Designer In The Spotlight (DITS) is a weekly feature that I run every Sunday to help particular individuals in the design community get their name ‘out there’ and to educate the community as a whole. It is a series of questions that asks the designer about themselves and their job as a designer. If you would like to be featured in an upcoming DITS post fill out the form here.
1. Please tell us more about yourself, your background, education and what you do as a designer.
I am a 28 year old web designer from the southern United States who currently lives & works abroad in Berlin, Germany. I have a great interest in all things web but my main focus is to take creative ideas and turn them in to beautiful functional websites while also supporting web standards.
I began my design career in early 2002 after being hired by an online travel company. After about a year of working in an office I moved to working from home and haven’t looked back.
Although sometimes I miss the daily grind of a 9 to 5 office job, working from home has enabled me to start my own small web design firm here in Berlin and to also co-found an online marketing and technology firm back in the States.
2. How long have you been designing and what made you become an artist / designer?
I have been designing in some shape or form since I was in high school. My high school offered a graphic communications class which introduced me to graphic design, print design and touched briefly on web design. I instantly became fascinated with all aspects of web design!
Even though I didn’t begin a career on the web until a few years later, I kept myself up to date and used the web as a creative outlet. This eventually led to working as a full time designer.
3. Where do you work and what is your daily routine?
I currently work from my home in Berlin Germany. A daily routine is quite a work of art these days. As a new father my routine is quite a bit different than in past years.
I usually start the day by clearing out my inbox and getting back to clients and co-workers. With the time difference quite a few emails get sent while I am sleeping. After that is full on completing my task list. I work a lot of hours and quite a bit of those are at night and into the early morning. I think this is quite normal in our field and especially when you work from home.
4. How did you market yourself in the beginning of your design career and how has that differed to how you market yourself now?
In the beginning I worked in an office so marketing myself wasn’t so much of an issue. Now that I have my own small firm its a lot more important. Most of my clients come from referrals and word of mouth. Thus far this way has been very effective and I have been lucky to not have to spend a lot of time marketing myself.
5. What are your tools of the trade? This could include hardware, software and traditional tools.
Right now I do all my work on a PC set up with an external monitor attached. Although this will probably change very soon. I use a moleskine notebook for brainstorming and sketches. Photoshop and Fireworks for graphic concepts and usually write HTML & CSS by hand.
I have also recently started using getsignoff.com for sharing designs and client feedback. While I have only used this tool a couple times so far I believe its already been very beneficial and helped my overall productivity when pitching designs to clients.
6. How do you manage the business side of design such as accounting, invoicing and bookkeeping?
7. Where do you get your inspiration and how do you keep up to date with what is happening in the industry?
A lot of my inspiration comes from wanting to help others make their ideas a reality. I think the best inspiration booster is to step back from the computer and get out and have some fun or do something you enjoy.
Just take your mind of your task list and the ideas will come! Of course current trends and the work of today’s rock star designers (Cederholm, Santa Maria, Boag) would also be an influence. There are countless other designers and inspirations out there but those are just a few of mine.
8. Can you please guide us through a typical project from start to finish.
A typical project usually begins with an introduction to the prospective client. This can be them contacting me via email or telephone or myself contacting them through a referral. This is where I find out the initial details of the project and if I am the guy for the job.
If I am the guy for the job, I begin by getting as many details as possible from the client. I work very close with clients so that I understand their needs. Once I have a grasp of what the clients objectives are I will get to work on some very rough concepts and outlines. This usually results in another meeting where modifications and new ideas are suggested by the client.
Graphics, design tweaks and a final concept are usually the last step before coding begins. Of course sometimes a few tweaks are needed but these can usually be dealt with while coding.
Once concepts are approved the XHTML & CSS are coded out along with any programming that may be needed and the site is built and delivered.
9. What are your top 3 websites / books and why?
Designing with Web Standards by Jeffery Zeldman – This book introduced me to the world of web standards and helped to change the way in which I work and view the web overall.
Web Standard Solutions by Dan Cederholm – As probably one of my biggest influences it was a no-brainer that I read Dan’s books. The tips and techniques in this book are something I find myself going back to again and again.
CSS Mastery by Andy Budd – When I first read this book it was like a slap in the face that helped to wake me up. I thought I knew CSS fairly well but this book helped open my eyes to the world of advanced CSS techniques.
10. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out?
Don’t stop learning! Read, participate, talk, and enjoy web design. It will come, just keep on keepin’ on!!
Jacob: Thank you Phillip for taking the time to fill out this interview: If you want to be featured as the next Designer In The Spotlight, please fill out this form.