Give it Time to Grow & Tilt the Scales in Your Favor
This week on the show we have a very special guest who just got done hosting an amazing conference called Crop in Baton Rouge. Matt Dawson is a talented designer and connector who creates under the name Stay Gray Ponyboy in Atlanta.
He is a shining example of someone who put in the work and used the power of side projects to build a name for himself.
He’s not only an insanely talented individual but he’s grown into becoming a really good friend of mine and I can’t wait to share his story with you.
Stumbling into Graphic Design
Growing up, Matt was always involved with sports, music and drawing. As he approached college, he thought landscape architecture sounded appealing and was involved in that for 3.5 years out of the 5-year program.
Outside of class, he found himself constantly using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to make band collateral like posters and merch. Little did he know he was getting started in a career of graphic design.
It finally dawned on him that he wanted to switch directions and pursue graphic design. He was in a new relationship with the wonderful Ariadne at the time and he approached her saying they needed to have a talk. The funny thing is she thought he was going to break up with her when really he was just switching majors.
Of course, she was 100% on board as he states she always is whatever he chooses to pursue.
Over the last 4.5 years, he’s been working under the moniker of Stay Gray Ponyboy and the business name of Studio Gray. His situation was like mine when I talk about Making a Name For Yourself in Episode 28, using his first name like Matt Dawson Design didn’t fit so he went a more abstract route.
There are a few reasons he chose this name because of the word gray:
- It is a family name and shortly after his daughter was born, everything he did was for her.
- It also happens to be his favorite color—he’s all about overcast days and gray clothing.
- It pertains to having perspective in a situation.
- Finally, it was also inspired by the book The Outsiders with the phrase “Stay Gold Ponyboy.”
While he stumbled into graphic design and built a name for himself, Matt clearly is a workhouse and has put in the work behind the scenes.
Give it Time to Grow
Something that really stood out to me from Matt’s interview is when he said, “Am I going to build something for myself or am I going to build something for someone else?”
“Am I going to build something for myself or am I going to build something for someone else?”
He’s put in the grind at the day job of exchanging hours of his life for pay. He’s been in positions where they worked him to the bone for 40-50 hours a week and he’d still find time to pour another 30 hours or so into building his side projects and freelance.
When you start having ownership of something, the scale begins to tip in your favor and that was the case with his story. It’s all about perception as the amount of work he was kicking out under Stay Gray Ponyboy appeared like he was doing his thing full-time and eventually, that grind paid off.
Matt has now been working for himself full-time now for close to two months, and honestly it’s all because of the time he invested into letting his side projects grow.
Let’s face it, Matt is a typography nerd and I say this with the utmost respect.
His love for type led him to have type talks as he worked for Lamar Advertising. His passion for type sparked an archive of typography combinations that he would help other designers use when they were in a pinch.
Around the same time, he began using Instagram and sharing these combinations he built up under the catchy name of #TypeComboTuesday.
He understood the power of consistency and kicked out Type Combos every Tuesday for 2 years! In 2017 he scaled it back and focuses on it once a month as his freelance career began to blossom.
What’s funny about speaking and seeing the behind scenes of these events held by Lamar is that it sparked one of his biggest ideas yet…
Matt was inspired to take these talks from Lamar and grow them to a larger scale for people in and outside of Louisiana. A patio sessions with a few beers ended up spawning the name Crop.
Think about it, cropping a photo is meant to bring out the best part of the composition into the frame and I feel this conference brings out the best part of us creatives.
Cropping a photo is meant to bring out the best part of the composition into the frame and I feel this conference brings out the best part of us creatives.
There were a few hurdles he’s dealt with and still deals with today in building Crop:
- Not only was it tough to name but it was tough to design for as your designing for designers.
- Organizing and working on bringing in some of the biggest conference names like Draplin, Tad Carpenter, Morning Breath, Hoodzpah, Brian Steely, Jason Craig, etc.
- Getting sponsorships throughout the year.
- Having a diverse lineup especially within the talks.
- Getting people to believe in the conference and to convince them it’s legit.
If you ask me, I feel like he is crushing it in every category.
The conference has been so successful that he is planning something special with it in between it’s normal time in April. This November, he is doing a satellite event called a Crop Pop Up in November. It’ll be a one day gig the Friday before MondoCon 2017. There will be a few workshops, speakers, a big party and plenty of fun with the Industry Print Shop fellas.
Crop 2017 Logo
Rapid Fire Questions
Q. What’ one piece of advice you would give to creatives starting a side / passion project or stuck in a creative funk?
A. Having the patience to nurture your side project is important. You have to put in the time and give it time to grow.
Q. Serif, San Serif or Script?
A. San Serif
Q. Who’s your current favorite artist you’re vibing to lately?
A. Alvin Diec who is capitalizing on making new things look old.
Q. What’s your favorite kind of pizza?
A. Pepperoni, mushroom, feta cheese and banana peppers at Peace Love and Pizza – Atlanta
- Are you building for you or are you building for someone else?
- Start having ownership of something and the scales will start tilting in your favor.
- If you can get by and be happy, you need to try and figure out how the hell to do that.
- Have patience and nurture your side projects as you have to give it time to grow.
- Don’t compare your start to someone else’s middle.
- Look ahead and try to see what this side project will accomplish for you—that’s the carrot you should keep chasing.