Meet Matt: graphic designer and illustrator and our latest interviewee in the "I Love My Job" series. Connect with Matt on Twitter/Instagram @mattjbatt. His latest book comes out on June 22nd from Z2 Comics.
If you could give millennials one piece of career advice what would it be?
Especially in the creative field, you always read about people giving advice saying don’t work for free, don’t take risks like that, and I actually think that that’s terrible advice. Just because something doesn’t pay out in the short term doesn’t mean that it won’t pay out in the long term. My experience has been that finding the time to do things on the side will lead you in different directions. You have to just keep plugging away at what you want to do. Also, set reasonable goals. You’re not going to be seeing this over night and just because you’ve made one step doesn’t mean you can expect anything. You can’t settle and you can’t expect anyone else to settle.
What was your education like?
I briefly thought I was supposed to go to art school. I spent a week at the school of visual arts in the city and quickly realized that I both didn’t fit in and totally was not prepared to live in New York. I ended up transferring out of there and went to Farleigh Dickinson for a year and then left there and went to Rutgers. My major was actually in video.
How did you start your career?
While I was at Rutgers I worked in the marketing department and I worked with probably three of the most influential people in my professional career. The three of those guys taught me a whole heck of a lot about how to be a professional designer and what it takes to sort of be organized and manage projects and deliver. I’m generally of the opinion that where you went to college doesn’t usually matter but what you did while you were there matters. Everything I did after college I can tie directly back to that job.
What does a typical workday entail for you from start to finish?
I currently work at a company called Hirepurpose and we have a few entities, we have Hirepurpose which does career guidance and placement for veterans who are coming out of service and are looking for placement for their second career. The other portion of our company is called Task Purpose which is a media site dedicated to veterans views and culture. Generally I’m in at work in the morning and the average day would be divided up between doing videos and design stuff for Task Purpose and add to materials for Task Purpose. I’m doing a comic series that’s highlighting military stories and generally untold stories from vets that have served. Then I go home and I have two comics that I’m working on at the moment, one book called Rush Limit that I color, and then I have another book that’s called Indoctrination that will be coming out in the summer and I do all the drawing, coloring, lettering and design for the book.
What made you decide to explore design and comics?
Well comics I was always interested in as a kid but I never though I would actually make any money off of it. That led me to design because there is an obvious path to design with advertizing, marketing and that sort of stuff. There’s a lot of work in design and then comics is just something that I’ve always done on my own for my own entertainment and by continually plugging away at it I ended up getting published. It took form sort of serendipitously in that I was never trying to get hired in comics but my work ended up getting out there.
Graphic deign involves a lot of creativity. How did you discover your creative talents?
I was just a kid just drawing, if you look at any of my sketchbooks from elementary school there’s quite a bit of Star Wars in them. I can’t really remember what started it, I can’t ever remember not creating stuff. It’s just a fact of life I guess and then you sort of just work hard to get better at it. I went to a Saturday morning sketch class as a kid and that sort of pushed me along as well. It’s just something I’ve always pursued.
What advice would you give to someone looking to explore their own creativity?
It depends on what you’re looking to do with it. I worked for a couple years in politics in DC working on campaigns and stuff like that and if there’s one thing I learned is that it has to be utilitarian. In design, you can be creative but it has to serve a purpose and a function and it has to accomplish a goal. You can kind of just look around and be aware of what’s around you and not stare at your phone all the time. A lot of it is just living. Music is a great barometer for this. Music can relate to certain parts of your life depending on what you have experienced. I guess that creativity in a sense kind of flows through your life experience. Also the more you read about stuff you start getting ideas and being like, okay I have something to say about this now.
What is the most rewarding part of your career?
I kind of don’t like dwelling. So I got published, and I was like oh well what’s the next step, where are we going from here. I kind of look at my accomplishments are just steps forward. When I look back all I see tends to be the flaws of it. When I look back I sort of think, okay how can I make it better.
What is the most challenging part?
The hardest part is learning new audiences. I went from working in DC and politics, I was designing for a very specific audience, and when I moved back up to New Jersey and started working in New York again and I was designing for a very specific audience of comic book buyers. And now, I’m working for an organization that works pretty strictly with veterans and that’s a really defined audience. The hardest part is learning what that audience responds to and what they need, what they want, and what they’re interested.
What is something that you do for fun in your free time?
I like going to movies. One of the reasons I moved back up here is because most of the folks I know are up here so I like seeing friends and stuff. I’ve actually been trying to read biographies and stuff. I’m 27 and kind of trying to figure out where I’m going.
Interview by Rachel Geffner