Instructor Spotlight: Blake Monson

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Here at Laurus College, we like to spotlight some of our amazing instructors. All our classes are presented in real-time meaning you’ll be interacting live with your instructor. Get to know Blake Monson, a Web Design Instructor with twenty+ years of experience in interactive development and graphic design. He specializes in developing computer-based training and social media applications with a strong foundation in visual communication and design.

skull with gear animation

How did you get into web design?

I have not always worked with computers; I started my career as a photographer, and I was doing quite well. My photos have been published in the Los Angeles Times, The LA Weekly, Mix Magazine and a host of other trade publications and catalogs. In the mid‘ 90s I saw that everything in photography was moving to digital, so I enrolled in the Visual Communication and Graphic Design Certificate program at UCSB, through their extension, mostly to learn Photoshop.

Example portfolio items from Blake Monson
Portfolio Pieces from VAFB’s Launch Operations and Support Contract

After graduation, I landed a great position with a defense contractor building computer-based training. They were looking for someone that knew computers but with a background in art. The man who hired me said he had a team of programmers that could build anything, but they needed somebody who could make their products look good. During that time, I had an opportunity to build computer-based training for various airborne smart-weapon platforms. I can say, working with Naval Aviation Test Pilots was one of the highlights of my career. I became head of their graphics dept. and the webmaster, for a time, on VAFBs Launch Operations and Support Contract (LO&SC) and continued making computer-based training for the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC). During that time, I completed coursework for my Bachelor of Arts in Art from CSU Channel Islands.

Shining Stars

Screenshot of the World of Shining Stars Website
Screenshot of the World of Shining Stars Website from 2009

After working as a contractor for a number of years I took a position with  a company, InterFuel, that had recently signed on to a project called ShiningStars. ShiningStars was a Flash based online environment that was the brain-child of the ad agency A.G.E. and partnered the International Star Registry with Russ Berrie, the teddy bear magnet. It was built so that kids would purchase a plush toy that came with a code and let you name a star after your plush toy. It also had games you could play online with other kids in the ‘Starcade’. Later on we gave it a social media component that would allow the users to create avatars, build friends lists and use ‘safe chat’. During that time, I also created an environmentally conscious game for Ben and Jerry’s website, and worked on projects for Comedy Central and Sesame Street.

IdeaWork

After InterFuel I worked as a flash developer for a company named IdeaWork and did websites and online promotions for several hotel chains such as Bally’s, Barona, Harrahs, Hooters Hotel, and The Hard Rock Hotel. The stand-out project from that period in my life was my work on a website for Hard Rock’s Sunday Pool Party, Rehab. I also built websites for projects such as

  • Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity
  • Ditta von Teese
  • Melanie Brown (Sporty Spice),
  • Thunder from Down Under

Rocket XL

Logo from Oprah's No Phone Zone Pledge in 2010
Logo from Oprah’s No Phone Zone Pledge in 2010

After IdeaWork I worked as a senior programmer for a social media agency named Rocket XL. I built widgets for companies to add to their client’s websites. We created Oprah’s “No-Phone-Zone” widget which was featured on the Oprah television show. Amazingly, she received over 400,000 pledges from people to not to use their cellphone while driving. I also built sites for

  • Jarritos
  • The video game King of Fighters
  • The movie 9 from Focus Features
  • The National Hockey League
  • BlueFly
  • Cadbury
  • Jamba Juice
  • …and many others.

USC

In 2009 & 2010 I had the opportunity to teach multimedia using Flash® at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering as an adjunct professor. Working full time at the agency and teaching at night plus the downtown commute was a bit much for me, so I left there, but with some great teaching experience

An End to Flash®

In 2010 Steve Jobs penned an open letter called “Thoughts on Flash” which outlined reasons why the technology would not be allowed on iOS operating systems. That letter started the eventual end to Adobe Flash and forced those of us working with that great program to reinvent our careers. In 2017 Adobe announced they would be discontinuing Flash and as of January 12, 2021 Fortunately, we have a rebranded Flash in Adobe’s Animate®. The .swf files are gone, but we can output to several different formats including HTML5 Canvas and Native Air for Android and iOS too. Adobe continues to pack Animate with cool new features and it is still a premiere animation platform worth knowing.

Dine LA campaign ads
Dine L.A. ads from Clear Channel

Even though Flash was starting to wane, I still found work creating banner ads, websites, and other online projects. After Rocket XL I took a job as a graphic designer and web developer at Clear Channel which is now iHeartMedia. We maintained eight local radio station websites for the LA market and created advertising campaign banners and other promotions for several different companies.

  • American Idol
  • The Dodgers
  • Kat Von D
  • McDonald’s
  • Princess Cruises
  • Six Flags
  • Toyota
  • Verizon
  • …and dozens more

What do you like about teaching?

In 2015 I switched careers to teaching at Laurus College. It’s very rewarding to help people. I love helping my students to get an education that will improve their lives. I really go out of my way to help students succeed; even meeting off hours if needs be. I get a lot of gratification from feedback I receive from my students, and I see how much they appreciate my commitment to their success. We have students of all ages and walks of life, and it is so inspiring to see their skills progress while in our dept.

What kind of skills are important for web design?

People who do the best in web design are those that are problem solvers. People who like to do puzzles. So much of this field involves working with things you don’t initially know how to do. You’re required to figure out issues that maybe no one has ever done before. There’s no step-by-step solution to advertising and programming. It requires a lot of thought and ingenuity. It requires the ability to stick to a problem and figure out a solution no matter what.

Hyundai ad examples
Hyundai banner ads from Clear Channel

What advice would you give your students?

One tidbit of advice I always give students is to connect with Career Services. We have a phenomenal career services department here at Laurus College that will do mock interviews, resume building, job finding assistance, and other things. To get that kind of help elsewhere can cost thousands of dollars, but are provided as part of your tuition in the Laurus College programs. I tell my students; build a rapport with career services and let them get to know you. This ensure that when you graduate you hit the ground running. Don’t wait until graduation day to think about your career and where you want to go. Get in touch early!

Get started with Laurus College

Learn more about Blake Monson in his Portfolio at http://massivegraphicdesign.com/. Visit the Web Design Department page to learn more about our Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees at Laurus College. If you’re ready to start your journey as a Web Designer or you want more information about Laurus College check out our admissions page and get in touch with us today!

 

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