*This interview was originally published on my previous (tragically lost) website joanna-designs.com in November 2013.
First of all, big thanks to all designers that committed to the interview: Chris Spooner,Eric Karjaluoto, Jacob Cass,Tina Roth Eisenberg and David Airey
Their blogs have been help and inspiration to me while I was a student and they still are now when I am working full time as a graphic designer. That’s why I decided to ask them how do they manage to keep up with their work for such a long time. They will also give us some tips how to keep up with new trends and technologies.
Grab your coffee and enjoy!
“I consider trends irrelevant, and concentrate on what our client and their project requires. Their needs are far more important than any passing fad.”
– Eric Karjaluoto
Q: As such an experienced designer, how did you manage to keep up with all the new trends and technologies?
Chris Spooner: I find my blog really helps me stay up to date as it gives me an incentive to research and keep an eye out for the latest trends in the industry. Having said that I’m actually behind a little in terms of technology, I’m still running Adobe CS5 so I could really do with updating to CS6 or CC!
Eric Karjaluoto: I consider trends irrelevant, and concentrate on what our client and their project requires. Their needs are far more important than any passing fad. Technologies are different; if you don’t use new ones, you’re apt to fall into old-fashioned habits, and miss out on opportunities. As such, I generally just try out new software, devices, services, and work to make sense of these things. Some technologies I find uninteresting, and never again return to—but at least I know what I’m passing by. On the other hand, some are useful and become valuable additions to our workflow.
Jacob Cass: I’ve personally found that the best way to keep up with the new technologies & trends is by reading blogs and by following the right people. With this said, it is important not to follow trends for trends sake, but rather to be informed of what is possible and what to avoid. Same goes with new technology, it should be generally be used with purpose, not just “because”.
Tina Roth Eisenberg: I am lucky to have a devoted reader base for my blog that sends me submissions. I get so many amazing, interesting things in my inbox every day from them with short and sweet notes like “saw this and thought of you!” I am also so lucky to work in a populated studio with all different types of people. We share news and updates all the time, often discussing over lunch new things that have happened. I use Twitter all the time to keep up with.
David Airey: My workflow hasn’t changed all that much in the past 10 years, so I don’t really look at it as if I’m keeping up. I use my software every day, so an occasional new release isn’t any hassle. There are new online tools for clients, sure, but the basic elements of a brand identity are fairly intact.
“Twitter has been my absolute best means of hiring and communicating for my business.”
-Tina Roth Eisenberg
Q: Would you ever hire a designer who doesn’t have account on social media like Facebook or Twitter?
Chris Spooner: I probably wouldn’t *not* hire them based on not having a social media account, but in turn not being an active Twitter user might lead to them not being quite as up to date as someone who follows other people in the industry and engages in the hot topics.
Eric Karjaluoto: Most definitely. I’m more interested in how a designer thinks and works than in their social habits.
Jacob Cass: Yes of course I’d hire a designer without social accounts. I know many talented designers who don’t get caught up with the social aspects of Facebook, Twitter and the likes. There are certainly pros and cons of both but I don’t think it would influence my decision to hire or not, unless it came down to two equally skilled designers.
Tina Roth Eisenberg: Honestly, no. There’s no excuse for it at this point. Twitter has been my absolute best means of hiring and communicating for my business.
David Airey: Yes. But if I didn’t know much about the person, it’d help with the decision if I could see what was being said on social media. It’s just another way to learn about others and to build trust. Not essential, but can be helpful.
“…’designers’ tend to be good at the creative stuff and ‘developers’ are much better at the codey stuff”
– Chris Spooner
Q: Do you think web developers might ever become the new graphic designers?
Chris Spooner: While there are some talented folk who a great at web and graphic design as well as web development I’ve always found that “designers” tend to be good at the creative stuff and “developers” are much better at the codey stuff. There’s a grey area in the middle but things don’t usually go well when either type of person strays too far into the other’s territory.
Eric Karjaluoto: No. Design and development are distinct practices, and there are only a few points at which they overlap. However, I do think developers are becoming increasingly sophisticated about design, and that many designers are learning how to code.
Tina Roth Eisenberg: I think they are very different things but that line is becoming blurred. There are designers who are learning to code and developers who have a great sense of design.
” I’m not keen on Adobe’s move into the ‘cloud.'”
Q: Is there any new technology or new tool for designers that you don’t like as much?
Chris Spooner: Saying this will probably result in hoards of web folk chasing me down with pitch forks but I’m personally not a huge fan of responsive web design. While I do appreciate it on some sites the majority of the time I’d prefer to browse the full desktop version on my mobile, rather than an optimised version.
