On Fighting Past Failure
Kevin Karp, Associate Creative Director/Art Director at DiMassimo Goldstein
“Alright, what do you want to do?”
I’d spent the last nine months trying to answer the question for myself. Now, the creative director at DiMassimo Goldstein was asking me the same, while clicking through my website half-heartedly. Considering the lack of advertising in my book, it was a fair question.
In the months after my start-up company crumbled, I’d lost a lot: confidence, purpose, direction, and most of the progress I’d made as a self-supporting, high-functioning adult. I hadn’t touched my design portfolio since the first term of the George W. administration, and the only reason I had a meeting with him at all was because he owed a favor to a recruiter. And he was desperate.
I came on board for $10 an hour, a wage I’m told Burger King cashiers no longer view as fair. I didn’t care. Try sitting on a couch everyday for nine months, getting ignored by craigslist job postings. You’ll willingly amputate your left foot just to throw it through the door.
My first assignment was to animate a rotating globe in a flash banner. I spent two days researching code that went over my head in an attempt to pull something together. On the third day I grew a tail, tucked it between my legs and acknowledged defeat. The next couple assignments didn’t go much better. Those first days at DiGo were just carefully smothered excitement mixed with gut-churning anxiety.
On the third week, the creative director approached me with another impossible task. “Hey man, we ran out of time and money with this web designer. He works at the largest agency in the world cranking out visually brilliant web designs all day. Do you think you could pick up where he left off and do something better? For tomorrow?” It was 6 pm.
I went home that night, said hello to my girlfriend, sat down on the couch, and pulled out my laptop. I’m not sure I ever ate dinner. Some time around 12 she asked when I was coming to bed. Sometime around 2, she asked if this was “really that important.” I didn’t appreciate the questions.
“Don’t you understand that I am failing? I am failing every day. I am scared every day. I have not done a single thing right yet, and I just need to hear someone say, ‘good job’.”
In the years since that night, I’ve won pitches, awards, promotions, and a reality TV competition… none of it carries the emotional resonance like the first “good job” I got that morning.
You see, this is what makes DiMassimo Goldstein special. They’re not the most creative (yet) or celebrated (yet) small shop in the business. But they’re willing to take a chance on a scrappy, passionate guy with a pinch of potential, throw him in the deep end of the pool, and show some patience as he figures out how to swim. Their motto — courage, love, and understanding—is aptly chosen. It’s about creating the right environment to nurture growth. They certainly got it out of me. But that’s not such a surprise. It’s a scrappy, passionate place with a lot of potential.