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The Fateful Abudzido: An Interview with Fabio Sasso

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Designer Fabio Sasso, best known to be the mind behind Abduzeedo, is a busy guy. Between the blog, his design company Zee and personal projects, Sasso shows that he’s a master of time management- and Photoshop.

The Perfect Crime

The ancient Roman poet Horace once said, “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.” Which begs the question, if it weren’t for an office robbery that left Fabio Sasso without any computer equipment, would the well-known design blog Abduzeedo even exist?

Even an event like that wouldn’t keep Sasso down since one of the first thoughts that he had afterwards was how he was going to continue to work for the rest of the day. He borrowed his mom’s computer in case you were wondering. It’s this work ethic coupled with his design abilities that have given him the immense exposure of which he’s now reaping the benefits.

According to the “About" page the site name is a tweaked spelling of the Portuguese word “abudzido” which means “abducted.” Sasso changed the spelling in order to cleverly incorporate his web design company’s name - Zee. Needless to say, it’s a fitting name for a site that was born out of the abduction of some computer equipment back in 2006. Sasso began the site the day of the robbery out of frustration from the fact that all of his design resources were lost. He wanted an online repository of the design and creative lessons he’s learned over the course of his career.

The Art of Problem Solving

Sasso, 31, currently lives by himself in a small, simply decorated apartment in Porto Alegre, Brazil. This self-described “regular guy, nerd and computer geek” stays physically fit by going to the gym at least four days a week and running every day. His runs serve the dual purpose of being a source of inspiration: “Running is something that really helps me to get new ideas” he says. Other than that, he gets many of his ideas from books and magazines, and as one would expect, the web is his biggest source for ideas. And not just for browsing other design sites, either. “It’s from the web that I find and purchase the books and magazine so, the web is the most important tool I have!”

The most important tool for inspiration, that is. It’s the other tools he uses, mainly a Macbook Pro 17 with SSD and a 24” Apple Cinema Display, Adobe CS5 for general design projects, CSSEdit and Espresso for web design projects. Regardless of the tools and gadgets that he uses to physically create his designs, Sasso’s favorite part of any project is when it first starts:

“[My favorite is] the research part in the very beginning in which you have to come up with ideas and organize [your] thoughts. I love that part especially when we have to deal with audiences made out of people we are totally different from in terms of taste, we have to understand their needs to come up with something that will solve their problems and surprise them.”

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s no surprise, however, that Sasso ended up doing something creative as a career. He was an adventurous, slightly shy child whose parents were the most influential role models growing up. They were supportive of anything Sasso wanted to pursue as a career, even if it meant him being a professional surfer or skateboarder. Though he was always physically active, Sasso also enjoyed artistic activities. “In elementary school [I loved] drawing and creating little paper objects.” Being a young boy in the 1980s meant that Sasso loved the action movies that were popular during that time. His favorites include Rocky, Rambo, Top Gun, Back to the Future and of course, The Goonies. His taste in movies has remained pretty much the same as the last film he watched was the Brazilian action flick Elite Squad 2. He thought it was “incredible,” by the way.

One would think that between running the uber popular design blog and running Zee, Sasso would have no time to enjoy life. Such is not the case, though. While the number of hours he works a day fluctuates anywhere between two and 12, the weekends find him relaxing on the sofa watching movies with his laptop and iPad. He admits that he’s usually working when he’s doing it, but being on the sofa has to garner him some relaxation points, right? His iPod is full of is audio books, interestingly enough. The last one Sasso listened to was “Mandela’s Way” by Richard Stengel, which is a collection of 15 lessons on life that the author learned while spending many hours with Nelson Mandela.

Lessons are an important part of Sasso’s life and career. Sasso’s official education commenced with a Bachelors degree in Industrial Design yet his unofficial education never ends. He believes that it’s only through making mistakes- and learning from them- that one can be the best they can be. “Keep learning, practicing and sharing as much as you can. That’s the best way to evolve and become a better professional and person,” “We learn during the years from mistakes and success. Experience always requires time.”

I love [the research] part especially when we have to deal with audiences made out of people we are totally different from in terms of taste, we have to understand their needs to come up with something that will solve their problems and surprise them.

Speaking of experience, Sasso has plenty of that. His portfolio is full of projects he created for big-name clients such as MSNBC, Wired Magazine UK, Tangible, Editora Abril, Envato and Digital Arts Magazine. In fact, Sasso was one of the original contributors to PSDTuts+ and his tutorials are some of the most well-received and highest viewed on the site.

Most of his work nowadays comes because of the exposure he gets from Abduzeedo. His favorite project, however, remains Abduzeedo because “It’s personal and I can try different things because, even though we have a big audience, it’s a big laboratory for new ideas.” New ideas are something that the site never has a shortage of either. He is currently working on a new feature that will allow users to have a profile on the website where they can post information about themselves so they can exchange information with others. Or as he puts it, “sort of an Abduzeedo ID.” Another project they’re in the midst of is called Mentaway which he’s been working on with his brother and two other people.

Whatever the project, Sasso always follows the same process and that begins with thoroughly discussing the topic with the client ahead of time. This helps him avoid situations where the client asks for changes that are not the right ones based on their design process. “We try to be as professional as possible and show to the client that the solution we are providing is the most effective for the problem they have. I believe the most frustrating thing is choosing the wrong clients,” he says, “The most important thing we have to learn is to say no and not try to be heroes. That saves us from giving the wrong estimate times for projects, keep our feet on the ground and make the right decisions.”

Only when there are clear expectations does he start sketching some ideas. From there he goes on the computer and starts the actual creation process. He typically starts with a number of options but narrows it down to the one to show the client. “This part is the most important because you will have to show where the ideas came from and why, that’s the business part of it, and what makes design different than art, in my humble opinion,” he says.

Humble. Something you might think is the opposite of Sasso. But regardless of his professional successes and the fact that his blog continues to be an insanely popular go-to site for designers of all genres, Sasso is just a regular guy. A nerd. A computer geek.

More of Fabio's Tutorials

Take a look at some more of Fabio's tutorials.

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