Young designers are actually always in a very intensive process of changing, they are learning new techniques and improving their skills. As every designer has to experience this process, but it’s really interesting to see how different young designers, and developer, approach this process. So, I interviewed four young (highly-skilled) designers (and developers) about their thoughts.
The Life Of A Young Designer
For those of you who are just approaching this world, I hope this will serve as encouragement. You will see that a successful design career can start from very different beginnings.
Could you please introduce yourself?
Lam Nguyen: I’m glad when you guys give me an opportunity of an interview. I’m not really a designer. I do design but design is not my favorite. I love coding because when I push my fingers to the keyboard, I feel I’m doing a great thing: building a boat for the design shipped out to the sea. But, I do design, really!
Davy Kestens: My name is Davy Kestens, I’m a 21-year old internet entrepreneur from Belgium. After graduating from high school, I started working at a big web design company but I simply couldn’t handle being controled by a boss and having to deal with all their decisions. I went to college to free some time and start my own business while freelancing as a web designer on the side.
Jeremy Paillotin: So, My name is Jeremy Paillotin, I’m 16 and I live in Toulouse, in the south of France (that explains my bad English). I really enjoy designing and Digital Art, I would love to work in this field in the future. I tried a lot of different styles, from photomanipulation to web design, but what I really love is typography.
Aside from that I love many other things like snowboarding or playing guitar.
Robin Janásek: My name is Robin Janásek, I’m 19 at the moment (or at least they told me so) and I’m currently working as a graphic designer in a smaller company. Beside that, I love abstract and minimalism art in all species.
You all are young designers, so I guess it isn’t such a long time ago when you started with designing. When did you?
Lam Nguyen: I did my first program, I’m not sure if it was when I was 14. This was the first program I made for my teacher who wanted to create a class schedule. And when I was 16, I met web. That time, I just enjoyed chatting with my friends. I don’t remember when I did my first web design. It was a design for a portal for vBulletin Board integration. I did it for a group of people who wanted to make a forum about coding. It’s so funny that there were not any of my friends able to make a design for it, so I gotta do it myself. Honestly, it looked weird!
Davy Kestens: I started when I was 13. In my home-town, there was a web design competition to create the youth site of our city. As I won the competition, I got inspired to follow that path.
Jeremy Paillotin: I started designing with Photoshop in September 2008.
Robin Janásek: That is a pretty hard one, as I’m not that good in remembering dates, but the very beginning of my designing “career” would be sometime in 2008. As for really active designing, I would tell May 2009, that’s when I started finding myself in graphic art.
How do/did you approach to become a professional designer or developer? Which way did you choose?
Lam Nguyen: It’s my dream. Everything began when I played Star Craft. I was a child and I really want to create a website – exactly a forum- for my friends can discuss about this game. If you are a game addict, you definitely know how Star Craft was awesome few years a go, lol.
Davy Kestens: It appears that I am very capable of teaching myself anything I am interested in, as I learned everything on my own. But it was my father who got me interested in the economical aspect of an independent profession.
Jeremy Paillotin: Currently I’m a self-taught designer, I have learned everything on the web. I would like to join an art school in about 3 or 4 years, but it will be difficult, and I’m not 100% sure if it’s really necessary.
Robin Janásek: I’m not mainly heading for becoming a professional designer. In most cases, I’m just putting my thoughs into graphic form. For the future, I’d like to sign up at FAVU in Brno (Art school focused on graphic design and typography). Various logotypes and ads I make are good, but they’re not fulfilling me at all. It’s just a work. The true passion comes with an abstract pieces.
Could you tell us how the daily routine of a young designer looks like? What are your ‘daily design activities?’
Lam Nguyen: I’m not sure about other people but I sleep not more than 4 hours a day. I’m working for a small company which is opening an online store and I have to take care of everything from design, advertisement, coding and even sending email for my boss. For some reasons in business I cannot show up my works here. If you guys see what I’m doing everyday for my crazy boss, you will say: “oh, god damn it. You have a very good view, boss. All this things would have been awesome in the 90s”. Just like other bloggers, who are blogging part time, I’m not spending more than two hours a day for AEXT.NET MAGAZINE. But I think I’m doing it well!
Davy Kestens: Well, my “daily design activities” are almost non-existing. Don’t get me wrong, I do create, design, invent, draw, code or try to create great business opportunities on very frequent basis, but I have absolutely no routine whatsoever and every day I just try to do the things that will make me happy. Luckily, working on my projects, creating websites for clients and a lot of related stuff makes me incredibly happy, so I’m working all the time :D
Jeremy Paillotin: I spend about 3 or 4 hours every day on the computer, 60% on the internet, reading design blogs and such, and 40% with designing in Photoshop. Most of the work I do is “experimental” and not posted on Deviantart. I upload a piece of my work approximately every four days.
Robin Janásek: Well, there’s a lot of them. Lately, I really started to love photographing and playing with unusual things in designing, at least from my point of view. I’m not doing anything like “practising skills”, I just do ads for work and if I have inspiration, then I do my best to put it on the canvas. I’d say that the main idea of my daily routine is not to be in routine.
