Interview with Psdtuts+ and Vectortuts+ Editor Sean Hodge
Most of you already know who Sean Hodge is, but for those that don't, he is the editor for Psdtuts+ as well as Vectortuts+. Learn more about Sean, as well as his design and blogging experience. We have lots of information about the role of editor and about running large design blogs. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions. Let's have a chat with Sean!
1. We all know who you are and what you do, but a lot of our readers would like to read about and see the Sean Hodge behind the vectorized avatar. So give us a short biography along with some fun facts that we might not know about you.
I'm originally from Oregon. I went to college and spent quite a few years in Connecticut. During that time I traveled a bit as well, mostly Northern Europe, and I've made it over the border to Canada. I have a degree in History, though I took a slew of graphic design classes, and some at the graduate level. I lived in Venezuela for a couple years recently, which is where my wife is from. I visited some Caribbean islands off Venezuela's coast as well, Aruba for example. I only recently moved to Florida in January of this year. I'm still filling my apartment with new furniture from Ikea.
I'm really into design, illustration, and web design. My freelancing experience mostly comprised designing websites, brands, and using Drupal to build websites for small to medium sized companies. Since taking on as blog editor of Psdtuts+ and Vectortuts+, it's become a full-time role and I've stopped freelancing for the most part.
For fun facts: I've gotten into characters design lately as a hobby, and I'm reading up on the subject, working on drawing characters, and having fun with it. Also, my 2 year old son has cartoons on often, so toons are burned into my retina. I think I see cartoons in everything now. When I close my eyes, little characters bounce through my head.
2. Lawrence asks, "How did Collis end up selecting you as the editor? What did you have to do to show him that you were the right man for the job?"
Good question. I think there were a few things that went into that decision. First of all, I identified a need before the position was advertised for, and I offered to take on some of the editor role. Collis mentioned expanding to more Tuts+ sites in an interview and it seemed that would require more people involved in managing and editing.
A few things about my background helped. I was an active blogger and tutorial writer. At the time, I was writing long articles for Smashing Magazine and series of tutorials for GoMediaZine. This helped to show my experience and commitment to blogging in the design area, as well as my own blog AiBURN, which I was actively contributing to at the time. Also, having experience freelance designing, a portfolio, and working remotely helped as well.
I was a big fan of Collis, via FreelanceSwitch and I followed his writing on blogging when he ran NorthxEast. And of course I followed Psdtuts+ from day one. I think that passion for the "cause" showed.
The biggest thing was developing a working relationship with Collis. I was contributing articles and tutorials at the time to Psdtuts+, and Collis was editing, writing, and managing the site at that time, so everything flowed through him. I worked hard to deliver on time, put together interesting material, and worked on putting into practice the feedback he gave me.
Tips, Resource, and Conceptual Articles on Psdtuts+ by Sean Hodge: Teach Yourself Graphic Design: A Self-Study Course Outline, 10 Ways to Take Design Action and Make a Positive Difference in the World, How to Create Step-by-Step Photoshop Design Tutorials, The Role of Sketching in the Design Process, Working Within Limitations to Achieve Great Designs, 7 Principles of Effective Icon Design, 12 Ways to Tap Into an Endless Well of Creativity, Core Principles for Rapidly Attaining Creative Flow and 5 Important Criteria that Make a Great Photoshop Tutorial
3. Did your previous encounters with creating logo's and designing websites prepare you for the type of work you are currently doing?
My design experienced certainly helped. We cover lots of topics on the sites, so having a wide variety of experience, and interests that I read up on with design, has helped quite a bit. Overall though, business and blogging skills have been just as important.
Various Logos Designed by Sean Hodge
4. Tom asks, "What is your typical day like when editing the two websites? How much time do you spend on them? And are there any daily protocols you follow?"
Yah, my day is kinda a routine now. I spend the first hour or so releasing new content, approving comments, and the user link feeds. Then I go through email for a couple hours, which usually isn't enough time, so I come back to it later in the day.
Most of the email is communication with author/artists on proposals and active tutorial projects. I answer questions, make decisions on content, and track everything to make sure we're on target for publication goals. We're usually about a month ahead with planning for the site, which means things are edited and ready to publish a full month in advance.
I spend the rest of the day getting my hands dirty and editing tutorials and other content. It actually takes quite a bit of time to edit a tutorial, especially Photoshop tutorials, as they are often long and detailed. I also spend some time recruiting new authors, which involves reviewing portfolios and contacting artists.
