Brent Bowen: Art, business and fun
Next time you walk into Bowen Studios in Salt Lake City, look for the mini Lego figures hidden around the office. One of Brent Bowen’s employees hid them as an office joke. Another item you might see is a remote-controlled helicopter flying around—they can thank a client for that gift. And, if you’re lucky, you might happen upon a magnetic toy man that hangs from a three-foot cord. It’s often connected to steel beams. Someone usually moves the figure so it’s always in a new location.
Yep. It’s that casual of an office. And Brent loves it.
“I think I have a killer staff,” Bowen says. “I’m honored to work with all of them. Because having to work sucks. Nobody wants to go to work. So if you can make it fun and hang out with people you like, then that’s cool.”
Bowen Studios creates photo-realistic renderings and animations for architects, interior designers, developers and construction companies. As a business owner and creative director, Bowen’s top lesson is that hiring the right personality is often more important than hiring the right skillset. You can’t train personality, he says. But you can always train someone to improve their skills.
“In the past, I’ve hired some wrong people that didn’t fit with the group and that’s been more detrimental to the business—even though we were desperate for people. It was better to refuse work than hire the wrong person.”
Bowen never intended to start a business. He always liked design and architecture—even as a kid—and taught himself to render projects from home for extra cash. He eventually turned it into a business.
One of his favorite projects right now is working on the Vivint Smart Home Arena renovation. Bowen oversaw his team’s art direction.
“One of my guys nailed it,” he says. “The reason why it’s by far our best animation is because the client trusted us to do something and was hands off. So we could push it to be cooler than something we’ve already done. It’s the Jazz—they’re not art people and so they said, ‘We want you to do it. Make it cool.’ We were winging all sorts of stuff.”
Bowen enjoys making something look real in a computer program. When he started more than 20 years ago, the software wasn’t nearly as good as it is today. Something that used to take weeks now takes day.
Even with a business based on digital visualizations, however, Bowen still finds value in hand sketches from old-school architects.
“A whole bunch of our clients are old-school guys. They do the sketchy stuff and pass it on to a younger guy who does it all. There are fewer of those. It’s sad that hand-drawn art has slowly drawn away. Every once in awhile I see an old set of hand drawings and I’m like, ‘That’s art.’”
If you can learn to sketch by hand you can do hundreds of designs in seconds, he says. He says younger people design in the computer too soon, and older people don’t rely on the computer enough. Solution? Know how to balance the two.
“Instead of an older guy learning it, hire people that know it. Stick to your strengths, I think.”
Or be the magnet man that sticks to metal beams somewhere around the office. Either way, you’ll be around a pretty creative group.