to demonstrate your value in order to secure the job you want.

I’ll finish off with one last example which I have been using to explain to students exactly what is going through my head as I review an application. Hopefully it’ll give you a little insight into what is happening on the other side of that email you sent. When looking through someone’s artwork, first and foremost I am looking to see whether this person has the particular set of skills that I require. More importantly I am asking myself “Is this work worth thousands of pounds per month?” and not only that but is it good enough for my company to see a return on that investment. So when reviewing your application and portfolio before sending it out try to keep those two questions in mind. Put yourself into the mindset of an employer and consider the question “Would I pay that amount of money for this work?”. If the answer is no then carry on iterating.

– Matt (CCO)

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Jun 22 2015

Art Application Advice Pt. 2

This is the second instalment of a three part blog aimed at graduates and junior arti...

Jun 22 2015 By: matt Close

Art Application Advice Pt. 2

This is the second instalment of a three part blog aimed at graduates and junior artists applying for a job in the Games Industry. In part one (available here) we covered CV and covering letters, this week we will be looking at Portfolio and Showreel, concluding next week with Web Presence and Social Media. 

 

Portfolio & Showreel

As I am sure you are aware your portfolio is arguably the most in important aspect of any application to a creative industry. All too often however I am sent portfolios which are nothing more than an assorted collection of every scribble and/or mediocre flash animation the applicant has ever made since they first opened an Adobe package. Ultimately this comes down to experience, to this day I look back at my first few portfolios and cringe. It is in your interest to curate your viewers experience as much as you possibly can. People enjoy structure and it is in their nature to a follow a path whenever presented with one. I understand that this can be somewhat challenging and people may not necessarily always follow it exactly the way you intended, nonetheless if you build your portfolio with your viewers journey in mind, ultimately you will end up providing them a far greater experience which will ultimately work in your favour.

Back when I was first trying to break into the design industry, I would include every single project I had done since my second year at university, with each piece in chronological order with the notion that I was demonstrating my progression. This was ill conceived on my part as in reality employers are not really interested in how bad you were, they want to know how good you are now. Ultimately what I had done in my naivety was immediately turn off potential employers by starting my portfolio with my weakest piece. It was not until I spoke to a more experienced designer that I was made aware of my mistake. The way he explained it to me was to imagine I was a musician putting together an album. Would the very first track on that album be your worst song? It is the job of the first track to get your audience hooked and retain their attention for as long as you desire. Ever since then I have always tried to keep that comparison in mind when creating portfolios. On top of this it is important to only present your best work. Quality over quantity is a rule which can be quite hard to abide by when creating your portfolio, but if you can be strict with yourself then ultimately you will end up with a far more successful outcome.

Another common mistake I often see, although thankfully somewhat less these days however I still feel it is important to include, is people only showing final renders, paintings and animations, with nothing more. If you have gone through any sort of art training, whether it be through education or self taught, and you are applying for a professional position it is wholly expected of you to be able to produce a good looking final piece of work. Your potential employer however does not only want to see your final outcome but the journey you took in the creation of that piece. What we are looking for is whether you can follow an iterative creative process from conception to final asset creation, as this is what you will be doing 5 days a week if you get the job. In addition to this we need you to provide us with all of the technical information necessary to accurately judge your work. This means; polycount, topology, texture types and sizes, shaders used or created, number of frames in animation cycles and possible time stamps so that we can get an idea of how quickly you work. A quick Google search throws up lots of creative techniques to provide all of this information to your viewer and very often not only does it do just that, but it is actually far more interesting to look at for people who are interested in the creation art than merely showing final pieces is.

The showreel can be your most powerful, and at the same time most damaging aspect to your portfolio. It will very often be the first thing people opt to view and can therefore sway their opinion before they have even looked into the rest of your work in any depth. If you intend on creating a showreel take some time to learn, at very least, the basics of video editing. Even more so than with your portfolio, you really can curate your viewers experience so be sure to take advantage of that. Maintain a reasonable length, no one wants to sit through anything over 5 minutes, which itself is actually far too high. If possible try to keep it below the 3 minute mark. Finally all of the technical information in your main portfolio is still expected here. If you are struggling for ways to successfully include this my suggestion is to look at a few VFX breakdowns. VFX artists are incredible and due to the fact that they work with video for a living their breakdowns and showreels very often offer a lot to learn from. As a final rule of thumb, a bad showreel is far more damaging than no showreel at all, so bear this in mind and don’t be afraid to liberally cut aspects.

During the process of applying for jobs it’s always good practice to be continuously adding to your portfolio. Firstly, you don’t want to fall out of practice. Art is like a muscle; the more you use it the stronger it gets, with extended periods of neglect being detrimental. Not only this, but if the most recent piece of work you have created is 6 months old it does not make a great impression to your potential employer. You are trying to enter a highly skilled industry full of passionate people who live and breathe their craft, and you are expected to be no different.

– Matt (CCO)

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Jun 15 2015

Art Application Advice Pt.1

This blog post is aimed primarily at new graduates or anyone applying for a Junior ar...