I jump on twitter throughout the day when I need a couple minutes distraction from what I'm working on. I'm probably forgetting a bunch of stuff I do, but those are the main things. My role as editor is a mixture of project management, editing, and website community management.
I still enjoy writing tutorials, articles, and I do screencasts for Vectortuts+. This work is in addition to the full-time job as editor of these sites though, so sometimes it's hard to find time to do this extra stuff and spend time with my family. I have been doing a bit more of this lately though, which is great to get back into.
Various Websites Designed by Sean Hodge: NoRipcord Site Redesign and Upgraded Branding, Reel Talent - Website Layout Design & Graphics, Prosopo Web Development, Branding Design, and Theming, MyFriend - Website Design and Brand Identity and Bedrock Technology Partners - Website Design and Development
5. Who are some of the designers, and or bloggers that you most look up to?
There are so many designers, bloggers, and artists that I admire. It's really cool though to work with some of them on the site. For example, working with Veerle during Graphic Design Week was great. She's a designer and blogger that I followed for years, since around the time web standards took off.
Working with Skellie, the Tuts+ Manager is really awesome as well. She's someone I followed that wrote for Problogger, her own blog Skelliewag, and a few sites in the Envato network. She's a tremendous writer. Of course, there are lots of other bloggers I follow as well, including Collis who jumps on new topics all the time and ends up writing with real authority in all these various fields.
With design and illustration, I'm blown away all the time by the artwork and ideas that come through Psdtuts+. I wish I had more time to do the tutorials more. I do some of them, but not nearly as many as I'd like to. I do learn a bit though when editing, but nothing like when doing the tutorials. Basically, I'm just reading them as I edit, so I pick up a few tips and best practices.
I've really come to admire many of the artists I work with on a regular basis, on Psdtuts+, artist like Mark Meyers, Alex Beltechi, Jamezilla, and the rest of our regular cast of writers. And of course the writers on Vectortuts+ as well. I've gotten to know so much about the detail of their working process, and I'm amazed at how much variety of work they cover at such high quality. Also, every week I'm introduced to new artists and have the opportunity to work with them.
As far as other designers, much like with music, or any art I fall in love with new work all the time. I often go through phases where I'm really attracted to a certain artist, designer, or type of art. These phases may last a few minutes, a month, or even longer, but it's always changing and blended together like a colorful stew.
It is really cool to have a part of my job be based on finding new artists and taking a look at peoples work, stuff I like to do anyway. I think this admiration though doesn't always go back into my work. Sometimes it does though. I can certainly look at, think about, and appreciate way more work than I could possibly create. I also tend to enjoy thinking about design and visualizing work as much as making it. I can sit in a dark room and think about design for hours, which is probably why I sometimes can't get to sleep at night.
Inspirational Articles on Psdtuts+ by Sean Hodge: 40+ Creative, Courageous, and Campy Buttons, 20+ Inspiring Pixel Artists, Tutorials, and Resources, Inspiration: Fire, Flames, and Infernos, Inspiration: Street Art, Murals, and Graffiti, Inspiration - Futuristic Graphic User Interface Design, Inspiration: High Dynamic Range (HDR) Imaging, Inspiration: Cool Kitsch, Pop Art, and Superflat, Inspiration: Vexel Style Artwork, Inspiration: Gadgets, Devices, and Handheld Electronics, Inspiration: Cyborgs, Robots, and Mecha, Inspiration: Stars, Planets, and Galaxies, and Inspiration: Assemblage, Montage, and Collage
6. Ariel asks, "At what point did you start to monetize the site? When did you start to see real income from the site? And was it hard getting money at first with a small amount of content?"
The monetization of the site is really what the Tuts+ Manager handles. At this point that role is filled by Skellie. In the past Collis filled that role, before there was a title. And Cyan filled that role for awhile and really worked out the position and what it would cover, which she's really good at.
Collis has written on this a bit in various interviews he's done. I'd say search in Google for interviews for Collis Taeed. He's done quite a few so you may need to skim through them. But he has talked about the growth of Tuts+ and how it's been monetized over time.
My role with money is basically having a budget and working to get the best quality content we can within that budget. Also, we have a certain mix of content we deliver and I work to make sure we're filling that with high-quality content on a regular basis. I also like to plan as far in advance as possible.
I do know that Tuts+ sites budgets grow over time as they become profitable. Basically, the sites run with negative return often for months. It took lots of work on Vectortuts+ to get it to that turning point for example. It certainly helps to have a network behind a new blog to fund it and help drive traffic to it so it has a a quicker rate of growth. Sites within the Envato network have a greater chance of finding their audience quicker, then blogs launching without that kind of support. Still, growing any blog takes time.
