Keeping Up and Staying Relevant: A Conversation with Graphic Designer Michael Dolan

Editor’s Note: The following sponsored article is brought to you courtesy of HOW Design Live‘s trusted partner, Adobe.


The past few years have brought a flood of new apps and services for creative professionals. And with them have come even more design trends. So what does all of this mean and, more importantly, how does it influence the way designers work today?

Meet Michael Dolan, a visual designer and HOW Design Live speaker who’s been exploring one of Adobe’s newest creative apps, Project Felix, and thinking about how it’s redefining creative imaging for graphic design.

Investing time to find better ways to work

As Founder and Creative Director of Churchill Design Studio in Santa Rosa, CA, Dolan has a full schedule. He decided to try Project Felix, Adobe’s new 3D compositing tool for graphic designers, out of a combination of curiosity and the desire to remain relevant.

[Related: Adobe’s Project Felix Makes Oscar-Winning 3D Design Technology User-Friendly]

“The need to do 2D and 3D compositing was definitely there,” he says. “I would use Illustrator CC and Photoshop CC to fake it, doing things the arduous way like lighting with adjustment layers, adding perspective, and transforming shapes in Photoshop to achieve the look I wanted.”

He says that, while it can be hard to even keep up with new features in Photoshop, he saw Felix as an opportunity to expand his skillset and get out in front of some of the changes happening in design. “I approached it as self-study, continuing education. Then I discovered two things: One, that playing with the software was fun, straight up. I was learning and got to be in a complete creative space. And two, that I could instantly create comps that would have taken hours with Photoshop.”

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Dolan’s Project Felix explorations

He appreciates the automation in Felix. “Light interacts with the material you’ve applied to your object, so you don’t have to manage that, and perspective is naturally created in the scene,” he says. “If you’re not working in Felix, you have to really consider and create and tweak the perspective yourself.”

So how did he get started with learning Felix? First he did some research into 3D concepts, which were new to him. “But overall,” he says, “just having an understanding of design helps when you’re learning another discipline. It would have been overwhelming to try to jump into Cinema4D to learn full-on professional modeling software, so Felix was a great entry point. It helped me form the right questions and stay ahead of the curve.”

Dolan is already using Felix in his work for clients. For example, he’s created lifestyle images in which he’s placed a mobile phone model from Felix into the scene:

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“What’s great about Felix is that I can orient and light the phone the way I want and place it right where I need it,” he says. “Then I can bring the comp into Photoshop and add an app screen to the phone.”

He encourages other designers to give Felix a try. “You don’t need to sit through four hours of Lynda.com or Skillshare—if you have 15 to 30 minutes, you can jump in and start making mistakes. You’ll learn by trial and error—and it won’t feel like a chore.”

Attend Michael Dolan’s HOW Design Live session, What 3D Means to How You Design 10 Months and 10 Years from Now, on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 1:00 pm.


An online design workshop from HOW Design University:

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