In one of my latest posts - 9 Tips on How To Improve Yourself as a Web Designer, I made a quick reference to the fact that reading interviews is as important as reading magazines and books. That’s because in interviews you get straight and direct answers from the best in the field. For the purpose of this article, I’ve selected some of the best interview statements of several different professionals.
Interviews give you great insights about how a person thinks, works and feels about his job and life. If you don’t usually read interviews, this is an opportunity to get an idea about how reading them can be an extremely useful learning method. Let’s get started!
“Bonus Question! Any suggestions out there for students or newbie designers trying to learn and grow as designers?”
“Absolutely! The best thing I ever did when learning to design was to spend copious amounts of time in my local Borders reading through all the expensive books on design and typography which I couldn’t afford to buy. There’s so much great information which isn’t yet available online, in fact with books often there’s a lot to learn simply by looking at how the books themselves have been designed!”
“I see that you design brilliant icons. Give us some tips for designing an effective icon…”
“An effective icon should be simple and meaningful. So, make your icon as simple as possible. You can go fancy with the various effects, but keep your icon as minimal as possible. The entire point of an icon is to communicate a single message to the users.”
“What are your best methods for finding/attracting clients?”
“The best way is having a very good network and let people know about your work. The promotion is the most difficult part of the process but as soon as you get a client and you do a good job, they recommend you. Also there are so many good sites to find jobs and even different ways to get work like writing tutorials for example.”
“Walk us through your creative process. Do you start your process with references or sketches on paper or wireframes, or are your initial concepts more spontaneous? Is there some difference in thought processes between web and print projects?”
“The problem is that my process isn’t always the same; it mostly shifts depending on what it is that I am working on. The most constant part in my process is logo design where I almost always start with sketches in my little sketchbooks and scan them in to start the process in Illustrator. When designing websites it depends on how complex the project really is. When it is really complex I always start by wire-framing the most difficult parts before actually starting to move to Photoshop. Some concepts happen spontaneously, but not often. After receiving an OK from the client, I move over to create the final HTML/CSS part. There, I always start with structure first in HTML before starting to style things. The Illustrations that I draw almost always start on paper first, well at least the basic idea. Sometimes I end up with a different result due to experimenting.”
“Lots of designers struggle when faced with the task of creating a logo for themselves. How would you advise a designer who is trying to figure out how to best to brand themself?”
“Tough question, especially given that I spent the bulk of a year on my own identity design (brainstorming, sketching, finalizing, then scrapping it and returning to the start). Settling on a design that represents you needs to be a very personal thing, so I guess if there’s one tip I can give, it’s to make your identity reflect who you are. With that said, it’s your client work that sells you, so if in doubt, why not opt for a clean, professional logotype?”
“What, for you personally, are the pros and cons of being a designer?”
“The biggest pro is that I love what I do so it is not really work which gives me the highest satisfaction. The cons of being a freelance designer is that you have to be disciplined, your own boss and do all of the business administration yourself.”
“What books do you consider must read?”
“Providing you have the time, all books! With regards to design and development when I was writing my dissertation I really enjoyed Jeffrey Zeldman’s designing with web standards, it’s a really good book that provides the necessary foundations for good web standards. Other than that its been a while since I read any design/development orientated books. On my list to read though I would like Smashing Magazine’s book and also David Airey’s book, Logo Design Love. Outside of the work world I am currently reading Robinson Crusoe.”
“Where did you go to school and has it helped you become a better web design professional?”
“I attended the secondary school and high school “Nicolae Tonitza” in Bucharest. Then followed The Fine Arts University “Nicolae Grigorescu” in Bucharest, Department of Graphic Design. Surely the 15 years of study were a great help. Studies matter a lot but they are just the first brick in the making of a web designer or a graphic designer.”
“How does a student determine whether design is for them or they should pursue another career?”
“Do what you love doing. That goes for any career. If you are bored with the industry now, then it probably isn’t for you! If you love what you are doing, then work and fun can merge a lot of the time, which is a much better way to live than dreading the 9:00-to-5:00 every day. Yes, you need talent, but enthusiasm, a love of what you do and hard work can get you a long way. ”
“What are some of the best ways for new designers to find clients?”
“Go after them. Don’t expect clients to come to you if you’re new to the industry. What worked the best for me was cold-emailing agencies for their overflow work. Some people might think that’s spamming, but it isn’t if it’s short, relevant and only done to a company once.”
“What advice would you offer to young entrepreneurs looking to establish themselves in the online world?”
“The Internet is an enormous space, and there’s room for anyone to make a living doing what they enjoy.
If you’re wanting to build a web application to fill a niche (or just solve an existing problem better than everyone else), check out 37Signals’ blog. They’re opinionated and contentious, but have some absolutely fascinating insight and advice to share.
