Born the son of an electrical engineer, Spencer Norman knew his father always expected him to follow in the family trade — and in some ways he is doing that. The 28-year-old moved to Colorado in 2008 with his now-wife Mattea to be closer to the mountains and use his computer science degree in a market less saturated by graphic designers. He started his own advertising and design firm, Collider Creative, in January 2013 and currently works with around 20 clients, helping develop and market their products and services. A local winner in the Go Code Colorado competition (see page 6) Norman talked this week about the things he loves: his wife, design and Colorado Springs.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I grew up in Georgia in a family of six kids (I’m the oldest), and grew up loving the mountains. I went to Calvin College in Michigan and got a degree in computer science, learned how to snowboard and went to Copper Mountain on spring break my sophomore year. As soon as I left Copper I said, “I’m moving to Colorado.” … I had some friends in Colorado Springs that I went to college with, so I moved down and slept on the guy’s couch while I looked for jobs and sort of got hooked on the community and the culture here.
I met my wife in Michigan. We worked at a camp together, and I went to school with her brother. We both sort of knew that we wanted to move to Colorado before we started dating, so I moved out here after we had been together for about two years, and six months later she graduated and moved out as well.
How did you get into graphic design?
My dad was an electrical engineer, so he had me programming and playing with electricity since before I can remember. My first computer was a PC Junior. It didn’t have an operating system. You had to put a disk in it to do anything, and anything that you wanted it to do you had to program yourself. … By the time I was 10 or 11, I had created my first website and had started to explore the world of computer science. I think my dad dreamed that I would become an electrical engineer and take over the family business, but for me the computer angle was a different way to express the same skill set.
Tell us about your company, Collider Creative.
Collider came about from having a lot of friends that work in graphic design, Web, databases and photography (my wife does photography). I saw all of these different types of creative people who didn’t know how to sell themselves, who didn’t know how to market their skills — they just wanted to make stuff and would love to make a living doing that. … So for me, Collider started as an umbrella that I could use to protect some of my creative friends and in the process build a brand around good design, great work and things that work well and look good, which I think in a lot of ways Colorado Springs is lacking. … It is a way to kind of control the final product. I could go work for somebody and have control over only what I create, or I could start my own company and have control over everything and say, “We’re only going to release a product that I think is great at every angle.”
Do you feel that this is a good place to be as a young design professional?
I think it can be. We’re starting to — with the Downtown Partnership, with the small businesses, with a lot of the people that live downtown — create a larger movement to try to reclaim Colorado Springs … and help build this city into a place where young professionals not only want to stay, but a place where young professionals want to move because of the culture and the opportunities.
I think there is currently a lot of opportunity, but I think we will have to create more by saying, “Good design is worth paying for, and it is something that is valuable in your product as well as in your brand.”
So I think Colorado Springs is kind of on the fence right now, but there is a movement to kind of help Colorado Springs become that place where people want to live and visit.
I think that we’ve got a long way to go, and it is possible that it could fail, but I’m optimistic.
What do you think is a key part of that evolution?
I strongly believe that the more urban an area, or the closer people live in proximity, the more collaboration, sharing, natural design and natural culture comes out of that. … I don’t think that all of this suburban lifestyle really contributes to a culture that people want to live in. You can move to the suburbs anywhere, but I think that moving to a strong urban core where there is an active culture is the first step.
What goals do you have for Collider?
Our goal with Collider is to become the go-to branding, identity and development company in Colorado Springs. When people think, “I have a project that needs to be done right, to be done in a way that connects with people of all generations and it needs to be done on a reasonable timeframe,” I want Collider to be the go-to company for that.