Interview: Carmine Guida

When I asked Carmine if I could interview him he seemed surprised because he's not a visual designer. But he is visionary. An accomplished musician, gifted programmer and an entrepreneur. His organizational skills are second to none, he is a natural leader, a teacher and inclusive collaborator. Where you find Carmine you'll find people pushing themselves and having fun.

Do you still practice? If so, what do your practice sessions look like?
With programming. I’m always programming. I program every day. I don’t know if “practice” is the word. But there is a lot of trying out an idea / quickly prototyping, and then deleting it.

With music practice. This is more about “keeping my chops up” making sure my skills/speed/tricks are where they should be. I don’t practice music too often really because I play out and teach every week.

Where do you find inspiration?
I get very inspired by other artists. Being in NYC, there is always someone “better” than you around. You can see so many talented people here. It also doesn’t even need to be in the same discipline as me. I could see an amazing painter and that might inspire me to hone my craft of music more.

Where are you when you have the most a-ha moments?
I’ve had most of my breakthroughs while in the shower. Something about being isolated, no Internet/phone/other people/etc. I also think the white noise of the water helps relax you and gives your mind a chance to do it’s thing.

What do you do to maintain a creative flow?
I think it’s like any other muscle. If you stop using it, it’ll go weak. If you use it a lot, the flow will keep coming.

How much do you rely on feedback from other to help shape your ideas?
Really not too much or too often. I think the more emotionally vested in something, the less I listen to others. I’m always open to more mechanical advice (try this camera, software, etc.) but for the core idea, I usually listen to myself.

What is the greatest obstacle to creativity?
Not knowing how to say no to people.

When you complete a project, how often does it resemble your initial concept or conceived idea? How important is this for you?
I’m not a perfectionist. With my latest game, I really learned that you need to: “Take half of your planned features, and get rid of them… then take the half that’s left, and get rid of half of those too”. It’s good to dream big. But I think a lot of projects fail because they are just too lofty. I’m very good at cutting my losses (so I guess I’m ok with it not being the same as initial concept).

How do you know when you’re done?
To me, music projects usually have a beginning and end. I want to make a 10 song album… I consider it done when I can tell someone to go to the itunes store and see it there.

How do you resolve creative differences with clients or creative partners?
I’ve learned that you really need to pick your battles. Sometimes you have to let go of a detail here and there, but you need to have a good relationship with the people you are working with to say, “This is important to me, I’d like to have this”. I’ve learned to really let go of some things. I think in the end it all works out.

What keeps you motivated even if you don’t connect personally with the project?
This happens with some of the website projects I do. Usually I try to work on a piece that I’m in the mood to work on that day. So if I feel like photoshopping that day, I do that. If I feel like programming that day I do that. I just think I’m more effective that way.

What do you do when you are stuck and have some sort of deadline or other pressure?
I never bullshit people with projects. So if I’m really stuck. I talk to people. I tell them I can’t make the deadline. People are people and they (usually) understand.

How do you achieve your creative vision with a limited budget?
I try to be realistic about project scope and what I can do based on my resources available BEFORE I start a project. (not sure if that answered the question).

What are the top 3 tools in your creative tool kit? ie. software, pencil, paper, journal etc.
I fucking love graph paper and I have a 4 color pen (black, blue, red, green). I do most of my planning this way. I also use a couple of online tools (google docs/trello) to just dump ideas and random stuff.

What are the top 3 creative habits that have proven to be the most useful for you in your career?
Write first and edit later. Cut down on distractions (tv, facebook, etc.). Learn to say No.

If you could offer a single piece of advice to a budding professional, what would it be?
Work on your own personal projects all the time, this way you have a portfolio ready if your dream job comes up. I never understood why an unemployed person looking to get hired by me didn’t use their time to build at least a personal website/portfolio of some kind. (especially when I was looking for website designers).