I recently had the opportunity to interview multi-media designer Dan Noe. Many DesignM.ag readers have probably seen Dan’s portfolio site for Noe Design Studio showcased at various design galleries or blogs. Dan works at Screenscape Studios in Des Moines, Iowa. I hope you’ll find Dan’s insight and experience to be helpful in your own work.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what you do?
I’m a graphic designer specializing in user interface design, site development and animation (flash and after effects). I graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelors degree in graphic design in 1999. I’ve worked mainly in web development, but have recently started doing video graphics and commercials. My personal portfolio website is: www.noedesign.com
Do you do freelance work in addition to your full-time employment?
Occasionally I do freelance when time permits. But my first priority is my full-time employment and my family. If I have time after that, I’ll pick up some work to pay bills and to have some money on the side to do special things for my family
I see you have a degree in Graphic Design. How do you feel about designers and the need for a formal education?
I’ve run across some designers that are ok from a visual design standpoint. They can create things that are good from an asthetics standpoint, but you can really tell the difference when it comes to typography. Proffessionals that have a degree in graphic design typically have taken multiple courses in type and heirarchy. Without the full package of visual and type training your stock is a bit lower. You run the risk of being pigeon-holed into a certain role that you might not be as fulfilled with such as doing photo touch up or illustration.
Of the different types of design work that you do, is there anything that you enjoy the most?
I don’t really have a favorite in terms of type of work. I believe you should be versed in all aspects of design, print, web development, animation, and if possible database/dynamic programming. The more you know, the more self-sufficent and versitle you can be. Its very beneficial to yourself and the company you work for if you can be tasked with as many types of projects as possible.
Your portfolio includes some work from local clients. Have you specifically targeted local clients, and if so, what do you do to market yourself locally?
I belong to a non-profit group in my town called “HERO” that is a community betterment program. I started out just doing marketing materials and a website to promote events we were running and to make the community aware of our presence. Through that I’ve opened many doors locally. I don’t do anything to market myself, I let my work speak for itself and word gets around and eventually people request work from me.
What is your advice for designers who are trying to decide if they should work for an agency or do full-time freelance work?
I’ve never worked full-time freelance. I’ve always wanted to. I think it’s something you should do before you start a family and have a lot of financial responsibility. I myself have 4 kids and a wife to care for and with that comes a lot of financial responsibility. I personally have never been able to give up the guaranteed paycheck/salary of a full-time job. If you can establish a good client base early on in your professional career before marriage, buying a house or having kids it would definitely be a career path I would have chosen.
Are there any new skills that you would like to develop or areas that you have targeted for improvement in 2010?
Technology is changing so fast that you always have to be learning the next best thing. Especially in the web where new browsers and standards change so quickly. I would like to pick up more ajax knowledge. I used to do a lot of flash websites, but full flashed based websites lack good SEO and usability. I think ajax is a great way to maintain SEO and usability but keep some of the fun interactivity that flash utilizes.
What do you feel are the most important characteristics or skills that designers need to have in order to be successful?
As I said earlier, it’s advantageous to be well versed in as many disciplines as possible. It makes you more marketable to say that you can design for print, the web UI Design/development, animation and if possible database development. From a characteristic standpoint a designer should be driven, a self-teacher and never satisfied.