Sam Brown is a freelance Interface Designer from Scotland, who under the business name of Massive Blue creates a range of high quality websites, combining detailed design and top class code. Sam is also the guy behind such sites as Posh CSS, and the upcoming Remindness. I invited Sam to chat about his design life and offer some advice to new-comer designers.
Hi Sam, let’s start with an introduction. What is your background and what do you do?
Hi, I’m a freelance interface designer and web standards developer from Edinburgh Scotland, I’ve been freelancing my whole career which started in the late nineties as a teenager who was obsessed with the internet. I spent 5 years living in Sydney Australia where I finished my final years of school at a Technology High School and completed half of my Degree in Multimedia before leaving Uni to persue actual work. I felt Uni was holding me back and in retrospect leaving was a right move for me.
Can you give us an insight into a typical day in the life of Sam Brown?
As a freelancer I enjoy working to my own time scales and deadlines but that’s not to say my day isn’t structured, it has to be otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done. My day starts whenever I wake which is normally around 8am, quick breakfast and a trip to the gym ensues, this is important for me as I work from my home office – sitting in the house all day long is most definitely not good for you.
My work day starts at 9.30-ish where I attempt to climb Email Mountain and catch up some of the latest happenings online via Twitter and RSS (Fever, the Hot tab is bliss) then it’s down to work. I normally split my day in half working on two projects one in the morning and then afternoon, I find this works best for me and I don’t burn out too quickly – it also helps when you get stuck on a particular design problem, getting away from that project for a while usually allows me to find a fresh perspective.
As a freelance designer under the business name Massive Blue, what’s your primary source of clients and work?
Interestingly almost all of my clients now are recommended to me via past clients or collegues, I get quite a few requests for work via my site but those ultimately have too short a deadline or do not interest me. I find Google is the worst place to get clients from and purposely haven’t molded my site as many SEO evangelists would like, I know this as the amount of “We Can Get Your Site To Top Spot On Google” spam is through the roof! :)
I’m fortunate enough to be in a situation where people come to me to work with me and I find that is a fantastic and privelaged position to be in.
As well as being a designer who creates visually attractive sites, you’re also passionate about web standards, accessibility and user experience. What advice could you give to designers or developers out there who looking to develop their knowledge in these areas?
Get out there and do it, experience it, live it and work at it as hard as you can. There really is no substitute to actually doing these things, sure I could recommend a bunch of books but these will only arm you with background knowledge, no book can teach you practical first hand experience.
Keep abreast of the latest happenings and techniques across the industry, the minute you fall behind in that you are doomed. Our industry is so young, fast paced and ever changing that you must dedicate some time each day to staying on top of the latest topics.
Can you tell us about some of your personal projects, such as PoshCSS, Xbox Sam and the upcoming Remindness?
Posh CSS started life as a simple link log that I used to keep track of the latest and greatest CSS techniques for myself – kind of like a personal Delicious but it soon amassed a bit of a following and I quickly turned it into a proper link blog that others could contribute to. I recently employed the help of 5 new authors who are now helping me keep the site up-to-date which was becoming a challenge due to time restraints. We also have big plans for it in the near future which will help grow the site and expand out into some new topics.
Xbox Sam is something I had wanted to launch for a while, I’m an avid gamer and had been wanting to write mini-reviews on some of the games I had recently enjoyed playing. I felt that my personal blog wasn’t the forum for this and decided to create a little site to house this content.
Lastly, Remindness is a project I have been *using* for 18 months now – I built the app in a single day as a way to help keep me on top of the multiple projects I was working on at the same time. Sadly my limited developer skills mean’t that I was never able to build it out into something that could be used by the public so it has sat dormant for the best part of a year. Alas, I was discussing Remindness just after I met you Chris at the .net Magazine Awards with a developer friend of mine and he is keen to take the idea and move it forward, so there is some hope that it will see the light of day yet.
You’ve attending a good selection of web design conferences lately, including dConstruct, FOWD and Build Conference. What experiences do you take away from such events, and would you recommend them to other designers and web folk?
I absolutely would, these rare occasions where the best people in the industry get together to talk shop are always worth attending. The majority of people working on the web are truely great people and getting to meet them and hang out with them at these events is a real treat. For me these events are as much about meeting old and new faces as they are about the content of the conferences themselves, I have met so many interesting people and forged a lot of real friendships. I would highly recommend attending these if you can.
Are there any new applications, coding languages or techniques that you’re currently experimenting with, or looking forward to using in the future?
HTML5 is something I have yet to seriously explore using and I plan to look into that in the New Year, it is definitely the way forward and I can not wait to start working with it on some new projects soon. I am already a massive CSS3 zealot and plan to keep pushing my use of that in all of my work.