Red Bilby -interviews Chris Spooner

If you have been exploring the online world of design, chances are you have heard of Chris Spooner or at least Spoon Graphics. I’m not exactly sure when I first discovered Chris’ work, I think I may have stumbled across one of his tutorials after watching an episode of Photoshop User TV. Since then I have been following Chris’ work and in particular his blogs. Chris’ approach to design is fresh and unique and even though he dislikes cheese he is a formidable talent.  Given that Chris is an outstanding designer and well respected in the online design community, when it came to choosing who would be the first designer to approach for an interview on Red Bilby, the choice was easy………Chris generously agreed and here is the result.


How long have you been a freelancer?
I decided to head out on my own in September 2008, so it’s just over a year ago. I’ve loved every moment!
Where is your studio located?
As a self employed designer I work from my home-office in Sheffield. Or to be more exact, it’s the first door on the left at the top of the stairs.
What equipment do you use?
I use a 15″ MacBook Pro, coupled with the Apple 24″ LED display. I find this setup awesome, as it gives me the best of both worlds – I have a laptop that I can carry around with me for max portability, but also a large screen and desktop setup in my office. The best feature of the LED screen is the built-in magsafe charger. It’s fab to be able to quickly connect the screen and charge the laptop without any extra cables.

Otherwise, I use a Wacom Bamboo tablet and mouse, which is only an entry level model, but has been a great introduction to the world of pen tablets. Now I’ve had a taste of the basic model I’d love to step up to the Intuos3 model.

Are you Mac or PC?
I’m a Mac. I’ve been slowly building my collection of Apple products since switching from Windows and have never looked back!
What software do you use the most?
It’s probably safe to say Firefox is open for the majority of the time on my computer, although design wise Photoshop is probably where I spent the most time.
What advice would you give someone starting out as a freelance designer?
I’ve found being active in the community through blogging and networking online has been a huge boost to my career. I always advise new designers or those looking to gain more exposure to setup a blog and begin documenting the things that inspire them, or to write tutorials and articles that help others out. The results can be amazing.
What challenges have you had to overcome?
There’s always lots of little challenges we face on every project. Sometimes they’re coding solutions we need to find ways around or techniques in a particular application that require some thought to produce the desired effect.
Who inspires you?
I find plenty of inspiration online from all kinds of designers. I don’t tend to name any one person as I’m always inspired when I pull up my RSS feed reader and begin browsing some new content. I’m forever picking up new tips and ideas from everyone in the design community.
What is the most difficult thing you have to deal with as a designer?
One of the most frustrating things I deal with as a designer is client work. However client work is also one of the best things about being a designer, so it’s definitely a love/hate relationship. Sometimes there’s nothing worse then putting lots of hard work into a design, being really happy with it and expecting the client to feel the same way, only to receive negative feedback.
How do you quote on jobs and set pricing for your work?
I usually gather information on the project then estimate a sensible number of hours, or morning/afternoon work sessions that would be required to complete the job. This is then multiplied by my personal hourly rate and presented as an overall estimate.
How do you get work?
The majority of my work leads come through my blog, or from friends I’ve made in the design community.
How important has blogging been to your career?
If I hadn’t established my blog, I wouldn’t have had any of the opportunities I’ve seen over the past two and a half years. Setting up a blog has been the best decision of my life, seriously! It’s what enabled me to work for myself, has given me the freedom of choice on design projects and has helped develop my personal skillset and knowledge.
What hours do you work?
I typically work during the day from 9 (sometimes 9:30!) until around 6 in the evening, although a lot of this time is probably spent doing things that wouldn’t be classed as work by most! Browsing the Internet and checking out design links I’ve decided is highly important work, that I must make time for!
What work / job are you most proud of?
I always list my SpoonGraphics blog as the project I’m most proud of, as I’m amazed at what it has grown to. Client project wise two of my favourite jobs are the DesignBump redesign and the Vivid Ways logo.
What type of work forms the major part of your income?
Website design work probably forms the largest portion of my income, but being generally larger jobs the time is often split over a couple of months.