Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking to the Albany Downtown Sertoma club about my favorite topic: myself. Once a month we have one of our members give a "career talk" to tell about themselves and what they do. It was a real honor to get to present in front of these committed citizens, and I look forward to continuing to aid in their efforts to make our community a better place to work and live. I always like to share the contents of my presentations here on the site. So, for those of you who couldn't make it, take a look at the presentation below.
My name is Daniel Titus. I am a freelance graphic designer and web developer. The name of my company is DanielTitus.com (a very creative name, I know). Before I officially get started, I’d like to say, “Thank you” to all of the Sertoma members. I’ve been coming since January and joined in February. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here and getting to know many of you a little better. I joined Sertoma because I wanted to learn of more opportunities to serve the community that has done so much for me and meant so much to me. I am happy to say that this is a successful investment of my time. I’ve been able to learn about and become a part of several efforts to serve the Albany area. And, I thank God for the opportunity to be used in that capacity, and I thank you for welcoming me into this club that is not for social grandstanding but for societal growth.
OK, so, enough about you, let’s talk about me. There is a lot of confusion about what a graphic designer does, I mean actually does. Most people think that I just sit around drawing pictures all day. There was a B.C. comic strip once that showed a Neanderthal type guy in front of a cave drawing. The caption read, “Hairy was never good gathering, and he didn’t like to hunt. So, he went into graphic design.” And, that’s basically how a lot of people think of graphic designers. They are those people who are too artistic for the real work force, and so, they just sort of do their thing.
Now, you through web development into the mix, and people get really confused. My dad is a wonderful man and very intelligent. We have a great relationship and usually get together once a week or so. He is very involved in my life, and I’ve even done a little work for him in the past. He still has NO CLUE what I do! He doesn’t. If someone asks him what I do he says, “He’s a graphic designer and web developer.” If they then say, “Well what does that mean?” He says, “... I don’t know?”
Show of hands, really quickly … how many people have thought that as a web developer I make website for a living? Oh, well, yeah that is what I do. I guess I don’t need to finish my presentation. Bryan?
No. I’m kidding. Sure, making a website is a task that I accomplish during my work day, but so is taking out the trash. If at the basic level of what I do was just making websites I wouldn’t be able to charge enough money for it to make a living. Website are a dime a dozen. Sometime they are completely free.
At the heart of what I do is who I am. Not who I am as a designer, but who I am as a person. And at the heart of who I am as a person is a storyteller. I’m a father of two terrific boys, and that is extremely import to who I am as a person. It also impacts how I design, but I’ve not been a father all my life. I’m committedly, lovingly and happily married, and my wife is a wonderful blessing to me. She drives how I design, but I’ve not been married all my life either. I’m an ardent and earnest follower of Jesus Christ. That relationship is of utmost importance in my life. It dictates how I run my business, but I’ve not been a Christian all my life either. But, for as much of my life as I can remember, from the time I could speak I’ve been a storyteller. My parent’s say that I didn’t learn to form words and then sentences. I learned to form words and then paragraphs.
I have always loved to tell stories, and that is at the heart of what I do as a graphic designer, and that is at the heart of what I do as a web developer. That sounds a little abstract and a little ethereal, but when it comes right down to it, there could be nothing with more tangible results. Stories move people. The effect people. They evoke emotion and invoke action. Stories, when told correctly, are art. Stories are sometimes told with words and sometimes with pictures that are worth a thousand words. Stories are sometimes told in newspapers, and sometimes they are told on Instagram.
So, I’m going to tell you the brief version of my graphic design story, and hopefully you will have a better understanding and appreciation of who I am and what I do.
