Interview with real people, knowing true stories and learning from a fellow creative, this is UCreative Spotlight.
As the season of spring hints a new beginning, we bring you a new story to keep you moved and inspired. Let us get to know Steven of Vandelay Design and learn how some things unexpected can turn out to be what you’ve always wanted.
Meet and Greet
Q. How would you describe yourself?
I'm a quiet person and I enjoy working on my own, which is great for running a home-based business. In my free time I like sports, traveling, and spending time with my wife.
Q. What made you choose web design as a career?
It was kind of an accident really. My degree is in business administration and I took one web design course my last year of college. I really liked learning about the internet and web design so I read a lot of books and tutorials after the class was over and just experimented on my own. After a while I decided to look for some part-time jobs from family and friends, and before too long I was really busy with side jobs and my own projects (I had a full-time job at the time). Eventually I got to the point where I could quit my full-time job and focus on my own projects and working for clients.
Q. What's your guiding principle in design?
I generally lean towards keeping things simple for the sake of usability. Like I mentioned earlier, my background is in business not design, so I always think of things in web design as how they will impact the profitability of the site/company. Having an attractive site is important, but not at the expense of having a website that produces results for the owner.
Q. Design pet peeves?
One of my biggest pet peeves is audio or video that plays on page load without being prompted by the user. If I'm on a band website I can understand it, although I'd rather have the option to start the music when I want.
Q. What will make you say "No" to a project?
The most common thing is time limitations. Also, unrealistic expectations. If I get an email from someone that says "can you make me a site exactly like Amazon.com for $500?" that won't be a project that I will take. I'm also hesitant when someone sends me an email and the first thing they mention is how they don't get along with their current designer. That makes me wonder if the problem is the designer or the client.
Q. What makes your site different among the other web design sites?
As far as the blog is concerned, I think one thing that makes it unique is that new content has been published consistenly for 4-5 years now. There were definitely some design blogs around before mine, but only a fraction of the number that are around now. Some of those that were around before mine are either not online anymore, have stopped publishing new posts, or publish sporadically. There are a handful of blogs like Blog.Spoongraphics, Noupe, Six Revisions, and CSS-Tricks that all launched around the same time as mine and have all stood the test of time and done really well.
There are so many design blogs now that having unique content is pretty difficult. I try to post unique content, but I don't follow that many blogs anymore so I don't always know what is being published. I'm actually more concerned with publishing content that readers appreciate rather than posting something just for the sake of being unique. For example, if I publish a post that showcases well-designed e-commerce sites, there are plenty of blogs that have posted similar content, but I try to put in the time to find the best collection possible, rather than just quickly finding whatever e-commerce sites are out there.
Q. What icon/character best personifies your artistic style?
I really have no idea. I'm not an artist so I wouldn't say I have an artistic style.
Q. What is common in all of your works?
Familiar layouts are definitely something that I tend to use. They work well and users know what to expect and how to find certain things, so I rarely go with something that is untraditional in terms of layout.
Q. Do you believe in art for art's sake? Why or why not?
It depends on the situation. In the context of web design I think each project should be evaluated on its own. For a corporate website I would say art for art's sake is usually not a good idea. But on a personal blog or a portfolio site where experimentation is more appropriate, I would say it is fine to go with whatever artistic style you want.
Q. What's your ideal Friday night?
Usually just relaxing with my wife by going out to dinner and watching a movie at home. Spending time with friends is good too, but I usually prefer low key activities after a long week of work.
Q. If there was any childhood dream that you wanted to come true, what would that be?
I would say my biggest childhood dream was to be a professional athlete. I played baseball and basketball but I knew I wasn't headed for a career in either.
Q. Favorite dessert?
Probably ice cream, or maybe apple pie.
Q. Favorite book?
I don't have time to do much reading, and I never enjoyed books when I was younger. The only books I read are the Bible, anything that will help me in my business or as a designer, and if I do read a book for pleasure it's usually something about photography.
Food for Thought
Q. How does it feel being considered as one of the top bloggers in the design community?
I don't feel like I am considered one of the top bloggers in the community, but I certainly do appreciate being able to earn a living based mostly on my blog. Even for client work that I do (which is limited right now), most of those clients found me through the blog. I love what I do for a living and I really appreciate the readers and sponsors that have made it possible. I used to have a job that I didn't enjoy and I know most of the world works in jobs that they don't like, so I consider myself to be very fortunate.
Q. Where can we find you online? (blog, twitter, fb, etc.)
Membership site - http://vandelaypremier.com/
Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/vandelaydesign
Facebook - http://facebook.com/vandelaydesign
Q. You have one last design to create. There are no limits. Describe it to us.
I would love to work on a site in either the travel or photography industry. I have worked in both industries in the past, but I'd like to have a personal project where I could make my own decisions. I don't have specific ideas at this point, but those are two things that I enjoy, so it would be fun to work on those projects.
Q. What mistakes have you learned from your field?
I've made a lot of mistakes over the years. Fortunately, mistakes are a good learning experience. I learned early on that just because a client wanted to hire me didn't mean that the project was a good fit. I learned the value of having personal projects in addition to client work. I learned that if I follow every idea I have I wind up spreading myself thin and not doing anything very well.
Q. Your message to all the striving artists out there.
Just focus on improving your own abilities. Don't worry about comparing yourself to the best designers out there, just focus on continual growth and improvement.
No matter how perfectly you plan out things, sometimes, they just don’t turn out according to how you want them to. Just like how Steven turned out to be a web designer by accident. Shifting from business to design was quite a leap of faith. But sometimes, it’s all you need to find out that one great thing you call passion.
Stay tuned to us next month for another dose of inspiring story from creative people we can look up to. Each one's story is a different masterpiece in the making. It sure is worth the read.