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Interview with Veerle Pieters

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"Veerle" does the name rings the bell? I am sure many of you will reply with affirmation! Yes, you are right, today we bring to you interview with incomparable Veerle Pieters, a web and print designer based in Belgium who runs her prolific studio, Duoh! along with Geert Leyseele. She is also the author of a popular design blog.

With a initial background in graphic design and print, before she got involved in web design, she has a well rounded education which has made her one of the most versatile designers in the industry. So lets have a chat with this talented designer whose dream is to make the interweb a better place.

1. Hi Veerle! Give us a brief bio; tell us where you're from. Where did you go to school? Drawing and illustration seem to play an important role in the design work that you do. How did that come about?

I'm a graphic/web designer living in Belgium. I went to school in Mariakerke, Gent. I began my career in 1992 as a freelance graphic designer under the name of Duoh! As a child I always loved drawing and considered it a hobby. I always thought it wouldn’t be possible to make this my day job so that's why I studied tourism until I discovered that you could actually study graphic design. That may sound crazy now, but if you put it in its context and time frame (1987) it wasn’t very well known that you could actually study that. I always thought about it from an artistic point of view and believed there wasn't a future in it. Studying graphic design changed that, and from that point on my hobby became my passion and income.

2. Which applications do you mainly use? And, what does your workstation look like?

I'm mainly using Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, DreamWeaver, CSSEdit , Transmit… I’m working on a dual 2.7Ghz. PowerMac G5 with 2,5GB of RAM. The machine still works very well, but I think I’ll replace it this year.

3. Walk us through your creative process. Do you start your process with references or sketches on paper or wireframes, or are your initial concepts more spontaneous? Is there some difference in thought processes between web and print projects?

The problem is that my process isn’t always the same; it mostly shifts depending on what it is that I am working on. The most constant part in my process is logo design where I almost always start with sketches in my little sketchbooks and scan them in to start the process in Illustrator. When designing websites it depends on how complex the project really is. When it is really complex I always start by wire-framing the most difficult parts before actually starting to move to Photoshop. Some concepts happen spontaneously, but not often. After receiving an OK from the client, I move over to create the final HTML/CSS part. There, I always start with structure first in HTML before starting to style things. The Illustrations that I draw almost always start on paper first, well at least the basic idea. Sometimes I end up with a different result due to experimenting.

4. Your work is very diverse, you do illustrations, logos, print, web design, programming and more. Was it hard to develop into these different areas and become equally good in them? And out of all that you do which one is most challenging to work in and why?

Yes it isn’t easy to be good in all of them. It takes a lot of time to study and keep up with techniques etc. My job has become way more technical than when I started out.  I had the advantage that I started the web design part at the beginning of the Internet, so I could learn it gradually. Now you have to know so much more. At all of the stuff I do I still find logo design the most challenging. It’s like solving a difficult puzzle and you don’t know when you’ll reach your end goal. That difficulty level is also what attracts me.

5. It goes without saying that you have an incredible amount of detail in your work. Do you ever apply compositional principles such as the divine proportion or the rule of thirds, and other principles from nature or do you just have an incredible sense of line, shape, and proportion?

Thanks! :) I almost never use things like the divine proportion or the rule of thirds in my work. Mostly I judge on what I see in front of me and what feels natural or balanced to me. It is a bit different when designing for the web because there a grid can be a great tool to help you solve a complex layout problem.

6. If I am not mistaking, you’re a big fan of Illustrator. What made you choose Illustrator as a medium to express your creativity? You give some fantastic tips and tutorials on your blog, but I would like to know which is your favorite Illustrator tool, tip or technique, the one that you find yourself using the most?

Yes I am a fan of Illustrator, but I actually started out in Aldus FreeHand since nobody mentioned Illustrator at that time. It was in the very early stages of desktop publishing and for me (at school) there was only MacDraw and MacPaint. The school didn’t have many Apple computers (a few 11 inch black & white Classics) so the time that you could spend on them was very limited and the creations themselves were really very basic. I discovered Illustrator 88 when I did a internship at my family’s business. Soon after that, Aldus merged with Adobe and there were legal problems between the two and I switched to Illustrator. My favorite tool is the Pathfinder. I'm using this a lot and it even feels strange how I managed to live without it for years (in the old days). As far as technique is concerned, I love using the Transform Again feature, just because it can surprise you in the end result.

7. All your works have a very rhythmic color palette, how do you determine what kinds of color you will use in a project? Do you utilize any kind of color coordination or is it more random?

Mostly what I end up using is chosen randomly. It can come from a variety of sources such as ads, books, illustrations that I saw etc. On occasion I visit Adobe Kuler to get an idea if a certain color palette would work. That happens mostly when I have no idea and I am a bit lost/stuck.

8. Technology is changing unbelievably fast. Are you afraid of being overwhelmed by this information? What are some of the ways you keep ahead of the game and stay innovative?

I believe it is already overwhelming for a while. I try to stay on top of things by following a few blogs via the RSS feed. The hard part I believe is filtering the right blogs as there so many now. For me it’s a wide mix going from creative inspirational sites to try to stay on top of the current graphic design trends, to more technical sites about CSS techniques or news, Web Standards and the-likes.

9. Your portfolio boasts of impressive logo works. What are the things that you keep in mind, your advice on designing a successful and impactful logo?

Try to always start in black and white. I tend to believe you have a greater chance you end up with a stronger logo this way, because you focus on the shape first. You can also be pretty sure it will look good on fax too for example and in a smaller icon. Don’t make it overly complicated and detailed. It is also not always necessary to portrait what it stands for. Try out metaphors instead.

10. Do you think an artist’s persona is reflected in his/her work? If yes, what aspects, if any, of your designs and illustrations reflects parts of your personality?

Yeah I think you see a personality in most designers’ work. It is not easy to say that about yourself because I don’t put elements in my work on purpose so that it gets my stamp or mark. If I may believe people that I talked to, my biggest persona would be color. People tend to say that they recognize a ‘Veerle flavor’ in my color usage. :)

11. Veerle, now some rapid questions:

a. If you could take a trip and paint anywhere in the world, where would it be?

That would be The Provence, France.

b. Three qualities that you admire most in a designer.

A good insight into color, typography and being inventive.

c. What’s the strangest request you’ve received from a client?

I must say that I had the good fortune to not receive any strange requests so far from clients. Let’s hope it stays this way.

What do you wish somebody had told you when you created your very first illustration?

I wish they encouraged me to try to play a bit more with shadow and highlights. It made such a difference once I got the hang of it.

e. Who and/or what are your inspirations as an artist?

I have a few artists that I look up too such as Scott Hansen, Andy Gilmore, James White, Catalina Estrada, and Monica Calvo.

12. Thanks Veerle, it was great to have you here on VECTORTUTS! What advice would you like to give to budding designers?

Thanks for having me VECTORTUTS I feel honored.:)

Stay passionate about what you do and don’t loose the hunger to learn new things and don’t be afraid to experiment or fail because that’s how you learn.

Veerle Pieters on Web:

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