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Continuing with our designer interview series, I took the opportunity and am very excited to present today's interview with Nick La. Nick is a well known freelance illustrator and web designer based in Toronto. He is the founder of N.Design Studio, and popular blog Web Designer Wall, Design Jobs on the Wall, and Best Web Gallery. He also recently launched his new site Icondock exclusively dedicated to icons.

Nick says, he always wanted to be a visual artist and was fascinated with drawings, paintings, and art in general since he was a kid. His main focus is on illustrations, CSS websites, and designing stock icons. Nick's work has been featured in many online portals and design publications. So let's have a chat with this well-rounded design guy!

1. Hello Nick, tell us something about yourself, where you're from and how you got started in this field? Did you have any formal training or are you self taught?

I'm a Toronto based illustrator and designer. I run: N.Design Studio, Web Designer Wall, Design Jobs on the Wall, Best Web Gallery, and IconDock. I was first introduced to Adobe Photoshop by my high school art teacher and then I decided to get into graphic design. I attended Humber College for a two-year program, Advertising and Graphic Design. My web and CSS skills are self taught from online tutorials, books, and experiments.

Nick La

2. As a child, were you always so good with art and illustrations? What are your memories about your very first brush with vector illustrations? How much do you think your art has evolved since then?

Since I was a kid, I had always been good with art and illustrations. When I was about ten, I started to learn how to draw by tracing other peoples' artwork such as comic books and post cards. I started using Adobe Illustrator since version 8. Back then, I was using vector for basic things such as logo design and simple illustrations. Now, I use Illustrator to create complex illustrations and design.

3. Where do you work on your designs and projects? And what are your preferred tools and applications?

I usually go to coffee shops such as Starbucks to do my work (read this article to find out why I like to work out of home or office). My preferred tools are Adobe suite (mainly Photoshop, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver).

4. Your work is diverse, you don't only do graphic designs and illustrations but are also a pro in web design and programming. Why was it important for you to branch out in different fields instead of concentrating on just one? And out of all that you do which one is most challenging to work in and why?

As of now, N.Design Studio is a one-man run studio and almost everything is done by myself. So, I must learn how to design and code (HTML, CSS, and WordPress coding). I find the most challenging is front-end coding because you have to encounter a lot of things such as CSS and cross-browser issues.

5. I see a lot of Eastern style and colors in your illustrations. How does it influence and inspire you?

My background is Chinese and I like Chinese and Japanese art. That is why in my illustration work, you often see a lot of oriental elements such as the phoenix, floral patterns, and flowers.

6. Talking only about your vector illustrations, what are your future plans and goals with that? And what is it about vector illustrations that attracts you?

When I have some time to myself, I will definitely create more vector illustrations and hopefully have my own exhibition. The best I like about vector is its scalability and fine stroke.

7. I will not ask you about your creative process, as you have already explained it so well on your blog. Rather I would like to know, which is the most exciting part for you of your design process, the beginning/visualization or the conclusion/accomplishment, why?

The most exciting part is the polishing process. It is the process after the vector illustration is done. I import it into Photoshop to add texture, saturation, and digital effects. I like this process because it makes my vector illustration more vivid.

8. You have successful blogs, how do you manage your time between your projects and blog writing? What is the most important thing that you have accomplished with your blogs?

In term of time management, I only write blog posts when my project deadlines are met. Also, to save time, I often use my existing work as tutorial demo files. The most important thing that I have accomplished with my blogs is the readership and I'm glad people find my tutorials useful.

9. We would like to know one of your most favorite Illustrator tools, tricks, or techniques. Do you also have any Adobe Illustrator pet peeve?

My favorite Illustrator tool: using the Eyedropper or Graphic Styles to apply fill and stroke to massive selection of objects.

Pet peeve? Illustrator is very good and fast for most general purposes. But when you have a lot of complex symbol sprayed objects, it gets very slow.

10. What's more important to you, trends and style or communicating a message? Do you ever feel you look at too much stuff? Are you ever afraid of getting too influenced by too many other trendy things that you'll loose your own unique style?

It depends on the scope of the project. If it is a client project, I think it is very important to communicate a message. But if it is personal or experimental project, I think it is important to have a style. No, I never felt that I look at too much stuff. In fact, I like to explore different things (art and culture) and see how I can adapt it to my design.

11. What project has given you the most satisfaction? What was the most interesting thing about that project?

My most satisfied project so far is Web Designer Wall. The most interesting thing about the project was being able to apply my art skills to create a unique blog theme.

12. I see that you design brilliant icons. Give us some tips for designing an effective icon. Also tell us your motivation and inspiration behind starting your new site, IconDock.

An effective icon should be simple and meaningful. So, make your icon as simple as possible. You can go fancy with the various effects, but keep your icon as minimal as possible. The entire point of an icon is to communicate a single message to the users.

I started icon design simply because a lot of my web design work (such as blog themes) required icons. As an experimental project, I released my first set of Mini Pixel Icons, which unexpectedly became very popular. Then I started designing stock icons and selling them at N.Design Studio. In February 2009, I finally launched IconDock, a shop where I offer both stock icons and free icons.

13. Are there any particular artist(s) that you get inspiration from? Or any particular website(s)?

I don't have any particular artist or designer that I get inspiration from. I like individual pieces of the artwork rather than a particular artist or style. I find inspiration from my environment in every day life such as nature, apparels, people, stores, etc.

14. Thanks Nick, for the interview and your time. What message or advice would you like to give to the aspiring artists and designers?

Don't be afraid to explore and find your own style. Spend more time on experimental work.

Nick La on Web:

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