Today we'll meet British designer Chris Spooner. He became widely known thanks to his two successful blogs Blog.SpoonGraphics and Line25. Chris has written plenty of excellent tutorials on vector graphics and web design. Learn more about Chris Spooner, his tutorials and blogs after the jump.
Q Hi Chris, tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from, where do you live now. Do you have a basic design education or have you learned it on your own?
I'm Chris Spooner, I'm a designer/blogger from Sheffield, UK. I studied Art and Design throughout School, College and University and ended up with a BA(HONS) in Art & Design. Although despite my educational background I've picked up the majority of the skills I now use on a daily basis through self teaching and experimentation.
Q Besides that you keep a few design blogs, do you take orders?
Right now I've cut off the majority of client related work in order to concentrate on my blogs. I find it much more fun to create work for myself than it is for other people!
Q I am always amazed by people like you. How do have time for everything? Do you plan your working day, or do you work based on inspiration?
I tend to work on jobs as they need doing. I don't really plan out a specific schedule. Some days I'll be in a really creative mood and manage to complete multiple jobs in one morning, other days might be a little slower and I hardly get anything done. I've been running my blog(s) for over four years now so creating article and tutorial topics each week has become pretty routine.
Q What do you think about social network websites today? I understand that you prefer Twitter, why?
Twitter has now become a great way of just keeping in touch with designer friends. I used to use it for discovering awesome design content but it seems the level of people actual posting links has dropped over the past year or so. Twitter is the one network I check routinely, but I'm also fairly active on Facebook, YouTube and Dribbble.
Q A great many of us know well your brilliant tutorials on vector graphics. I teach my beginning students on your tutorials only. I know that a lot of designers would like to write tutorials, but they believe this job is too hard. What will you recommend to them?
I'd say it's definitely worth investing the time. I've manage to build a complete living out of writing tutorials. At first the tutorials helped develop me exposure and become more well known in the industry, then they began bringing in project work, now they've reached a level where the traffic they receive helps cover my living expenses. Don't worry about not feeling like you're good enough either, the most popular tutorials are those where you show the basics. There's always going to be someone at the same level as you and below, so share what you know with these people and you'll see the benefits in time.
Q Do you have a favorite tutorial? Do your estimates correspond with the ones of your readers? From my own experience I know that sometimes it can be quite opposite :)
I always find that the designs and tutorials I think will be really popular often don't perform quite as well! A couple of designs that I have been proud of, and have actually been well received are my gothic blackletter typography and sugar skull illustration tutorials.
Q I know that you love to shoot videos, but for some reasons you are not doing video tutorials. Do you believe that written tutorials are better for perception? Maybe you should create mixed tutorials, taking videos of complex techniques?
I do enjoy creating videos because having watched other people on video I've found it helps develop that personal connection to your readers. I'd love to create more screencast type tutorials, but my working process when originally creating the design is so random and chaotic it would be too hard to follow and narrate. When I create written tutorials I go back and dissect the design, so this cuts out all the false starts I had when creating it from scratch.
Q As far as I know, you create one tutorial per week for Spoongraphics, is that enough to keep the audience interested? Are you planning to involve designers in creating content?
I've always been the only author on my blog as it's pretty connected to my personal style etc, so one post per week fits into my schedule quite well. I'd like to think that posting one in-depth post per week is better than multiple smaller tutorials. Obviously multiple in-depth tutorials would be awesome, but until they master human cloning I'll have to stick with one main post per week.
Q I cannot see any recent ads on your websites, is the income from subscribers enough for you or did you come up with a new kind of way to monetize your blogs? Do you have new investors?
I have a good few ad spots on my blogs, but I aim to keep them non-intrusive. I know a lot of design blogs have ads in all kinds of places, which is great for squeezing extra dollars out of your site, but I don't want to put my loyal readers off. There's a series of 125px banners in the sidebar, then a larger ad above the content which only appears on older posts. There's all kinds of other ad types I could consider - footer banners, more ads in the sidebar, CPM ads, RSS ads etc, but until the time comes where I need more income I'll not be too greedy.
Q Chris, you are a many-sided man, your Line 25 website is devoted to web design and coding. Do you believe that the success of a designer lies in his flexibility? Or everyone should stick to his own business?
I guess it all depends on the individual. I'm blessed with being able to pick things up pretty quickly - A bit like in the Matrix - "I know Kung Fu." The saying "Jack of all trades, master of none" springs to mind, but I like to aim for "Master of all."
I find many of the things I focus on overlap, for instance graphic design, illustration and web design all have skills that interlink and can be used in each specialism. I do have limits though, if there's anything beyond my comfort zone I won't take it on as project work.
Q Where do you search for inspiration for your creativity, do you have any Creative Blocks. If yes, how do you get over them? Do you believe that being inspired by the works of other designers, you will never be able to find your own way, style?
I don't think that being inspired by others prevents you from developing your own style - Browsing other people's work is actually what gives me the buzz to create cool stuff myself. As for creative blocks, I tend to step away from the computer altogether and go for a walk with the dog. While I'm away from the computer ideas will still be developing, so the next time I log on there's usually some fresh directions to try out.
Q What are you concerned about in life, besides design, what do you do in your spare time?
I'm probably quite boring compared to most people! I'm not much of a party animal. I do enjoy donning my combat gear and blasting people on Call of Duty Black Ops on my Xbox, so I recently set up a YouTube channel to share tips and tactics to be more productive with this time. Otherwise I enjoy frequent trips to the gym and enjoy a movie with my fiancee every now and again.
Q Tell us about your creative plans for this year. What projects are you working on right now? Are you going to start new blogs?
Well my latest little project is my YouTube gaming venture I recently mentioned - It's non design related but it gives me something to enjoy myself with outside of the design spectrum. Otherwise I'm pretty worked up with my current projects so there's nothing on the cards.
Q Chris, thank you for the interview, say a few parting words for beginning designers.
I always advise for new designers just to have fun creating stuff and don't get bogged down with wanting to work for clients. The best part of being a designer is being able to create cool stuff to fulfill your creative desires, so remember to keep fueling your passion with personal projects as much as you can.
Chris Spooner on Web