Matt Houston | Creative Director

Our next guest is Creative Director, Matt Houston.

Tell us about yourself, what you currently do and how did you end up where you are right now?

Right now I am a full-time independent creative working with clients throughout the sports industry. Prior to getting into the sports creative industry, I was working in marketing which I think helped grow my design accounts in the early days. Most importantly though there was a ton of hard work that went into it. I’d work my full-time gig in the day and then come home every night and spend hours working on design and building the @mh_design91 social accounts. In those early days as well, I spent a ton of time figuring out the types of organizations I’d like to work with and then figuring out how to get in contact with them. For every place that responded to me, probably 20x emails went unanswered so it’s always important to remember that and not get discouraged when getting started in this space.

As a full-time freelance creative, what does a normal week look like for you?

I think the fun in being a full-time independent creative is that there really isn’t a “normal” week for me. The start of 2021 was very slow for me so I spent a lot of time with my dog, going on walks, cooking and making sure I was doing other activities that I enjoy while doing some design work as it came across. I’ve learned that there are lots of ebbs and flows in terms of client work and general business so don’t feel the need to force yourself into designing when you might think that you don’t have a lot going on.

Since late 2019, you have gone full-time freelance, how did you find this transition?

I had been freelancing in a smaller capacity on the side of other gigs for a while leading up to that transition so I think that was a big help once I made the jump to doing it full-time. I had already established relationships with a lot of clients I had really enjoyed working with so there was a fairly smooth transition of just being able to up my hours working with those same organizations. I have added on some new clients as well but a lot of the people I consistently work with I have been with for years at this point and it’s something I enjoy and value a lot.

When did you know you wanted to work in sport?

I have been a sports fanatic for as long as I can remember and then some. I’ve been collecting cards, playing video games, playing sports, following sports, writing about sports and any other thing that involves sports since I could crawl. So for me, it was a no-brainer that I wanted to work in the industry where my passion lies. I am a person who wants to care and feel a sense of pride and attachment around the work that I do and sports is able to provide that for me. I went to the University of Miami with the intention of being a sports journalist but I quickly realized that I wanted to work a different side of sports and work more directly with the teams and organizations.

You’ve freelanced for several football companies/publications and your work has been featured by the likes of the Premier League, Inter Milan and The Players’ Tribune. Can you tell us more about this experience and your thoughts on the current freelance market for graphic designers?

Like anything, the more something happens the less “cool” it might feel, however seeing my work published on the social accounts of people like the Premier League, Wimbledon and other major sports teams and organizations always gets me hyped. I’ve been fortunate where I can pick clients for the most part where I know that I will get that sense of excitement by working with them since I have found those sorts of clients are the ones that really can push me creatively as well.

What tools/software would you recommend to aspiring designers?

I really have focused personally on sticking to one thing and making sure I do it really, really well. However, I like to advise others to focus on learning numerous programs and skills especially if you’d like to get involved full time working with a club/team. Photoshop obviously but there is so much value in knowing programs like Illustrator, InDesign, AE, Lightroom and Procreate.

What general advice would you give to those individuals looking to pursue a career in graphic design, specifically focused on sports? What are the key skills required?

I always recommend that designers focus on creating projects that revolve around themes or something that lends itself to creating something that is more than just a one-off hype piece with minimal to no text. These are the sorts of projects that stand out to me as a creative these days. Plenty of people can do cool-looking work using cutouts and minimal text but it’s important to think about how exactly that is going to be useful for an organization. Wallpapers are great and always fun to create but for a usage standpoint, teams are looking to post these maybe once a week.

Where do you see your career in the future? Are there any specific objectives you hope to achieve?

One day I’d love to create an agency of my own where I am able to empower other young designers in the industry and work with some of the biggest organizations in sport. For now, though I am content with where I am at and the balance I currently have with design and the other passions I have in my life and spending time with my family and the people I care about. It’s important to keep your priorities in check and remember that Photoshop will always be there — so take the time you need to spend with the people you care about. The single best thing about being an independent creative has been the flexibility I’ve been afforded and utilizing that time well in other areas of my life that I enjoy.

And finally Matt, where can people find you on social media?

You can find me on all social platforms at @MH_Design91 and my website is http://mhdesign91.com. I always love hearing from other creatives so never hesitate to reach out.

Connecting freelancers in football (soccer) to paid work.