Eric Karjaluoto: Not really. I think most tools have their place. Some use the wrong tools for the job because these tools are fashionable; others get too comfortable with certain tools. Again, the real issue is one of choosing the right tool for the job at hand.
Jacob Cass: There are new tools, technologies and applications coming out everyday and it’s simply impossible to keep up with them all. Certainly a few take my interest more than others, but at the end of the day I tend to stick with the tools that make life easier. Tools such as Dropbox and Spotify.
Tina Roth Eisenberg: I’m a huge fan of progress and I can’t think of any right now that I am not in favor of. Maybe just the way that services are now introducing ads (like Instagram and Twitter, for instance). After being an ad-free platform for so long, introducing advertisement into the stream of original content feel icky to me.
David Airey: I’m not keen on Adobe’s move into the “cloud.” Jon Hicks covered it well here. Basically, I don’t want to rent the tools I need for my job. I’d much rather own them outright.
Q: Do you think that universities are preparing graphic design students well for such a fast changing industry?
Eric Karjaluoto: Design education is very challenging because the vocation is so broad, and the needs from one studio to the next can be so different. I think the most successful programs teach both applied skills as well as how to think and write.
Jacob Cass: I’ve been too out of touch with the university system to give an educated answer here, but I do know for a fact that when I was studying back in 2007 web education was far behind and my classes consisted of going to a tutorial on the web.
Tina Roth Eisenberg: Each school has its own style and each teacher will have their own priorities for their students. Personally, I feel that any school that teaches their students to adapt to new technologies will create better designers.
David Airey: Not if my experience was anything to go by. It’s a question I asked a while back, and I published some great answers in this post.
“Good web design is based upon good typography…”
Q: If you had to choose between a designer who is a skilful programmer and a talented typographer, who would you choose over?
Jacob Cass: When it comes to web design, 80% of the design comes with the typography so I would have to go with the typographer. Developers can replicate a design easier than creating their own.
Tina Roth Eisenberg: Obviously, it depends on the job that I am hiring for and, more importantly, the office community. I believe in a diverse community that can work well as a whole. If there were a gap in typographers, I would love to bring in someone who could fill that role. That way, the community could collaborate best.
David Airey: Good web design is based upon good typography, so let’s say the latter.
Q: Do you think that some designers just aren’t able to keep up with the fast changes of the industry?
Chris Spooner: It’s definitely tough to stay up to date, I’ve even fallen behind a little myself despite being pretty clued up on the latest industry changes thanks to my blogs.
Eric Karjaluoto: Yes. Designers in their 40s are the most susceptible to this risk. Between 40 and 50 is when designers choose whether they’re going to do what they always did (and get left behind), become design managers, or become masters of their craft.
Jacob Cass: No one can know it all, but my advice would be to keep up to date with what interests you and what you think will be best for your career. Personally, I don’t like to code however I do keep up to date with the knowledge of what is possible, and what technology is required to do it. This way the implementation can be done by professionals but the design and thinking can come from myself.
“…I don’t think printed material is going anywhere.”
Q: What do you think will happen to designers who ignore learning from digital media and want to focus only on print?
Chris Spooner: I once thought that a designer would have to learn all aspects of web design to stay relevant, but now I actually think that print specific designers can quite happily continue working in just the print industry. While web content will continue to grow I don’t think printed material is going anywhere.
Eric Karjaluoto: They’ll probably do best focusing on their own projects, or starting small shops that specialize in specific types of work (e.g. highly customized letterpress printed wedding invitations).
Jacob Cass: I don’t think it will be possible to ignore digital media. There is a natural progression here and sooner than later, nearly everyone will be touching digital media. No advertising campaign is purely print anymore.
“Focus on what you most enjoy and you’ll know what you need to learn.”
Q: Any advice on how to keep up with new trends?
Chris Spooner: Running a blog and being active on social media is a great way to keep an eye on the latest news and to see what kind of content designers are creating.
Eric Karjaluoto: Don’t worry about trends. Know your client and understand the challenges they face. Develop sound plans that address their needs. (I explain how to do this in my book: The Design Method www.thedesignmethod.com.) Then execute with only their project in mind. If you follow these suggestions, you’ll probably find yourself on the right path—even if you stumble from time to time.
Tina Roth Eisenberg: Create discussion amongst your peers! Whether it is asking a question on Twitter to get thoughts going, using Quora, or making thoughtful posts on your blog, always try to get as much perspective as possible. That way you will hear from designers, developers, even illustrators and art directors. The more diverse the better!
David Airey: Focus on what you most enjoy and you’ll know what you need to learn.
Chris Spooner http://blog.spoongraphics.co.uk
Tina Roth Eisenberg http: http://swiss-miss.com
Jacob Cass http://justcreative.com/
David Airey http://www.davidairey.com/
Any questions? Let me know in the comments below!