This is the first post of a new, monthly series of interviews: Designer of the Month.
January: Chris Spooner
A short introduction
Chris Spooner is a well-known member of the design community and hardly requires any introduction, but here is a short summary for all those that are behind the times.
Chris Spooner is a UK-based freelance web and graphic designer who isn’t only known and admired for his interesting design projects such as the designbump redesign or the vividways logo, but also for his two (yes, you read right: two!) successful blogs: Blog.SpoonGraphics (with a focus on Illustration and Graphic Design) and Line25 (which features posts related to Web Design and Coding).
He is regularly featured and published in different design magazines (and on numerous blogs and web sites), a frequent guest writer on famous blogs (Tutorial 9, Smashing Magazine) and all in all a great asset to the design community.
Name: Chris Spooner
Location: Sheffield, UK
Work experience (years): 4 professional years.
Favourite Colour (in Hex Code): #333333
Favourite Dish: Chicken Tikka Masala
Favourite Band: Funeral for a Friend (Just because it’s on right now!)
Favourite Movie: Top Gun
5 items for the deserted island: MacBook, iPhone, Flip Camera, Internet Dongle, and I suppose my Fiancee can come too…
DesignLovr: Hey Chris. Thanks a lot for taking the time for this interview. Let’s start with the first question:
One of the advantages of working as a freelancer is that you can set your own hours. How much time per week do you actually spend working and do you have a daily routine? If so, how does it look like?
Chris Spooner: Setting your own hours is definitely one of the lovely things about being self employed. There’s been plenty of occasions where I’ve decided to take the day off, or flip round my work day. I spend a fair amount of time at my computer, but I guess to state how much time is spent working depends on what you class as work! Only a few hours a day are spend on client related work, but I’m forever developing my design knowledge and building my blogs by networking, following design links and generally having fun online!
I don’t really have a strict routine, but it looks roughly like this: Wake up, have breakfast, commute to work up the stairs, check Twitter, start a client project, check Twitter, check emails, have lunch, check Twitter, start a client project or blog post, check Twitter, watch some YouTube videos or browse some design links, check Twitter, have dinner, check Twitter, end my work day.
DesignLovr: You are running two successful blogs on which you regularly publish high-quality posts. How much of your working time do you spent preparing content for your blogs and how much do you spent freelancing?
Chris Spooner: Over the past couple of months I’ve been slowly decreasing my freelance work in favour of blogging, with an overall aim to live off a blogging career, and take on select client design projects. Currently I probably spend around 10 hours a week creating blog content, and about 15hrs a week on freelance projects maybe (figures plucked right out of thin air).
DesignLovr: You offer a broad range of services that require a lot of different skills. What’s your favourite part of work (Design, Coding, Blogging)?
Chris Spooner: I pride myself in being knowledgeable in a decent range of design topics, which I find adds a nice mix to my daily routine. I enjoy getting creating with an abstract illustration just as much as getting in the zone and coding up some CSS. It all depends on my current mood. Every now and again I’ll get the urge to get creative on a particular topic, this is where my blog comes in handy, as it’s a playground I can use to experiment in new areas.
DesignLovr: You are a successful designer with several years of professional experience. On your blogs you even pass some of your skills and talents on to others. How about your own skills and abilities? Do you still learn new things and continue educating yourself and what means do you use to do so?
Chris Spooner: Creating articles and tutorials is usually a big help in developing my own skills and abilities, as it requires a decent knowledge of the particular subject to be able to tell others how to do it, therefore oftentimes I’ll do a little extra research and familiarise myself with new tips and tricks when creating blog content. Being someone who spends a lot of time browsing online means I’m forever coming across inspirational designs that I have an urge to try out myself, this then gives me the incentive to learn new techniques. There’s also little challenges that crop up during client work, that require some extra knowledge in a specific area to generate a solution.
DesignLovr: You attended university and have a BA(HONS) in Art & Design. What helps you more in your daily, professional life, the skills and knowledge you gathered in your time as student or the practical experiences you collected working? Do you think it is essential to study a design-related subject in order to become a successful professional?
Chris Spooner: Definitely the daily practical experiences. Studying for the degree did help me get started and find a focus, but the main skills I’ve learnt from following articles and tutorials online. Pretty much all my website coding knowledge was learnt from self-teaching and the wealth of awesome resources that are out there in the blogosphere.
It’s certainly not mandatory to gain a design education, as there’s plenty of resources available for those who are motivated to teach themselves.
DesignLovr: Any advice would you give a young designer that just started out?
Chris Spooner: I always advice designers to setup a blog and become active in the social bubbles online. I myself, as well as plenty of other designers have seen amazing results from simply having fun online! It can result in some amazing exposure, and can help develop your skills and knowledge.
DesignLovr: You worked on some amazing projects in the past, what was your favourite one? Are you working on any new, exciting projects right now?
Chris Spooner: I probably had the most fun working on the DesignBump redesign, as well as the Vivid Ways logo. Many of my favourite projects are those that involved fellow designers from the design community. These tend to be the jobs that are less likely to involve client changes, and the topics are close to my heart as someone who lives in the online world!
I’m currently working on more personal projects than client work, but I’m currently working with Jon Phillips from SpyreStudios once again on an awesome project he’s involved in.
DesignLovr: Every Designer prefers certain projects over others. How would your dream project look like?
Chris Spooner: Any project that doesn’t involve the typical client nightmares sounds good to me! I think every designer can relate to the old client nightmare stories, so it’s always nice to land a project that runs smoothly.
DesignLovr: A lot of people look up to you and are inspired by your work (including me). Are there any designers (or artists) you look up to?
Chris Spooner: I always say that there’s not any one particular person I’m inspired by, it’s more so the whole design community. Each time I open up my feed reader or follow some Twitter design links I’m inspired by what I see, no matter who it’s by.
DesignLovr: On chrisspooner.com you successfully started experimenting with video-blogging (or vlogging). Are you thinking about using this medium as well for your professional blogs? What advantages do you see over regular blogging?
Chris Spooner: I had plenty of fun getting into video content, and moving into our new home gave me a good opportunity to do so. Now I’m more comfortable in front of the camera, I’m thinking of maybe creating some design related content, initial thoughts are a video version of my Blog.SpoonGraphics Weekly Favs series. I find video blogging has a huge advantage in giving a personal connection to the host, there’s vlogs I follow that I feel like I’m best friends with the vlogger. With general blogging you associate the author with their little avatar, but with video you gain a feel for their whole personality.
DesignLovr: What is Chris Spooner doing when he is not freelancing or blogging? Any Hobbies?
Chris Spooner: I could do with a few more hobbies as I always struggle to fill this section. I used to be a keen mountain biker, but having not been out for a ride for over a year it strikes that out! My fiancee and I usually head out to the Cinema or the Gym in the evening on weeknights, but we’re pretty boring otherwise! I’m currently trying to organise our annual skiing trip with friends, and have plans to get a motorcycle in the new year. Overall I do tend to enjoy adrenaline inducing activities, whether it’s trips to the theme park, trying out extreme sports or adventure experiences.
DesignLovr: Do you have any future plans or projects you would like to share with us?
Chris Spooner: I’m currently putting a lot of time into a design refresh of my SpoonGraphics blog, and I’m rolling out my plans of creating a members only section. I’m looking forward to getting involved in generating giveaways and tutorials specifically for members! I’m also looking at rebuilding the Line25 site, with another progressive design refresh, and maybe give my fiancee’s driving school website a rebuild.
DesignLovr: Thanks for this interview Chris. Do you have any final words?
Chris Spooner: Thanks so much for the interview opportunity!