Jun 15 2015 By: matt Close

Art Application Advice Pt.1

This blog post is aimed primarily at new graduates or anyone applying for a Junior art position in the games industry. As such, much of what is in here should be common knowledge to any Senior or experienced artist, however what I am aiming to provide is something of a jumping off point for anyone trying to enter the industry. Of course what is written here should not be taken as gospel, these are merely my experiences and what I have come to look for in applicants over the years. The unfortunate aspect when applying for jobs, especially creative ones, is that everyone has their own tastes and preferences as to how things should be presented. Your job as a fresh faced young applicant is to find the method which successfully manages to capture the recipient’s attention. You may have heard of the old notion that people make up their minds on whether or not to hire you within the first thirty seconds of an interview, this can also be true of people viewing your portfolio and whether or not to call you in for an interview. The reason for this is simple, everyone is busy and looking at your portfolio is taking time away from the work they are currently doing, which often if you are a Lead or in Management is not usually work that can or will be picked up by anyone else and so the time will have to be made up elsewhere. And so your first goal is to interest the recipient enough to actually make it through your entire portfolio or bookmark it to come back to later. Any excuse to disregard an application and get back to work will be leapt upon. Now in general instant dismissal can in fact easily be avoided simply by adhering to a few simple rules which will firstly make people want to actually look at your work and secondly give them all the information they need in order to judge it, hopefully taking you through to the next stage.

Due to the fact that my three partners and I decided to go down the route of setting up our own studio, I personally have never had to create a portfolio or applied for any jobs in the games industry. I have however created personal portfolios many times during my previous career in Interior Architecture when applying for work, and I myself committed many of naive mistakes that I see today. I do receive and review applications on an almost weekly basis. This combined with my work with Universities; Abertay, Glasgow Caledonian and more recently DJCAD has given me a rather good perspective on where students are when they are graduating and the common mistakes they make when sending applications or creating portfolios. In order to keep this post as easily digestible as possible I shall break it down to three parts. In part 1 will be covering CV & Covering Letter, moving onto Portfolio & Showreel and finally Web Presence & Social Media in parts 2 and 3. So without further ado let’s begin.

 

CV & Covering Letter

I want to avoid detailing exactly what to include in a CV here but rather focus on how it is presented. As a professional, or aspiring artist, your job at its very basic level, is to make things that not only look good but keep people engaged for as long as required. Looking deeper into this, and this applies even more so in the games industry, it is your job to take huge amounts of very complicated information and present it to the viewer in a manner that is; accessible, aesthetically pleasing and intuitive.

As such you should view your CV not as a formality but as a collection of information that needs to be delivered in such a manner. The CV is often the first thing I look at when someone applies, not the covering letter but we shall get to that, and the very first thing I am looking for is, has this person actually demonstrated an understanding of how to use their skills in the creation of their CV? When I see a word doc attached to the email application instantly my opinion goes through the floor, and I haven’t even read a word yet. I know as soon as I open that document I’m going to assaulted with multiple pages of 11pt Times New Roman. Remember the very basic level job description as an artist, walls of text may be functional and a lot of the time necessary but they are definitely not pretty and to be honest their necessity does not carry over into CV creation so my first suggestion is simple, don’t do it. As an artist you will have developed skills in a multitude of tools which will allow you do everything that a word processor can do, however further to that they also provide you the means to actually incorporate some design into your CV, making the audience’s experience much more of a pleasure rather than a chore.

A while ago I was discussing the state of certain CVs with a colleague who works in the film industry. He in fact disagreed with my disapproval of word docs. In his experience, whenever he had received applications that were anything more than the applicant merely throwing random images with little thought, ultimately distracting from the information that he was interested in. And he was right, that is a terrible way to go about creating a CV. What I am talking about however is not simply throwing in a few images and saving it out as a PDF, it’s quite the opposite in fact. I never expect nor want to see portfolio images in a CV. I explained that in fact I agreed with his sentiments and he had in fact brought up another very common issue. The type of CV I love to receive is one which employs some very well thought out visual communication; if don’t know what that is look it up…you’re going to need it! Visual communication and design are not about throwing in a few random images and calling it a done. Successful design, especially that of a CV, should draw strongly from the sentiment that “Less is more”. Your viewer should be able to extract all of the information they need exerting the least amount of effort possible because you have already made all of the effort for them.

Visual CV by Antonio Di Vico http://visual.ly/antonio-di-vico-visual-cv

Visual CV by Antonio Di Vico http://visual.ly/antonio-di-vico-visual-cv

Now putting aside the fact that this particular style may not necessarily be to your taste or you may dislike the rather ‘on the nose’ Swiss Army Knife reference, take a few minutes look it over. The first thing you will notice is that you are not instantly bored by it; there is a quality which compels you to look at it. Secondly and most importantly look at the amount of information…on one page! Now I don’t expect you to simply copy this example of course, your job is to take it, and others you find successful, as a basis. Find their flaws and rectify them, find their strengths and improve on them.

Finally onto your covering letter, I will keep this short much in the same way you should your covering letter. If I’m being honest, of all the applications I have received I have read exactly zero covering letters in full. At most I and probably many others will skim read it, unless it is ridiculously stupid in which case it gets passed around the office as the afternoon’s entertainment. Your best bet is keep it as concise as you possibly can, half a page max, that way people are far more likely to actually read it in full and there is far less margin for error.

The very last thing I will say regarding the CV and covering letter is this. If you are emailing multiple companies at one time, which you should really be doing, under no circumstances send it to every company in one email. We have had too many applications sent to us where alongside Guerilla Tea is every other games company in Scotland. It sounds stupid but I assure you it happens more than you would care to believe, and there is no quicker path to the trash folder.

In Part 2 I shall be talking about Portfolio & Showreels, covering common mistakes and what to include in order to allow your recipient to accurately judge your work.

– Matt (CCO)

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