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A Chat With Twitter Master & Designer Calvin Lee

by Grant Friedman

on February 5, 2009

in Interviews

This week, I had a digital chat with Calvin Lee from Mayhem Studios.  If you’re on Twitter, than you probably already know Calvin.  Calvin is without a doubt one of the most helpful designers on Twitter.  You can always depend on Calvin for a re-tweet of an interesting article and occasionally a witty comment.  In this interview, I decided to stray away from my usual questions about design and instead ask Calvin questions about how he became one of the biggest design Twitterers out there.  I hope you enjoy this interview and when you’re done, don’t forget to follow Calvin on Twitter or any other social network that you subscribe to.

Calvin thanks so much for participating in this interview.  Can you begin by explaining a bit about your background?  Tell us where you’re from and how you got your start as a designer.

Hello Grant, thanks for opportunity to be interviewed for Colorburned. I’m Calvin Lee, designer and Twitter addict from sunny Los Angeles, California, born and raised. As a kid, I loved drawing and I knew one day, I would be in a creative field.

I’m mostly self-taught with some community college and trade school design education. I really started learning on my first job, at a small Hispanic marketing firm. As you can see, I’m not Hispanic, which has its challenges. The Senior Art Director and I ran the Art department. We had a broad range of projects from logo design to marketing materials, brochure to websites or political campaign to vehicle wraps.

I worked there for about two years before it went out of business. During those two years, I did learn the ins and outs of running a design firm, working with clients and print shops, prepping press ready files, juggling many projects and the business of design. It prepared me for running my own business, Mayhem Studios.


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Many of my readers are likely to know you from Twitter but before we get into that, tell us a little about your business Mayhem Studios.

Mayhem Studios is a small, award-winning design studio located in Los Angeles, California, run by me of course, developing identity and brand recognition for the business sectors across the nation.

We integrate strategic thinking with creative design to create effective messages targeted to clients’ specific audiences. Solutions may come in the form of identities, branded collateral pieces, annual reports, brochures, logo design, advertising and interactive websites.

We have received numerous international design awards in print/online, been featured in several books including: Identity Crisis, 100 Habits of Successful Freelance Designers, Creative Magazine, Creatively Self-Employed, Creativity Awards, American Corporate Identity, Big Book of Logos, Big Book of Letterheads, Big Book of Business Cards, Big Book of Layouts, Big Book of Design Ideas, Branded and 500 Simple Website Hints, Tips & Techniques.

I also contribute to articles in print/online for Home Business Magazine, Creative Latitude: Logo Nation, Creative Latitude: Graphic Make Overs, BoDo, Fuel Your Creativity, Design O’Blog, Xemion, Twitter Background Gallery, My Ink Blog and on our own blog.

In most of my interviews, I tend to focus on how designers use their blogs.  How do you use your blog to help promote you and your business?  How did you initially envision your blog?  Did its focus change over time?  Is there anything you would have done differently if given the chance?

The way I use blogging to promote my business is to share, give value, educate, and help new designers, by posting my recent projects; writing about the process of how I developed the designs, business side of design and self-promotion. I wished I had this kind of helpful information when I was starting out. I do believe, if you share, give and help, the goodness you send out, will be returned many times over.

I resisted blogging for very long time. Never thought anyone would listen to what I had to say. In the beginning, I used my blog as a way to promote my work and me. In hopes, in finding more work. I never had the intension to write about design and the business of design.

I don’t know when it happened but along the way. I did discover that I really liked helping people. It gave me a great satisfaction, giving back to the design community. At that point, I decided my focus would to be to educate and share my knowledge in design, marketing, business of design and self-promotion. Now that I think back, I should have done that in the beginning.


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Earlier, I mentioned that many of my readers are likely to know you from Twitter. For those of my readers who aren’t active Twitter users, can you explain a little about Twitter and then elaborate about how you use it to further your business and personal goals?

Twitter is a micro-blogging service on the web that allows you stay connected with friends, family and people with similar interests, through short updated messages about your life in 140 characters or less.

