Feature Friday #006 — Andrew Griswold

Hey there, and welcome to Feature Friday #006, our series highlighting some of the incredible people on Cotton Bureau. You can find Andrew on Instagram and around the web. You can also shop his collection on Cotton Bureau.

Hey, Andrew, you’ve got a ton of designs on Cotton Bureau ranging from pop culture to sports to technology. What’s the common denominator?

For the longest time I can remember being creative and absolutely loving all things art. I can thank my Mom for getting me any and all arts and craft materials into my hands at a very young age. It wasn’t until high school I realized I could make the a legit career path in creating for a living, which brought me to graphic design and advertising.

Every day I love what I do and the fun thing about side hustles in creative, like with Cotton Bureau, I'm able to continue to create for anything I find interest in and in turn give that love to another person. Many of those topics come from personal interest and or topical items that I find inspiration in on that day. Sometimes created in the moment and submitted in the same night. There is no greater joy than a creative outlet that gives that much freedom and in turns get to share it with others.

That’s awesome. Judging by the portfolio on your site, you’ve definitely succeeded in making a career out of that creativity. Speaking of careers, how are you feeling about AI-assisted design and photography? Is it a threat to what you do or just another tool?

It’s felt like an eternity but I’m reminded it goes by so fast and with nearly 15 years into the creative advertising world I am still just as excited and driven as I was when I was younger.

When it comes to AI and how it's changed or would change my career I think it’s simply new and always evolving at this point. Thinking back to my college days a professor told me in design “adapt or get left behind”. That is so true today as we find new tools and programs and resources its alarming how quickly things are changing and evolving its difficult to keep up. When it comes to the design world, I have seen some amazing things but what ai programs today are creating are no different than what I see on free stock sites, not much worry there. When it comes to photography that is the game changer.

As a creative that is where things are getting way more interesting. As a designer by day I am able to find or build custom images from nothing with ease and little upfront costs. Then with Adobe pulling it into a beta photoshop I have used it countless times to remove and add things into photos for months now. As a photographer that scares me because I am seeing one glaring thing no one talks about, where is the AI pulling these images from? Likely source material so how much of that photo is owned by someone else? 20%, 80%? That is where folks that drive for stock photography as a living are going to get their images pulled for others use. Right now, I believe most ai software is not for commercial use which makes sense and Adobe seems to be taking it super slow to make sure its used properly.

I have been playing with ChatGPT for months now, that seems to be the most useful at the moment. Using it every other day for basic needs such as pulling most relevant hashtags, writing quick headline ideas, creating SEO friendly copy for various articles and social posts and even writing entire blog posts.

Ha. What are we even doing here, right? Might as well let ChatGPT finish the rest of this interview for both of us. But in all seriousness, ChatGPT, etc. just seems like… fancy plagiarism? Copy and pasting and summarizing without any original thought, a soulless pastiche of words and pixels. Bleh.

Changing the subject, tell us one thing about yourself we wouldn’t necessarily know from following you on social media. I see a pretty cool refinished basement that it looks like you did a lot of the work on yourself. What are you into that doesn’t get as much shine online?

Totally, ChatGPT will complete the remainder of this interview. Why waste our time interacting with humans?

The funny thing about social media is the way we try and make it into something too early or from the start or fall within a niche or category. I see photographers constantly find a way into the career and then make a photo account, then a wedding photo account, then a events photo account etc. This is across the board for creatives. They feel the need that within a niche is where you make the most impact and it's actually the fastest point to burn out for many professionals, and hobbyists too.

Now, I have used social media on and off for many many years now but always find myself sharing what I am into and if people come along for that journey great, if not no big deal its not for them and in turn maybe I am not for them. I think I have always been a serial creator and turn hobbies into side hustles more time than not and its a fun challenge. As you state, recently I got into wood working in late 2020. Funny enough the reason was I had made a few tee sales on Cotton Bureau and thought why not go buy a miter saw with that extra income and make some floating shelves for "cheap". So thank you guys!

Those cheap floating shelves turned into a sofa table, a coffee bar, a bench for my bedroom to store blankets, then my home office built ins for the perfect Zoom background, and eventually my full basement built ins with bench, electric fireplace, and shelves to show off old cameras and family photos.

That drive to simply share my passions with others whether it be my design work, my photography of the town I grew up in, or somethign completely new like wood working it all pulls back to the drive to create. Problem solving and sharing that process with others. The interactions I have got from DIYers, friends, family, other wood working professionals giving me tips and tricks. It’s absolutely beautiful that you can reach so many types of people with a small passion you have on the side far away from your day to day.

Are all those things I mention above things that I do outside of the norm that I share? Not really. I actually find myself naturally just sharing small moments in my life or things I am into at the moment that may or may not grow into a larger side hobby or even side hustle with some sales to friends or strangers. I like to sprinkle in many things to my social from the obvious family and life moments all the way to career moves.

Now, one thing I tease every once in awhile that I wish I shared more of is my love for ultimate frisbee. I am going into my 20th year and feel more into the sport this year than ever as the sport grows in popularity. So get ready to see more of that!

That’s awesome. I love your definition of social media. So pure and honest compared to the performative, dystopian place it somehow ended up. Maybe it’s time for me to pull the trigger on that miter saw I’ve been eyeing up? You can have ultimate frisbee though. Too much running, I’ll stick to golf.

Let me ask you one more thing. If you had to throw away your creative career and start over in a new location away from the Midwest doing something completely different, where would you go and what would you do?

You 100% need a miter saw. That sucker changed the game for my home projects and helping make my house a home the last couple years. It's also a totally different creative outlet to build something from scratch. One small tip: just google whatever you want/need and add "DIY plans" at the end of it. It's all 2x4's and plywood. The pantry in the kitchen and then a small kitchenette and bar is next up in the basement!

That is a damn near impossible question to ask anyone let alone a creative that has had the want and passion to simply create and be an "artist" since I was 2 years old. Though in reality it is a question you have to ask yourself constantly when you are working within the field due to the nature of marketing and saturation, burn out, competition, and simply constant mental strain to build something from scratch.

I am 15+ years into this career full time after college and have to admit its not been an easy path but one I find still to this day just as rewarding and passion filled as I did when I was a child. I truly can't believe someone pays me to do what I do every day.

That said, I have always told myself if something did happen and I lost it all tomorrow and I am working this hard I could easily drop it all and work construction and make the same money in a small town USA anywhere and still have a happy life. I think as wannabe poker player to quote the classic film Rounders "Always leave yourself outs". That has been my mentality my entire life and especially in a volatile and competitive career as marketing. You have to be ready at all times when it comes to financial crashes, economy changes, world pandemics etc. Also knowing you can build other skillsets outside of your day to day is what keeps you tack sharp and ready to move on if needed and be able to adapt.

Having picked up wood working I would happily move to a growing town out in New Hampshire and become a contractor for custom builds while also working construction on the side. When people ask me who am I inspired by I never realized until much later in life it was my parents. So much of my drive and passion shows in what they have done in 40+ years each in running a daycare out of home with my mother who LOVED children so much and my father who is a professional truck drive and even competes in it today at a high level. To find passion and drive in life is everything to me and seeing them do that in the most unexpected places I have a true appreciation for it.

That drive and passion is what I saw in my wife when we met as well. I truly believe her love and passion for what she does and push to do it at a high level for others is infectious and something I think I saw in my parents growing up and has continue to grow to an even greater level since I met her. I give a lot of credit to the people around me and she is at the top of that list.

Fantastic. Love the passion. Thank you so much for your time, and good luck with all of your upcoming projects. Always a pleasure talking to you.