Dan Gonzalez, Graphic Designer
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, Dan González returned to Miami to form Ampersand Design Group. Since 1993, his company has been creating identities, brochures, illustrations, animations and websites for clients such as Motorola, Adobe, AT&T, Royal Caribbean, Miami Heat and many more.
How did you get started in the graphics industry?
It all started when I was a little boy. I remember watching HBO back in the early 80’s where you see their logo in 3D. It comes flying out from space and the camera enters the “O” in HBO. I thought that it was the neatest thing in the world! From then on I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer and 3D was going to play a big role. But professionally, after graduating from college, I worked for an ad agency. I also started doing freelance work on the side. But then the freelance work became so lucrative, that I was losing money by going to my 9 to 5. I decided to stop working for them and started Ampersand Design Group. 13 years later, the rest, as they say, is history.
What made you pick up Strata 3D? Was there a specific problem/need that caused you to seek out a 3D application?
It all goes back to the HBO incident. I knew I wanted 3D in my bag of tricks. When I was starting out, Strata was one of the most economically priced packages at the time. I have been with them since they started. From 1.0 to 1.75 to Blitz to Studio Pro, and now with CX it’s still is one of the best packages out there. You can’t beat that rendering engine. Phenomenal.
What other applications were part of your workflow, and how did Strata 3D work with those applications?
On a daily basis I use Freehand, Photoshop and After Effects. They all get along very well. Strata creates great Alpha Channels that include transparency and particle effects. This way, in After Effects, I can remove the background and have video or motion graphics behind the 3D animations.
How did you learn Strata 3D, and would you recommend your method to new users?
I am a book worm. Once I order new software, I never install the program until I’ve read the manual cover to cover. But that’s just me. I know others jump right in and start pecking at the program until they figure out how it works. Whichever works for you is the better method. Do whatever gets you up and running.
Has the introduction of 3D into your workflow caused you to branch out and explore opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise?
Absolutely. With 3D we can offer 3D illustration, animation, QTVR, and package design visualization into our list of capabilities. Without Strata, this wouldn’t be possible. I also started another company, AgnusImages, to sell renderings to religious publishers. The images are all Strata renderings and can be seen at AgnusImages.com. There’s even a brief explanation as to how the images were made.
Have you tried other 3D applications? How did Strata 3D compare?
I’ve tried FormZ, Electric Image and Maya. But for ease of use and render quality, Strata is the way to go.
Do you use any other applications to complement Strata 3D?
I use Silo for a few projects and it’s a welcomed modeling tool. After Effects for compositing and Photoshop for generating textures.
How has your personal style and workflow changed since learning Strata 3D?
It has changed radically. Even if I am going to create something cartoon-like in vectors with Freehand, I’ll model it in Strata, position my camera, create a rendering then import it into Freehand and use that as a guide to make my drawings.
Was there anything else regarding your experience with Strata 3D that our readers would find interesting or useful?
It’s simply is the best all-around 3D program I’ve used. They anticipate what you’ll need and they really do listen to their customers.