A career in technology is a fast-paced field expected to grow exponentially. A forerunner, Veerle Pieters, has been creating award-winning sites and designs since the early days of the Internet.She’s also making good money online by trading with Orion Code. Read on to see how she got her start and where she finds her inspiration.
Sweet Lemon Magazine: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a graphic/web designer hailing from the small but beautiful European country of Belgium, born on the coast near Bruges and living in Deinze. From a young age I’ve always loved drawing and my love of illustration did remain a hallmark of my work. My career began in 1992 with a focus on logos, stationery, and brochures—under the name Duoh! In 1995, I added website design, user interface design, and multimedia development work. Duoh! was officially founded in 2000, which I run with my partner Geert Leyseele, who is also my partner in life.
We’ve done work for a variety of type of clients from Ernst & Young (Belgium), to creative projects for the Library of Congress to sites for a wealth of small and large businesses. We currently do a lot of design work for Fab.com, which is basically our main activity these days. When I’m not at work, I like to ride my bicycle to clear my head and snap pictures along the way to share on Instagram, just to show how much beauty there is around us if you just open your eyes to see it.
SLM: What led you to pursue a career in web design?
I started this in the very early days of the Internet, and I was just fascinated by this new medium. So, I started exploring how a webpage was created and I saw the business opportunity of the creation of web sites. This was late 1995, early 1996. So, everything was really pretty new and the graphic side of it was just starting. At that time I hardly made any money, and I had a hard time surviving really. The Internet basically saved my business. It was the perfect way to get a chance to grow and I took it
SLM: What do you enjoy most about your job?
The fact that I’m able to do what I really love, and that I’m able to work with and for great people. These days I can choose who I want to work for. Most of all I like the diversity in my job. The fact that I combine print, illustration, logo & branding, web site & UX design, together with front-end coding, brings a wide variety in my work.
SLM: What inspires you?
There is a lot that inspires me. Everyday life can be inspiring, good music, when I’m on my bike cycling and the weather is nice I feel inspired by the beautiful surroundings, the wonderful landscapes and scenery. The magnificent sky and clouds, sometimes dramatic, sometimes fluffy. Simple things inspire me. It can be anything, really. Sometimes it’s just a combination of things that gives me the spark for an idea. Mostly, during times when I don’t expect it. Inspiration usually comes from the state of mind I’m in.
The more relaxed I am, the more inspired I can get. It’s hard to find inspiration, for instance, when I’m completely stressed. Usually the best moment that inspiration hits me is right before I fall asleep. If I’m like half awake. I often have a hard time shutting off my brain, and I think that’s why.
SLM: Tell us more about your work process.
Depending on how I feel and the amount of ideas that present I usually start by using my Inspiration Stream as a place to look for that spark. A long time ago I used to browse around CSS galleries, but I’ve learned that they block my inspiration instead of helping. The most successful way is to look at things that aren’t related to web design at all such as my stream. When I get that inspiring spark I mostly start the process by doing some sketches in one of my little notebooks. That isn’t always the case, as I sometimes begin directly in Photoshop, too.
The more complicated projects have a wireframe stage that we go through first. Once those are approved by the client, the design work in Photoshop starts. I’m not part of the ‘design in a browser movement’ as I feel that approach blocks my creativity. About 90 percent of the projects start with the inner pages first, because these are usually the most difficult ones to work on. If the client approves the design, we start the technical part by writing the CSS/HTML.
SLM: Do you have any favorite projects?
One of my favorite projects and most challenging ongoing project is, without a doubt, Fab.com. Another one is Sugar Dragon (logo and web site design) where I really got the chance to explore my creative boundaries. I just recently finished a design for a WordPress theme called “Collections” for The Theme Foundry. I wrote about my design process on my blog. As for personal creations, I had a lot fun creating these poster designs for the 100th edition of the “Tour de France.”
SLM: How did you feel about being one of NxE’s Fifty Most Influential Female Bloggers or being a part of CSS Beauty?
I was really surprised. I knew my blog grew tremendously over the years, and I had a lot of people following me and reading my blog, but I never thought I would end up in that list. Of course I’m very proud of it, but it’s certainly not something that is constantly in the back of my head.
Design needs to be more than just beautiful. It needs to be smart, it needs to be functional. Design that is just beautiful isn’t a good design. It’s also not design anymore, it’s something different, it’s decoration. Good design requires a balance between smart, functional, and beautiful.
SLM: What advice would you give to Sweet Lemon Readers interested in getting into web design?
The Internet is a constantly changing environment. That’s why you need to be really passionate, and never lose the drive to constantly learn new things. In this medium, the learning process never stops. There is always something new to discover, and you are never sure if what you learn today will still be around in a few months. Also, believe in yourself, stay true to yourself, and don’t be afraid to fail. Failing is part of this learning process, to get better. This might sound a bit cliché, but that is what makes us what we are.