More thoughts on design!

Because I’m sure that those of you who know me well don’t hear enough of my thoughts on design. This is a questionnaire I filled out in response to a freelance job posting. It was quite an exhaustive process, actually, and I only had a short timeframe in which to complete it, but I gave it my best shot. (I’ve edited out the “technical” portion and the examples & attachments, as that sounded a little too much like a high school test for even me to be interested in it!)


1.Do you start with a rough comp or go straight into a “finished” design?

Usually when working for clients I’ll start with four different initial rough mockups. We then revise back and forth, and with each stage of revision I start pulling the pieces together into a more polished final, along with applying the client’s suggestions.

1a. Do you mock up on paper or in photoshop?

A little bit of both, usually … though I usually don’t show the paper mockups to anyone!

2. How much time do you usually spend creating a home page design?

This tends to vary depending on the client and their budget. Most of my clients are small-budget so I keep things as quick as possible without sacrificing aesthetics too much. Usually, to take a design from mockups through to completed template (before any coding happens!) takes around 10 hours, including all the stages of revision.

3. How much time do you typically spend “polishing” a design?

I have been known to spend tens of hours, but generally, as I do try to keep an eye on the clock and not indulge my perfectionist side too much, it tends to average out at about 5-10 hours, depending of course on the complexity of the design!

4. Would you say you are more “get it done, get it out” focused or “get it perfect” focused?

I think I’m naturally more the latter … if I’m designing something for myself or for a client who doesn’t have time restrictions, I can spend a good deal of time poring over the minute details. But most of my clients want it done now, and don’t have a lot of money to spend indulging me, so I do quite effectively steer myself towards the “get it done” line of focus.

5. How do you manage design quality vs. time available?

I try to make it so that my process facilitates better quality, and obviously, as I get better, I find that I’m able to do better work in less time, and spend less time on work that goes nowhere. I try to really restrict the amount of time I put into rough comps, as a lot of this can be “wasted” time. I’ve got to the point where I can do comps far more quickly, and am then left with more time near to the end of a project to refine and polish. I also try to make myself focus on the things that people will actually notice, rather than the things that only matter to me, and this keeps my perspective in line a bit.


1. How would you describe your artistic style?

I do tend to vary—one of the things I love about design is that you don’t really need to pigeonhole yourself into one aesthetic, as different projects require different styles. However, I find my style usually tends toward being rather clean & simple, with bold lines and colour. I like to offset this with the use of textures and typographic flourishes, so that things aren’t quite so stark.

2. Who would you say has influenced your design style?

That’s another thing that I love about design! Influences come from everywhere … I can be as inspired by a bottle of juice as I can be by a stunning website. I find my style is most influenced by beautiful things that I find around me—good recent examples of this are this gorgeous PaperBlanks day planner I bought, a book called “The Modern Gentleman”, and the shape of the tree outside my window.

3. What do you think should drive the visual style of a website?

The most important thing is that it reflects the message of its content, and is in line with its company’s marketing objectives. That comes first—some sites require a textured, elaborate look, while others demand something simpler or more professional-looking. I always try to ensure I have a good idea of what the design should be “saying” prior to even thinking about a design. Design can communicate so much before anyone reads even so much as a word on the page; it’s vital that your first impression be the right one!

4. What are some examples of sites (not yours) that you like?,,,,,,,,

5. What are some examples of sites that you dislike?

MySpace! … there are so many, it’s really hard to just name a few!

1. To what extent were you taught/receive formal training on design vs. learning by yourself?

I actually learned web design, and, by extension, the basics of PS, when I was about fourteen, so I’d been doing it relying on a “good eye” for some time before I went to school.  School gave me a decent understanding of the basics and of how to apply them, but I found that I’ve learned much more since being out of school! I read a lot: websites, magazines, books, and I’m always trying to learn new things. I feel constantly like a student.

2. What design websites do you read regularly?

A List Apart, Vitamin, Veer, design.Principles, Be a Design Group (since defunct), Graphic Define, FreelanceSwitch, The Book Design Review.

3. What is your a recent blog post or article on design you enjoyed?

There was a fantastic article in the last issue of Design Edge magazine about book cover design that I really enjoyed, and another one about this redesign of a honey manufacturer’s marketing materials. (I tend to enjoy reading magazines more than I do websites! I spend too much time staring into the screen.) I recently really enjoyed this History of the Ampersand.

4.What are your top three “must read” books on design?

Stop Stealing Sheep, The Elements of Typographic Style, Universal Principles of Design.

5. What are the latest trends in web design?

Gradients, things reflected in invisible mirrors (this usually is done without any logical consideration), that curly/flourishy vector look, extra whitespace to create a long long scrolling page, use of large icons and directing graphics, increased simplicity, grunge elements seem to be back again, but in more of a texture/background sort of a way…