In his own words: Grind Creative’s Michael Gardner

Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about Grind Creative and the duties of your position.

Michael Gardner: Grind Creative specializes in creating branding, business identities, web development and anything with print marketing materials. Ultimately, my partner and myself consider ourselves “creatives.” We try to offer our clients creative solutions to problems they are having. Across all of everything we do we have a high focus on branding, so the Web sites we create we try to make them unique to that business.

NNBW: How did you get into this profession?

Gardner: I chased my music passions to Los Angeles in 2001. I got a job as a runner at a recording studio and got to work my way up and do some engineering on some bigger records. The time I was there was the beginning of the decline in the music industry as far as record sales and everything else that followed. I did 3.5 years there and 3.5 years at a record label, and one of my duties there was to manage all of the bands’ MySpace pages. MySpace allowed for some tweaking of the code, creating graphics and adding backgrounds, and that was kind of my first taste of creating graphic and learning some HTML. Once I realized that type of creating still tweaked my nerd gene I got excited to do it and started building Web sites for friends. If you take the time to stare at the computer long enough, you start stacking skills upon skills, and that is how I got into it.

NNBW: What do you like most about what you do?

Gardner: Every day is different, and I like to create things. I learned somewhere along the line that my lifeline to happiness is through creation, taking something that doesn’t exist and making it exist. I get to do that every day, and every client has a different problem or a different need. We get to make things that have a similar foundation but are totally different in the way that they interact with people.

NNBW: Do you have a project of which you are most proud?

Gardner: I am proud of them all; the goal is to make it something that we are proud of. But the most recent project we have done is a branding for a local optometrist/vision center that we rebranded as Black Rock Vision Center. I really love the brand we came up with — it has a lot of depth of meaning. The graphic as you look at it looks like mountains, like an eye, and like an old painting. The client was very satisfied, and that is what I like most.

NNBW: How do you find new clients?

Gardner: My partner and I are part of a couple of networking groups, and that was one of the key things that helped me develop my initial client base. The beauty of what we do is that it leaves a paper trail — our portfolio can speak for itself. We get a lot of client because they liked some other work we have done. And also through Search Engine Optimization through our site. We rank one or two if you search “Reno Web Design.” We get a significant amount of new business through normal search media.

NNBW: Creative-type people tend to lean towards the introverted. Is networking and working with clients difficult for you?

Gardner: My confidence in what I am capable of is extremely high, but so is my fear of judgment or rejection. In theory one should release me from another, but it is kind of the artist’s makeup to be self-critical and not wanting to be criticized. I do have that nice straddle of the left and right brain. The programmer mind is generally introverted and not very social, and I have been blessed to sit right in the middle. I can get into the code and the syntax of things, and also be part of the artist’s brain that allows for lateral thinking.

NNBW: How does Grind Creative compete with some of the larger Web development studios?

Gardner: There certainly are businesses we compete with that have more muscle and resources, but for my piece of mind I just focus on what we are doing. The quality of the work we do is on par with any firm — the creativity and the idea is king in the whole creative process. You can’t fake that idea, those kernels and little sparks of brilliance that turn into a brand or a Web site.

NNBW: What was your first job?

Gardner: Loading UPS trucks, which I think everyone should do for two weeks just so they can see how others are living. It is 110 degrees, you have boxes flying at you, and you building Tetris walls out of the boxes. I learned a lot from that, and it gave me some character.

NNBW: How do you like to spend your free time away from work?

Gardner: I have about 10 to 12 friends who own a giant art car for Burning Man. We are always doing work to that, adding laser beams or speakers and stuff. And music production; I still write songs in my free time.

NNBW: What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?

Gardner: A songwriter. I am still doing it, so it was a kid’s dream, but it’s also my dream as an adult. It’s my favorite form of creativity because I can transfer the most emotion and feeling through music.

NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada?

Gardner: I was born and raised here. After seven years in L.A., I started to miss my friends. The friends I had as a kids are still my friends today. That is a huge thing to me. To the outside world there is some stigma about Reno — I remember the L.A. people giving me the “cowtown” and all that stuff, but Reno has a little bit of everything. You can stay up late partying, you can go to the lake, and you can do it all without sitting on the freeway two hours to go 20 miles. Plus, what I was paying to live in a loft in L.A. I was able to purchase a house and start that picket-fence dream that I have always had.


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