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Creatives must embrace technology or get left behind

The Mac turbo-charged my career. AI will do the same for today’s young creatives.

Creatives must embrace technology or get left behind
[Source photo: Cristofer Maximilian/Unsplash]

In 1991, I was a fresh-out-of-school graphic designer whose first real gig was working at an entertainment marketing powerhouse in Hollywood. One fateful day that spring, I was asked to help move boxes off a truck at our loading dock. I didn’t know it at the time, but inside the boxes were the key to my future: the most technologically advanced tools hitting the creative scene. There were 12 Macintosh Quadra 900s, complete with a floppy-disk, monitor, and an incredible 256 megabytes of RAM. State of the **** art!

Straight out of Penn State, minus a stint designing crappy greeting cards for a place deep in San Fernando Valley, I started my budding design career in Cimarron/Bacon/O’Brien’s print department. Our department created the key art, better known as “movie posters” for big Hollywood films.

Back then, a poster started with a sketch using set photos and stock images to outline the general poster concept. Then art directors would review these rough comps, make changes, and approve concepts to move forward.

Learn the trade

As a junior designer, I was a master with an X-ACTO knife and Spray Mount adhesive. I was being trained how to airbrush photos, a process which smooths out the cut photo edges to blend it into the overall composite image. Being an airbrush artist was a BIG deal, so big that I remember calling my mom and dad with the news.

These final comps—cut, glued, and airbrushed—would then be laminated. We’d stuff 20 poster-sized versions into a car, lugging them into studio offices and presenting live for studio executives to critique. If they didn’t like what they saw, back to the pencil we went. I had the opportunity to work on some blockbuster movies like Terminator 2 and Alien 3.

When the new Macintosh Quadras arrived, my younger colleagues and I decided to fire them up and poke around. With no experience or fear, we read the manuals and booted them up. Six months later, the people who trained me to airbrush photos were part of an industry-wide layoff while I remained.


My formative years, cutting and pasting headshots of Arnold Schwarzenegger onto poster boards reminds me that one has to constantly evolve to remain relevant.

My success and rise from junior designer to art director to creative director and finally agency founder and CEO has depended on my ability to adapt to the profession’s changing requirements. Dedication to creative excellence requires flexibility. It’s now my job to foster adoption of AI for the good of our business, clients, and employees.

Our industry faces an existential reckoning with AI’s advent. It has limitless potential for output of image, video and audio, and the technology will significantly change how creative professionals conduct, execute, and deliver work. Much like the airbrush artists averted their eyes to the oncoming tidal wave of technology, ignoring AI is a recipe for impending unemployment.

The Macintosh computers disrupted creative production in the 1990s, and AI is changing how we approach creative work today. We must plug in, turn on, and get to work learning the tools of the future if we want to stay ahead of the wave.

Don’t stand still

I could not have imagined how those early Mac computers would eventually lead to the ingenious and astounding suite of creative tools for making art. We take tools like Photoshop, Premier, Lightroom, Avid, and Maya for granted today. Currently, legions of technologists, entrepreneurs, and investors are dedicating themselves to building the next generation of AI-infused creative tools.

Young creative professionals have the advantages of naivete and elastic minds to quickly learn the new technology that will get them ahead. Those who master the next generation of tools will become more competitive, more productive, and more employable. Companies want talent and technical expertise. If someone possesses both, they have a long career ahead. As I tell the young people I meet these days: Run! Do not walk towards the wave.

AI is here. At MOCEAN we’re making a serious commitment to invest in new tools, train employees, and educate our clients on the new technological frontier. Our chief creative officer hosts regular workshops that have developed into a series of talks with our studio and brand clients.

The Macintosh didn’t take away the airbrushing jobs. Young people riding the wave of a new technology did. Similarly, AI itself won’t take your job, but you’d be wise to learn all you can, as fast as you can, before that next big wave comes crashing onto shore.

Michael McIntyre is CEO of MOCEAN.


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Michael McIntyre is CEO of MOCEAN. More

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