One of the things that we hear a lot in the design/development field tends towards keeping that passion alive which first drove us to this arena. For when we keep that flame burning, our work will always remain vibrant and successful. This idea is exemplified in our interviewee here, Veerle Pieters (one of the fascinating minds behind Duoh!), whose love for design in all its various forms shines through.
We’ll allow Veerle to introduce herself, informally in her own words, but we would like to take a moment and describe her in our words before we get to that. If you are not familiar with Veerle, her blog, or her work, then you are in for a real treat. Her work is as whimsical as it is precise, and packing as much personality as the lady herself. Her award winning work is a vibrant expression of her glowing inner child with the crisp, clean professional edge she has honed through years of imaginative exploration of graphic and web design.
Beginning as an illustrator in print design, Veerle grew her talents along with the world wide web giving her a much fuller perspective on the field of design overall. Her boundless talents are an inspiration to so many, and today we are lucky to be able to feature her and share some of her insights with our readers. Without any further ado, on with the interview…
The Interview & Showcase
Thanks again for agreeing and taking the time to answer these questions. So tell us a bit about yourself. Who exactly is Veerle Pieters? How would you describe yourself?
I always find talking about yourself extremely hard but here we go… I’m a graphic/web designer hailing from a small but beautiful European country called Belgium. I am a color lover that likes to listen to deep soulful music while designing. When I’m not at work I like to ride my bicycle to clear my head and snap pictures along the way to share on Instagram just to show how much beauty there is around us if you just open your eyes to see it.
Who are some of your biggest influences in web design?
Right now not really someone particular but many years ago when I started with web standards I was influenced by Jeffery Zeldman and Douglas Bowman and Dave Shea’s Zen Garden. I try to do my own thing and not be influenced by trends that overdo a certain design element. Personally I will use something that everybody claims you shouldn’t because I like to believe it’s all in the way how you apply it. I am of course also influenced by waves of techniques that popup in our industry like ‘responsive web design’ for example.
You’ve worked in both print and web design, which do you prefer and which offers the most freedom?
Print is still my first love because a web site can never replace that tactile feeling of having something in your hand you’ve created. Web design offers the most freedom, can be controlled easier and has a higher tolerance for error. Mistakes are deadly in print, especially when you are creating something that has a super high print volume.
What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
One of my favorite projects and most challenging ongoing project is without a doubt Fab.com. Another one is jolena.be where I really got the chance to explore creative boundaries. I wrote a little about the process of that project on my blog.
What advice would you give to other web designers?
I think the most important thing is to stay passionate about what you do and don’t loose that drive to constantly learn new things because we are part of a constantly changing environment. Learning and experimenting is a very important aspect of what de do. If you think you learned enough already I’m afraid that web design isn’t the right path for you. Also, believe in yourself and stay true to yourself and don’t be afraid to fail. Sounds cliché but that is what makes us what we are.
Can you give us a summary of your process?
Depending on how I feel and the amount of ideas that present I usually start by using my own Inspiration Stream as a starting place to look for that spark. Long time ago I browsed around CSS galleries but I’ve learned that they block my inspiration instead of helping. The most successful way is to look at things that aren’t related to web design at all such as my stream. When I got that inspiring spark I mostly start the process by doing some sketches in one of my little notebooks. Not always though, as I sometimes begin directly in Photoshop too. The more complicated projects have a wireframe stage that we go through first. Once those are approved by the client, the design work in Photoshop starts. I’m not part of the ‘design in a browser movement’ as I feel that approach blocks my creativity. About 90% of the projects, start with the inner pages first because these are usually the most difficult ones to work on. If the client approves the design we start the technical part by writing the CSS/HTML.
What are some of your thoughts on the importance of web standards?
Web standards are important but they are just guidelines, they aren’t a relegion if you understand what I mean. It’s a set of guidelines and best practices to help you but not a rule of law. It’s ok to deviate or improvise if you need to, and if there is no other way of doing it semantically. If you start mailing other people by pointing out validation errors you aren’t getting it. Projects can be complex and zero validation errors is sometimes impossible. The important part is that you try and that you think about structure, accessibility etc…
How do you convey the importance of web standards to your clients?
I don’t convey it all. I just do it. Clients shouldn’t have to worry about this or decide on, it’s up to us to use what is best for the client’s interest and web standards does just that.
What made you choose expression engine for your blog over other options?
I opted for ExpressionEngine because at that time it was the only system that would let me create a web site my way instead of the other way around that the system dictates how you should use it. I wanted something that I could use my templates, just the way I coded them, plus I wanted a system that didn’t inject extra code in my templates. Another important reason was that it was powerful enough to create a site that covered all my needs without having to resort to learning PHP because I needed to extend it. I had no interest in learning another program language as a designer.
What drew you away from print design to web design?
Because I was intrigued by this new thing called web design. I saw an opportunity that it could become something very important and that it would provide a source of income.
Web design changes so quickly, how do you keep up?
By reading books and following tutorials.
What are some of the biggest challenges that you see facing the web design industry today?
The biggest challenge imho is keeping up with our fast changing industry. Not an easy task to accomplish with a full workload all the time and a blog that needs attention too. One does need a lot of time filtering out what comes online to finally get to what will become a standard way of doing things.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
There is some exciting stuff in the pipeline for Fab.com and I’m also working on a few projects that involve a lot of illustration work.