Real Talk: Andy Engel

“A college writing class is an exceptional opportunity to explore your own inner voice. Maybe it is not unlike discovering an artistic style. It takes years to recognize your own voice. Usually it is right there, we are just unable to see it.”

Ever wondered how your required college composition courses will benefit you once you’re in the “real world”? Ever wondered how important reading and writing skills are to visual designers, nurses, or creative directors at ad firms? I’ve started this series, Real Talk, to give professionals in a variety of industries a chance to share why reading and writing are so critical to what they do.

Today we’re profiling Andy Engel, Grammy-winning illustrator and graphic designer responsible for some truly iconic movie posters, album covers, and DVD covers across the pop culture spectrum — from Megadeth album covers to Tinkerbell movie posters, from Scarface to The Simpsons, from Pirates of the Caribbean to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Visit his web site to see more of his amazing portfolio!

Describe your career.

I am both an Illustrator and a Graphic Designer but mostly where the two meet. The work I do is mostly for the entertainment field, music packaging, home entertainment packaging and film campaigns and titles.

As a student I was in love with Album covers, never dreaming I could break into the field. I went to New York and through some path unbeknownst to me I ended up interviewing for a job at CBS Records. The job was way above my proficiency level, but I got it. Don’t underestimate yourself, let others make that call. I learned a lot and worked for others for six years, then started my own company and have never looked back. I find that business is built on friendships and followthrough. I have been very lucky to work on the kinds of projects that I love. I have never been a conscious planner, but somehow maybe we get what we desire somehow.

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What kinds of reading and writing skills are key to your job?

I love to read. I read mostly fiction. I never feel quite complete unless I have a good book handy. Books and articles are what inform us as to what others feel and experience. I think the fact that we are left to paint those worlds with our own imagination through the act of reading, makes it a more involving and creative process than even say, film. Besides books and articles both news, general subject and trade publications, the addition of social media offers another window into the cultural consciousness. Through paying close attention to advertising and literary copy, I think I have become a pretty good copywriter, which adds to what I have to offer in fulfilling creative for my clients. It is also important to verbally support concepts I am often called upon to present. A great descriptive sentence or two go a long way in selling a still undeveloped visual.


Why are these skills so important to your work?

Working in Media and Entertainment keeping abreast of what trends and unfolding developments are taking place is crucial. “Every picture tells a story” and “Painting a picture with words” highlight the similarity between the written and the visual arts. As visual artists, especially in the marketing of film and music we are called upon to quickly and clearly tell a story about the contents of the media we are selling. Most of this is though the use of a common vocabulary of visual symbols and images that we share as a culture. The more versed we are in these “stories” the better job we can do in communicating. I find that through both reading and writing we can broaden our understanding of the human experience.

Always proof read. Some times in the act or artistic expression we can get lost in the process. I once lettered “CHIGAGO BLUES” on an album cover and left the “T” out of Chrismas. (see, you hardly notice). It can happen, so try and insure that you are double checked. We are judged by our words and our use of them in expressing ourselves. Exercise them well and often.


What advice do you have for college students, particularly students in first- and second-year writing courses?

I think within a college writing course is an exceptional opportunity to explore your own inner voice. Maybe it is not unlike discovering an artistic style. It takes years to recognize your own voice. Usually it is right there, we are just unable to see it.

We emulate others at first, learning through example, but if we go with our gut we soon emerge as something new and uniquely ourselves. So explore and enjoy without too much self criticism.



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