What is your background, and how did you start with design?
Looking back, I’ve always been interested in design in one way or another (even if I didn’t realize it at the time!); be it re-drawing my favorite album covers or choosing my favorite skateboard deck graphics when I was younger. The catalyst for me getting into the design a bit more seriously was creating my first website when I was about 14 with a friend of mine to upload our skate videos to, the site was terrible, but it taught me a lot of about basic coding and Photoshop, after that, I was hooked.
Fast forward a few years, and I ended up going to University in Bristol to study Digital Media and Computing. After a couple of years there I found the course wasn’t really for me and I was learning a lot more through freelance projects. I was working on outside of the class so decided to pack it in and drop out. After a couple more years of occasional freelancing (while selling TVs as a full-time job) I met Tom & Rollo through a mutual friend, and we set up Green Chameleon. As Design Director, along with the more top-level tasks such as dealing with clients, managing projects and working on new business I have a pretty hands-on role and still take on a lot of design work, particularly when it comes to the digital/web based projects.
How does your workday look like, and what makes your workflow special?
It changes day to day. As Design Director at Green Chameleon I’m involved in many aspects of the agency; some days focusing on hands-on design work, other times overseeing the team and of course a large portion of my time goes into meeting with clients and writing proposals and pitches for new work. Whatever tasks I’m doing in the day I always try and make time outside of the studio to focus on side projects and conceptual designs.
How do you manage your design team to achieve the best results for your clients?
I’m in a lucky position here as the designers we’ve brought in over the years are all extremely talented, which makes the management side of things more relaxed as we try and give everyone as much autonomy and ownership over their projects as possible. Key milestones in the growth of our agency have been hiring individuals that as well as being solid generalists, all bring in a certain specialty be it a particular development language, illustration style or 3D capabilities for example.
As a Design Director, how do you approach your team of designers to successfully work with front-end developers?
For us, communication between design and dev is vital, but to start the handoff successfully, we provide detailed animated prototypes (built in After Effects) of specific interactions to give the dev team a demonstration that they can replicate in the build.
We also try and give the dev team as much creative freedom as possible, and their knowledge and ideas will often guide the final result, but the animation gives us a solid starting point.
“We also try and give the dev team as much creative freedom as possible.”
What design project that you worked on is you favorite?
As is often the case my favorite project that I’ve worked on to date is the latest one; website and branding for Asaro — a company that creates luxury immersive experiences for their clients on board Superyachts.
It was an exciting project as it allowed us to flex our design muscles across a range of different skills from a highly interactive website, to bespoke printed materials and brand elements.
Do you have any time for side projects? Are they important for your personal growth?
I’ve got a few ideas for side projects ticking away in the background, but I mainly use any out of studio design time to work up quick concepts for interactions or layouts that I can post on Dribbble. These quick-fire shots keep things fresh for me and allow me to explore my natural style and the kind of projects I’d love to be working on full time.
How do you keep up with new trends in typography?
I feel that there is a bit of an art to finding new typefaces as there isn’t one site or platform to visit to stay up to date.
I try and follow my favorite foundries and their releases. Here is my list:
More recently I’ve been checking out Future Fonts which essentially allows you to buy experimental typefaces from designers before they are published.
How do you take/choose photographs used in your visuals?
Often the creative direction of the project will inform the photographs chosen, or perhaps on a website, for example, a particular feature or interaction will inspire the image choice.
For example, often the composition of an image can be crucial to the layout of the page so ensuring an image is chosen that has enough space for copy is critical. Or as you will see in a lot of my concept work, where I’ve created parallax effects out of landscape images; choosing an appropriate image that has enough depth and layers is needed.
We often work with photographers for still life, product, and lifestyle imagery as well as having an in-house videographer to create unique content for our projects.
Do you ever use stock images?
It depends on the project, but a lot of the time a client won’t have the budget for a full suite of custom imagery, in these cases we do use stock images, but we also aim to ensure that we choose images that looks authentic from the likes of Stocksy and of course every designer’s favorite Unsplash.
Are you a photographer yourself? What’s your gear set up?
I’m a rookie photographer, but that’s more just for fun rather than any commercial use. I shoot with a Sony a6500 and DJI Mavic air drone.
We noticed a lot of 3D works in your portfolio. Why is 3D design important for you?
We use 3D in many ways; for packaging design, it’s incredibly important to be able to show the client a realistic custom mockup of how the finished product will look, especially when explaining fine details such as print processes.
More recently we’re enjoying integrating 3D assets with our digital projects too, where that creates custom visuals for the project such as the Asaro website or using 3D design to help inform layout and interactions that we can build in WebGL.
Using pre-made mockups is a great starting point for packaging design visualizations, for the majority of products, there is usually something pretty close on sites such as Yellowimages, further than that it’s a case of diving into the world of Cinema4D (something I’m still dabbling with) or another 3D tool.
What’s your design software toolkit?
Given the number of tools we now have access to as designers I’m still using a pretty old school stack, 90% of my design work is created in Photoshop which I handover into After Effects for prototyping and interaction design; I occasionally use Sketch if the client or project requires it. I use Illustrator for any vector work and as mentioned have recently started learning Cinema 4D. For my photography editing, I use Lightroom.
What would be your dream client to work for?
When I think of dream clients these days, it’s less about the usual big brands, but more so the industry types and people that I’m working with on the client side, a small client with great ideas can often be more interesting than the bigger names. I love working with adventure/travel brands due to the incredible imagery you get to play with, anything related to extreme sports and also high-end brands such as fashion labels and luxury products are high up the list too.
At Green Chameleon we try and approach every project with the mindset that ‘every brand can be extraordinary,’ meaning no matter what the industry or how the project looks on the face of it, there is always potential to make something great and more often than not that comes down to the people involved.
How important in your opinion is a self-promotion for designers and why?
I pretty much put any success I’ve had down to self-promotion, for years I’ve worked incredibly hard to build up my following on sites like Dribbble, sinking countless hours of my free time to keep putting out work in between live projects. It takes a lot of grafting and hard work to build a name for yourself in the super competitive industry we’re in, and there aren’t any shortcuts.
What’s the most important skill to develop for designer and why?
It’s not a skill itself but being versatile is in my eyes the most important trait to have as a designer; that’s not to say you should learn every type of design from hand-drawn illustrations through to interaction design but just being adaptable within your chosen area. My favorite designers are generally the people that can apply their creativity to any project that they tackle.
If they made a movie about your design work, what would it be called?
Move fast & break things.
Have a suggestion for an exciting designer or front-end developer we should interview? Hit me up at [email protected].