Twitter offers a great opportunity for people looking to market their goods and services, leads on new clients or landing that next big job. I use Twitter to share, connect, network and engage my followers. Being part of the community, over time, you gain trust and credibility: resulting in being an expert in your field that can give you a lead in finding work and projects.


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I think a lot of Twitter users start off thinking the same thing; “What is this thing and why is it useful?”  Eventually, users begin to get the hang of it and finally begin to adopt a strategy.  Can you remember at what point you began to adopt your current Twitter strategy?  When did you realize that maybe your hard work was starting to pay off?

There was a lot of directions I went in, trying to figure out how to use Twitter and why. A month or two into tweeting, I came to the conclusion that it’s not about selling. It’s about sharing, connecting, engaging and helping people. While having fun and not taking it too seriously.

It’s funny how you’re asking me this question about all the hard work paying off. After 3-4 months of building up my network through sharing, connecting and tweet/retweet. I’m currently seeing some incredible things happening. I have been receiving many requests for estimates from potential clients for design projects, mentioned on popular websites, interviewed/contributed to articles on a few dozen websites/blogs, increased traffic to my website/blog and even big dogs like Guy Kawaski and Chris Brogan, actually talking to me.

I never expected anything like this. My goal was to have some fun connecting with people, while helping them along the way.


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There is only a limited amount of time in the day, how has being such an active Twitterer affected other aspects of your life; either business or personal?  Do you feel it cuts into the time you used to blog or design?  Or have you found that Twitter has opened up opportunities that you might not otherwise have found?

Yes, to all the above. I know, I’m addicted to Twitter. I don’t know what it is that causes me to stay on Twitter for so long everyday. When I’m busy with projects, I do step away from Twitter and get some work done before logging back in to tweet. I’m also pretty fast, so the work doesn’t affect me as much. Socially, I do tend to be late for events and the gym.

I have to say Twitter is a goldmine for getting your name out there. Twitter is definitely opens up more opportunities to reach a wider audience and quickly. It doesn’t happen over night. It’s like any relationship, takes time to build trust.

Can you recommend any Twitter tools, software or websites that you use on a daily basis?  Are there any tools or changes to Twitter that you’d like to see made?

Tr.im: http://tr.im – url shortener that tracks your links with stats.
Tweetdeck: http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta – Client for Twitter
Twhirl: http://www.twhirl.org – Client for Twitter.
Friend or Folllow: http://friendorfollow.com – Find out who is not following you.
Splitweet: http://splitweet.com – Manage Multiple Twitter accounts.
List of 30 more Twitter apps: http://tr.im/epno

I’m still using the Twitter web interface. I would really like to see a retweet button, buddy list, url shortener, groups, able to select specific DM to delete or some instant messenger.


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What advice would you give to a designer who either just joined or is thinking of joining Twitter?

Twitter is a great marketing tool if used correctly. Don’t sell! Do share, give and tweet/retweet content that benefits others. Don’t ask for anything in return. Follow people with similar interests and industry.

Have fun and don’t take Twitter too seriously. Step away from Twitter once in awhile.

Finally, do you own a mobile device?  If so, which one?  How do you use it to improve your productivity as both a designer and active Twitter user?

Yes, I do. I have a LG VX8300. The only thing I can say is my clients can contact me on the go. I don’t really use texting or tweet from my phone. I only use my phone as a phone. I’m old school. Like, using a pen and paper to sketch out my ideas before jumping on the computer. ;)


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CALVIN’S WEBSITES

http://www.mayhemstudios.com
http://www.mayhemstudios.com/blog
http://www.calvinleedesign.com

CONNECT WITH CALVIN

Linkedin
Twitter
Biznik
Flickr
Veer
Digg
Facebook
Stumble Upon
Vot.eti.me
Design Float
Design Bump
Delicious

About Grant Friedman

Grant Friedman is a graphic design, blogger, and author. In addition to being the founder of this website, Grant is also the editor of Psdtuts, one of the world's most popular tutorial websites.