First, let’s talk about your journey. How did you get into design? When did you know you were meant to be a creative?
I don’t think I considered it design at the time, but I immensely enjoyed creating Winamp skins back in the day. If you’re unfamiliar with Winamp, it was a media player that allowed you to change the interface with your own designs (if you knew how to code it, of course). I wasn’t aware of being “a creative” at that time either. I just did it because it was fun, which I think is the purest form of creativity.
Before and after there was school, failing out of school, studying engineering, failing at that, and eventually finding my way into design by pure coincidence (or maybe because I couldn’t do anything else but that).
Don’t go after UX design just because it’s trendy. Think about what you could spend hours working on through the night.
What is your favourite design discipline and why? How did you find out it was your favourite? How can young designers find out?
This has changed many times over the years, but right now I’d have to say product design. It encompasses many design disciplines, and that’s why I enjoy it. Designing a great product can involve everything from UX design to branding to packaging design. It also requires knowledge in areas outside design (strategy, business, content…). That makes it enjoyable and keeps it interesting for me. Plus, it’s pretty satisfying to hold/use/see/sell a tangible result of your work.
Young designers can find their niche by simply letting themselves follow their interests. Don’t go after UX design just because it’s trendy. See what you enjoy reading and researching. Think about what you could spend hours working on through the night. It’s not about “following your passion,” which means nothing as far as I can tell. You don’t have to seek something. Just let yourself explore what genuinely interests you and see where it leads.
Do you think young designers should try to learn many disciplines or focus on mastering a single one?
I believe the days of mastering a single skill are no longer. Generally speaking, companies want designers with diverse skills who can collaborate well within teams and move fluidly between tasks. That doesn’t mean we need to be highly skilled at everything. I think of it as “a jack of all trades and master of some,” a slight shift from the old adage. I recently wrote an article on my blog about just this.
But it is also important to mention that if you’re young, you most likely suck at everything (just to quote my mother here) and that’s totally fine. If you’re just getting started in the industry, try to specialize in at least one thing so you can add real value. Don’t cast your net too wide from the start. Once you get more senior, then cast your net a little wider and aim to master new skills.
Don’t obsess over process. Just strive to make, to build, to create. Go with the flow.
What is your creative process? Do you think young designers should have a set of processes or go with the flow?
Designers should go with the flow when it’s working and find a personal process for when it’s not. There is certainly no right or wrong way to be creative.
Of course, I have practical steps in place for my work, but it always depends on the client, the nature of the project, whether I’m working with a team and other variables. One process will not work for everything. So have a process as a foundation, but be willing and ready to adjust it.
Most importantly: Just do it! Our industry tends to over-romanticize process to the point where process has become the end-goal in itself. Don’t obsess over process. Just strive to make, to build, to create. Go with the flow.
How do you get inspired?
Inspiration comes when I’m moving, not when I’m trying to force it. To quote one of my all-time favorites, Pablo Picasso: “Inspiration has to find us working.”
It’s also important for me to read and experience things outside my profession. I may not be seeking inspiration in the moment, but the books I read, movies I watch and places I go eventually feed into my work.
A dream portfolio from a young designer is one with experiments that show you have a voice, passion and can think originally.
Do you think having a portfolio is important for young designers? What would your dream young designer portfolio be?
A portfolio is the MOST important thing for a young designer. This message is approved by Semplice, my portfolio system for designers.
Of course, it’s a catch-22 because you don’t necessarily have the work to put in your portfolio yet – but it’s the portfolio that helps you get the work. The good news is that for a young designers, it’s less about having impressive projects and more about demonstrating potential. Any good company doesn’t expect pro work from a young designer (unless they’re completely delusional, and don’t worry, there’s enough of that out there). They want to see you have a positive attitude, a lack of ego and a hint of talent.
A dream portfolio from a young designer is one with experiments that show you have a voice, passion and can think originally, and projects (whether personal or client projects) that demonstrate hard work and heart.
What is the most important thing to know about design in your opinion?
That you can break the rules. I think as a young designer, especially in school, we get caught up wanting to learn the best processes, find the best tools and emulate the great work we’ve been studying. That’s all valuable, but only because knowing how to do it “right” allows you to do it wrong. And that’s where design gets fun.
You can break the rules. Knowing how to do it “right” allows you to do it wrong.
How can young designers get their first internship/job? Is it important to go to design school or not?
Design school can be valuable, but I’m also seeing designers get great jobs these days after a three-month design bootcamp. I didn’t go to design school but other extremely successful designers did. Again, there is no right or wrong way to do it.
Designers can get their first internship/job by not letting their ego get in the way. Of course you should be fairly compensated for your work, but you might not land your dream job right away. That’s fine. Just focus on getting your foot in the door and learning as much as you can.
Did you learn any tricks during your career? Do you have any tricks you would have loved your young-self to know?
There’s a very simple trick: Be useful. I know it sounds basic, but that’s the most important advice I can give, especially to young designers. Anytime you’re useful, someone will be thankful to have you on the team. And being useful is probably the easiest yet most overlooked skill. You can be useful by getting coffee for the team, by pitching in on a project, organizing those folders, whatever it may be. I still remind myself of that “trick” today because it always works and makes you a joy to work with.
Be useful. Anytime you’re useful, someone will be thankful to have you on the team. It always works and makes you a joy to work with.
Do you have any favourite books/resources you would have loved to read when you were younger to help boost your creative career?
I do, in fact. I have them listed right here.
A few top picks are:
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday
To wrap up, do you have a favourite quote? How is it relative to your creative career?
"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars."
I’ll leave this to you to decide how you interpret it (:
Anything you want to promote or plug?
Semplice.com, of course.