Member Spotlight: Philip Rhie

What is your job? Where do you work?

My job is to provide a certain level of tangibility to an otherwise intangible element in other people’s agendas, to either make their lives easier or help them overcome various obstacles in the process. Depending on the need, I’ll either work directly with them at their work space, or I’ll work from home.

What are your inspirations?

I am inspired by any human attempt to change or shape the world for the better. And by that I mean, any creative endeavor, sentimental gesture, organized protest, etc. fueled by enthusiasm, passion, vigor, vulnerability, risk, ambition, sincerity, humility, etc., generally anything that can be categorized as or related to being human. I think in our daily lives / processes, there is a tendency to behave mechanically and forget why we do the things that we do. So whenever I see something that reminds me essentially of the human struggle, the desire to be appreciated and our efforts validated, I tend to be inspired in an overwhelming way.

What do you like most about what you do?

I like making stuff; plain and simple. To be able to make something out of nothing, it’s like a superpower. But I also like making stuff with other people. I believe that the act of creation tends to be a unifying force; it’s one of those great activities that bring people together. So I really use my ability, talent, or whatever to make stuff happen as a means to get involved in other people’s lives and foster relationships. At the end of the day, it’s not about the projects that you’re working on; it’s always about the people involved.

What do you dislike most?

I tend to dislike any sort of antagonism, bureaucracy, elevated ego, arrogance, political gesture, etc. that stifles the creative process. And I mean that in almost an existential or philosophical way. I like to think that, if we’re all living in some meaningful way, then we are all building towards something, anything worthy of some ambition or dream. And there will always be a variety of obstacles along the way. But anything that exists to intentionally stifle that process, i.e. deter or kill a project – however literal or abstract that may be – is not only truly disdainful but also totally and completely deserving of scorn.

What product or gadget strikes your fancy?

I’m currently very happy with my Wacom Bamboo Tablet. I used to use a Wacom Intuous 3 (it’s still stashed in my closet), but I bought the Bamboo from an old roommate before we parted ways, and it’s completely changed the way I work. It’s small, so it really caters to sketchy-style illustrations (of which I indulge) that tend to be typified by quick, small strokes. And it’s portable. I used to carry around the Intuos to coffee shops and work spaces, and it was really embarrassing. There are few things more mortifying for a digital creative than carrying around oversized, antiquated utilities.

The other product that I really love is Brackets, which is an open-source HTML editor for the Mac that’s frequently updated. I recently upgraded my working computer to a Macbook Pro (I used to use an 8-year old Dell laptop with Windows XP), and that’s also completely changed my life. One of the best decisions that I’ve made in my professional career was switching my work computer to an Apple product. Anyways, Brackets is really slick, and it functions really well with the Mac OS X, so if you’re designer who dabbles in web, it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.

How long have you been a member of the AIGA, why did you join and what do you get out of your membership?

I’ve been a member for about a year now. I joined because I wanted to a) take my work more seriously and b) be taken more seriously for my work. I had done some research, and I concluded that joining AIGA and being part of a creative community would allow me to do just that. Since becoming a member, I feel that I’ve grown tremendously as a professional. Just being able to talk and discuss about work, client relationships, frustrations, etc. with other creatives and designers has been truly formative. But also, just being in the same room as other creatives has been truly significant. Generally, it doesn’t hurt to know the kind of competition that you’re working with. I truly believe that competition makes us better, and what better way to scope out talent than shaking their hands? It should also be worth noting that all of my most significant relationships started with simple handshakes.

What are your favorite websites?

Twitter is my go-to website to stay relevant. Aside from Facebook, it is my first destination to keep on top of the latest conversations day-in and day-out specifically for design, tech, and other industry-related news. Rdio is my music platform of choice. And Facebook is where I go to feel connected, at least digitally. There are often comparisons between Facebook and Twitter, and I think that they’re a little unjustified. I use both just as much as the other, for very different reasons. My Twitter profile is sporadic, impulsive, and somewhat uncensored, whereas my Facebook identity is very carefully crafted and curated. In any case, I dabble in both the most, and they are my gateways to other websites. I was going to say NPR, but then I realized that I get my headlines from Facebook first.

But then, there are also stuff like, Creattica, Designspiration, Designer News, etc. that I keep bookmarked mentally that I’ll visit off-hand. And even agency sites and portfolios like HUGE and Sagmeister & Walsh, I’ll visit every-so-often. It’s good to always keep the trendsetters on your radar, just so you know whether or not your latest ideas are on track or completely off-base. There’s something to be said about individual creativity, idiosyncrasy, and uniqueness, but it doesn’t hurt to analyze the styles that pay the bills.

By Julie Manthey
Published November 4, 2013
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