An Interview With JP Enterprises Creative: Mitch Rhine

After working with people for any number of years, you think you know them. Then you interview them about their passions, and you realize they’re even more awesome than you thought. You see a new person come to life. This has been my experience so far with this. 

This month, I talk to the last (but certainly not least!) of JP Enterprises’ Creative Directors, Mitch Rhine. Believe it or not, he has something to say about those design-related brain chips, too.

How did you get started in the design field?

Mitch Rhine: When I was in high school, I wanted to be an electrical engineer. I took all of the classes that I needed to in order to pursue that endeavor when I graduated. But after thinking about it for a while, I said to myself, “Do you really want to spend the rest of your life doing that?” (All of that math gave me such a huge headache.) I really thought about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I had always enjoyed art class and being creative, so I got a degree in Visual Communications. And after 25 years of being in the business, I still enjoy what I do everyday and look forward to all of the challenges ahead.

“And after 25 years of being in the business, I still enjoy what I do everyday and look forward to all of the challenges ahead.”

What was your biggest challenge at the time?

MR: Just trying to land my first job was my biggest challenge. After graduation, a well-known greeting card company was interested in my illustration work. They asked me to send my portfolio to them for review. I was very scared to send out my portfolio, but also extremely excited about the opportunity. In the meantime, another company wanted to set up an interview right away. I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. So even though I didn’t have my portfolio, I booked the interview.

Right, because these were the days when hard-copy portfolios were the only option.

MR: Yes, they were. So I scrambled through all of my artwork that didn’t make the cut for my main portfolio and put together another one for the interview. I was really nervous because all that I had to show them was my secondary artwork. They must have seen something that they liked, though, because at the end of my interview they said, “When can you start?”

These days, it seems like crowdsourcing is a popular outlet when people don’t get that good news. Would you have considered it? Any opinions in general?

MR: I think that crowdsourcing has always been around, just not on the scale that it is right now. Since I’ve began my career, there has always been focus groups, contests, telemarketing, direct mail, and other ways to obtain information on design, creative ideas, products, services, and just about anything else you can imagine. I just think that the internet has expanded the opportunities for crowdsourcing on such a larger scale and more cost effectively.

Speaking of the internet — are all of the new technologies out there a blessing or a curse?

MR: Definitely a blessing!!!!

George described the more hands-on atmosphere in those days. Was it a similar scene for you?

MR: When I first started out in my career, computers were just starting to be used. So yes. “Hands-on” sums it up. Almost everything that I did was “paste-up”, which added a lot of time to the production of printed materials. Everything had to be done manually — from thumbnail sketches for designs to getting everything shot on a stat camera and then having to paste it up on art boards and call out the color specs. Computers have been a godsend. They’ve helped to speed up the whole design process and offer new options for a whole world of ideas.

It’s so interesting to hear about the evolution of the industry. It really is a whole new world. What excites you the most about the field today?

MR: I think that I’m most excited about the advancements in technology. The better technology gets, the faster the creative ideas in my head can become a reality.

If you were tasked to come up with the latest innovation for the graphic design field, what would it be?

MR: I always thought that it would be really cool to hook electrodes up to the brain, so that whatever creative idea or design I was thinking of could be processed into an image or layout on a computer screen. That would be so awesome and a huge time saver.

Understanding that this technology is not yet accessible (at least not to us!), are there ways that you try to incorporate elements of this into your day-to-day?

MR: I always have creative design ideas in my head, but in order to make them a reality I have to “manually” create them by using my hands in some way. Even sketching them with a pencil brings them to life. But that brain chip would really save time!!

In your opinion, what is the most important thing for a designer to embody?

MR: I think there are two very important things that a designer needs to have…creativity and talent. You can teach anyone how to use a computer, a pencil, a paintbrush, etc., but you can’t teach “creativity” or “talent”. That something that comes from within. Something that you are born with. If you possess these two things, you’re well on your way.

Any other advice you’d give to those young designers just starting out?

MR: Always try to keep a positive outlook in the face of any challenge. When you come across a problem, try to come up with a way to solve it. Frustration gets you nowhere.

And finally, in your opinion, what is the best part of working at JP?

MR: Everything! I’ve worked at JP for almost 19 years, pretty much from the beginning, and it’s an awesome place to work. To be a part of JP’s success, and watch it grow through the years, has been very rewarding to me. From all of the talented people at JP, to the great clients, to our fearless leader Paul — JP Enterprises is truly a special place to work!!

It’s been the greatest experience listening to George, and Mitch open up. The common thread between all 3? They all started out as kids who loved their art classes. They turned that love into successful careers. They’re all insightful, thoughtful creatures that turn ideas and possibilities into realities on a daily basis. I’ve learned so much and feel so grateful for the opportunity to share the main sources of our creativity with all of you. Thank you George and Mitch!

Indeed, creative design is at the core of JP Enterprises. But what else goes on at JP? I’m taking this series on a road trip around the office to find out. Stay tuned. Next month, we’ll visit the world of Sales.

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