7. A lot of our readers would like to know exactly what is the criteria for a tutorial to get published on the website?
That's a good question. 99% of the time it's just me making the decision of what gets published, though Skellie works with some article writers on the sites, which is a big help.
I look at a few things when determining if something is right for publication. Quality, originality of concept, technique, educational value, and style are some areas that contribute to acceptance. Much of this is based on final artwork review and a brief paragraph description of what the tutorial will cover.
There are some additional things that help, while not being requirements for publication. If the artist has a portfolio, I look through it. The higher quality the portfolio, the more confidence I have in the artist. If the artist has written tutorials before, even for their own blog, this makes a huge difference in me having confidence in their writing ability.
Most publication require written samples to be considered for publication, which we don't, but it does help. This is basically proof that you can put a tutorial together well. That being said, this is really in addition to the other criteria I mentioned above.
The bar to publish on Psdtuts+ especially has risen over time. We have some really amazing artists we work with on a regular basis. There are a few things you can do that give you a better chance of being published, like really striving for originality in your work. The last thing we want to do is pull a tutorial because someone has copied or been overly influenced by someone's work. This is always a concern with new artists we work with.
One piece of advice is to send in the tutorial already written. This takes many of the intangibles out of the equation for me as editor. I can read and consider the tutorial in hand without wondering what I'll receive after a concept is approved.
Of course, this requires more work for the artist without the guarantee of acceptance. But, if it is rejected, then you could submit it somewhere else for consideration as well. This is what professional writers do in other fields for example. Also, you're always welcome to submit new concepts or rework what you've submitted for consideration again.
Here are a few resources for submitting tutorials, writing them, and what we look for:
- Submit a Tutorial
- 7 Steps to Developing Originality in Your Design and Illustration Work
- How to Create Step-by-Step Photoshop Design Tutorials
- 5 Important Criteria that Make a Great Photoshop Tutorial
Content written for GoMediaZine by Sean Hodge: A 6-part Tutorial Series on Creating a Band Site in Drupal and 12 Sources of Inspiration for Creating Your Own Lettering or Typeface Designs
8. LGFN asks, "How many potential tutorials do you receive weekly?"
On Vectortuts+ it's probably about 10 and on Psdtuts+ it's probably about 40, but this does vary from week to week. This is in addition to the material sent in by our regular writers. So, try not to let your feelings get to involved if your concept isn't accepted. It's just not possible to publish every concept that is submitted to us. Also, keep the tips above in mind and work on building your portfolio, publishing on smaller blogs first, then delivering stunning artwork with strong educational concepts for review.
Content written for Smashing Magazine by Sean Hodge: Creating A Successful Online Portfolio, Inspirational PDF Magazines, Getting Creative With Transparency in Web Design, Grid-Based Design: Six Creative Column Techniques, Professional Web Design Forums, Inspirational Hyperreal Vector Artists and Images, Adobe Photoshop Tutorials - Rainbows, Glows and Light Effects, 5 Principles And Ideas Of Setting Type On The Web and Useful Podcasts For Designers And Developers
9. What would you say is your favorite part of the job along with your most hated part?
My favorite part of the job is working with the artists, building relationships with them, and learning from them. Teaching and interacting with the audience is just as great. So, it's really all the discussions about design and sharing knowledge with artists and the audience. I love it when we have an intelligent heated debate in the comments for example.
I think hated is really too strong a word. Like any job there are always things you don't like though. I guess the biggest thing is I'm not designing and creating as much art as I used too when I freelanced. Though the job security, management experience, and regular payment are a blessing.
As with any blog, spam and negative comments are always difficult and can way on you at times. Constructive criticism is great, especially when it teaches, furthers a topic, or contributes points to a debate. Sometimes there are just lots of short negative comments with little respect or helpfulness. Overall though, I try to ignore those, and focus on comments with substance, whether positive or negative. And there are lots of intelligent designers contributing to discussions in the comments, which is great.
Psdtuts+ Tutorials written by Sean Hodge: Digitally Collage a Camouflage Paper Jacket, Create a Constructivist Inspired Poster, Create A Textured Tag For Your Website and Create a Cool Halftone Effect
10. Marie asks, "Do you prefer a Mac or a PC, and what is your favorite software to use besides Photoshop and Illustrator?"
I'm a Mac guy. It's what we used in design school and I got really attached to Mac. Once OSX came out it really sealed the deal for me. They certainly cost more, but I love the interface and I'm hooked into it. For whatever reason, I still associate PC's with bad memories of cubicles and customer service jobs I had. I do run a PC to do web testing, but I do it through Parallels (virtual machine).
