Chris Spooner is a freelance web and logo designer. He has made a name for himself in the online world with a bunch of fresh designs and creative work. He is also one of the new breed of freelance designers who blog regularly about design, sharing their knowledge with others, and creating more design work for themselves in the process. In this interview, I ask Chris a few questions relating to design and his work, that I’m sure we have all wondered about at some point.
Hi, Chris. I’ve already written an intro about you, so let’s get down to the questions. Tell us how you started your design activities – did you work on print and graphic design, then move to the web, like so many designers today?
I started out more or less a 50/50 mix of print and web. I had an interest in both areas so didn’t really mind which projects I worked on. After a while I became more interested in the coding side of web design and started focusing more on xhtml, css and web standards.
Nowadays my main work is a split of logo design and web design, with the occasional print job, so it’s pretty much still a mix!
Design Blurb is a blog catering mostly to graphic and web designers, so I’m sure many of them are curious about how you made the transition from one medium to the other (if any).
I actually learnt my whole XHTML and CSS skillset from following tutorials and article online. There’s a really handy collection of blogs and websites out there that kindly offer advice and useful techniques. Having learnt so much from the community myself, I enjoy giving back in my own way through tutorials etc.
We’re all looking for quality resources for learning and improving on various aspects of design. Can you tell us resources that got you started – a book that sparked your interest in design, an article, or something similar?
I’ve been a long time subscriber to Computer Arts Projects Magazine. The format of a different topic each month has helped spark interest in new areas, and to give inspiration for new projects.
My collection of RSS is also a super handy resource, whenever I’m feeling low on ideas, a quick browse through some fresh content from the blogosphere soon gets the creative juices flowing!
I think it would be fair to say Spoongraphics Blog and Line 25 put you on the (online) map. You have written about the positive impact they have had on your freelance design career, in many interviews (on Vandelay Design<http://vandelaydesign.com/blog/design/interview-with-chris-spooner/>, for example). On the flip side, have these blogs had any adverse effects on you?
I can’t say there are any adverse affects. I’d like to say I’m constantly being stopped in the street, chased by raving fans and followed by the paps – But it’s not quite the case haha!
With all the benefits I’ve seen from blogging and having fun online, it’s really difficult to find anything negative.
What are the differences in skill set one needs to jump from a regular job, to a freelance career
Managing time between projects is a skill that naturally comes to you, once you take charge of what work you have to complete you slot it into your day with to-do lists etc. Avoiding the temptation to skive off and play computer games can also be difficult, but the benefits of freelancing is that there’s no-one watching over your shoulder. If you fancy spending an hour browsing the web, or head off for a beer there’s no verbal warnings – You just have to manage your time and ensure you catch up under your own motivation, for instance spending a few hours working in the evening.
What gadgets do you own?
I’ve been steadily growing my collection of Apple-ware, which now consists of MacBook Pro, 24” Cinema Display, iPod Nano and iPhone.
Otherwise, I have an interest in a little photography, and have just added a HD camcorder to my tech wishlist.
Allow me to ask you the never-resolved question: does Mac OS X help you, as a designer? I know that many have talked about the superiority of OS X – the platform – for designers, but with most necessary design tools (Creative Suite etc.) available cross-platform, does the platform affect you as a designer?
Switching to Mac has been one of those ‘Why didn’t I just spend the money and do it before’ moments. While I was a Windows user, I couldn’t see the benefit of Macs when the same spec computer could be created for half the cost. After taking the plunge though I’d say it’s definitely worth it, it’s the collection of little touches that makes the experience of everyday use so much more straight forward and enjoyable.
Seeing as you use WordPress for both blogs, can you tell us about the technical aspects – favorite plugins and hacks used, hosting etc.?
I have my own little cocktail of plugins that I tend to use on all my WordPress installs. These include the All in One SEO pack, Google XML sitemaps and Database Backup. I can’t say I tend to use too many hacks as the built in features are often pretty much spot on for my needs, especially considering there’s a wealth of tags and snippets in the Codex that will no doubt cover when I need it to do!
As a web designer, you have to deal with code every day, don’t you? What resources helped you develop front-end coding skills?
Keeping up to date with new coding languages and constantly refreshing your skillset is always important. There’s always something new you can learn when it comes to coding, whether it’s becoming more aware of standards, or coding something differently for better accessibility.
This comes right back to the resource of the blogosphere and the hundreds of handy websites out there that offer these helpful tips.
Any sites and resources you would like to plug? :)
My usual plugs have to go out to my sites at Blog.SpoonGraphics and Line25! I also recently started more personal content over at ChrisSpooner.com for anyone who might want to check out what I’m up to in my life.