“Letting the world go by isn’t going to get you anywhere.” –Tyler Fraser
He was a quiet kid growing up, with a close-knit group of friends and a love for aviation. Some kids grow up wanting to be a doctor or a lawyer, but Tyler’s dream was to become a pilot. Obsessed with airplanes, he flew flight simulators, played warplane computer games, and aspired to also be
an astronaut and an architect.
“What it really came down to, at the end of the day, was cutting edge technology and design,” said Tyler. “My career now embodies everything I love most.”
Aside from dreaming of flight, Tyler spent 7 years playing baseball, both on a traveling team and in high school. It was an experience that helped him become a better leader, more focused, and able to handle the curveballs that business sometimes throws at you. While passionate about baseball, new passions also grew. He taught himself HTML and CSS at 13 years of age and, through having an extremely talented father as an artist, learned how to use Photoshop at an even earlier age.
“My father can paint, draw and airbrush anything your mind can dream of, on demand. He apparently forgot to hand that particular gene off to me (thanks, Dad!) when it comes to physical medium interactions, so I rely on tools and conceptual prowess to flourish artistically. I did acquire his artistic eye and knack for good design appreciation. I was fully immersed in art and design from the moment I was born and it has helped me succeed on this path I’ve chosen (and I love it).”
Since Tyler also appreciated cutting edge technology, his love for computers paralleled his appreciation for art. When he made the decision to attend Central Michigan University (okay, maybe his friends were going to CMU and you couldn’t separate that dream team) he came to the realization that it was time to merge his forever-passion of graphic design and development. He applied all his efforts and was accepted in to CMU’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program, graduating in 2010 with a concentration on Graphic Design.
After graduation, Tyler secured a job at Trademark Productions (TM) as an entry-level developer. Simply grateful for landing a job right out of college, TM ended up becoming the perfect environment for growth, learning and evolution. Because TM already employed a Lead Graphic Designer, being a designer was secondary to his development role. His natural ability to lead helped him find his way in to a Project Management position after a year or so, but he still couldn’t focus on his main passion – design. A crucial lesson in career growth and patience, Tyler learned all he could while in his Project Management role.
“It was really an important first step for me! Being a Project Manager was an amazing tool for learning the tricks of the trade and the administration portion of our industry. While I was a self-taught developer and further took what I could from the university setting, I didn’t know much relating to the business world. I now respect the challenges of managing a business and the work that Project Managers do, but on top of all the lessons I learned, I also learned that this particular position wasn’t for me. Once I become Creative Director, I was able to work and thrive amongst a team, leading the team and bridging the gap between management and operations, while still dipping my hands in the development/design pool. It’s a great way to combine my passions together. In 5 years I’ll still be a hands-on Creative Director. Without a doubt.”
There isn’t one area personally or professionally Tyler hasn’t grown in since starting his career at TM. That’s not something that many people can attest to in their own careers. Learning to address different creative and business situations, manage personality types, and growing alongside an industry is quite the feat.
The web was always a tangible thing for Tyler, unlike many, because he was immersed in it for over a decade before beginning his career. It’s a challenge to bridge the technology gap for newcomers – clients that don’t necessarily understand the digital age or the online world as a whole. And the challenges of day-to-day agency life don’t stop there. Meeting timelines and keeping budgets is a non-stop drive. Doing whatever it takes to make the client happy creates sleepless nights, but the reward in completing your goal is what makes the job bring so much to the table.
“Always remember that art is never finished, only abandoned. da Vinci said that. It’s so incredibly true in the modern world of web. These masterpieces we craft should never stop evolving- but so many times we’re held hostage and unable to work on our creations because clients don’t understand the importance of that constant evolution. It’s part of our job to help them understand this.
Even through the challenges, one thing that keeps me motivated every single day is keeping in mind where we’ve come together as a company and knowing how much influence I’ve had. It motivates me to keep striving to be better because I know that I’ll continue to have as much, if not more influence on TM in the future. I’m truly a perfectionist and I know I must always work toward a greater end! When I’m at work I also make sure I experience the work of others here. It’s the best form of inspiration for any designer or developer. It doesn’t mean that you copy or replicate their work, but you gain that excitement and appreciation for their creation and it can do nothing but motivate you to brainstorm your own visions.
I’ve always held a deep appreciation for artists that break boundaries and pursued their passions. Take da Vinci, for an example. He’s a master of so many things. You know how people say that someone is a “jack of all trades” but a master of none? No, he was a master of all trades; a truly inspirational guy. I’d like to see a day where I can dedicate more of my own time to creating art, simply to create art.”
Impactful artists like da Vinci (but Warhol, Pollock, Kandinski, Boccioni and Picasso made the most inspirational list, too) drive Tyler to be better every day.
