Tensions of a Designer: Contract or Good-Faith Work


The clients of this industry have shifted drastically in the past couple of years. When I first started doing graphics for people, I had never even thought of doing a contract with people to ensure I got paid for my work. It never had been a problem, my clients respected my work and my craft and felt responsible for compensating me for that work.

Flash-forward to 2018, and more times in this year than in my entire 10 years of designing, I've had clients, and even worse of, some of them being friends, ask for my help in a design and pull the rug underneath of me after hours of concepts, revisions, dreaming and creating designs for them. This usually occurred after dodging my emails and follow up calls for a week or so, then a vague going in another direction response. This is 2018. There are so many options that people can get what they want whenever and wherever at any cost. Respect for good, honest work is fading into the sunset of clients not willing to follow through on work done. Clients forget that a designer pours their heart and emotions into every design and when the rug gets pulled, you're dealing with a lot more than just not working anymore. It speaks to the esteem of the designer, that what they made wasn't good enough regardless if it was or not to the client. It makes it much harder to forget when your heart is connected to your work. 

So now in 2018, this is where I stand. A good friend will always respect a contract because they were planning to compensate you anyways. A good client will respect a contract because they understand the nature of your work and the time invested. Doing favors for people now only costs you, because people can drop out at any point and not need you. A contract is an understanding when signed that the project you're working on is valuable to them and needed. If someone can't sign a contract, then it's not worth the time. Sadly, even in ministry, the handshake and good-faith method is a lost art and only will cost you your livelihood. 


Tensions of a Designer: Take Every Client vs. Client Filtering


Speaking from the place where I've taken every job offered for any price offered, I understand this tension very well, and still to this day when times get tight and the money looks good.

From experience with this tension, I've learned the power of my no's and the freedom and peace it has brought me. I have worked under the most unreal deadlines, with unreal expectations for a end price that barely broke even sometimes. The clients that I've taken that are like this are usually the ones that critique the hardest, always want more for less and work you to death on your spare time. Ironically enough, they're the hardest to find at time of payment or their off time, but that's whole other post at a later time...

My best advice, take clients that you trust and that trust you. The more understanding you have upfront of each other, the longer the relationship lasts and the better end product. Many of my clients started that way, and now they're family to me. Even when times are tight, learn to say the right yes's and no's to keep you mentally excited for work and to be able to do so without bitterness or resentment. I've learned that the more clients you have that are rotten, the more you attract. The more you let that in in dire circumstances, even more follow.

When you say yes to a client you are with them, they join your family. I've never really had a client I did one project for and never heard from them again, so when choosing clients do your research, and choose you jobs carefully.

Tensions of a Worship Leader: Leading Worship vs. Leading Music


I've lead worship for many groups here at camp and at many different churches and events, all varying in size, backgrounds, and preferences. It is a privilege that I don't take lightly, because it's the only activity that we do on Earth that we'll do in Heaven as well. What a cool opportunity to participate and get to lead people in something that I'll get to do in Heaven. Over the years, as I've learned more about myself, my pride level decreasing as I recognize bad desires and wants, I've learned how I enjoy leading and the heart behind it. 

I never want to be known as a good leader of music. Granted I don't want to be known as a bad one for sure, but my goal is never to impress people. I want to be as out of the way as possible. I know I have the responsibility to take people somewhere, but I'm going first where I'm taking them, straight up to the presence of God, not any attention on me. 

I want people to thank for me that time of worship, not tell me good job. I'll know I did a good job if people heard from and experienced God in a fresh way, my encouragement comes from that. I've learned also to never gauge a worship experience or lead out of a place that it dictated by how much a group "engages" in worship. I used to get discouraged after a set when no one raised their hands or closed their eyes, but over time, I've seen people experience God in the own way and in times that I thought I was off, and they weren't feeling it. If I dictated my leadership from my perceived involvement of the crowd, I'd always be off focus, at the mercy of my feelings and insecurities, and not taking them anywhere, I turn into the follower. 

