Don’t be afraid to try new things and branch out, especially while you’re young, and fail often and fail fast.
Assistant Director of Graphic Design
University of Pittsburgh
The interview with Justin Pondexter was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the Assistant Director of Graphic Design for Pitt Athletics. What does a typical day look like for you?
In my role as Assistant Director of Graphic Design, I handle graphic requests that come in from others in our department and fulfill those needs, as well as help the Director develop strategies to better our content/output. I’m in a little bit of a hybrid role where I don’t just handle graphic design but assist with photo and video needs as well.
A typical day for me is coming into the office, checking our work board, working on those projects, a few meetings here and there, and while working, intermittently having casual conversations with my supervisor about how we can continue to develop our department, as well as strategize about new cutting edge content we think could really help further the Pitt brand.
Walk us through your creative process from ideation to creation to publication. Does this process differ depending on the type of graphic/video?
When it comes to my creative process, I’m a little unorthodox. For design projects, I stare at the blank canvas for a few minutes, do a quick thumbnail sketch of what I think I want, and just start to drop in a bunch of elements I think I will use within the project.
Once the elements are in there, I try putting them together in a variety of different ways until I like what I see. Essentially, I keep throwing stuff at the canvas until something sticks, then I fine-tune the design from there.
Once I get it to a point in which I think I’m liking it, I’ll probably pace a little bit to get my eyes off of it for a second, look at it again to see if I like it, then ask someone’s opinion on the piece. I really love collaboration and like to hear what a person/select group of people think about a piece before it hits the airways.
With video, I take an entirely different approach. It really depends on the project. If it’s a long-form piece in which I have time to really put some serious thought into it, I’ll usually storyboard the project out with notes on how I’m thinking about shooting/editing it. From there I’ll get to work viewing the clips I have and weeding out the clips I know I might not use and put them into a separate folder within the project, just in case I might need them later.
Once I finish the piece, very similar to how I do my graphics, I try to get feedback from the person I’m doing the video for and maybe another person or two, before showing it to the client. Then it gets sent on its way once it’s in a good place and I’m happy with it.
How do find the right balance between incorporating your creativity and ideas into your work, while fulfilling Pitt Athletics’ vision and following their guidelines?
We have a ton of creative freedom, so I never really feel limited in what I can do with our brand colors, marks, etc. When thinking about a project, I keep in mind the things I know I can’t change and start from there. After that, I just have fun with it! I like the challenge of trying out new things within a few boundaries. I believe this is what helps make you a better content creator.
During your tenure with Clemson University, how different was creating media for the multiple ACC Championships and National Championships Clemson would attend vs. the regular season?
It wasn’t too much different. We handled every game as if it were an ACC or National Championship. If you stay ready, you never have to get ready.
While working in Graphic Design, how have you been able to manage the stress of meeting deadlines and what are some tips you have for young sports industry professionals?
I have my deadlines on a job board that manages all of our projects. My supervisor and I have alerts turned on, so we get multiple email notifications and mobile notifications that let us know when deadlines are approaching.
If I had to give a young sports industry professional some advice, I would say stay organized, don’t be afraid to try new things and branch out, especially while you’re young, and fail often and fail fast. This was a phrase one of my mentors told me a long time ago and it stuck with me. It doesn’t mean be bad at what you do but work quickly so you can get to use the peak of your knowledge (fail), learn from it and bounce back (overcome).
Let’s shine some light on your portfolio! Which piece of content/graphic are you most proud of and why?
My favorite piece to date will have to be the in-game motion graphic pack I made for both Pitt Softball & Baseball. It was one of the first big projects I had to opportunity to work on after coming on board. I really love this piece because it is one of the most intricate projects I’ve made to date.
It took me some time to build this whole scene out using both Photoshop and After Effects, and I was really looking to challenge myself by using a lot of different elements and effects I don’t usually use. It was pretty well received by the whole department as well as by our fan base.
Hayley's Final Thoughts
Fail often and fail fast: a piece of advice Justin had received that stuck out to him. Now, he gives that piece of advice to young sports professionals. Justin’s work is amazing but, it took challenging himself to get to where he is in his content creation today. With the creative freedom Pitt Athletics gives its employees, Justin is able to produce new, fresh and innovative content. After taking a look at Justin’s portfolio, it was easy to see how passionate he is about graphic design. Despite working for Clemson University and now the University of Pittsburgh, he still finds time to make passion projects on the side. While we’re not sure how collegiate athletics will commence in the future, we know Justin will find a way to continue creating engaging content for the student body!