As a designer, blogger, author, artist, founder of Authentic Jobs and father of four boys, Cameron Moll truly has his hands full. He talks here about his move to working from home and setting up a space in the house that allows him to juggle all his roles.
You recently became self-employed. Can you tell us about that transition? This is my second run at self-employment. The first was a little over three years ago, lasting for about two years. It went really well the first time, but an in-house design opportunity came along that I felt was too good to pass up. The decision to return to self-employment recently came with as much uncertainty as the first. Transitioning from stability to instability is never a fun decision to wrestle with, especially as the sole provider for a family of 6. But it’s been about 6 months now since the leap, and things are going really well. Most of my income is from projects that I own or have started. This is intentional, as I promised myself I’d never return to freelancing without residual income to supplement or even supplant client work.
As a result, I’m finding I don’t have to worry as much about income this time around as I did with the first, which was funded almost exclusively by client work. Instead, I’m constantly trying to juggle everything I have going on–blogging, tweeting, email, and doing all of the strategizing, design work and customer support for Authentic Jobs and my letterpress posters.
How would you describe your workspace? What is the design aesthetic? How does that impact your work? My workspace is a continual work in progress. I’ve worked out of the home both times, and my office has usually been tucked away in the corner of our master bedroom. This doesn’t yield a lot of room, figuratively and literally, to be all that creative. Only recently did I finally secure a room in the house as a dedicated office. I’m still defining what I’d like that space to be. Currently it’s somewhat minimalistic on a theme of black and silver. Functionally, I’d describe it as a “working dad’s office on a budget”–a refurbished 27″ iMac, speakers and a glass desk that I’ve had since the first self-employment, an IKEA Göran folding table painted black (below), and inexpensive framing. Admittedly, I don’t fully agree with the argument that one has to have an intensively creative workspace to do intensively creative work. No doubt workspace can have an affect on one’s work, whether positive or negative or both. But creativity is often just as much a mental discipline as it is a visual one. Great designers can do great work even in the absence of an inspiring workspace.
How do you organize the space? I struggle to do work if there’s a lot of clutter on my desk or in the surrounding area–I’d rather be cleaning and organizing than designing. So generally, I try to keep as little as possible on or around my desk space. For example, I’ve got two printers tucked under my worktable, one dedicating to printing shipping labels and another that does 13″x19″ prints for proofing my poster artwork. As much as I can tuck away under the table or in a closet, the better.
What impact do you think color has on a workspace? I personally don’t use a lot of color in my own workspace. I suppose that’s because I’ve never been all that great at using color in an interior design sense. Digitally I seem to manage color just fine, but real life is another story.
What desk accessory can’t you do without? Probably my sound system or headphones. Music usually plays an important role in helping me design. Sometimes it serves as motivation, other times to accompany a lengthy design session, and often to block out other distractions or noise around the house.
Is there a piece of furniture you’d love to replace? My chair. I failed to mention that as part of my “working dad’s office on a budget” setup. I’ve got an Aeron knock-off, which costs about 1/3 the price of an Aeron. If I could justify the expense, I’ve read enough positive reviews about Herman Miler’s Embody chair (above) to trust it would make my days go even smoother, given how muchI’m seated throughout the day.
What inspires you? Great music (jazz, classical, film scores, instrumental post-rock), the environment around me, working with my hands, industrial design, my family…lots of stuff. I do my best to soak it all in and allow it to hopefully affect my work when the time is right. In terms of the work I do, I love being challenged. My letterpress posters (below) grew out of a self-inflicted challenge to see if I do something along the lines of Veer’s Type City designs, but on a much bigger scale. I tend to produce the best work when the challenge is daunting. I suppose it’s because I’m a fairly competitive person. But I also enjoy producing stuff I’ve never done before. The day I stop challenging myself is probably the day I give up designing.
You and your wife have four children. How do you manage a balance between work and the rest of your life? I don’t know that I bother striving too hard for balance any more. I do my best to put my family first, and then try line up what’s most important after that. On some days, all that other stuff may take priority over family, but hopefully only for a temporary period. Working out of the home tends to only increase the elusiveness of balance. That’s the other thing I promised myself I’d do before returning to freelancing again, that of having proper office space outside the home to create a physical divide between work and home. I’ve not made good on that promise yet. But so far, things are progressing fine without it.