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Meet Timothy Williams of Open Road Design Group in Burbank

Today we’d like to introduce you to Timothy Williams.

Timothy, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I grew up a military brat. Born in California, my family soon moved to England where we spent over a decade. From there, we landed in the American south, back to California and then finally to Las Vegas, where I went to high school and university. I wanted to be an oil painter but I was lucky enough to meet my first mentor in my first semester at school. He very kindly pushed me towards design. He didn’t want me to struggle the way he did financially and after opening my eyes to how I was already thinking like a designer encouraged me to immediately start taking design courses. The summer following my freshman year, I started designing at a surf company. The job didn’t pay well but I got a crash course in how to translate what I was learning as a fine artist into something that worked graphically and fit within a brand.

As graduation came into view, the recession did as well. I was nervous about the high salary casino design jobs disappearing and I ended up back in the south. Working in first Louisiana, being lucky enough to meet my wife and then us both moving to Texas. I realized working in a smaller market meant I could labor on my craft without having the pressure of making it in Los Angeles. LA was always going to be my final destination and, with the number of studios in LA, finding work when I finally landed here in 2011 was easier than it ever was in Dallas. I had a few years of experience under my belt doing everything from designing stuffed animals to shooting commercials for MMA fighters. My skills were embarrassing but I had at least built a foundation in the previous few years working on some of the most humbling projects anyone can imagine.

I worked at a dozen or so studios over the next few years but more importantly, I met an old school animator who told me that I should focus on design. He said that working for a creative director that likes you and your work makes your life significantly better. I listened. I found studios with directors I got along with creatively. I tried to figure out what they liked and how they thought. As I grew as a designer and animator, I would find new directors and try to become a part of their team. I worked my ass off to be someone who could help on a project from pitch to delivery. I wanted to have a creative voice and wanted our ideas, no matter how small, to make it into the final piece.

I was never the best designer, animator or compositor. Wasn’t the most technical 3D artist or the most proficient writer. But I was determined to work more than anyone. I took night jobs, weekend work, jobs out of the country. My wife wasn’t always appreciative of how much time I was spending working, but I knew I had to reach my 10,000 hours and I wasn’t going to patiently wait around. I jumped on every opportunity to take a leadership role on a project. I grinded from junior to mid to senior to art director. I didn’t care about the title or the pay, I wanted the experience.

I wanted to fail so I could learn.

I wanted to learn the business side of what we did, I wanted to use my personality to charm clients, I wanted to get better as a designer, not just because the work needs to look good, but because clients hire us to solve a problem for them. And I wanted to be a problem solver. After almost a decade of freelancing in Los Angeles, I left my permalance gig at Imaginary Forces. It was one of favorite places to work because two of my mentors, who taught me the most, directed there and I felt like I could learned under them for decades. I left to build my own design team at Open Road.

Rebuilding the team was not the original idea but after noticing a litany of issues within the design department the owners supported the idea. Luckily my team already had one fantastic Design Director and it was time to put both of us in a position to execute the kind of work we knew Open Road was always capable of doing. For more than a year now, that has been my journey.

I believe the best creative directors surround themselves with people who are more talented than themselves. And we continue to aim for that at Open Road. I strive to nurture the talent within our Design Group and build a team of highly skilled motion designers who can become leaders, directors and creatives that then go on to build their own teams.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
While I do feel lucky to do what we do everyday there have definitely been struggles. The design world, and Entertainment Marketing specifically, comes with unrealistic deadlines and unrealistic expectations. As we all push into leadership roles part of our job is trying to circumvent those very obstacles. How can me and my team operate at the highest creative level while simultaneously working within these constraints. Part of the fun is the challenge, we are problem solvers. We try to construct a team, either per project or as a studio, that is equipped to handle whatever is thrown our way. A big part of that solution are producers. I happen to work side by side with one of the best to do it, Asheley Hu Roe, and from kicking in doors to charming those behind them, people like her make my job easier everyday. The other big struggle has to be work/life balance. Being a part of a strong team and building the right relationships with clients can help a lot but the onus is on myself and other directors to make sure our team is able to kill themselves at the right time for the cause, and when it’s not required make sure they aren’t wasting their time at work.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I work in motion graphics. Specifically as the Creative Director overseeing the Design and Branding Department at Open Road. Open Road was traditionally a trailer house, making amazing trailers for film and television but they have broadened their portfolio to include a lot of design-centric work that my team pitches on, wins and executes. What I believe makes us special are our team and our design-focused approach developing full-length campaigns for clients. We always try to look long term. We work closely with the writers at Open Road to craft concepts free of execution. We find an idea that helps tell the client story and then we decide if it should be live action, 3D, 2d or footage driven editorial. Our collaborative nature means that we don’t care if it’s our department that is put on production. But if it is we have the team or can construct one that can execute almost any concept. Oh and we are fabulously creative.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I believe luck has played an unusually high role in shaping my life. I have mentioned mentors before but even landing at studios like Blur and Roger when I did introduce me to people or techniques that I needed to know to take the next step. A chance meeting at Stun Creative 3-4 years ago led me to working with the person who would help me get the job at Open Road. Luck is fantastic. But what’s more important has been the awareness to realize when opportunity is staring you in the face and actually taking action to make sure it leads somewhere.

I was also lucky to meet my Tara, my Akira and my Zoey.

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Image Credit:
Jocelyn James IG: joce.james

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