UX designing is something very crucial to web 2.0. The opportunity for freelance designers is huge and is increasing. What qualities a designer should have to become successful. Is it creativity; is it technical backgroun; is it experience. We take inputs from one Avinash Tripathi, who has donned both the roles of a freelance designer and worked full-time with companies.
Avinash is based out of New Delhi, India. He thinks he is adept inÂ use cases, persona building, visual design, interaction and prototyping. Design for Avinash is a “sense of complete satisfaction” when something really creative comes out closer to user needs and appreciated by the design community.
Q1. Tell us what made you pick designing as your career?
It all started accidently when I first saw photoshop way back in 1999. Probably, it was Photoshop 4.0 then; used one of my friend’s and fell in love with it instantly.
Q2. Did the web-crash during 2000 has any impact on your mind because you started your career around that year?
Somehow web-crash didn’t seemed to affect me much as I was in between my full-time job, just starting out. So the feeling of being jobless luckily didn’t had it’s toll on me. Design scene wasn’t as niche as it is now except for churning out super fast low end designs and churning out quick html using dreamweaver tables. The only obstacle I remember used to be Netscape and now it is IE 6.
Q3. What essential qualities a designer should possess to excel?
I think the first thing being a designer is to be able to visualize a problem; be creative and be able to dream a little rather than simply jump on specs you have on your table. As the famous Dicky Fox said: “If this is empty this does not matter”. A slight bend towards understanding business goals and user requirements and merging them well in time while designing is, I think, when meaningful stuff comes out.
Q4. What basic qualifications help a designer to get a job and what makes the difference if he/she is working as a freelancer?
A recognized degree in design from a reputed institute like NID, IIT or a diploma like myself from Arena Multimedia (this is what we had in our times when multimedia was picking up) would do. A lot of distant education programs are also available and considering UX in demand so much and lack of formal courses here in India, HFI has certifications for the same to enhance one’s education on UX and Visual Design.
Q5. Do you feel there is good market potential for a designer to start freelancing?
It is never a wrong time to be a freelancer, even when being a fresher. But a job here or two definitely makes a person more aware of small processes and gives more experience in terms of skills before actually taking on freelancing projects and satisfy clients on own.
Q6. On your personal level, how you felt working for a company as an employee and being a freelancer? Which one you liked more?
I have been lucky enough to work both full-time and freelance. Where in full-time environment is more focused an you are all the time aware what’s coming next, in freelance everything depends on you and how enterprising you are. I enjoy both but freedom to work in solitude is something which gains on working as a freelancer. Although now a days work from home is pretty popular but then all the time you are stuck on communicating with different teams on skype or gTalk. So yes, freelancing is where you have slightly more command in terms of flexibility to do things on your terms most of the time, especially if you can focus on one client at a time and don’t put your hand everywhere.
Q7. How much is the importance of learning new software and apps for a designer?
At the end of day, design is influenced by technology around if not governed. UX design is something which has become of utmost importance since Web 2.0 has arrived, and there are so many seminars and educational blogs writing every day about different user scenarios. Adobe CS6 release is somewhere near, HTML 5 and CSS 3 is the recipe of the coming seasons; so as a designer one has to be on toes to be up-to-date.
Q8. How do you market yourself as a freelancer? What makes you stand out among your contemporaries?
I started by having an online portfolio with an effort to come up with a great design. Whatever good designs I have done including my portfolio, I submit them for review by various online design galleries and forums and when designs successfully comply to all their standards; get awarded for the same by featuring on these design forums among great designers. Recognition is the key once a designer is out in the market apart from the educational background. It is the portfolio which should speak itself for a designer.
Q9. What software/apps you like most and why?
I love Photoshop: it’s my sort of playground where I do mistakes, fall, get up and move ahead again. If there’s one thing which has done wonders to my career to it’s photoshop. From early days where I started by playing with hue and saturations or simply cut and object and make a new layer to have a cut out, it still surprises me how every time new designs come on the canvas. It has really evolved from 4.0 (that’s where I started) and have become more usable. Since we are living in this Social Networking Age, I am most lately hooked on to a few design websites like Dribble (hoping to get an invite soon here) and I am mesmerised by power of twitter where I get so many updates about these new upcoming trends by following leading designers and bloggers.
Q10. What your customers say about your work? Do they propose innovative modifications or some creative inputs?
I believe in feedback highly and so always ready for any sorts of feedback. Generally I follow a well defined process in my work (http://www.nashatwork.com/about.html) which helps me to get positive feedbacks, but that doesn’t mean perfection is achieved first time. Clients and colleagues come up with great feedbacks, some are harsh too, but when logically sorted out things start to shape well and I can see how value is added to the existing design after the round of feedbacks. Recently, had done a email survey for feedback from friends and professionals on Nashatwork’s new design as well as SimplyUX new avatar. I got some really handy feedback on content placements for e.g. a friend working with Bloomberg suggested that client say weighs more than twitter updates so it might make sense to place it before and he was right. So feedbacks are key to improvements especially if it is received from actual users apart from stakeholders.
Q11. Share your thoughts with our readers who are looking to become entrepreneurs in designing and user interface.
As I mentioned in an answer above there is no wrong time in starting something you believe in. Whether getting into a full time employment or starting something on your own, an honest approach in design, valuing user experience and their grievances first makes any business idea and design success. It’s just not about making wow designs at first look. It’s become more about how constantly you can convert a new user can belief in your design to become into a passionate user for years to come. I believe any design or business, once it can run on a toll bridge model, that’s when you can confidently say, your design has served a purpose.