If you're a worship leader (the band, singers, production are all the worship leaders, leading people into the presence of God. What you do can distract people from or lead them to focus more on God), do it well, but never with the heart of just doing well, performing great or playing music. Do it with the heart of taking your people where you're going. They are at your threshold, the higher you go, the more room you create for them to go.

Tensions of a Designer: Quality vs. Quantity


If you work for or in a church, the word quality is much harder to find in design than quantity. The request list grows, the deadlines become tighter and the demands grow with every edit. This day and age of doing more to serve more in church has killed creativity. No longer is there time for inspiration, sometimes it just has to be done.

In my opinion, there is not one answer to this tension. I think it's requires both. Quality of product has to be there in a timely and effective manner. Decisiveness has to be involved and perfectionism cannot. Clear goals of outcome, communication and execution have to be in place and the choices you make usually are quick but have to stick. 

As a task oriented person, when my list gets overwhelming and my time is cut short (projects have to be done yesterday, just sent in and I'm about to enjoy my weekend with my wife situations) I can easily fall in the trap of quantity mode and just knock out stuff. I know other designers that are so concerned with quality that they can't make a decision, and go back and forth for hours until they finally make a million options that don't go anywhere and don't look good because there are too many ideas floating.

If you get good communication of the desired outcome, make a clear design decision with a few options, and really knock out a few good shots at it, I think the Quality and Quantity war subsides.

Designers, take pride in making good work, always geared for the clients desired outcome. Also, take time for your family, needs, and desires. If you don't you'll resent working and designing in the long haul. Clients that don't respect and appreciate your time, sometimes don't have to have the design right now when they demand and you wait on their every need. They can work around you, and if not, you don't have to keep every client you've ever had. There are many clients I'll never work for again because they didn't respect my time, my work and my family. You are in charge of your time and how you spend it. 

Tensions of a Designer: Portfolio vs. Product


Where is the line? As a designer we are thrown into a grey area after college. "Build a great portfolio" they said, but building my portfolio was often not what was getting me clients, not making me money, and ruining my business reputation. What I'm about to share is very different than the culture I paid to learn about. This is from 10 years in this industry, though I'm in a rather specific niche of it in the church world.

Every client that I've gotten hasn't come from people visiting my site and saying, "Man he's great, I'm going to give him my money". They come from building relationships, and me learning about why and how they do what they do. What meant more wasn't my skill or abilities (though a degree from Full Sail certainly helps), it was the time I took to hear them instead of use them to build my portfolio. They knew when they hired me, that I heard them, and was working in their best interest to make what represented them best. 

I've seen many designers these days be so set in their style, or so high on their ego, that they won't make anything outside of their realm. Let me tell you from experience, and this might hurt some, but most people don't see and really don't care how cool your design is or how long it took to make. They want their information and they want it to look how they want it to look. At the end of the day, that's what you're getting paid for.

I've had to make a lot of designs that I'm not proud of, I don't like and really disagree over. I've constantly had to shut my mouth and always keep in mind that I'm doing this for them, not me. Design should be about serving a company, church or client to the best of your ability. Graphic design these days has to be selfless. Now, I don't go putting these on my site for all to see and showcase my ability from that, but you get my point. Design has to be a client first experience. They're putting food on the table for you. You shouldn't dictate their end product based on your personal preference. 

If you've seen this work for you as well, or not, I'd love to hear and chat! Please feel free to email me! If you are a designer and struggling with making ends meet, I'd love to help as well, shoot me an email to see how you can grow your business, network and sustainability.

Brand Identity

Your branding tells the most in-depth story of who you are, where you come from, and what you're all about in one little vector image. For me, my brand started with and will always end with a shield. 

I love ancient war history. Like super geek about it. Growing up I always loved watching war movies and learning any kind of snippet of history possible. Now I get to share all of those snippets with my wife, who's cares aren't necessarily on historical war facts, but she listens anyways. My grandfather, who was very close to me, always had this wood carving of a shield with two swords in it crossing each other and I was fascinated with it. When he passed, he left it to me and it's become one of the most sacred things in our house now. It's the centerpiece of my office studio, and tells a lot of my history as a family and a person. My great uncle gave this to my grandfather when he returned from his time at war overseas. 

