I met Ross in type class. Talented, funny, tech savvy, I often saw him drawing comics for the school rag in class. (OK, I’ll admit to being his professor at the time). So it seems natural to me that this now professional designer would combine his love of humor, type, image and technology into a well-followed blog featuring some of the funniest comics I have recently seen (systemcomic.com and twitter.com/rosscott).
His “side” work seems aimed at designers at first glance. But it also transcends to corporate culture in a way that doesn’t seem snarky or trying. Ross taps in to an ethos that is beyond Dilbert cubical, for a generation cable-fed both irony and idiocy. Thank God he chose irony.
Labeled “a busy, nerdy man” by Brightest Young Things, Ross is not a guy who just coasts. In addition to the two jobs already described, there’s more. So try to keep up.
This year he accepted a one-year position as full time professor at American University. He has co-created and sustained “Super Art Fight”, a pro-wrestling styled art competition that is gaining in popularity around the country. He’s spoken at various conferences including the one from where I currently write, SXSW. And he’s only just begun. I grabbed a minute to sit down with Ross between sessions and caught up with what’s going on in this seemingly never-still mind…
How many different pots are on your stove right now?
I like to call them plates that I’m spinning… If I don’t keep spinning them, I’m afraid one will fall and crash…. Teaching, freelancing, the comic, Super Art Fight… (Think Pictionary meets pro wrestling). We actually go on tour like a band.
[aside: Ross doesn't seem to get the fact that these events were actually written up in Wired magazine.]
Is any of it sustainable?
Teaching is actually the least sustainable, as I don’t yet have a masters. That’s the one that’s destined to end, as much as I love it, because it’s on a contract.
How do you sustain yourself?
Most days I work on the comic in the early morning, then grade and teach later the day. I have odd hours, which works for me. Time management has gotten a bit out of hand though. In the morning I will always find a list of things I should have done the night before… But somehow I squeak by. But, even though I have “gotten away” from a normal schedule, I’m actually trying to work my way back into it.
What keeps you going during the madness?
The times these projects pays off. Like speaking here [at SXSW]… It’s the acknowledgment that things are working. Like, booking a burlesque act for an upcoming Super Art Fight while flying to Austin to speak, it’s all really just fun. But there’s also cycling to work, coffee and Netflix Instant, because I can do these while working. [Latest obsession: Farscape, it's Sci-fi with Muppets.]
Your work is being followed, tweeted, referred to…. With followers now, how do you keep it going?
Sometimes with the comics, I spend the least amount of time on is best received. A lot of people love charts so I’ll throw them those now and them. Last Friday I was a “guest chartist” for ilovecharts.tumblr.com.
Do you make any money off of The System?
It pays for the rare times I have to go out. Making money at something you love and didn’t expect to make money at is awesome.
So what happens after teaching ends?
Looking at grad schools. Then more teaching? I really don’t know at this point. It’s hard to say what of all these projects is going to pan out at this point. Maybe back to design, or maybe by then other things will start paying off as well.
Words of wisdom to pass on?
Stop talking about doing it and just start doing it. For months I couldn’t decide on all the little details of starting The System and that held me back. Some friends told me to shut up and just start trying something, and I finally listened.
Ross just can’t decide which avenue is better for him at this point. He is pushing on all fronts until one takes precedence (or until he’s brain dead?). But “no worries”, he told me, his passions are related enough that they actually benefit each other. “The more you get into any field, the more it relates to any other field. It’s all visual storytelling, just in different formats. And varying amounts of money.”