Interview with a pro – Chris Spooner

7 12 2008

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Hi everyone,

The last article I posted on here did really well and I think that was down to the fact I had actually taken some time to get some very valued opinions from people that matter in the industry. I personally always want to hear what the professionals think and as someone just starting out in the industry their thoughts and ideas are very helpful to me. I’m sure that is also true for you.

With that in mind I thought I would try and get a series of interviews set up with people who have experience of success within the design world.

The first person I asked was Chris Spooner and he was kind enough to agree to an interview. I’ll start with a little about Chris…

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Chris is a UK based graphic/web designer who runs the very successful design blog Spoon Graphics where he continually adds very interesting posts, including tutorials, discussions and lists of inspiration. He can also be followed at ChrisSpooner.com where daily updates about what he is doing are available.

1. What was your route into industry? Did you get a formal education? What previous professional experience did you get before you went freelance?

I found myself heading down the creative route right the way through school and college, and finished this with a degree in Art & Design. During the end of my degree course I began working on a part-time basis at a friend’s design studio where I gained experience of working on various client projects, including website and print design for a local festival and some fairly large local and national organisations. During this time, I also setup my personal branding of Spoon Graphics and began working on small projects via the internet, working mainly on logo designs for clients across the UK while working for my degree.

A couple of months after graduating I then gained a fulltime position as a graphic and website designer at a local design studio where I worked on a range of web and print projects before deciding on heading into the world of freelance.

2. Why did you start your blog and how have you developed it into the success it is today?

I started Blog.SpoonGraphics purely as an experiment, I noticed designers across the web had started blogging and decided to give it a go myself. I concentrated on writing design tutorials and giving away free vector graphics at first, soon a couple of posts gained good exposure and the blog grew from there.

I think the main success might be down to creating posts and tutorials that are slightly out of the ordinary, or that give away plenty of useful information that can be put into practice in daily projects.

One decision I made on the blog that really helped boost exposure was to introduce articles alongside the tutorials and freebies, these are mainly roundup posts of inspiring designs but they almost always prove popular with social media.

3. How much time a week do you spend updating the blog?

I have my own personal schedule of one article/tutorial/freebie per week, with a roundup news post every two weeks. Although the main articles can take hours or days in order to create the graphics and write up the process along with screenshots.

Aside from the actual creation of articles, I try to submit my posts to various tutorial and news websites to maximise their exposure, as well as occasionally promoting them on Twitter if they are in need of a boost!

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4. Where do you get your ideas for posts? Is there many instances when you find it hard to write new content?

I tend to gain ideas for new posts while browsing the web, or being inspired by something while away from the computer. I then try to take a certain idea and put it into practice in the form of a tutorial or freebie that people will hopefully find useful.

Not too long ago there was a time when I was really struggling to come up with new content for the site, and missed a couple of posts out of my schedule. I find myself thinking of lots of random ideas but when it comes to writing an article I can’t remember them or struggle to find a way of implementing them into a post. Now, when I sit down with fresh ideas I’ll try to create two or more posts at a time and schedule them for upcoming weeks, which leaves that little bit of extra time to generate new content.

5. Has the blog directly led to much client work? What other benefits does it bring you?

I’m proud to say the blog leads to I’d say around 90% of my client work, from both people who follow the blog or have taken an interest in my work through following through from online interviews like this very one, to the increased search engine rankings that benefit my site as a whole.

The main benefit I really enjoy is the networking with fellow designers from across the world, I always enjoy hearing from owners of other design blogs and the readers themselves whether it’s via Twitter or a little email.

6. How would you describe your style and what would you say your strengths are?

I honestly don’t know what my style is or looks like, I can recognise other people’s work through their personal style so would love to hear any comments on how my work relates back to me!
I do enjoy working with paper textures and hand-drawn doodles in a lot of my work, but I love to experiment with many different styles which I think helps to become a little more versatile.

My main focuses are in website design and design for print, which are both quite wide subjects but I’d say this is where my strength lies.

7. Describe to me a typical day in your working week.

When working from home I’ll arise at 7:45 (or maybe a little later depending how cold it is outside!), have breakfast and head into my little office area. I’ll usually begin the day checking and replying to emails and Twitter, then start work on the first job on my to-do list. I tend to work on a project up until lunchtime, go grab a bite to eat then spend a short while catching up on my feeds and various content online. After lunch I’ll start work on a different project until the early evening. Depending on the evening’s plans I like to concentrate on personal work such as my blog, or an experimental design that helps pursue a creative interest I might have at the time.

8. Have the credit crunch had any effect on you as of yet? If so how?

With my freelance career being active on a fulltime basis from earlier in 2008 I don’t have any experience from before the whole ‘credit climate economic crunch’, but I’m happy to say I’m not struggling with work at the moment.

9. And finally what does 2009 hold for you?

I’m looking forward to continuing on with my freelance work, and to pull out some interesting topics for Blog.SpoonGraphics. I have had some initial thoughts to setup a second design related site, which would be quite a fun project, but it’s no certainty! What do you think – Go for it with another design blog or stick to concentrating on Blog.SpoonGraphics?

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And there you have it. I’d just like to say a big thank you to Chris for taking the time to answer my questions. I don’t know about you but I really enjoyed reading them, they were a great insight into the freelance world. I recommend you subscribe to his blog asthere are numerous articles tha i’m sure you will find interesting.

Chris is also a huge contributor to twitter so get yourself along there and start following him for even more pearls of wisdom!

Thanks again Chris!

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7 responses

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