Sergio Ordóñez Suánez is an illustrator and artist who creates great characters, logos, mascots, and other designs, done predominately in Photoshop. He took his self-honed skills and turned them into a successful professional career. He has some great advice to share with us about developing as an artist, working with clients, and pursuing your passions. Let's jump into the interview.
1. Welcome to Psdtuts+! Please introduce yourself, give us a brief bio, tell us where you're from and how you got started in the field.
Hello fellows, my name is Sergio Ordóñez Suánez. I'm 29 years old and Spanish, born in Málaga. Mine is not the typical history. I don't have any academic formation related to the art or design industry. I bought my first computer when I was 20, discovered the internet at 22, and Photoshop at 24. I started designing seriously at the age of 26.
I'm licensed in psychology but never got the chance to practice. My destiny prized me with a knee injury while I was preparing myself for the entry tests to the scientific police of my country—the perfect excuse to initiate professionally into the design world. That's how SOSFactory was born.
2. How would you describe your work, your style, your approach to design and illustration?
When I was young, I liked to create comics, graffiti, Disney characters, Manga, and surfer-style characters and logos. My style is a mix of all that. I do what entertains the child inside me.
I don't have preferences for any particular style. I get easily bored with what I master. The fact that I developed more the cartoon style is because my clients demand it. I'm a very practical person. What amuses me is to learn new things, more than the result.
3. Could you tell us about your career, a favorite project you worked on, a toughest project? Any current or future projects you'd like to share with us?
I started as a comic colorist, but soon I realized that slavery wasn't for me. After that I worked six months as a part-time graphic designer in my city, but again slavery still wasn't for me. So, I decided to start selling my own designs in forums and art communities. First I charged US$15 per logo, then US$50, a year later US$150 , two years later US$250...and finally after four years, I'm able to choose my clients.
My favorite work was the one I did for Funrise Toy Corp. Their brand manager hired me through Deviantart. He asked me for some character tests. The contract lasted two years. I worked for game lines such as POG, Dr. Dreadful, Hedbanz, and others. They assigned me big budgets that allowed me to lead a team of more than 10 artists, all of them Deviantart users that I admired. Unfortunately, the company was laying off staff, and my contract was terminated. I learned a hard lesson: never depend on just one client, even if it seems to be great.
I just finished some work I'm very happy with. I made labels for a series of alcoholic and energetic drinks for Spirits USA. It was a very hard assignment, due to the amount of designs required and the short deadlines.
Another interesting piece was the one I made for Line Rider, the famous Flash game. There was a series of coincidences that led me to work for Inxile-Entertaintment, the company that owns the rights of Line Rider.
4. Tell us about the apps you use? How integral is Photoshop to your work? Any tips you'd like to share?
I use Photoshop for almost everything. Sometimes I also use Illustrator, mostly to modify the typography of my logos or for vector illustrations. Photoshop is the king of design, an all-terrain art vehicle: it's useful for Web design as much as it is to paint or draw. It's the perfect match for my Wacom.
Tips? Practice with Photoshop until you're able to do any task unconsciously, as natural as breathing. From that point you'll start enjoying it. Every time I use it, I'm more conscious of its power and versatility. I could give you hundreds of tips, that's why I created my blog: SOSNewbie, to share them.
5. Could you tell us about your process? What does your workflow look like?
All my work is commercial, so productivity is a must. I have a very defined procedure for each area, whether it is a logo, Web site, or mascot. For example, for my mascots I start with a sketch on paper. After that I retouch them with Photoshop until I get something decent. When the client approves it, I use Photoshop again to clean and color it. Only after the client approves each step, do I move onto the next one. That way I save a lot of time in corrections. If you're interested in the details you can visit the Freepowerboards Case Study.
6. Could you tell us a bit about making logos or mascot designs in Photoshop? Any tips on idea generation? Or how you create such compelling characters?
The creation of logos or mascots is complex. I wouldn't be able to sum it up in such a little space, but I plan to collaborate with Psdtuts+ on some tutorials. In fact, writing tutorials is one of the things I enjoy. Here you can visit a tutorial about the design of a vector mascot.
The key to being creative is not to think about it. I used to be blocked a lot in the past. I intended to create from zero, and that's impossible. I consider playing videogames, reading design magazines, comics, books, watching movies, looking at the work of other designers, all as part of my job. We have to feed our mind, create references in your head to use them when you need them.
When creative block appears there's too little you can do. The best thing you can do is prevent it. Besides feeding your mind, you also need to get a relaxed life style. If you enjoy your work, creativity will appear.
7. Could you give us a glimpse into running your studio, working within a team and with a variety of clients?
I'm a freelancer and I work from home. For a while I've been questioning myself about whether to create my own studio, but I'm not sure if I want to sacrifice this freelance lifestyle that gave me a lot in my personal life. On the other hand, I'd love to increase my team to be able to take on bigger projects. I suppose time will clarify this for me.
I have partners that help me with my tasks, normally in a temporary way, depending on the current work. Everything is made via Internet (sadly). It's not easy to find good artists that are serious, available, that know what they're doing, and work well within in a team. Luckily, I still have time to visit art communities and forums.
Currently I work with Miguel Angel Ruiz and Carlos Nema; they help me a lot in the character creation tasks. Lucas Savelli helps me with HTML/CSS coding. Nicolas San Martin helps me with my English issues; he's the one in charge of translating this text and others. I would like to find somebody to assist me in logos, color tasks, and Web design, but no luck yet.
With my clients I have a love-hate history, but I guess that happens everywhere. Some of them are wonderful: they give me total freedom, criticize constructively, pay well, and on time; it's a pleasure to work for them. But there are others that really get on my nerves. I recommend them to the competition at the first chance I get.
There are two types of jobs: the ones that give me economic stability and the ones that I really enjoy. With the ones I enjoy, I try to experiment. The key to be a successful designer is to find the balance between both types of orders. If you have more of the first ones, you become a robot. If you have more of the second ones, you'll always be conditioned by your economic instability, which will lead to some bad decisions.
8. Thank-you for participating in this interview! Any final remarks?
I just wanted to thank you for this opportunity to share my experiences. I'd also like to encourage those who try to get into this competitive business to go for it. There's a trick that always worked for me—do what you enjoy! Bye!
Where to Find Sergio Ordoñez Suanez on the Web
- SOSFactory: http://www.sosfactory.com
- Sergio's Blog: http://www.sosnewbie.com
- Deviantart user: http://www.sergitosuanez.deviantart.com
- Popular tutorial written for Smashing Magazine: Drunken Monkey Photoshop Tutorial