It may sound lame to some, but my favorite software is my brain. A paper and pencil/pen is usually the best interface for accessing what's in there and solving design problems. I'm really starting to love using Moleskine notebooks for sketching. I used cheap notebooks for years and they always got banged up pretty bad, and the ink bled through to other pages. Moleskines have thick paper which is great for drawing and writing in.
Other design software I use isn't much really. I'd just add Fireworks in there, but Photoshop, and especially Illustrator are my go to apps. I certainly use a truckload of other software for capturing concepts, writing, editing, web design, and doing business.
11. What do you see yourself doing in 5 to 10 years? Will you still be working in this field or do you plan to go in another direction?
This is a hard question to answer, but I think I'll be doing something similar to what I'm doing now. I really like being involved in teaching design in some way, managing sites and creative projects, and discussing design.
I'm a whole lot more interested in illustration now, so if that passion, and especially my skills grow in that area, then who knows. I might do more freelancing with a new illustrative direction in the future. I also have played around with some web business ideas, but nothing with big success yet.
Tutorials on AiBURN by Sean Hodge: Create a Tropical Colored Compass, BzZz, Create a Fly Logo Design Part 1, BzZz, Create a Fly Logo Design Part 2, Design a Business Report Cover, Design a Set of Shields, Draw Your Self Portrait, Building a Website Wireframe in Illustrator, Happy Holidays Snow Globe, Dynamic Sign Up Sign and Tropical Transparency Effect
12. VertigoSFX asks, "What have you learned from working for the Tuts+ family as an editor? Do you think your experience here will help you in the future in any other endeavors you may pursue? Also, what are some of your favorite bands?"
Man, it's so much that's it's hard to list everything I've learned. It was really intimidating at first to take on the role of editor. Also, we've had so much growth and numerous changes, including me taking over the additional role of editor of Vectortuts+ that there has always been a new challenge to accomplish. It's only recently (the last few months), that I'm feeling really comfortable in this role. That's probably why I'm writing more now, because I'm not feeling overwhelmed, but like I actually know what I'm doing :)
I've grown skills with project management, website management, blog management, recruiting and working with artists, and loads of other great stuff. Whatever direction I pursue my experience here will help with future endeavors.
Here are a few examples. If I want to work with an agency in the future, my project management experience would really set me apart from other applicants. Or I could partner up and launch an agency and those skills come into play as well. If I focus on running my own educational websites, then clearly it's similar skills to what I'm currently doing. If I want to jump back into freelancing, then I've improved my skills, contacts, and knowledge, and therefore would be able to target better clients. I'm happy in my role as editor though with Envato, and don't have any immediate plans to change that position.
My favorite band over the years is the Chile Peppers, though I fall in love with new music all the time. I'm more of a reader though and I listen to Audiobooks as well. I'm a big nerd really. I also love TV, it's my visual junk food, and I'm a sucker for a good story.
Vectortuts+ Screencasts by Sean Hodge: How to Create a Vector Sketchbook - Screencast, How to Create Sheet Rolls with Custom Spirals - Screencast, How to Create an Hourglass Icon in About an Hour - Screencast, Create Your Own Gothic Looking Card Deck - Screencast, How to Create an Alarm Clock Icon - Screencast and How to Make a Foolproof Flowery Wallpaper Pattern - Screencast
13. Any final thoughts?
I really appreciate the opportunity to work as editor here and it's been a tremendous experience. I'm excited that the Tuts+ sites continue to grow. It's really amazing to be part of. Thanks to all the readers and to all the artists/designers who share their knowledge and experience, both in our content and comments.
Thanks to Emil for filtering through the questions and putting together a manageable interview style post, and thanks to all those who posted questions as well. I'm going to jump over to Emil's first post about this interview and follow up with many of those questions. If you have more, I'll try to answer as many as possible for the next couple of days, so feel free to ask more in the comments.
Articles on AiBURN by Sean Hodge: A Comprehensive Guide to Running a Successful Design Contest Online, The Emergence of Gradient Grunge Design, Inspiration - Doodlage, Chris Nielsen Interview, Inspiration: Designbum, Inspiration: Vektorika Magazine, Train For Humanity Launches, Flickr Groups for Logo Design Lovers and Moving Through Infinite Vision
Where to Find Sean Hodge on the Web
- Blog: AiBURN
- Twitter: @seanHodge
- My Old Portfolio: Connection Cube
- My New Portfolio (in Beta): Colorsauce
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