In today’s post, TRG Reality’s CGI Traffic and Project Manager John Millin writes openly and honestly about the path his professional career has taken, the effects of instant web-driven content on the print industry, and how he found himself working in the TRG Reality studio.
If there's any one thing that's been consistent in my professional life, it's a deep involvement with production. I've always prided myself on being able to be a part of a project from "conception to completion." Where exactly I reside upon that spectrum is where I've noticed the most marked adjustments in my career path.
Trained in design, I made my first shift from creative to production when I was hired as a Production Manager at a mid-level magazine. This was a time when the print industry was reaching a secondary heyday after having taken a significant hit immediately following 9/11, and there was still great demand and respect for creatives and their support within print. The internet hadn't just yet stolen the majority of advertising dollars from periodicals, and the collect-ability of the product (magazine) and attractiveness of niche marketing was still on the rise.
I had no idea what I had walked into, but I knew that the independent publisher I was working for had created the role out of need. Upon appointment, I was told in no uncertain terms that there just weren't enough hours in the day for the current management staff to handle what was being handed off to my position, both externally (print and paper contracts, vendors, press runs and reviews, relationship maintenance and travel, etc) and internally (file quality assurance, editorial checks and approvals, advertising intake and support, staff management). I realized quickly there wouldn't be enough hours in my day either.
Long hours had always been the norm as our publication, like many others at the time, fought to stay ahead of the curve and respond to consumer and advertiser demands by producing what would now be considered double issues with regularity. 60- and 80-hour weeks for the design, editorial and photography support staff were common until we were able to streamline production flow and approvals internally and develop time-saving processes to make the days and weeks and months more manageable. Luckily, with every new month came an opportunity to revisit and revise until things were under control and sustainable. That, along with the camaraderie you really only experience in an independent business, kept things moving forward until the industry ran headfirst into its most vicious adversary: mobile content and a consumer demand for free and immediate information.
After nearly a decade in publishing/print, I decided to exit my personal comfort zone of the world of 2D design and publishing and take up residence in the CGI department at the studios of TRG Reality -- now effectively adding the "third dimension" into my experience cache.
I’ve struggled with one noticeable change since moving to the studio: how to execute what truly feels like a final output despite only being at one stage or another of the final piece that makes it to publication. TRG Reality -- deeply rooted in the photography industry, and now in the CGI department where I reside -- has always managed to work hand-in-hand with agencies and direct accounts' design and editing teams as an asset provider, and it's often several steps down the production trail before what is truly a finished product is complete and presented to a viewer. The final product could be a composite image in an ad campaign, a character animation in a commercial, or even product glamours in a catalog. While the variety of subjects is often a tremendous challenge to face, we've managed to create a consistent workflow to stay in line with ever-increasing expectations.
It may sound strange, but I've found that coming to terms with any sense of things being "unfinished" can be one of the largest stumbling blocks to producing high-end professional work for any creative. Multiple revisions often can take a piece from "good enough" to truly great, but the press deadline is the ultimate motivator to true completion. It's literally the point of no return for production.
One thing I've found is that taking that virtual step back in the process from final producer to asset provider now requires an expanded level of trust in other professionals to bring work I am involved in to life. That sense of "letting go" and handing off something you've worked so hard on (either individually or as part of a team), to be at the disposal of another's creative discretion and use, has been the toughest challenge for me throughout my transition to the CGI team at TRG Reality -- in any dimension!