I started off telling my own stories with my own words. Even as a very young child, I would talk to anyone who would listen about everything that was happening in my life. It didn’t matter who they were; it didn’t matter how old they were; it didn’t really matter if they were listening or not. I would tell my story to anyone. There are plenty of talkers out there who are not storytellers. My wife’s a talk, but she’s not a storyteller. When she tells stories she doesn’t do so in chronologically order. She doesn’t do so to build suspense. In fact, she does the exact opposite. She will tell a story in order of most to least exciting to her. Whenever I listen to her stories I seriously have to wait until the end, rearrange all of the puzzle pieces and then process what actually happened. So, there are a lot of talkers who aren’t storytellers. True storytellers aren’t satisfied telling their own stories with their own words.
When I was in 3rd grade I kept telling my own stories, but I started to do so with pictures. I would sit at my desk for hours and hours and just draw. I would draw buildings and characters and eventually whole scenes. I started off with Disney characters. In fact, I can remember one time I drew the Little Mermaid, and my dad got on to me for giving her too much cleavage. But, I was in 3rd grade, and that was my story, you know?
When I was in high school, I took on the much more difficult task of telling other peoples’ stories with other peoples’ words. This is usually where the storytellers really start to distance themselves from the talkers. I did Oral Interpretation in our Literary competitions. I didn’t pretty well too; I won some awards that I’m sure my mom has kept. I know it doesn’t seem like much of a challenge to tell someone else’s story, but to really convey it in a compelling way you need to understand and appreciate their story. Not just be able to say it, but be able to (even if just for a moment) live it.
This is where I sat for quite some time as a storyteller. I told my stories with pictures and paintings and told others’ stories with words. All the while I was a technology geek and was just (sort of) naturally keeping up with the latest computer advancements. I had gone through many dissatisfying jobs and found myself working at Hibbett Sporting Goods selling shoes. I hate sports, and at the time I had never spent more than $35 on a pair of shoes. So, I was clearly not suited for that job.
Out of shear desperation, I went over to the Matrix Dept. I had never designed professionally, but I had kind of been doing it on the side since I was in middle school. Matrix did the best work in town, so that’s where I wanted to be. I showed up and asked for a job. John Bell, the owner, gave me a job literally sweeping floors. Pretty soon he taught me to run the machines. Eventually I brought in some of my work, and he moved me to designer. Before long I was the head designer there. Things got a little rough with the number of hours I was working, and it dawned on me that I could be doing this on my own and making more money.
So, in 2009 I started my own design company. That’s when I discovered that the secret to this whole thing is storytelling. The man in the cave knew that. He wasn’t just doodling; he was recording history. He was telling a story. The man in the cathedral knew that. He wasn’t just staining glass; he was conveying good news. He was telling a story. My 4 year old son knows that. He doesn’t just draw a monster; he draws a monster who is looking for a puffy cloud. He draws stories. This isn’t about drawing pictures or building website. This about telling stories.
I no longer telling my story with my pictures or someone else’s story with someone else’s words, but I actually get to tell someone else’s story with my own pictures. This was a break through in how I viewed graphic design. I was able to express through visual representation what my clients themselves could never convey with words.
It took me a bit by surprise, and almost ran away with me. I honestly didn’t want to build website, but that’s what everyone seemed to want. This should come as no surprise because most of the website developers out there are awful. You know why? Because they don’t tell their clients’ stories. They usually don’t say anything at all. The just draw pictures and build website. They don’t touch even a single person, evoke even a mild emotion or invoke even a minor action. They make websites, and websites are a dime a dozen. Websites are cheep, but your story is priceless. Your story is worth its weight in gold.
That is why the websites I create tell stories. They don’t tell my story. They tell the story of the company, organization or individual for whom I’ve built it.
I’m a storyteller. I tell stories with pictures and make it easy to communicate that story with a simple web address. Whether your story is personal or professional, charitable or entrepreneurial, uplifting or depressing I feel it should be told. Often it can be told with the most power, the most publication and the most perspicuity when it is told with the well orchestrated harmony of pictures, words and interactions of a website. If you have a story that needs to be told, I can help you tell it.
Thank you again.