If you want to start a blog, read Crush It. If any book will give you a background to the tools and techniques used in blogging today, this one will. It’s also worth following Skellie, a remarkably talented blogger and writer who manages Envato’s Tuts+ websites.
Don’t quit your day job tomorrow to set up an online business. Start small, and understand that building a presence online takes time. Jump on any opportunities that come your way, and don’t be afraid to fail. If you’re building a bricks-and-mortar business, failure is usually a financial disaster. If your online project fails, there’s a good chance that no-one will even notice (and it won’t cost you a penny).”
“You’ve worked for a number of studios. Was it a useful experience? What made you want to work for yourself?”
“Vital! This is a must for all designers or developers, no matter which studio you work for you will learn and you will learn a lot. I once worked for a studio which was possibly the worst place I have ever worked, getting out of there was like being resuscitated from drowning, but I still took positives from it. Even if all you learn is how to treat customers and fellow peers, you’ve learnt something vital.”
“In your opinion, what is the best way to test the usability of a website?”
“Follow the 3 basic rules: get representative customers, ask them to perform realistic tasks, and shut up and let them do the talking. You only need 5 users to uncover enough usability insights to keep you busy for months. Even though there are only 3 rules, they are routinely violated in many studies. For example, it’s wrong to test with your friends or colleagues. You need to bring in external users who are representative of the target audience and who don’t know anything about your project. And you can’t just let them fool around: they have to do real tasks. And, of course, you have to keep from biasing their behavior and giving them hints about how to use the site.”
“What role has social media played in your blog’s success?”
“Not a whole lot. Social Media is young, and for all we know, it might just be a trend. That’s not an attack (I’m addicted to Twitter), but it seems strange to me that there are so many “Social Media Experts”. That’s roughly equivalent to calling oneself an “expert at talking to people online over several mediums”. It just doesn’t make much sense to me. I grew up on the Web, so a lot of the online social scene is just a natural thing to me. It’s a great way to chat and connect with people, and it’s definitely offered a great deal of opportunity to entrepeneurs. Maybe it’s contributed to sending some traffic my way, but it’s miniscule compared to the tried and true methods of just developing quality materials.”
“What is the most important question you ask when first meeting with a client to discuss a new design or project?”
“I think that first meeting should be 75% about them. Who they are, what they do, why they do it, who their customers are, what the goals of the project are. That kind of thing. Then 25% about you. Who you are, how you work, what you expect, things you have done in the past that might be relevant. It should be 0% about design, technologies used, or any specifics about what the final product might be. After you get a good feel for each other, then the NEXT discussion can be more focused on a proposal and ideas for a final product.”
“When you are low on inspiration where is a common place that you turn to?”
“I really like to look at design related imagery, a book cover, a poster, a typographic arrangement or a good typeface, anything from music to retro stuff like B-movies, music band posters or even illustrations and typography from medieval books can be a source of inspiration.”
“What words of advice would you give to an aspiring designer just starting out?”
“Sketch, sketch sketch. Also try different creative activities that you havenâ€™t tried before such as photography or painting. You never know what you will be good at and you may pick up some really unique design ideas and methods youâ€™ve never thought of before that you can apply to your work.”
“What do you find to be the most challenging part of running a blog?”
“The most challenging aspect is continuously thinking of new content. I have a posting schedule of one post per week, with a roundup of interesting news articles every other week, yet I still find times when I’m stuck for content! On the other hand I’ll sometimes be able to schedule a batch of posts for the upcoming month.”
“Do you think it’s important for a designer to not be restrict in using only photoshop and move on to 3d as well?”
“I have found it more effective to use a mix of 3d, photos and painting to achieve the level of detail I strive for in my images, but this is just my personal way of working. Some people can create fantastic images with photoshop only, and that’s just the way they work. That said, learning 3d can open up whole new worlds in your artwork. I can really give you the flexibility to create anything you dream up. I started with a program called Bryce, and this gave me the basic stepping stone into 3d. Cinema 4d is my preferred 3d package simply for its intuitive design and ease of use. Someday i would love to learn Zbrush to take my artwork to the next level.”
“What are the biggest challenges that you face in web design currently?”
“My personal challenge is a lack of time to learn everything I would like to. For instance, I’d love to master motion tools, but still don’t have time. Maybe next year… In general, the biggest challenge is educating clients about the user experience, explaining why they need usability testings and reviews, and about the true powers of their web site or application. Many investors come to me with an idea of forums and/or similar community features, but they rarely realize that they don’t have resources to handle this. They often overhear the idea (or read a blog post entitled “Increase revenue with social network”), but can neither really understand nor explain why they need it.”
Interviews are definitely a great way to get inspired and to know a bit more about the professional world. With so much information available, the only wall between you and success is your will and motivation. Go after them!