Paul Snyder Exclusive Interview

How would you describe where you are in life right now and how does that affect what you create?

Out of college, I spent 10 years in youth ministry before shifting to the creative side of ministry. I had no schooling in design. I didn’t know what made something good or bad or showy or gaudy. I just spent countless hours at Barnes and Noble, with a laptop and tutorial magazines, teaching myself the Adobe Suite. I put sample projects together and then worked to find a church to take a chance on me. From there, I found other designers working in the church that I could learn from and get honest critique from. Those interactions are what truly helped me develop as an artist. Once I felt I had more tools and skills at my disposal I left the church that gave me my first chance and went to one that I felt would continue to stretch me. From there I made the hard decision to leave ministry as a weekly job and follow my passion of TV and movies and went to the Travel Channel and immersed myself into learning all new skills and strategies. I put myself into the same room as people that were way more talented than me and that would push me further than I’d ever been pushed before. I had a great Art Director and Creative Director that I got to learn from. It was a natural conclusion that at some point they would send me out to be an Art Director myself. To pour into younger designers. It’s also given me a different lens to look at others through. To see the passion in someone that might not have gone the traditional route. I sure didn’t go that route. I never could have imagined that God would move me from youth pastor to designer to Art Director.

Describe how you find inspiration.

For me, I have to be very careful when finding inspiration. I know my weaknesses and insecurities so I have to make sure I don’t cross the line between inspiration and comparison. It’s easy for me to start looking at others’ work and then walking away discouraged because I can’t draw/sketch/illustrate or make abstract art like (fill in the name of a designer here). It ends up an exercise in appreciating the differences in other artists, while also appreciating the gifts and talents that I have and that they all manifest differently.

In my day job, I will spend a lot of time on the IMP Awards website, looking at movie and TV posters, looking for styles or layouts that I think would work for the project at hand. I also use Pinterest as often as I can to put together mood boards of color palettes or textures or inspiring images.

Most frustrating parts of creative church ministry.

Pastors were always the most frustrating part of ministry for me. There are many great pastors that have a good partnership between their vision and the communications team. But in general, good design is new to the church world and many pastors don’t know how to incorporate that. So there’s a lot of wasted energy where the design team is trying to implement a sermon series where they have few details. Or the pastor doesn’t really understand why design is important but no one on the design team can articulate it in a way that everyone feels like it’s a team effort. I think the process will get better and one that we can all learn from one another.

One thing you wish everyone knew about working in the creative ministry field.

I think my biggest mistake when I entered ministry on the creative side, is that I approached it the same way I did youth ministry. In youth ministry, there was pressure to create these over the top events that would grab students’ attention and generate buzz. I took that into my early designs and felt that they had to be cool or “wow” just for the sake of being cool. I neglected the fact that designs can be simple and didn’t have to hit you over the head with how awesome they were. They were simply tools to the message. They were never meant to be the message itself. Sometimes I’ll see designs coming out of churches and my gut reaction is “that’s completely unnecessary.” Seeing people use effects for the sake of using effects. It’s okay not to do that

Describe your work/life balance. 

Most people don’t know this, but I’m also an NFL QB. Usually from the hour of 6-7pm when I’m playing football with my 6-yr old. Having two boys demands a good work/life balance. I’ve actually found myself with more balance and boundaries now that I’ve left ministry. I was easy picking for letting someone else’s emergency become my emergency. And that was very detrimental to me and my family. Now I don’t get texts or phone calls on my days off. And I’ve found a good balance between downtime, family time, and freelance. I usually won’t do freelance for the sake of freelance. The little extra income isn’t worth the cost of missing out on watching my boys grow up.

One creative tool you cannot live without. Why?

I do a lot of masking and isolating objects and people. I can’t do that without my Wacom tablet and pen. I know people that are pretty good with just a mouse, but I need to feel the complete control and freedom a pen gives me.  I also feel pretty helpless without headphones. Music helps get me into the zone of creativity and I use different styles of music to help pull out the emotion I’m aiming for in a project. Or it helps pass the time when I’m staring down hours of tedious masking work.

Tell us the behind the scenes of the projects that come to life.

I love when the process allows enough time to progress from brainstorm to sketch to final. A lot of times that is not the case, but I think some of my best work came from that progression. When I worked on some key art for Travel Channel’s series, “Mysteries at the Museum,” one of the ideas that was batted around was to have the host posed outside this massive vault of treasure. When you have a room of creatives talking about that, every one of them has a different picture in their head based on that simple description. So going through the sketch phase before we jumped into Photoshop allowed everyone to get on the same page and offer suggestions or critique before we went further. The end product ended up being better than if we had just jumped straight into Photoshop and started throwing things together.

Paul Snyder

Art Director for the INSP Network

Paul is a graphic designer with more than 10 years of experience developing strategic, beautiful, and aligned concepts for non-profit and entertainment organizations.

“I love a great story. It doesn’t matter whether I read it in a book, hear it at Starbucks, or watch it unfold in front of me on a screen. Stories have power. The power to connect. The power to evoke emotion. The power to change people.

As a designer, I have the best job in the world because I get to use my creativity, eye for detail, and imagination to tell the absolute best story possible. Yours.”