How does a young designer try to attract the client’s attention? Is there a difference between young and experienced designers?
Lam Nguyen: As I said above, I have my own job, but I do freelance too. However, I’m not always taking project from them. I just do what I like. Why? I have enough money :D I think if you want to attract the client’s attention, you should build up a good portfolio and have a sweet mouth. Something like offers, prices, discount… are just after you attracted them. Like what I see here, the American people love to hear sweet things, after that, show them what you have done. If they saw it good, they will hire you. That’s it! The experienced one knows how to deal with a client and is not driven by their clients. A bad habit of clients is they sometime treat us like a slave. The young designers who do freelance will lose their clients if they cannot deal with them.
Davy Kestens: I really, really hate bullshitting… When I deal with clients, I love to use a straight-to-the-point, no-nonsense approach where I literally tell them what I can and can’t do for them. I’m dead-honest andmy clients seem to appreciate that. Also, recently a client told me that he likes to work with me because of my enthusiasm and my true interest in their business. Maybe that’s because I don’t accept any projects I don’t get excited about.
Jeremy Paillotin: For the moment, trying to attract the client’s attention is pretty optional, all I do is… waiting for them :p, I think that for the moment, I must focus on personal work, sort of a training. Actually, the only clients I worked with for the moment were “real-life” : friends or relatives
But in the last weeks, I started to have more and more propositions from people online.
That’s why I think experienced designer are more productive – because they don’t have just Photoshop skills, they also know how business works.
Robin Janásek: Of course there are differences. An experienced designer already has audience and therefore can attend in higher-class auctions and job orders. I wouldn’t say that I’m focusing on attracting clients to myself, but on the other side, I’m using my portfolio to somehow inform people , who could be interested in me, if they see some of my works over the internet and wanna see more before contacting me.
What is your favorite part of design (for example “typography”, “photo manipulation”)? Which one do you like least?
Lam Nguyen: I love typography, also graffiti. I love all about design except the 1990-style I’m doing in my job.
Davy Kestens: My favorite part of design is adding the details. When I’m creating a website’s design and all the pieces are in their right spot, and I’m getting started with polishing the corners, adding those extra pixels, making it all shine,… At that time, I truly get in “the zone” and time flies by…Which part of design I like the least? Pixel-pushing! For example, when my previous boss’ clients were using me as a robot to add, edit and delete small items of a design, and eventually screwing up the entire thing.
Jeremy Paillotin: As I said before, I really enjoy typography, because you can focus on two aspects: the message and the look. You can do something with a really simple or really complicated look , there will always be a clear message. The only rule is that there must be letters.
Robin Janásek: I can’t say that I really have a favourite part. I do like typography, as it plays one of the main roles in minimalism, but I also do like photomanipulation and using simple geometric forms, as these are main ingredients for me, when it comes to abstract art. Lately, I also started to photograph a lot, but… I think I already said that.
‘Young’ doesn’t have to mean ‘revolutionary.’ How do you design? Traditional, with sketches and so on first, or really revolutionary? And Lam, how do you approach your works, using a traditional methodology or you have a personal routine?
Lam Nguyen: Yes, I do design revolutionary, but not with coding. Design can do whatever you want. It depends on you. Unlike design, coding must be done in logic and professional routine.
Davy Kestens: Straight on the blank canvas in photoshop. I usually have a picture in my mind of what I’m looking for and I just try to create that feeling, effect or design. Sometimes I do sketch when there is no computer around or when I’ve spent too many hours sitting behind a computer and I just want to do something else. :)
Jeremy Paillotin: Sometimes I design things in Photoshopw which are based on some of my sketches (for example “War”) but this is pretty rare. I think traditional drawing and digital art are two different things (except when it comes to drawing on a tablet).
Robin Janásek: Mmm, it depends. I’m certainly not trying to be revolutionary. I’m just trying to be myself and to put my thoughs on canvas in the way I feel it. I do sketches for some of my work, especially when it comes to logotypes and some more complex ads, but I mostly keep ideas in my head and work with them there. It gives me more freedom in changing everything when I need or want to.
So, we have three freelancers. Is this just because of your age? Do you wanna get a ’safer’ job later and work at a bigger design company? While Lam, why have you choose to work for a company? Do you think freelancing is a hard or bad business?
Lam Nguyen: I wanna to work myself, really! I’m planning to quit my current job and become full time freelancer. At the moment, I’m building my portfolio. It will be available soon. By the way, current job in office is not a safe job, but freelancing is, I think!
Davy Kestens: As I explained a few questions earlier, I have worked in a big web design firm. I will never, ever return to the 8-to-5 lifestyle. I am truly terrified by the idea that in a few years time, I would have to return to the rat race. I don’t want to become a lemming and work for a boss for the rest of my life, rejoicing over small promotions and wage increases…I will do everything in my power to create my own future and paycheck. It makes me sad to see 95% of the students in my college, all gunning to become the best work-for-work zombie in their field of interest. They will become a slave to their paycheck and have already accepted that this “trap” will be their future and they are somehow ignorantly satisfied with that.
