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Editor: Tayler O'Dea - I toss and turn, looking up at the ceiling most nights. I don't know how and why I started DACA (Digital and Computer Arts). I certainly am not qualified to produce a publication that seeks to empower, inform and give outlet to this truly magical industry. I work in construction. I have been for 14 years. But I live a lie. I am that lone coder that shimmies out to Burger King on my lunches and makes websites as a freelancer.

Our Story

Chapter 1: Inheriting the Legacy

Where I work is rural America, out East in the plains of Colorado. People don't "code" out here, and if anyone voted for Hillary, well, they might as well "head into the city" for the nonsense. On my break I open my personal Microsoft Surface Pro and code Node JS applications, design landing pages in Sketch 3 or Photoshop. I found a good pocket of quite time on the jobsites to get work done, while I wait for suppliers to arrive.

I launched my first web site in 2004. It was for Concrete Express Inc. the company I work for now. It was cutting edge at the time with an image slider and a gradient blue and green menu. The buttons lost their borders and there was a very "Mac-like" shine to it. The website took me 4 months. During this time I learned CSS, HTML and I played with Paint and Photoshop 2. I will tell you that day, when I combined all the files and transferred them to the Host Gator server and I got an error instead of my beautiful webpage, I cried. I realized 4 days later that it was simply because I labeled the index.html page as home.html. I thought to myself, wow did HTML for Dummies really leave that crucial tidbit out? The 4 months afterwards created a buzz in this office that I will never forget. Our estimator leaned back in his chair and yelled across the hall, "we got another one!". In reality, the construction industry runs on the lowest bidder method and most likely will remain that way, but it made the 22 employees in the office feel empowered. They had a presence.

Chapter 2: The Design Critic Arrives

Soon after word got out that I could make a website. I put up 10 more that year to other suppliers, DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) consultants, environmental control subcontractors and others. It was interesting that every time I launched a new site for a client they would immediately critique it. "All I really needed was a banner image and some text below it", they would say. I was stubborn though. I knew they really needed the 3D rotating text and the image carousel that would say, "Buy it Now!" every time you rolled over the image with your curser. This was 2005 I thought, branding is everything. I understand now that that wasn't branding. It was a design strategy that resembled the pushy car sales guy that yelled, we-have-the-best-car-in-town kind of statements, (I probably did his website too).

Design is touchy. Preference is touchy. During the 12 year entering this industry I lived by the moto, "People don't know what they want". However, entering in 2016, still as a freelancer, I live by another moto, "People have a very biased perception of what they want and it is up to us as designers to teach them otherwise". I also see a very dramatic shift in the specialization of our industry. When I started, web design encompassed a full spectrum of activities with a common goal of 'putting up a web site'. Today, there are distinct roles in the process that blend marketing, graphic design, programming, research specialists. I fear the day when there is a Web-Graphic-Standard and a "web-designer" would have to study 9 years to become certified much like architects.

Between the abundance of specialization, the abundance of funding unicorns that give value to these new roles and globalization we have entered a world defined on processes. Which isn't a bad thing. Most new industries evolve this way. Today, at least 5 individuals will touch the website that I release to a client. That is the minimum, many of the large agencies and tech mega-firms have well up to 200 people that physically alter a set of code. After speaking with my "freelance" network, this is generally the consensus. But as an industry, let us ask the question that most already know the answer too: Where do these 200 people work? And does it matter?

Chapter 3: Handling the Rush

In 2016, the amount of independent contractors in the United States increased another 6.5% or another million from last year’s 15.5 million, (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). The Intuit 2020 report shows that 40% of the US workforce will be made up of independent contractors. The rise of the "freelancer" is not only upon us but is beginning to show a tipping point in the digital design industry. 3D modelers, animators, graphic artists, web designers and frontend developers are not only one of the largest growing industry segments but they are also showing a particular strong hold in all types of businesses. As an industry, we now see this reflected in our pay checks. We have the power to generate unique ideas and convince others to buy them. Companies now see the power of good design and well thought out products. Designers, whether in a firm or on your own are in high demand. So, it seems our hourly rates went up this year and we circumvent under large libraries of assets, selling our unused ones in market places such as Envato, Creative Market and UI8.net for our end of the year bonuses.

We have reached a high point in design. Our clients don’t just want any website, they want that website. The one with red ribbon, the shiny animations and the pixel perfect retina displayed vector images. They want the one with parallax and added Java Script to make the flippy-do’s flip with shadow. The want illustration and photography to move people.

It seems that we truly are living in the best time to be a "designer", the best time for freelancing, the best time for releasing that-next-most-downloading-application or game, the best time for 3d, the best time for advancing hardware, the best time for animators and interactive design and the best time for creating new markets, agencies and graphical assets.

It was my deep honor to interview and connect with 18 moonshot designers that truly are the best at what they do because have taken the fearless jump into spreading their passions as far as they can go. They are entrepreneurs by trade and designers by passion and they have a sense of urgency to continue the industry's progress. I want to humbly thank each of them for allowing me to email them constantly and call them in the midst of their day to showcase how they imagine the next frontier. May our readers enter their stories with an open mind so that one can see for themselves how great of time we live in.

Today: No Code and AI days

As our studio grew, we stopped writing and sold the interview pieces for pennies on the dollar. We fell into the dark hold of client work and creating Webflow, Framer and no-code tools to fullfill the pivot from coded experiences to truely exceptional ones. From a freelancer to a studio owner, to an integration SaaS company we pushed "BrandWeld" to "Sendero" past all heights.

DCA Lives On

AI is here and the next era of Digital Computer Arts might be more creative than ever before. (Dawn are the Midjourney and Dal-E generative design & content)

Chapter 6: A New Partnership

We are looking for more partners and designer that have a story to tell. Email me at: tayler@digitalcomputerarts.com to tell that story.

The Original DCA Stories