TheCarton presents: Get to the point with Zack Chmeis of Straight Method

Interviews and commentary from your friends at Eggs! The Podcast.

Hey guys — Today on a very special article from Eggs! Wha?! An article you say? That’s right. Most of you know us from our wildly popular and entertaining podcast Eggs, the Podcast! So you might be wondering what in the hell are we doing writing anything? It’s a valid concern but with good reason. Earlier this year we did an interview for Eggs featuring super creative dude Zack Chmeis calling in live from Dubai. However, due to a very frustrating technology fail (thanks ZenCastr) our interview with him was essentially unintelligible and even more frustratingly was lost to the sands of time never to be heard from again. But all was not lost…

Kindly, Zack took the time to break down our interview questions and put them into article form for us to distribute so that listeners of our show and fans of his work could take a peek behind the curtain. We would have no doubt rather shared the audio podcast with you, but it’s called being agile folks. This is distilled down from a conversation that lasted more than an hour, but hopefully you’ll get the gist. With that, please enjoy in this inaugural edition of TheCarton featuring our interview with Zack Chmeis!

Ryan Roghaar
Co-host Eggs! The Podcast

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Introduction: Our guest today is Zack Chmeis. Zack is an all-around creative talent, producer for the award-winning Ash Thorp and founder of Straight Method, a training resource company with the mission of enabling rapid learning and implementation by getting straight to the point. We came to know Zack via Eggs show Alum Melinda Livsey and later, Chris Do over at The Futur. Zack is both a friend and a contributor at The Futur plus having created a product alongside Melinda called Pre-Align. Pre-Align is a pre-strategy framework that helps simplify and communicate what a brand strategy is. It’s presently available on the Straight Method website StraightMethod.com and at the time of this interview we are announcing the latest product release from Straight Method called Typophobia.

Eggs!: Can you tell us how you got started on your creative journey?

ZC: I’ve always loved the creative field, and have been lucky to have friends in the entertainment industry. As long as I can remember I’ve been in studios all over the world. 
 And I still remember the day when dad used to go to these free photoshop 1.0 seminars.

Eggs!: You worked on the AWAKEN AKIRA project as a producer, can you tell us what the role of a producer is and your involvement?

ZC: I came in a bit late into the project, but early enough to help guide the release of the short film. My role was a mix of creative brand strategy and marketing. I helped come up with the name and produce some of the online material for the project to make sure the release was coherent with what Ash Thorp and Zao Eyo had made. The role of the producer varies depending on the field, but as a creative producer sometimes it’s about being the right hand and keeping the project going forward. In this case it was a mix of that and creating some art too.

Eggs!: Circling back to Straight Method, I love the name but further one of the things I like most is the overarching idea of optimizing complicated ideas for simplicity and your ability to get right to the point. Getting rid of all the outside information and narrowing it down to exactly what you need to know to be able to focus.

ZC: Exactly. At Straight Method we try our best to deliver something that is short, and simple enough to be practical right from the get-go. This is why we utilize beta testing before any product is released. We make sure that at least 5 professionals try the product ahead of time and based on their feedback we tweak and finesse until we have a refined product primed for release.

Regarding the name, I am not a naming expert but having worked with Eli Altman on his recent website for his book Run Studio Run and was able to pick his brain a little to find our way.

Eggs!: Funny you mention that, I have the latest book form Eli Altman, “Don’t Call It That.”

ZC: An excellent book for naming, that is one I referred to as well.

Eggs!: Let’s talk about the new project Typophobia, what can you tell us about it?

ZC: Typophobia is a collaboration between Maece Sairafi — an Adjunct Professor at Cal State LA — and myself. It tackles a basic issue that many creatives struggle with, typography. Some creatives tend to avoid working with type when branding a product or a service, the reason being an overall lack of knowledge of the basics, which can be intimidating.

Typography is a big part of many of today’s brands which is why it’s essential to know how to work with type. Maece and I set out to design a deck that teaches you the basic principles of typography in a workbook style deck with the promise that by end of it, you will have the basic knowledge to start designing with type.

Eggs!: Can you tell us about your collaborative process. All Straight Method products are designed with expert collaborators.

ZC: I approach collaborations in a different way, for me it’s more like friendship. It starts with a casual chat about our interests and hobbies. My goal is to avoid cliché products and try to find something that people don’t usually focus on but is paramount to understand. The subjects that you are “supposed” to know but never learned formally. I want to teach the things that are in between the lines, the things you should know but don’t know who to ask.

Whenever we feel like we’ve found the perfect subject, I’ll throw that out the window and dig deeper. At some point we will both be excited about a subject and can’t wait to start, that’s when we’ll know we are onto something.

Eggs!: Going back to the “things between the lines.” I agree, if I were to watch Ryan [Roghaar] design something I would pick up tips and tricks that are valuable to know and but I’m not sure I would have been able to learn something similar online by watching a tutorial on any given specific subject. What do you think about online tutorials?

ZC: That is the problem with online tutorials, you’ll watch a tutorial on how to sculpt a 3D horse, then you get a call by a client wanting a 3D model of a car, I think you see the problem. There are similarities, but very important differences.

Most online materials are targeted towards people that have trained their whole life in doing something and not necessarily towards people that are self-learners. Self-learners tend to move fast, they are great at learning but don’t want to spend a lot of time on one thing.

Eggs!: Having seen a couple of your products — Pre-Align and Typophobia — I really think they are both outstanding products and worth checking out. One of things I really like about them is, that while it is a lot of information the documents themselves are beautiful. They are organized, well-designed and clean. As you go through the deck and learn it the great layout actually makes it more digestible.

ZC: Thanks! I try to put myself in the shoes of the creative person that’s going to eventually buy the product. The key is to distance yourself emotionally from it and look at it from an objective point of view. Many creatives tend to fall in love with their product and as a result stop seeing the flaws. After I’ve done that, I take breaks from the deck, looking at it once every few days and in way sculpt it down to what I think people will love.

Eggs!: Switching gears here a little, you were an honor student at Masterclass and have an interesting story that involves Hans Zimmer, the famous movie composer. Can you tell us about that?

ZC: I signed up to Hans Zimmer’s Masterclass over two years ago and after meeting all the other students online I had an idea for a project. I wanted it to be the biggest project in his class. After months of work, I got the attention of Masterclass and they unofficially helped us get the word out by featuring the project in their email blasts. The undertaking was to make a film that featured more than 150 composers from all around the world and more than 130 filmmakers. The project exploded and started getting attention from other classes, until it became the largest project in Masterclass history — and the first project to feature other classes.

All that was happening before the class was made public. It was strictly for the people who had pre-enrolled. 24-hours before the public release of the class I knew that Hans Zimmer would be at the Masterclass offices, so I woke up early and asked the guys on the Facebook group to send videos saying “My name is X and you have made my life interesting, beautiful…whatever they wanted. They did and I got 17 submissions, I cut them up together and sent them to masterclass a few hours before the LA event. They loved it so much and asked me to keep it private for now because they wanted to surprise Hans Zimmer with it. At the end of the event, they told him that they had a surprise and showed him the video, about which he said “Fuck the Oscars, this is what it’s about.” Afterwards, I was chosen to be one of 10 students of many thousands to get a chance and talk to him on Skype, which was a dream come true.

Eggs!: Thank you for taking the time to be with us, how can people get hold of you online?

ZC: My Pleasure. I can be found on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Behance @ZackChmeis and of course you can learn more about Straight Method and our products for creative people at straightmethod.com

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