Can you tell us a little bit about how you first got into the world of design?
I’ve basically always wanted to be a designer, right from a fairly young age. I’m not exactly sure where the career idea came from! I went through school, college and University focusing on art and design subjects and eventually landed myself my first job as a designer at a local Graphic/Web Design studio straight after graduation. Along the way my idea of the type of design I fancied concentrating on did change slightly. Originally it was the idea of designing posters and book covers that caught my interest, then during my later education I became more interested in 3D design, before finding a passion in website design, logo design and illustration.
I still enjoy experimenting in new areas, and the knowledge of print design, web design, branding and illustration all combines to add variety to my working days!
What made you first want to start blogging and writing tutorials?
I learnt loads of handy tips and techniques by following tutorials in my early design days, and have actually found them extremely handy since. I pretty much learnt my whole XHTML and CSS knowledge, as well as my semi-basic jQuery knowledge entirely from free articles, tutorials and advice offered online. Knowing how much I’ve benefited from such tutorials gives me the incentive to offer my advice and share what I know to hopefully help others out in the same way.
Blogging wise, I remember enjoying reading topics on sites such as Bittbox and Smashing Magazine, and saw the odd design blog spring up at the time, most of which were based on the WordPress platform. I simply jumped on the bandwagon and gave it a go as an excuse to experiment with WordPress and give myself a playground to test out new techniques.
In your opinion, what makes a good design tutorial?
Any tutorial that shows you how to achieve a certain goal is a good tutorial. Sometimes this might be a huge website design walkthrough from sketches to coded concept, or it might just focus on a specific area, like how to add a background image in CSS. Each one will always offer something new to a reader and help someone out in some way.
Tutorials that use plenty of images are generally better. After all, we’re in the design industry so plenty of visual cues are always handy! A picture speaks a thousand words, so a screenshot of an options screen is much easier to follow than a three paragraph description!
Otherwise, writing about something that hasn’t otherwise been covered, or isn’t a popular topic always goes down well. I think my Illustrator tutorials helped develop my blog’s exposure as there was never many of them around. So it quickly became one of the popular destinations for that particular subject.
You’ve recently moved house which can be a chaotic time! Was it difficult to fit in client work and your blogging around this?
It was a little bit of a squeeze, but luckily I didn’t have any projects with pressing deadlines, and I’d been avoiding taking on too much work beforehand. Most of the work I had on at the time was pretty open ended, and in the slower middle stages of the project. This allowed me to work off a few jobs and fire out a few emails then spend the rest of the day painting, decorating and shifting boxes. I soon managed to setup my laptop in a corner and keep things up to date.
I also powered out a schedule of blog posts for the whole month before the move, so I didn’t have to worry about writing a new article every week. That’s the great thing about blogging – You can spend a whole day writing topics and set the post to go live according to the weekly schedule, then relax for a while!
I’ve really enjoyed your recent video blog series. What has the feedback been like and do you plan to continue them?
Thanks! It’s great to hear people have taken an interest. It has been excellent recording the process of decorating the house, both for nostalgic reasons and for family local and abroad to gain an insight into what we’re up to. The feedback from fellow designer people has been great, and I’ll definitely keep them up. I’m actually thinking of creating some design related content for my blog in video format.
Your Adobe Illustrator “Purple Lemon” logo tutorial first introduced me to your blog way back in 2007. Apart from logo design, what other things do you use Adobe Illustrator for?
I remember the Purple Lemon logo gaining quite a bit of exposure for the blog, and links back into the point mentioned earlier about creating a tutorial that will help people out. Other logo tutorials at the time only focused on creating the visual graphic, whereas I wrote about the theory of logo design and pointers like making a logo that will work in a single colour. This extra info seemed to help people out and helped grow the blog.
Other than logo design, I use Illustrator for character creations, small print jobs such as business cards and leaflets and generally for random design stuff. There’s a range of shapes and effects that can be created in Illustrator, so I’ll often switch in and out of Illustrator and Photoshop depending on the nature of the project.
One of my favourite logos from 2009 was your Vivid Ways design and it was very interesting to read about the design process on your blog. Can you tell us a bit about the logo and the idea behind sharing the design process?
The Vivid Ways logo was a great example of the types of projects I enjoy – I had creative freedom on the job so I could really go to town and treat it as a project of my own. Scott from Vivid Ways and Jon from SpyreStudios also gave great feedback and were really happy with the design. Scott mentioned it captured everything he could have wished for in the design, so it was a job well done!
I’ll often put my favourite work in my design portfolio, and every now and again I’ll write a design process post for the blog. These posts tend to receive great feedback from readers as it gives an insight into how a design is developed from start to finish, as well as an overview of how the actual design was made. It also helps generate the extra bit of exposure! The post helps associate that particular style of design with my name, so it helped bring in a couple of jobs that had similar requirements.
It definitely seemed to do a good job of associating it with my name because when the Google Wave logo was released, I spotted a few comments on various websites saying ‘This looks like the Vivid Ways logo by Chris Spooner!’. I’m just glad I got mine in first!
Are there any logos or websites that have really caught your eye this year?
One web design blog I subscribed to earlier in the year is Build Internet. The guys have done a great job growing it with some fab content so far. Design wise, most of the website designs that have caught my eye have appeared in my Sites of the Week roundup on Line25.com. This series has been a great way of tracking my inspiration, and keeping an eye on new trends or styles.
What plans to you have for Blog.SpoonGraphics and Line25.com for 2010?
I’m planning on continuing to post new content each week in the form of a tutorial, an article or some kind of inspirational post. I have a design refresh planned for both sites, with Blog.SpoonGraphics being the first to see a new skin. I’ll be rebuilding the themes from scratch to give it a general update and introduce a couple of new features.
For Blog.SpoonGraphics I’m also currently contemplating a membership system, similar to a couple of other design tutorial related sites. Here I’d post some premium content, some discounts for some top design related products and services, and treat the members to some giveaways.
Your Line25.com ‘Sites of the Week’ feature is a wonderful source of inspiration. What RSS feeds or magazines do you subscribe to get inspired?
I have a feed reader packed full of a bunch of design feeds. Many of them are the usual big design sites, but I’m always adding new subscriptions. I tend to enjoy browsing the news aggregating sites such as DesignBump, DesignM.ag and CSSGlobe. All three can lead on to interesting posts and articles outside of my usual circle of feeds, and help me discover new and interesting blogs.
What hobbies do you have and do they help you ‘switch off’ from designing and blogging?
Laura and I usually head off to the Cinema or the Gym in the evening. Otherwise we enjoy the odd day of adventure, often at the theme park! I have a couple of items on my wishlist for 2010, one of which is to take my motorcycle test and treat myself to a bike of some kind.
I’ve also been on an annual skiing trip the past two years with friends, so I’m currently trying to arrange a repeat venture for this year. This time my camcorder will be coming along, so keep an eye out on ChrisSpooner.com in the new year!
Finally, do you have any tips for people who want to start writing tutorials?
Don’t be afraid of giving away all your secrets, or thinking that if you show people how to do stuff for free you’ll never generate any paid client work. The effect is actually the opposite. Your tutorials help associate your name with the subject your talking about, and helps set you up as an expert. The tutorials on my blog soon generated more exposure and leads than my design portfolio, to the point that if on Monday I wrote a tutorial on how to design a skate deck, on Tuesday I’d have the opportunity to take on a skate deck design project. This is actually how I landed a job creating some merchandise for the band Fall Out Boy; that lead came directly from a related post on my blog.
With all this in mind the best tip I’d offer is to use tutorials as an incentive to try out new techniques yourself, then share your knowledge with others.