“Helping my team produce great products; whether that’s supervising, reviewing or participating in the actual construction is undoubtedly the favorite part of my job. As TM’s Creative Director I’m in a unique situation where I can step in wherever I deem it necessary to get the job done the way it should be. I’ll always have the utmost respect and trust in my team, but there are plenty of situations where my skills and expertise benefit the overall picture.
Being proficient in both design and development opens your horizons in the world of the web like you can’t even imagine. Not only can you envision a product, but you can create it. You design knowing exactly how a website is going to function at the end of the day – something that not only creates additional ideas and opportunities for the client, but allows you to craft attainable ideas!
I’m what you call a hybrid. I’m a combination of a designer and developer; two roles that typically use two different halves of the brain. You don’t usually have someone capable of utilizing both halves equivalently and expertly in this setting, which makes hybrids in our industry more rare and more desired.
TM is chock full of “hybrids” in a different sense, too. They’ve mastered multiple facets of the industry not only out of necessity, but out of pure enjoyment. It’s an incredible sight and an incredible advantage for anyone that holds that ability.”
With the past being so multi-dimensional, and an extraordinary amount of professional and personal growth blossoming – it’s only fair to wonder where Tyler sees the future going.
“I didn’t have a clue what to expect or what I was stepping in to when I started at TM. Now, I’ve invested and intertwined my natural desire to succeed into the success of TM. For TM to become what it deserves to become: a bustling, larger firm possessing a list of clients that truly appreciate our ability to hit home runs (literally) in the world of the web. The culture here is right, our people are right and the industry direction here is right. TM has the “it” factor.”
- We’re going to see web hit mobile and UX (user experience) even harder than it has in the past few years. Mobile officially overtook desktop last year as the desired online browsing platform, and it’s not stopping. We’re challenged to create a unique, but stable, online user experience for the world – a place that’s always on the go.
- We’re probably going to see more cookie-cutter designs over the next few years, along with a handful of other template sites. However, I’ll predict that those will hit a wall. The business, and the people alike, will realize that a product which is not created 100% unique to them is going to have a detrimental effect on their business success long term. The “great, easy design” mentality will fade once everyone’s had a taste of “great, easy design.”
Development & Design Pro-Tips
- As a designer creating for web, don’t over-design. Know your limitations both design-wise and budget-wise. I never doubt that any good designer can craft a beautiful website, but a great designer also knows what their developer can construct, and what would be logical in regards to functionality.
- Always remember that it’s about creating a product that’s perfect for your client. It’s not about taking the easiest, cheapest, hardest, or most expensive route – it’s about taking the best one.
- As a developer, make sure you grasp the basics of design. Principles like balance, emphasis, movement, pattern, and repetition, and elements such as line, shape, color, texture and space. For a long-time or capable designer, these things might seem trivial but it’s important to realize that not everyone has had basic design training nor does everyone have a natural eye for pleasing aesthetics.
- Even though I spoke about “hybrids” not everyone needs to be one. Simply having a grasp and solid understanding of the other side of whichever you specialize in should be something you strive for.
What’s the creative process when you’re starting to conceptualize design ideas for a website, before handing it off for development?
- The most important step is making sure we have a grasp for the client’s vision and expectations. No matter what you design, no matter how beautiful, cutting edge, or out-of-this-world your design is, if it doesn’t align with what the client is looking for, the project is a failure. As harsh as that sounds, it’s simply reality. Now, if you can find a client that trusts your judgment and is on the same page with your own design expectations – the sky is the limit!
- Next, find the happy place between cutting-edge and comfortable. Understand the audience that’s being targeted and know when it’s okay to do something unusually different, versus something that a basic internet user will understand. An example of this is an off-canvas menu (one that is condensed into a “hamburger”-style icon and slides in when clicked) vs. a full navigation menu (the list of pages right at the top or side of your screen, that allows you to see all of the pages that are available, right away).
- Lastly, once you find that target look and feel, and it has also been defined with the client, you know where you can draw the line with uniqueness. From that point on, rock it! Let the creative juices flow, be creative, and blow your client’s mind.
Do you have any tips for people just starting out in web design?
- Taking a guided course is definitely worthwhile, and probably a great jumping-off point. But teaching yourself through trial and tribulation will yield the most dramatic results.
- Find tutorials online, read books, and replicate things that you see online. This is by far the best way to learn. I hate to say it, but no book or class will give you the same level of knowledge and understanding.
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol.
Don’t sit and let the world go by. Keep that inspiration in your mind, push the boundaries, and dare yourself to become greater than your starting point. Bring yourself true happiness through growth.