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Meet Playa Del Rey Digital Designer: Jesse Thoman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jesse Thoman.

Jesse, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
It all started with creating my own characters. When I was a kid, I would write outlines phonetically and give them to my parents to read out loud. I would even draw out little ads on scraps of paper and ask my mom if she would buy that nail polish. It’s been a consistent outlet for my creativity. People on the streets? Subject to my imagination. Celebrities I liked and tv show characters? Totally up for re-creation in both written and visual forms. Luckily I have parents that don’t ever want to see that creativity die, so I kept at it throughout school while we lived in Beaverton, Oregon. But there had to be more. I didn’t want to go to college with the same people I graduated high school with. I wanted to travel. So I chose a school on the east coast and applied. ––No really, it was ONE school. Was it reckless abandon, hard work, or sheer dumb luck? I’ll let you decide. Regardless, it felt like destiny. And Rochester Institute of Technology was actually responsible for sending me towards a career in design. They put me in New Media Design instead of Illustration, and that couldn’t have been more perfect. Now I can translate my love of stories and people into beautiful, useful pieces that help create real experiences. After four years in New York, I got word about an internship in San Francisco … and was there within two weeks. It was cold, walkable, and taught me a lot about independence. These days, however, I reside in sunny southern California … and think 60 degrees is sweater weather. I love it.

To be honest, at first, I wasn’t really sure that design was the right path. I have always had a strong pull towards film and entertainment. The way so many people and moving parts are able to come together to create well-rounded stories in such a complete visual story is mind-blowing. It’s the reason I knew that I had to work in LA at some point. But the hustle isn’t over for me. I work hard at my job, and I learn more about what people like aesthetically to work into whatever I’m designing. Taking what I learn there, I carry it home as inspiration for personal projects. At the moment that means writing my first fantasy novel. My story is far from over, but this is where it starts, and this is where I plan on bringing joy and ease to as many people as I possibly can through my art.

Has it been a smooth road?
It most certainly has NOT been a smooth road. Anything but. I’ve always been a “big picture” thinker. I see a direction that I’m going, but maybe not all of the steps I need to take to get there. So when opportunities arise, and the road is bumpy and terrifying … my gut reaction is to just jump. Leap into the unknown and deal with the repercussions afterward. I’ve had to drop my life several times to pick up and move to a new city. My parents moved us from Redondo Beach when I was only 10, and then I left to go to upstate New York, and then San Francisco all on my own. I’ve dealt with questioning my path, being lost as to how to get to where I wanted to go … and driving. Oh man. I learned to drive in Oregon, and then didn’t really have to drive again until I moved back to LA. It has been a big adjustment that’s probably been incredibly comical to friends and family. And oddly enough, although I am a huge people person … I find that I’ve had to go through a lot of this journey alone. Sure I have the support of my parents, digitally anyway. I even did a quick study abroad in Paris by myself. Didn’t know anyone beforehand except for the professor taking us. I went to a meeting and the next thing I knew, I was on a flight across the pond. But I have high hopes for my future. And I know I’m going to get there.

What’s your outlook for the industry over the next 5-10 years?
Design is a rapidly evolving field, that is needed in and around almost every other career field out there. If you have a website … you need a designer. I see my industry helping evolve and enhance things in our daily lives that we previously thought would be untouched. Car dashboards, for example. Google is creating the automated car, Apple has Car Play. I’m still hoping that someone will redesign the student loan dashboard experience. How in debt am I really? All jokes aside, I don’t think design has any limitations. We could be creating ads for VR one day, automated car dashboard experiences the next, and fully integrated smart home interfaces by year 10.

Has there been a particular challenge that you’ve faced over the years?
My biggest challenge over the years is getting out of my own way, and allowing myself to be creative and productive for personal projects. I can get anything done on a deadline … but when it comes to designing for myself? ––It all of a sudden becomes 10x more difficult. I’m getting better at it, though, and soon I hope to conquer this challenge for good.

What would you tell someone who is just starting out?
Always evolve.

Discover your strengths.

Be kind to yourself.

Those are the three biggest, broadest tips that I could ever give to someone. Exploring who you are as a person and accepting the fact that you WILL and SHOULD change is extremely important. Take the time to get to know yourself and what you want out of life … you have to live with yourself for a very, very long time. You may as well enjoy it, right? And in that self-discovery, I challenge you not to point out what is wrong or what you need to work on … but what you do really well. Because in the “real world” no one will care what you need to work on. A lot of that comes with experience. Employers, and people in general want to know what sets you apart. What are your best attributes? And don’t ever be ashamed of those things … or feel like you should downplay them for the sake of others’ opinions. That all plays into being kind to yourself. Get your sleep, eat good food, and put your best self forward. I believe that for anyone starting out in any field … knowing yourself is step one.

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