The shield represents integrity and character for me, it represents a place of defense from the world. It represents someone who is grounded, who I can lean on in hard times and will hold ground at all costs. It represents strength, in a low key way. Most people flash their swords, an offensive weapon, but a shield is a weapon without boast. Something you will always need in a struggling moment of attack. This is who I want to be. Someone rich with strength, wisdom, honor and integrity. That's the kind of business I want to be involved with and offer.

A brand should define you, where you are from, and where you are going. If you're thinking of rebranding, I would love to help tell your story!


Wide Open EP- About the Album

Valleys to Mountains

For the past couple of months, I’ve been working on a very special project. It’s been on my new album, called Wide Open. It’s all original songs from my season and journey for the past couple of years. If any of you know me, you heard me announce another album (out of this valley) a couple of year’s back that was never released. Those couple of years was some of the hardest times I’ve walked through, and I just felt an unsettled feeling of releasing those songs at that time, in that season. Well, coming soon, I’ll be releasing some of those songs as well as some new ones!

Sometimes, being on the other side of trial and pain brings about new light and perspective on where you were. It’s easy to think in the moment of trial, “where is God?” or “why is He letting this happen?” That surely was the case for me. Now, I’m happily married and in one of the best seasons I’ve been in for long time, and can totally see how God was at work through those hard times.

On reflecting on the past couple of seasons of life, it’s got me thinking. I wonder how we can go from these valleys to the mountaintop moments? How can we navigate through or how do we deal with the ups and downs that life throws? That is the whole heart behind this album, because no matter who you are, you’re dealing with something that’s got you in a valley or you just came out of it and are at a brief pause on the mountaintop.

In my reflection and time with God and writing these songs, I’ve found it’s never been about how fast I can get out of the valley or how long I can stay at the mountaintop, but it’s been about my posture, or how I carry myself through the seasons, and what God is wanting to teach me in those moments.

Here are a couple of verses that inspired the songs of the album and that carried me through the ups and downs in life.



Romans 5 (MSG)   Developing Patience

5 1-2 By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

3-5 There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

6-8 Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

9-11 Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!

The introduction is the culmination of all of the lyrics and ideas of this album smashed into one song.


Psalm 23:6

Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.



James 1:12

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.



1 Corinthians 8:6

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.



Colossians 1:18-20 (MSG)    Christ Holds It All Together

15-18 We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

18-20 He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.


2 Corinthians 6:11-13

Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!

No matter where on the spectrum you find yourself, whether deep in a valley or high on the mountaintop, be encouraged that the way your hold yourself matters. There will be a time when you’ll be on the other side, and you’ll be able to see how God was at work and what He wanted to teach you. Keep developing, learning, growing, and leaning on God and those placed around you. I hope these songs encourage you and push you to keep going.

We'll have physical copies here at Watermarks in January 2017 along with shirts for sale ($10 Album) and the album will be on all online platforms by January 1st, 2017! So excited for all this album is and hope you enjoy!


High Rise Live Album

Today marks a very special day for us as a band. We’re back to dreaming and going after crazy ideas and calls. A


We’ve been right in the middle of summer camp, playing 9 weeks for the youth at Watermarks. We at the end of the summer will have done 300+ worship sets and have already seen thousands enter the presence of God and hundreds make a decision for Him for the first time. This summer has been one of the most powerful ever for us as a band as we are right in the heart of what God is doing through us and back to the original heart of what we do. We don’t want to miss any opportunities, so this is the new announcement.

