Interview – Spec (Graphic Designer)
Spec is a full time staff member of Crossover Church in Tampa, FL. Which primarily focuses on reaching those influenced by hip-hop culture. He's the director of the media department, and have final say on all designs/media that Crossover produces. He serves as CEO Flavor Alliance Media Group (urban resources) in partnership with Tommy “Urban D.” Kyllonen and Mike Estep. He also serve as the creator director for S.O.U.LMAG, which is a nationally distributed magazine geared towards urban culture. Then, on the side he runs his own design firm (Designed By Spec) www.specademik.com & teach high school students commercial art, graphic design & photography.
You must be doing a lot of work, when did you start graphic design?
Work is work… I'm numb to the laziness feeling…lol. I really got into graphic design in 1994. The high school that I know teach at is where I developed the passion for it. Continued on in college (1997), then graduated with two AA degrees. One in advertising; the other in graphic design. Graduated in 2000.
How did you hook up with Crossover church? and start your own Graphics business (Specademik)?
I was invited to a hip-hop concert by Los-1 (we were in college together). This was March of 1998. It was for Urban D.'s second local album "The Answers". I got off work that night of the concert, and I knew that it was a Christian Hip-op concert. Once I knew that I was turned off by it, but out of respect to Los I went anyway. So, I get off work then get ready to get to what's left of the show (it was pretty late). I intended to go to the club afterwards; so I pull up and get inside this building, just in time to here 1 song and the altar call. Needless to say I didn't go to the club after that.
About a week later, Urban D. called me and invited me out to a Thursday night hip-hop service at Crossover. I checked it out and fell in love with the vibe. After a few months of attending, I told Urban D. that I did graphic design and if the church needed any help with promotions, I'd be willing to help. 8 years later I'm full time staff.
During the years of working at Crossover, I got a chance to meet a lot of artists and church leaders who respected the visual promotions we did. So I slowly started a small income doing some side work for several people/organizations across the country.
Then I landed a great side job with Seventh Street Records back in 1999. (The Cross Movement, Urban D. & 1-Way were the only artists on the label). I was officially on staff for about 7 months with the label creating all of the designs for them (CM's "Human Emergency", Urban D.'s "Missin' Element & The Tranzlation", logo designs, website, etc.) That really got me into the field with some national artists to do some work here & there with them.
Specademik took shape out of those occurrences. It took a minute to gather the work I wanted to display on the site (over 7 years of art I had to go thru), but I found the time, then launched it in 2008.
How did you come up with your name "Spec"?
It was an old tag name. I never really became a souled out graff artist, but I ran with a lot of them. It was common to have quick names to throw up… I went thru a few: KiD, ION, & SPEC.
SPEC stood out the most, but thru the years other started to use it… that's why I put a copyright symbol at the end of it now. SPE©
What are your favorites designs in your portfolio?
Wow.. through the years it changes. Currently I like Urban D.'s "Un.orthodox", Harmony's "Reflections" & I am working on Rawsrvnt's new worship album… those designs are really coming out fresh. Then I like the Fla.vor Fest Volumes 2 & 3 designs. Overall S.O.U.L.MAG has my attention too.
Which programs do you use?
MAC BABY ALL DAY!!! (had to throw that in there). Programs I use: Adobe Master Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, After Effects, Encore) / Apple's Final Cut Studio Suite (Final Cut, DVD Studio Pro, Motion, Soundtrack Pro) – and some other secrets sprinkled here & there… lol.
You also do photography and video directing, how did that start?
Photography was the first love of mine. 1996 I was my high school's yearbook photographer, than that evolved into me wanting my own custom pictures for the designs I was creating. So i built a real extensive library of stock photo's of my own thru the years. Then when things with high quality digital… it was on! Saved a TON of money on not developing film.
Video directing came at me in 2003. I directed "The Immigrant" for Urban D. when we took a trip to Japan. Then here and there, I was filming little short clips that supported some sermons at Crossover.
We kept upgrading equipment, I learned the software, had an idea on cinematography; so I began to offer it as a service
to other artists. I'm still learning, never really claim to be a videographer… graphic design will always be my first love.
You have an impressive new website up and running, how much time have you spent working on it?
Between the hours of 10pm & 4am EST is where I do my worst… lol. My wife and daughter have been patient with me as I finished the site. If I count the time it took to gather the art and create the content… about 2-3 weeks… some nights I was working until the next morning and going to work the next day. I was determined though, I been putting it off for so long. It was long overdue.
Do you have any tips on graphic design for beginners and starters?
Know your culture. Learn color schemes. Always see what's current in the design realm. And remember that not everyone is a graphic designer… leave that up to guys like us… lol.
S.O.U.L. magazine is in my opinion the best Christian Hip Hop magazine, how much time and effort do you put into 1 issue?
Thank you sir! S.O.U.LMAG is beast. Once we have our story ideas set & our writers in place… it can take a little over a month to complete an issue. We don't have a solid staff yet; that's why we only produce 3 mags a year. There is a lot of running around after artists/labels/advertisers when it comes to getting ahold of the content needed to fill up an issue. We are getting better at it though.
Cool, when can we expect the next issue?
We start the next issue at the beginning of March, so by the mid to the end of April the new issue will hit.
It will also be distributed nationally, how did that come about? And where can we pick it up in stores?
We have had several people through the years suggest it to us; but it never felt right to jump on at those moments. Through a lot of prayer and really researching the magazine industry (because we really didn't know much), we sought out a national distribution deal through Ingram Periodicals. They distribute to several media outlets (Barne's & Noble, Amazon, Borders, Family, etc.) The market isn't that large for a new urban magazine, but we are gonna see what happens. We are thankful for what we have with it. And re-gaurdless we will always push it thru our resource outlets & our website: thesoulmag.com
What’s playing in your iPod?
I’m playing out a few things… Mr. J's "of Gods & Girls", a mixtape by Iomos Marad and I'm always blastin' some Matisyahu. Then I got some Marvin Gaye & John Legend runnin' around my ears… good stuff!
How can people contact you if they need some work done?
All my contact is on my website under the "contact" link @ specademik.com // I have emails, aim/ichat, phone #'s… it's easier to get a hold of me these days.