Jeremy Paillotin: I think freelancing is not something that I would like to do later. I would prefer working for an agency, or in the case, foundomg an own design agency or something like that. Actually, I’m asking these questions myself at the moment, so I think it’s not the right time to ask me now, come back in four years :P
Robin Janásek: Actually, I’m not freelancer in the first place. I had some job offers as freelancer, but I’m also working in company of my dad and I’d like to sign up for contract in some smaller design company in Brno throughout the autumn. But as I said before, the work isn’t main priority for me as a graphic designer. I’d like to leave something here, something that people will remember. And I want it to be art piece, not famous logo.
What does a young designer do to improve his design skills?
Lam Nguyen: A young designer should try to get inspired and design something everyday. Even something very small you don’t realize like: the arrangement of your work station.
Davy Kestens: Practice makes perfect and that’s the only thing you can do. Practice, practice, practice.
Jeremy Paillotin: Reading design blogs, asking experienced designers, trying, experimenting, having fun.
Robin Janásek: Well, I can’t speak for whole society of young designers, but I improve my skills mostly by trial and error method. And it doesn’t matter if it’s photography or typography design. In these times, when there are a lot of graphic designers on a high technical level, the main thing you need to focus on when improving yourself is your imagination. Because that’s what keeps you different from others. The way you think about it.
How important are design-dedicated networks like deviantArt or behance especially for young designers?
Davy Kestens: I feel that there are a lot of designers out there using those networks but I am not one of them. Those networks don’t appeal to me. I find it a lot more interesting to network with other designers on my own, using the simplest form of communication: email.
Jeremy Paillotin: I think they are primordial. Because young designers can’t always have a portfolio, and tt’s nearly impossible to get known without them. For example, without dA, I would not be in this interview :D
And of course, we can get a lot of inspiration from others, they can help us, we can help them – it’s great!
Robin Janásek: Very important, in my opinion. All these networks are very efficient ways to give the world some proofs of your existence. You can’t really make steps forward without feedback, and that’s exactly what these networks are providing. I can tell that without them, I wouldn’t be writing these lines now.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Lam Nguyen: I love movie sand I’m a big fan of big theater screens. Most of my work, design and coding ideas come from movies, I think. I can also draw inspiration from the huge collection of comic books of my girlfriend.
Davy Kestens: Videos, motion reels, logos and packaging.
Jeremy Paillotin: I don’t have “instant” inspiration, it comes from a lot of different sources, but mostly from what I see on DeviantArt or design blogs. I can also get a lot of inspiration from other things, like music, friends, video games, ads, even walking in a park can be inspiring!
Robin Janásek: From everything. Everything that catches my feelings. And especially people. The way a person can give you inspiration for months is just outstanding and I don’t think I will ever manage to find out why it is that way. The hidden emotions, probably – that’s the main part of it. And that’s where I get my inspiration from.
What do you think distincts you (and young designers for general) from other, more experienced designers?
Lam Nguyen: Not sure with this, but I do my works with free style. However, I do programming (most of them in Java, not about PHP as you guys seeing) very logically. I cannot work on a programming project without the analytics, diagrams, UML … especially researching.
Davy Kestens: My enthusiasm and the fact that I am a bad procrastinator. I try to stick to my check-list as good as possible and I always have achievable targets in mind that will improve me, my future, my career or my happiness. I am fired up and exited to get my ass to the top of the mountain. I will get there one way or another.
Jeremy Paillotin: It’s a different generation, we grow up with computers. We have a different vision of the world. It does not mean that we are better designers, we are just different from experienced designers, and that’s an important thing.
Robin Janásek: Maybe the freedom of mind, but I’d be just guessing here, as I can’t know for sure how the more experienced designers think. Younger designers can profit from their flexibility and better knowing of today’s world. But again, experienced designers could be thinking the same way, in my opinion.
What are your expectations for the future?
Lam Nguyen: Just don’t put me in the box! This design industry is not different to the economic world and the game is about big players. However, it’s not about that at all. There are some of my good friends I really want to pay my respect to. They are Jon from Spyrestudio, Ronald from Naldzgraphic, team of Onextrapixel, Martin from Tutorialzine …. and all my best friends. Thank you, guys!
Davy Kestens: 1. Backpack through India; 2. Finish a book I am writing about creating an automated cash-flow; 3. Become a well known designer and speaker at events; 4. Create some great online ventures; 5. Push runaddicts.net to the top.
Jeremy Paillotin: Earning money for doing something I love. In other words, working as a graphic designer.
Robin Janásek: Expectations… well. I’d like to apply for a job in Brno, as I said, and beside that I just want to enjoy every day as much as possible and continue with what I’m doing now, as long as I will have inspiration. It’d be very pleasing to attract some people’s attention or inspire them, but… the main priority is to have fun. At least for me.