When Haddon McKinney gets into his zone, he’s focused on one thing and one thing only: Making Magic. Whether it’s a new logo, hand lettering or an intricate movie poster- Haddon makes ideas come to life through his artistry. We sat down with Haddon McKinney to hear about the method to his madness. Enjoy!
Breakthrough Marketing Group: Have you always been involved in the arts?
Haddon McKinney: I always had creative and artistic ability in the arts. My dad was artistic, was into painting, grandfather was also creative. So art has always been in the family. I drew early on and then got into theatre and acting, singing. A large portion of my 20's was trying to be an actor in New York.
BMG: Oh wow, that's awesome, is that what you went to school for?
HM: I went to school undergrad for art initially, and then graduate school went to acting school in New York at the New School.
BMG: That must've been an exciting time living in New York.
HM: I enjoyed it; it was great to be around other creatives & have those moments. After school, it was tough finding work, so I decided to move back to Atlanta and use my artistic ability to pursue design instead.
BMG: Well, I think you made the right call, you are excelling at this.
HM: Thanks man, digital media has been beneficial in opening new doors and avenues for me.
BMG: What platforms are you using for design?
HM: So, for logos and lettering or any geometric shapes, those are all done in illustrator. I tend to work in several programs. Posters, I always have several components to incorporate. I do my drawing on the iPad, and though I like photoshop for painting, I've found that Procreate is the app of choice for me. Procreate is geared slightly more towards painting, whereas photoshop is more towards photos. If I need to do final touches for filters or overlays I'll throw it into photoshop . It's so convenient because I can take my iPad and my apple pencil and go anywhere, Starbucks, the library, anywhere.
BMG: I will take a peek at that app, which could be beneficial for brand identity/logo design work. I enjoyed what you said about being mobile, as an entrepreneur, I definitely enjoy having that freedom as well. Could you speak to how you are able to manage your time with freelance gigs & stay motivated?
HM: Good question. I really only take on projects that I am in love with. For me to stay motivated and interested, it has to be the right fit concept-wise and also the right price. Otherwise, it isn't beneficial for either party; I want to be deeply invested in the project so that I can ensure the highest quality. There were times I was taking on just any job, and that type of work can leave you feeling burnt out very quickly, as well as feeling taken advantage of.
BMG: That's a great point, and those projects make you appreciate when a collaboration goes off seamlessly.
HM: Exactly, I actually just worked with someone who is a photographer, so she has a creative eye & understands the creative side. She was very helpful, very understanding & had positive energy the whole time. Those types of relationships are refreshing & definitely the ones that I seek out.
BMG: So you've really established a solid framework of what's in your wheelhouse and what you're willing to say no to?
HM: I'm trying to, I'm realizing it's okay to walk away. It can be tempting, but if you're not being valued, just walk away.
BMG: Who are your influences in design? In your work, you draw a lot from pop culture sports, movies, etc.
HM: So where I'm headed is more exclusively poster design, but I've always loved lettering and been influenced by so many people. Aaron Draplin, I love his aesthetic; it's one that I think is much needed for the world. He's got an old school American vibe, a lot of thick lines, easy to understand. I always have had an affinity for Victorian Style lettering. There's something to the looks that are tried & true. I'm a history major as well, so I've been interested in illustration in design history.
BMG: Who are some designers from past decades you've studied?
HM: Herb Lubalin is a legend as far as typography, he was a king of all those 70s typefaces that were really transformative.
BMG: Awesome, and then how about for specifically poster design?
HM: Well, I really like what Bottleneck Gallery is doing right now. If we're talking movie posters, Drew Struzan has done so many amazing posters for iconic films. He did Star Wars, Shawshank Redemption, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, the list goes on.
BMG: That's an impressive list, talk about history this guy has a lot of classics under his belt.
HM: Exactly, it's really great to see someone who has sustained career at such a high level. The reason why we know so much of works design-wise is because of people like Drew who came before us and did it.
BMG: Do you have a specific routine or environment you like to get into when designing?
HM: For me, I just need to determine myself to do 30 minutes. If you can commit yourself to that initial 30 minutes, the rest is history. It's very rare that you jump in and only go for 30 minutes, more frequently, you end up getting locked into a zone for hours-but it's that initial 30 that sets the tone.
BMG: That's a great productivity method. I've heard something along the same lines; a writer was talking about setting a goal of "Write two crappy pages per day."The sentiment being similar in that, as you said most times when you sit down, it leads to 10-15 pages- but even if you only hit 2 pages, it's still a win. You're building steady momentum.
HM: Yes, that's perfect. I tend to be very meticulous as well- which can slow me down, so I try to find little tricks that help. Getting back to your question, I do tend to have music playing. I also generally have a show playing in the background- I think I've run through The Office about ten times through by now.
BMG: The Office is always looping in the background for me as well, never gets old.
HM: It's too good. Or if I'm working on a movie poster, I'll throw that movie on and get into that specific mood. I tend to like something playing more so than quiet. That feeling of it being quiet can be stressful.
BMG: Absolutely, I like some sort of music or media playing as well. You mentioned your attention to detail, how has that helped you in your final product, and how does it affect your timelines.
HM: With most things like that, there's good and bad. Perfectionism is why I can get looks and representation to look strikingly similar to a real person. However, because of that, it can certainly get me stuck longer in a project. Deadlines help because they ensure I've got to move on. One of the best things you can do is to step away for a bit. If you are in it and massaged it to no end, but something doesn't feel right- step away and sleep on it. When you come at it with fresh eyes, you can almost notice what needs changing right away.
BMG: Do you seek out feedback once you're approaching the end of a project?
HM: Yes, I love getting feedback. I don't like to put any work out there until I have had a few people I trust to look at it. If you're in it for hours and hours, it can sometimes end up being difficult to notice something obvious. I like real constructive criticism.
BMG: That's great that you have a network that can be transparent and share their thoughts; that's so important. I've noticed that it is a trait of many creatives wanting feedback from various areas. Do you any new projects you're currently working on that you're excited about?
HM: Speaking of The Office, I am actually working on designing an Office poster, which I'm really happy about. I can't wait to release that, that'll be a good one.
BMG: We absolutely will be on the lookout for that and all of your other work. Thanks for taking the time, Haddon!
HM: Of course, thank you!