MESH01 2011 Designer of the Year: Renderman

We are proud to announce that Mark Kokavec AKA Renderman is the 2011 MESH01 Designer of the Year. I had the chance to talk with Mark to learn a little more about him and his background in design, he even tells us where you can learn his and other leading designer’s techniques.

  How did you learn about MESH01?

I was doing some “design” research online.

Had you participated in a design competition before?

I had never participated in an online competition but I had hosted a couple on my old website a few years back.  They were focused on footwear design and the winner was featured in SLAM magazine.

Can you tell us about your path towards becoming an Industrial designer?

Growing up, I was always an artist and realized I wanted to do something related to design while in High School.  It wasn’t until my best friend introduced me to the College For Creative Studies (CCS), where I decided to make “Design” a career.  I started studying Automotive Design at CCS and later transitioned into Product Design.  I never interned for a large company (but wish I had).  I landed my first job with Reebok 3 months prior to graduating.  Yes, I finished my degree before starting the new job!

After 6 years heading up the Tennis category, I moved to Converse to manage and lead their Basketball division.  Then it was off to Under Armour where I worked on Football, Baseball, Lacrosse, Soccer, Training, Slides, Kids and Basketball footwear.  My main responsibility was as Sr. Design Manager for Running and Trail.

What are some of the highlights of your career to date?

The exciting part of being a footwear designer is the opportunity to work closely with professional athletes.  I’ve have the opportunity to work closely with athletes at the top of their game such as… Venus Williams (Tennis), Chris McCormack (Iron Man) and Dwyane Wade (Basketball).  Seeing my designs on their feet during Grand Slams and Playoffs is a hard feeling to describe.  It’s very special.  Being part of that history, albeit in a small way, is extremely fulfilling.

What do you feel makes your designs and style different/unique from others?

The main difference is the integration of the digital medium into my process.  The way I use multiple software packages in harmony to achieve a final design is my “special recipe”.  I’m always looking for new processes to add into my workflow.  If there is a program that can help improve the final design, I try to figure out which parts to use and add them in.

Who are some of the designers / artists that you pull your inspiration from?

When I feel the need to get inspired, I typically turn to the entertainment industry.  I find the images and concepts to be full of creative energy and always come away with a refreshed and energized mind.  Daniel Simon’s “Cosmic Motors” picture book is always nearby.

In addition to designing you have also founded a company called Render Demo.  Can you tell us a little about what Render Demo does?

Render Demo started out as a hobby in 2008.  I wanted to share the skills and techniques that took me years to develop, with other designers.  I was fortunate to receive an education at CCS and realized that there are so many young artists and designers out there that (for whatever reason) wouldn’t be able to access this type of training.  So that’s when I decided to start Render Demo.

Render Demo consists of industry leading designers sharing their real-world techniques and processes through detailed video tutorials.  We currently focus on digital techniques but will be expanding our library to include traditional techniques like pen and paper, in the near future.

Our mission and goal is to provide artists and designers that are looking to improve on their current technique or interested in exploring new techniques, the means to do so.  From beginner to advanced level training, there is something for everyone.

For design training tutorials: http://www.renderdemo.com

I have personally seen one of Renderman’s live demos and would recommend it to any designer looking to expand on their techniques.

Where can our designers go to see more of your work?

For my portfolio and freelance design services: http://www.renderdemodesignstudio.com

Thank you for the interview, can you offer any words of advice to the other designers out there in the MESH01 community?

Never give up!  Keep pushing for your dream and do whatever it takes to live it.

One other thing… Always keep an open mind.  Taking criticism can be tough at times, but use it as a learning experience to grow and as a “fuel” to better yourself.