Throughout the summer, we’ve been recording all of the songs and gathering footage from all of the weeks of camp. At the end of week 10 of summer camp, we will be working to put together our very first live album, called High Rise Live. This is all the songs we’ve been doing this summer and along with that, we will be releasing a live DVD partnered with it. They will be available hopefully by Fall 2014, as we want to share what God has done all summer long through Watermarks and our own journey. We hope that you enjoy this and get to take a look into what we’ve been doing for the past couple of months, and overall the past couple of years.

Also, we have a new line of apparel coming in as well, our new Indian style line. So we have a buffalo tee and a dream catcher tee on the way, so be ready to order those through the high rise store, off the website at highriseworship.com under music.

Part of the Process

So many of us are caught up in the end result. We see Katy Perry now and want to be where she is, but never have we considered all the battles she conquered and thoughts she had to get over that she wasn’t good enough. We see bands like NeedtoBreathe, and say man I wish I had what they had, but haven’t considered their 12 years of touring, fights and breakups that got them to where they are. It’s so easy to look at others success and judge how they got there, but have you ever considered the work it takes to get there? That might explain where you are still in the place you are, or not in the place where you want to be. For one, you will never get where you want to be if that place is where someone else is. Do your own thing and it will get you much further than copying someone else.

Carl Rogers, an American Psychologist stated, “The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.” Today maybe you’re discouraged from where you are and here is some encouragement. Fall in love with the process of getting to where you want to be. Become who you need to be to sustain that growth. If you want to act, fall in love with acting, not becoming an actor. If you love music, fall in love with playing, not becoming a big musician. You will find that the process is a whole lot more fun than the end result. Some of the best times in my life were just simply going somewhere, on the car rides to places, or learning something new. I am a very task oriented person, so usually I find myself trying to get to the destination, finish the project and get the job done, and I can only imagine what I’ve missed out on the journey there, the process of getting to where I want to be. Today I encourage you, be a part of the process, and fall in love with it.


Have you ever had an idea and you felt so strongly about it, but then when you share it, it all goes downhill? Have you ever been in church and leading your ministry and the people you are leading don’t like where you are going? I read this story this week, and it really caught my attention in a new way.

It’s in Acts 7 and it says this: 54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

This story always used to be so simple to me. That people that follow Jesus could get persecuted, etc, etc. After working in the church for a while and in ministry forever, this story takes on a whole new meaning for me. While in church, I experienced this over and over again. You seek Jesus and you feel that you see Him, you have a vision for what you want, you spend the time, and then the people you’re leading don’t trust it, don’t like it, or simply don’t like you and disagree. This ruins every bit of the creative process. It turns into pleasing people instead of pleasing God and seeking Him. Maybe at some point you’ve been the one throwing the stones. I don’t know what role you play, but sadly both are unfortunate. The church and following Jesus is supposed to be one of the most free, and creative places to work in, because we have the best message to tell people about. In my years of ministry, I have found that getting rid of the religious people in my life, the ones who love rules and can’t think outside of the box, has been the best for me. Now when I come up with an idea, it’s not stones that are thrown, but realistic ideas, love and energy. That’s how church should be, and that’s how life should be. If you are a stone-thrower, today is your day to grow up and support people and understand that things can be done differently and they have to, because the message has to be told differently, because everyone hears differently.

The way Stephen handles this gives us the textbook way to handle this, even though mostly it is so hard, so unfortunate for the human race.

"59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep." Always pray for help, and pray for forgiveness.

Communication with God is essential, largely because most of the time you can’t trust people around you (pastors apparently don’t struggle to most congregation members), but also he can help guide and direct you. Most of us can't pray for Jesus to take our spirit, if so I'll give you Zoloft, it'll be ok, but we can pray for patience in the midst of what we're facing. Church will always be the same, there will always be someone, so if you decided to work in ministry, welcome to it! He also prayed for their forgiveness in the midst of this moment when they are against him. Never be the one to pick up the other stone and throw back, as hard as it is. Your character is more important than your idea. On the other hand, sometimes your people and leaders can be creatively rearranged to make your life better. Lead well and let your ideas flourish and I guarantee some around you won’t support it, but continue anyways and live life with those who want to be there and support you.