12 Questions: Meet Kai (Australia)

In our 12 Questions blog series, we feature interviews with someone from the crowdSPRING community. For these interviews, we pick people who add value to our community – in the blog, in the forums, in the projects. Plainly – activities that make crowdSPRING a better community. Be professional, treat others with respect, help us build something very special, and we’ll take notice. Really.

We’re very proud to feature Kai (crowdSPRING username: Kai) today. Kai lives, studies and works in Australia. As you’ll read below, Kai is a student and his studies limit the amount of time he can devote to projects. Nonetheless, Kai has been really helpful to us in many other areas, including his participation in the forums, in the blog, and for his invaluable assistance – from the time he was a beta tester – to help us find many serious bugs and security vulnerabilities and to exterminate them before they became problems for other users.

1. G’day mate, please tell us about yourself.

Well, I’m Kai. I’m 19 years old and reside on the southeast coast of Australia, only thirty minutes or so from the outskirts of Sydney. I grew up on a healthy injection of mechano, cartoons and vegemite. I got my hands on my first computer at the age of ten. I like to think those two influences helped shape my creative flare as a young ankle-biter (there’s some Australian slang for you).
I sleep, eat, design and (try to) study in a grungy looking shared house with a couple of awesome roommates. I’m currently attending a two-year course for an associate degree in communication design through a neat little design school and I love it!

2. What motivates you to pursue graphics design as a career?

Seeing great design certainly motivates me the most. For me motivation is really fueled by inspiration. When I see an amazing billboard or bus advertisement on my way into the city it really motivates me and pushes me to create something just as good.

Community also plays an important role in motivating me. When I first starting taking an interest in design I was really oblivious to how massive the design community is. I soon learned that it’s a really big and friendly community that sends out a really cool vibe. Places like crowdSPRING just promote this vibe and the fuzzy feeling you get inside about being part of that community.

crowdSPRING itself is a huge motivator as well (especially when it comes to paying my share of the rent). To have a model that allows designers, regardless of academic credentials, to create, learn and collaborate all from the comfort of your computer chair is fantastic. Especially for someone in my position, who is currently half-way through schooling and doesn’t have the necessary experience to snatch up freelance work. On crowdSPRING you’re judged on your work, not on your degrees or diplomas, which is ideal for a person in my situation.

3. Tell us about the importance of communication with clients and potential clients.

It’s vital to have good communication with clients and potential clients. It’s important to keep clients updated frequently on what’s happening. The best practice to ensure seamless communication with clients is to set up a project management workflow, like 37signal’s Basecamp application. Using a project management application keeps on track by reminding you what things need to be done for a client and deadlines for getting work completed. It’s also a winner when it comes to impressing a client. I selected Basecamp as opposed to other services because of its simplicity and user-friendliness, which is a bonus for client access. It’s a good habit to set up milestones for your project and compile a to-do list of all of your tasks.

[Note from Ross: crowdSPRING also uses Basecamp and we highly recommend it – it’s from a Chicago Company – 37signals – a company that we’ve long admired. We use Basecamp as our project management tool for all of our software development]

4. Who/what are some of the biggest influences on your design work?

The city is probably the biggest influence on my design work. I love catching the train into the city and seeing the stunning architecture and atmosphere. I’m also constantly browsing the Internet’s blogosphere (usually when I should be working) searching for articles by designers and developers – all of these things influence and inspire my design work.

5. What’s the very first thing you do when approaching a new design?

There are many different ways designers approach a new design. Some designers will research, while others will go ahead and draw a few sketches on paper. I personally like sketching a few ideas before beginning research. I like approaching a new design this way because it gets you thinking about what concepts and ideas you could produce for the brief before limiting yourself by your research. Approaching it this way, I think, prompts more creativity and produces a better end product.

6. Which of your designs are your favorites and why?

Funnily enough, my favorite designs were all created as concepts for web design projects on crowdSPRING. I don’t think they’re so much my favorite designs because of how they look, but because of the fun I had participating in the project and collaborating with the buyer. In saying that though, I do like the simplicity of the designs and how they are implemented with JavaScript techniques to give an interactive feel to the user.

7. When designing a website, what do you think are the biggest mistakes a designer can make?

The biggest mistake a designer can make when designing a website is to over-complicate the design with graphics and pictures. Search engines cannot read or index text on images and graphics, and if Google can’t index your content, then there’s a fat chance that you’re going to have many users turning up to your site. It’s important to design your website so that they can be easily optimized for search engines by the developer.

The guys at Web Designer Wall actually wrote an excellent guide on search engine optimization for designers and developers – it’s a must have for those who are designing for the web.

8. How has technology affected your work?

Technology hasn’t really affected my work that much, as I’ve really only started out designing this year. I’m sure those who have been in the industry for several years can appreciate how much technology has affected their work over time. I use an Intel iMac running Leopard for all my design work. Technologies I use on a regular basis are Adobe’s CS3 Design Premium collection and Panic’s Coda web development application. These technologies are all I’ve ever known, so in that respect you can understand my viewpoint.

9. What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of being a graphic designer?

The most challenging aspect of being a designer is staying fresh, original and creative. The beauty of crowdSPRING is that you only participate if you want to, if the brief isn’t prompted any ideas or concepts, you can just walk away. This wouldn’t be the case if you were at a design agency and were told to work with a client to develop a solution to something that you aren’t really interested in or enthusiastic about. The most rewarding aspect is certainly seeing your designs in print form and seeing them used in the real world.

10. What advice would you offer to someone considering graphics design as a career?
Just do it. It may seem very intimidating at first, seeing these astounding ideas and concepts all around you, wondering how you could ever compete with that. But those people had to start somewhere, just like everyone. They didn’t develop that talent overnight, they worked long and hard for it. So just go for it and never doubt yourself.

Working with clients is a challenge and it takes a lot of time to learn how to do so successfully. You need to avoid limiting yourself to what designs you like and to be flexible and open with a client’s ideas and propositions. It’s important to persevere with a client and ensure that they get a design solution that they think looks good, not something that you think looks good.

11. What do you do with your free time?

Not that I really have much of it at the moment, but I really enjoy my television, especially the American dramas. In my downtime I love sitting back and watching Heroes or Prison Break. When I’m not doing that, I’m out and about watching the latest Matt Damon film or hitting Sydney’s bars and clubs with my mates.

12. On crowdSPRING, you’ve posted a project as a buyer and have also participated as a creative. Having seen crowdSPRING from both sides, what advice can you share with other buyers and creatives?

I recently posted a logo design project for a hobby of mine. I’m sure some people may wonder why a designer would post a design project, but I don’t think logo design is my strong point and after seeing the exceptional talent on crowdSPRING, how could I pass on the excuse to test-drive things from a buyer perspective?

Having had a look as a creative and as a buyer, it’s really clear that creatives can underestimate how difficult it is for a buyer to provide feedback. When it comes to giving feedback, it really helps if the creative explains their design and leaves notes about their submission, rather than just entering “new revision” as the description. A few creatives wrote nice notes to accompany their entries, and those notes really helped me to provide good, constructive feedback.

From a buyers standpoint, it’s really vital that you communicate and collaborate with the creatives participating in your project. The project I held reached an astounding 160 entries, and I confidently can say that it was primarily because of the buyer interaction I had within the project.

Thanks, Kai!