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You're a Wizard James

When a good friend linked me to a posting for Graphic Designer at Wizards of the Coast earlier this year, I was quick to apply. Magic: the Gathering is a game near and dear to my heart, and the opportunity to lend my creative abilities to the game I literally grew up with is just too good to pass up. I wasn’t seriously considering that I would hear back anything outside of “Thank you for your application, have a nice day, etc.”, but that didn't stop me from trying. 

It’s strange, but the thought of such unlikelihood did anything but discourage me. In fact it emboldened me to try some very different approaches to the ask. I figured I may as well speak from the heart. A short excerpt from my cover letter:

I’m going to play Magic, I’m going to make Magic artwork, and I’m going to love this game, no matter what. This is an application to do what I would have done anyways, just for you. I would be honored to be part of the team that is creating the wonderful moment I experienced so many years ago, but for a whole new generation of players. 

I don’t know what I was thinking; I’m pretty sure I wasn’t. It was pure feeling, ran through the spell checker, and fired off into the aether. I consoled myself that at least the person reading it would have a laugh before we all moved on with our lives. The joke was on me when they said yes.

One evening I received an email from clear blue, saying that I was onto the next stage of the interview, this time a test! I had 5 days to complete a graphic design test where I was asked to come up with the solution to several design challenges. Nervous but excited, I went to bed shortly after reading the email, my brain spinning wildly with the thought that I had made it to stage 2. 

I’m pretty sure that I was dreaming about graphic design that night, because when I woke up the next day I found myself face to face with the solution to the first of the three challenges I had been given. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t want to believe that it could be so easy. But easy is a funny word. Easy is seen as a bad thing, as though a lack of immediate effort and suffering is inherently wrong. We’re conditioned to think that the creative mind must go through terrible hardships to reach a satisfying conclusion. But what I often forget is how much time I’ve already invested.

I’ve been playing Magic: the Gathering since I can remember; my first purchase was made with my Christmas money at the back of a Waldens mall book store. A fourth edition starter deck, complete with the crazy tome-like box design. I stared at the Hurloon Minotaur on the booster packs, utterly fascinated. I can clearly remember the smell of fresh ink and the feel of the paper as I looked through the deck over and again.

In fact, I cannot look back to any specific point in my life without having some corresponding memory of cards, magic, and monsters as my companion. I’ve been thinking about this game in one capacity or another for the better part of 20 years. As an illustrator and graphic designer it naturally became a fascination of mine when I realized how much work was going into not only the illustrated art, but the presentation of the art. It takes a masterful hand to have everything look and most importantly feel correct. The process is an art unto itself, and the thought of that art being something I could do seemed so far away for so many years; an impossibility. 

And yet, there I was, making it happen. All the years in art school, all the years beyond that school where my real education happened, the articles I wrote, the studies I made, the screw ups (so many screw ups), the sketches in the borders of my notebook pages, the nights where I would wake up with an idea for a new image; it all added up. This was the ongoing result in a massive battle of wills, mine versus that of the ever-busy world that wanted to pull me away from my beloved craft.

So when it came time to show what I could do, yeah it was easy. Just the same way that it’s easy to cross a river where you spent a decade building a bridge. 

Interviews followed. Waiting commenced. Nervousness crept it's way into my system. I did everything I could to distract myself until last Friday when I got an email from my contact at Wizards; THE email. Over the course of ten minutes everything changed, and I became a Graphic Designer for the company who fueled my imagination and inspired me to get to where I am today. 

It intrigues me to think that the work I do will cascade into the lives of so many, a responsibility worth undertaking. In addition, I will be able to do something that I’ve never in my wildest dreams considered; introduce myself as one of the Wizards of the Coast. Elation and terror rest of my shoulders, but I find myself strangely calm between these two chittering voices. I consider this a most honored position to hold, one that has not only been earned, but also must be earned every single day from now on. 

It’s time to start making Magic.