Another installment from the PVMGarage interview series. Today, Tony from Looks Good Design Magazine shares his thoughts.
Welcome to PVMGarage! Please introduce and tell us a bit more about yourself.
Hi! I’m Tony, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Looks Good Design Magazine. Firstly, I would like to thank you for this opportunity of being interviewed on PVMGarage. Introduce myself, right? Where do I start? Well, to start things off, I’m just a 17 year old kid born in China and raised in Toronto, Canada. Two years ago, I moved to Hong Kong, which is where I currently attend my senior year of high school. Next year I’m planning to journalism in the US while working on my latest venture buzzblaze.com
For my 16th birthday I asked my parents for 50 bucks which I used to buy shared hosting and the domain name looksgd.com (now looks.gd). My intention was to start a website that focused on graphic and web design with an ambition to raise some money for college. Within the first month of launch, my small investment rapidly grew to a widely trafficked site with tens of thousands of visitors from over 140 countries. I’m just that good.
You are pretty young, 17, to be exact. How and when did you get into design?
I’ve always been fascinated by clever designs my whole life. I have quite an impressive collection of design books at home ranging from logos to web design to architecture. I think my first experience with graphic design was designing artwork and t-shirts for local bands. In fact, when I was 13, I started a custom t-shirt printing business. When I became more experienced, I worked as a freelance graphic designer and did jobs for small companies such as logo design. I later learned HTML and CSS and started to develop websites as a freelancer. I now focus on interface design and product development at an internet startup which I founded, recently developing user-interfaces for web and iPhone applications.
Unlike many other young designers, you’re not just designing stuff and experimenting, you’re writing about design. Why did you start Looks Good Design Magazine?
Well as I said before, I seized an opportunity to make some money off the internet by starting a blog. I decided to apply the skills I’ve acquired over the years to a real-world context. It was also an opportunity for me to gain some journalistic experience – something I really looked forward to when starting Looks Good. I wanted to create a website that provided its readers with resources and inspiration for their work similar to Smashing Magazine and Six Revisions. The name Looks Good was what I initially planned to call my site, but the domain name for that was already taken so I decided to be more creative and used a ccTLD extension and hence the inception of Looks.gd
Finally being able to start my own website with my own domain name was exciting but also very challenging as I really had no experience in blogging or maintaining a site for that matter. But after a while, I got the hang of it and traffic kept growing naturally with good content. Then, I brought on a few of my friends onto the team and delegated them roles for keeping the site together.
Do you actually want to become a designer?
I actually don’t plan on pursuing a long-term career in the design industry. At the moment, it’s more of a hobby than anything else. I’m more serious about entrepreneurship and currently working on my internet startup due to launch in early September. I play a big role in the interface design and product development of the company because that’s what I enjoy, but I’m shifting focus from the design industry to my technology-based startup. Design, of course, is integral to business and that is why I think these past few years have been a great experience and the things I’ve learned will definitely pass onto the greater things I have plans for.
For many young bloggers, earning money is one of the main reasons to maintain a blog. What do you think? What’s your opinion about money earned by blogging?
From my experience, if you’re thinking of starting a blog with the first intention to make money then unfortunately, you’re out of luck. For the first few months, it will be almost impossible to generate revenue and to top that off, you’ve got to pay for your web host, domain registration and other initial investments. This low return would almost drive everyone crazy enough to give up altogether. What I think kept everything together over the past year was my genuine interest in graphic design and the other things I write about. So my advice would be to create things with purpose and write about things you enjoy writing about because if you are pursuing something you have a passion for, then great things will follow.
Your site is called “Looks Good”. What’s your opinion about the importance and position of design in the delivery of messages to general society?
Good question. I think good design is not just aesthetic, but its innovative, its personal and painstakingly comprehensive down to the very minute detail. So yes, it is incredibly important. I believe good design makes the world a better place as visual design is ubiquitous and fundamental to human communication. That’s why I find importance in making things easier to understand, making things easier to use and ultimately making progress possible.
I am also strongly rooted in the belief that design makes businesses better. Without a doubt, good design makes products more innovative and easier to use. It makes the user-experience more enjoyable and it highlights the efforts made to make sure the product is excellent to the finest detail.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Who are your idols?
My parents have always cultivated a strong belief in innovation and trying things out for myself. I never really received or asked for a formal allowance or pocket money which led me to be very resourceful at a young age. Many of my friends and family have also encouraged me to be creative and pursue my ideas and projects. As an young entrepreneur, I look up to giants in the tech industry such as Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook for his success at such a young age. As a designer, I really admire the work of Dieter Rams, a German industrial designer and his iconic minimalistic product designs which have influenced the design direction of many modern companies such as Apple computers.
What are your plans for the future?
Who knows? My high school semester starts in about 3 days. I will be very busy with the standard school work and university applications. After graduating high school, I’m thinking I might take a gap year to just chill out – maybe travel and learn a new language. I will also be working on my latest venture, BuzzBlaze, a social news aggregation web service throughout the next few months. I have a vague idea of what I would like to become in the future and that idea doesn’t include being stuck in an office cubicle doing reports.
Thank you for providing us the opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts and advice you wish to share with us?
Pursue all your great ideas.