Well, I’ve always had a love for art and design. My dad is a traditional artist so its was something that was always around me when I was growing up. I was also totally addicted to computers from as early age too, so I suppose it was written in the stars that I’d end up in the design industry.
Although saying that, I was never great at art in school. I loved it but I was pretty average. I tried to get into a few art colleges after school but was turned away so ended up doing Business in Dublin Business School instead. From there I did a short course in ‘web design’. I learned the very basics of Dreamweaver and Photoshop and from that took it upon my own back to try up-skill as much as possible. I worked in XtraVision during the day but spent every evening playing around with HTML and Photoshop, grabbing as many small design jobs that would come my way until I had a half decent portfolio. I say ‘half decent’ in the loosest of terms.
I then somehow got a role as a Graphic Designer in a small property company. As the only designer in the company, I had to figure out how to do everything myself. I was really doing things upside down and inside out, but it was of huge learning curve for me. I worked on everything from brochure design to branding and websites.
Obviously, as time goes on you live and learn, but it was a pretty rocky road in the early days. I suppose it all stands to me though, and I'm still so grateful to be working in this industry at all.
Your process - is there a difference between your personal work and the way you work in the office with the team?
The main difference between the two is that I tend to be a UI designer by day but an illustrator by night. Lately, the majority of projects I’ve been working on in the evenings have been illustration based as recently I’ve found going home in the evening and working on UI projects feels just too much like to work. Illustrating allows me to mix it up and be a lot more creative away from the daily constraints within UI design.
Work ethic / motivation - what gets you up in the morning?
A screaming newborn baby most mornings. Then lots and lots of coffee.
I think a lot of people take it for granted how lucky we are to be working in this industry. There are not a lot of people that I know out there who genuinely love the work they do. For me, design is a huge part of my life. If I’m not in work designing, I'm at home designing. I’m at my most comfortable when sitting in front of a computer creating. The fact that I get paid for all this is just a bonus
We’re very lucky to have so many streams of media available to use. We can access so much information or inspiration within seconds. From a product design perspective, there are so many teams doing amazing work lately. The guys over at Intercom are really pushing their creative boundaries which is so great to see, especially as they’re Irish. Some of their branding stuff is totally off the wall but I love it. They’re creating conversations and healthy arguments about design which is always good. Same with Stripe, I really love the stuff that they’re creating on their product site. Such an amazing team, and the fact that their designers also build everything they design makes me so jealous of their talent.
From an illustration side, there are so many talented illustrators out there. Dropbox, Atlassian, Google to name a few, have some seriously talented illustrating teams on-board. I really love the stuff Meg Robichaud is doing over at Shopify too. She’s recently published content on Medium around her approach to building a new illustrative style in-house, which has been so helpful to me as I'm currently in the middle of a similar project here at Globoforce.
No matter how good you think you are at design though, you’re not. You can always learn more. Design is like a bottomless pit. You will never finish the book, all you can hope to do is gather as much knowledge and experience along the way to help guide you as far as possible.
I think the industry as a whole has grown a lot more consistent with the emergence of platforms such as Dribble or Behance. The growth of responsive design too, has created a sense of predictability across a lot of sites. Designers have almost settled for safe designs due to technical restraints rather than try to break the mold. That’s why its so refreshing to see the likes of Intercom and Stripe really pushing their creative boundaries, creating designs that are unique, that are different.
I tend to see myself as a visual product designer who can also illustrate. I set myself the goal a few years ago that I’d try to brush up on my illustrator skills by doing a few small personal projects. That snowballed and now I can call myself a professional illustrator to a certain extent.
Although in my current role, I’m Lead UI Designer at Globoforce, one of my main goals here is to introduce a Design Language that will be used across the design team along with working hand in hand with the development team to create a working Component Library that will be injected into the platform. I’ve really enjoyed this project as it has brought up plenty of new challenges which always keeps things interesting.
Another one of the projects I’ve been tasked with is to introduce a new illustration style to the product. This has been really interesting as it is a white label product. This means there are a lot of constraints that go hand in hand with an illustrative direction. For example, the same illustrations could be used for some quirky food company all the way through to a serious corporate banking company. This means we needed to try create a style that was very passive yet intriguing enough for it to still work across various client brands. Again, I’ve learned so much from it all and have really enjoyed my time here a lot so far.
Just keep learning and practicing. Design didn't come too naturally to me to begin with but, with enough persistence and passion anything is possible. If you keep your focus on trying to improve your skills, you will. It won't happen overnight and it will eat into a lot of your free time, but if you love design enough, you will find the time.
Ryanair Landmarks - A collection of illustrations I created for Ryanair to dedicate various destinations that Ryanair fly to. They’re currently being used across the Ryanair platform. It has since been featured on various design sites such as Design Taxi and Abduzeedo
Dublin Doors - This was one of the early personal projects I worked on t gather experience illustrating. Although it began as a small project it grew into a set of illustrations that I’m still very proud of
Europe Calling - I started working on a collection of landmarks from various cities that I recently visited. Again, it was a personal project but I feel it turned out to be a really nice one, and have since sold a number of them to various outlets
Waitress - Although it was probably one of my first professional illustration projects, I feel its a nice collection of illustrations to showcase how illustrations can work nicely to enhance a brands personality
Ryanair Design Centre - Having worked from the beginning as lead UI designer on the recent Ryanair redesign, I put together the case study to showcase the re-brand from a holistic perspective