Above the Fold: Joe MacCarthy - Concept Artist, Product Design Manager
In Above the Fold, we spotlight individual members of Coroflot's vibrant creative community. The idea is to take you behind the scenes and inside the minds of talented Coroflot members who we think are doing exceptional work. Coroflot was created by designers, for designers, and Above the Fold is the place where we can talk to creatives about work that we not only love, but think you'll love too!
Joe MacCarthy's experience in the design world spans twenty years and numerous disciplines. Professionally, Joe is a Product Design Manager at Leapfrog Toys, managing teams in the area of infant and preschool toys. While his work in product design is impressive to say the least, Joe is also a talented concept artist. His vivid artwork tends to focus on automobiles and science fiction, but an open mind and sense of humor comes across in everything he does. Whether he's working on projects for Leapfrog or creating his own art, Joe seems to approach every project with the enthusiasm of someone who has just realized they have creative talent at their fingertips. He's also been a member of Coroflot for over fifteen years, so naturally we were excited to pick his brain about his process, inspiration, and favorite projects.
Was there a specific moment in life where you realized you wanted to pursue a creative path?
I started my freshman year at the University of Minnesota with no real direction of what I should major in so I enrolled in general classes. During a break after my freshman year my mom pointed out that I was really good at art and going into art education could be a good path for me moving forward. Reflecting back, art was something that I really did enjoy but I never really looked at it as a career or recognized how much I loved it. I then looked back and remembered being in grade school when I would finish my art projects before the other students and then I would help the other students one at a time. I also remembered my passion to take things apart to see how they worked. In junior high I was one of the few kids in my drafting classes that wanted to be there. In high school I built balsa wood airplanes, wooden tunnel hull RC race boats with 3.5cc nitro outboard engines. In the winters I would also do snow sculpting. One of my favorite sculptures was a 1:1 scale VW Bug convertible. Why didn't I see this passion for design? I was glad my Mom saw it and directed me to channel this energy. I went from art education to graphic design to industrial design.
Who are your design heroes?
I have a lot of heroes that are in various fields of design. Feng Zhu, Daniel Simon, Scott Robertson, Glenn Barr, Jamie Hewlett, Brandon Liao, Stanley Lau, and Marek Okon are a few that are at the top of my mind.
Can you share some details about your most recent project?
Lately I have been focusing mainly on toy and platform designs for Leapfrog here in Emeryville, CA. Outside of work I am currently learning MODO and I am planning to do a line of sci-fi helmets that will be fabricated for a gallery show here in Oakland, CA.
Are you currently working on any projects?
When I find time I love contributing to a little group called Sketchwars on Facebook. Every week the theme changes and we kick out little sparks of ideas against the current weekly theme. The group forces us to play in areas that we normally do not design against. Join on in if you are interested!
Walk us through some of your process for creating.
For my personal concept art I do a lot of quick mash-ups. I love taking popular themes and combining them on the fly. I usually dive in with some general research in each area and then jump right into PSD to get cookin'. The ideas for my art come from myself, my kids, or are inspired by my photography. The process for my art is usually the following: quick sketch > digital painting > overlay graphics in PSD > final touches in Picsplay app.
What is your favorite project that you've completed (professional or personal) and why?
I got a call a little while back from an executive at the FOX Network who works with the NFL and the MLB. He spearheaded the idea of doing the big robot called "Cleatus" for the NFL. As a follow-up he wanted to do a line of 15-foot robots for the MLB. He saw my work on Coroflot and on my site and contacted me directly to assist. After a few calls with him we kicked it off and I had a BLAST! I worked out four characters and the designs were eventually approved. We then worked though storyboards and orthographic drawings of the characters.
The project did not get the green light but he eventually gave me permission to share the project, which was priceless. Unfortunately for me, the timing of the project was terrible. I got the gig at the same time my daughter went into the hospital for appendicitis. I did not want to pass on the project so I spent countless hours sketching at her bedside at the hospital to make it happen combined with giving up a majority of my Christmas break. Don't give up on the good stuff!
Why was this one of my favorite projects? Because I got to get paid TO DESIGN 15 FOOT ROBOTS FOR THE MLB!
What tools (physical or digital) do you find yourself using repeatedly?
Photoshop, Procreate, Picsplay, and now MODO! At work I use Pro-e for my 3D work. It really helps me have a better conversation with my Mechanical Engineers.
Is there any work out there that you've come across recently that you've really loved?
I am really digging the new work by Daniel Simon. He is kicking out some radical driverless cars that take the cake.
Do you have a ritual for getting in work/design mode (music you listen to, certain exercise, food you eat) aka a productivity tip?
Pax is a great tool to use before brainstorming. Music that really gets me into the sketching mood is Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, Ben Howard, The xx, The National, and Boys Noize to name a few.
Outside of you professional life, do you have any other creative outlets or hobbies?
I love building stuff. Two years ago I built a replica Pee Wee Herman X1 bike. It took a lot of research, money and time but it was well worth it. I ride it around Lake Merritt by where I live on Saturday afternoons. Sometimes I also wear the suit. I am also really into fitness since I sit on my butt most of the day sketching and designing. Get that blood pumping! Another advantage of the cardio is that it also is a catalyst for coming up with some great ideas!
If you're stuck on a desert island and can only bring three (design) tools, what are they?
My iPad Pro, a solar panel, and a charging wire.
Do you have any tips for getting the most out of your Coroflot portfolio?
Don't rely on professional work for new projects that you post. Tap into personal projects that you are passionate about, create them and post them. You never know what might happen. I play in other areas than my FT job for fun and I have had quite a few companies calling on me to help them out or interview with them for a job. Always be the student.
Want to see more of Joe's work? Check out his Coroflot portfolio! You can also find him on Instagram!