How I Made It: ‘I failed my A-Levels but now earn six figures as an AR designer’
Welcome back to How I Made It, Metro.co.uk’s weekly career journey series.
This week we’re speaking to augmented reality (AR) designer, Doddz.
The 28-year-old has made a career working with some of the biggest names out there – from Drake to Dior, Amazon to Adidas, and plenty more – by tapping into AR when it was new.
Now making a six-figure salary, Doddz’s days of struggling at school are long behind him.
First, he fell into graphic design by accident, then he bribed a guard to get access to pitch to a leading businessman which resulted in a job, then he moved into AR.
It’s been a fascinating journey for the creative designer, so here’s how he made it.
Hey Doddz, so what got you into creative design?
Honestly, while applying for college I needed a fourth option and nothing piqued my interest, my dad suggested graphic design, which I thought was woodwork and thought, yeah, why not.
Prior to that I’d never done anything creative.
I’m pretty sure I was asked to leave art class at school and made to take German instead.
You failed your A-Levels – clearly that hasn’t held you back.
An A-Level is a certificate that says I have this amount of knowledge on a certain topic or program but, in my opinion, there are multiple ways to show you have that level of knowledge in a certain area outside of the educational system.
If you can show you’re the kind of person who has gone above and beyond to learn in a certain area, then you’ll look more passionate than the person who simply turned up to class and can remember things from a textbook long enough to write down in an exam.
You are also open about having dyslexia – does that affect you in your work now?
When I went to university I decided to take the test for it.
Sure enough the results came back as ‘extremely dyslexic but with unique qualities’ and I’ve always chosen to focus on the latter.
I don’t know any different when it comes to reading or writing so it doesn’t affect me too much – but my university gave me about £1,000 to spend on books while I was there, which I always felt was ironic as someone who couldn’t really read.
What was a big career moment for you?
Working for Steven Bartlett [a businessman] was part of the journey, and I went from my old job, making posters for Vodka Revolution on the Wednesday, to meeting Connor McGregor [a mixed martial artist] on the Saturday and flying to New York on the Monday.
I got the job by being creative about how to get Steve’s attention.
I bribed the building manager Tony with four beers to let me fly a 6ft remote controlled inflatable fish through the front door with a memory stick attached to it, which contained a video of me explaining why I felt Steve should be vlogging every day and why I was the person to do that.
I also said I was looking for a business mentor. That led to a trial, then they offered me the job the same day.
I quit my job and started filming Steve for the next three years.
Had you done much videography?
I’d never done any sort of videography before working at Social Chain for Steve so it was very much ‘on the job’.
You’d be surprised how quickly you can pick it up though when you’re filming and editing a 20-minute video everyday.
How did you transition to AR? Are you entirely self-taught?
In an effort to take my art career more seriously, about four years ago I tried to make my work stand out from the many other artists out there and create something no one had ever done before.
This move was based of the feedback and rejections I’d received when looking for representation.
This led me to experiment with all different types of mediums, which was a really fun, free creative number of years for me where no idea was off the table.
In order to make something that no one else had done before I thought about using tech that hadn’t been around for very long, and it made sense that there wouldn’t be much AR art as it’s still very much in its infancy.
As soon as I experimented with AR, the reaction was significantly different (in a good way) than all previous attempts so I doubled down and here we are.
Having no technical background I learnt by experimenting with software and watching YouTube videos – at a time when they were in foreign languages as their wasn’t any Western tutorials available at the time.
How long did it take to get to earning six figures?
Eight to 10 months if memory serves me correctly.
However, I think it would have been sooner as I didn’t understand the true value of AR to brands – so my initial costings were too low.
What was the toughest hurdle you had to overcome?
The fear of finally taking that leap to leave my job and become an full-time artist in the middle of a pandemic.
I slowly dropped my days from five days, to four, then three, and two, and finally I handed in my notice.
There’s never a right time. I didn’t know if it was going to work out. I trust myself to give it everything I have, but it was certainly a big mental hurdle.
An average day in the working life of Doddz
7am: Doddz kicks off the day with a workout – even sometimes working while on a treadmill.
He says: ‘The morning routine adds some structure to what typically is a hectic day.
The time in the gym is a period where I can set myself up for the day mentally, making sure I start switched on but mainly, if I don’t go first thing then I’ll find an excuse not to go during the day and never make it there.’
9.30am: The working day begins with a meeting with his girlfriend Steph and Doddz LTD Head of Operations to go over plans.
9.45am: The day is split evenly between commercial work and personal projects, so the mornings are typically spent working with large brands, creating AR experiences for upcoming campaigns.
2pm: Time for lunch and to watch a YouTube video.
2.30pm: Unless a deadline is looming, it’s time for personal products. These are typically pieces of art which showcase some of AR’s abilities. Not only do they serve as art but this is where 100% of Doddz’s new business comes from.
5.30pm: Work is over for the day, though sometimes the answer to a problem will come up for Doddz in the evening.
What’s the best career advice you got?
I have a tendency to jump from idea to idea, so learning to focus on the larger goals I have and remain consistent really propelled me.
If I’m being honest with myself, AR was the first thing I have remained focused on – I haven’t wavered into other areas like NFTs just because everyone else is (not that I’m against NFTs).
I’ve stayed in my lane and it’s paying off.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Freedom. Me, my girlfriend Steph and my french bulldog Louie can work anywhere in the world.
The rest of our team is remote and we’re in a position now where we say no to brands more than we say yes as we try to strike a better balance between commercial work and our own personal projects.
What’s the worst?
A slightly boring answer here but the steepest learning curve has been the business side of things.
As you can imagine I’m keen to spend all day on something creative but sorting out employee issues, putting out fires, managing tricky clients, VAT receipts, and more, is all part of the job.
I wouldn’t change any of it though.
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