An interview with Jason Reynolds

May 12, 2009Design

How was the move from Southampton to Bristol? What is the scene like there, and what are you up to nowadays?

It actually went quite smoothly considering it’s the first time I’ve moved cities in years. I’ve had a hell of a lot to do and it’s only really been the last couple of weeks where I’ve felt I can actually devote the entire week to my work but despite that everything has just fallen into place.

So far, I really love Bristol; there’s a real buzz here. It’s a very ‘creative’ city and the influence of art is everywhere. Having had a strong interest in graffiti in my late teens it’s been great to see some of the amazing pieces around the streets near the area where I live. There seem to be a lot of designers and developers around and next week I’m starting work with a local developer I met a few weeks back on a project.

Currently I’m working on a high-end jewellery store and a secret personal project. I’m also finally hoping to get a blog designed and built within the next month or two.

Where did you study, and how did you get into the web design industry?

I never actually studied in graphic/interactive design and was really quite late getting into the industry at twenty-five. Throughout my early twenties I did all manner of jobs, most of which I hated after a few months. I did however have a strong interest in graphic design and at twenty-three decided this was something I’d like to get into.

I started learning Photoshop in my spare time and reading articles on design as well as picking-up some of the basics of HTML. Over the next year-and-a-half my skills started to improve, my knowledge grew and I found myself being pulled in the direction of designing for the web. I think this was due to the immediacy of being able to see some kind of results (as opposed to print where you often have to wait a while.

In early 2005, after an argument with my boss, I walked out of my job and after 2-3 months of writing scores of letters, a development company took a gamble and gave me a job as a web graphics designer. Looking back my work was incredibly raw and naïve but being in an environment where I had to perform was good for me and within a year I was hugely improved.

In my opinion the key to getting into what is a fairly bloated industry is to have passion and perseverance… oh, and luck. Of course you need ability too but the young designers I see succeeding have nearly all spent hours reading up, learning new skills, improving old ones and putting themselves out there even though that usually means getting knocked back a number of times.

How did you feel about taking on the role of creative director at Buffalo? What responsibilities did you take on begrudgingly, and what did you enjoy about the role?

To begin with it was pretty daunting. I only had two years industry experience and wasn’t used to project managing and spending so much time dealing with clients but was probably eased into some of the areas that I wasn’t totally comfortable with, which made it all fairly painless. Dan (Managing Director @ Buffalo) is an encouraging and patient person to work with and I learnt a lot from him regarding the business side of the industry during my time there.

For me, the most difficult aspect of the job was dealing with clients who think they know better than you, despite having no experience in your field. I found this very frustrating at times but ultimately there’s only so much you can do and if people aren’t willing to listen you have to remember that they’re the ones paying the bills and bite your lip.

One part of my work that I really enjoyed was being involved in the information architecture side of things; getting to spend time thinking in detail about the structure of a website, how it will work and how users will interact with it and each other. In the company I had worked for previously it had sometimes felt like we were there to just make things look attractive and that’s only a part of design.

How would you describe your style, and how do you feel it evolves year on year?

Whilst the style I employ is very much dependent upon the client and brief I naturally tend to veer more towards fairly minimal design. Having said that there are many different styles of design that I draw inspiration from. The most important thing for me is the execution and the little details. One thing I’d like to think is apparent in most of my work is a high level of attention to detail, every pixel is important.

Over the last year I’ve been reading a lot about grids as well as experimenting. As a result I started to use stricter grid systems in my designs; sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t but it has certainly affected my style and given the websites I’ve worked on a higher degree of consistency.

Typography is something that I’ve been looking at in more detail recently and is hopefully something I’ll improve upon over the next year.

… so where do you see web design going in the next few years? Is it a fundamental aesthetic change, or is it going to be technology driven?

Web designers are a pretty fickle bunch and as a result I think it’s difficult to make predictions about where things are going in terms of design. I do think general usability is starting to influence web designers a lot more and hopefully this will continue.

One area that I think is going to grow massively over the next few years is web design for mobile devices. Some of the large agencies have already started to push this and I think we’re going to see the differences between websites on PC/Mac browsers and mobile devices become far fewer.

Which of your own websites are you most proud and why?

There aren’t many websites that I’ve designed that I really feel proud of. I’m still at a stage where I feel I’m developing a lot from month-to-month and so I often look back on my work and feel like I could have done things better.

I would say that the designs that I’m most happy with are The Buzz, even though I only designed a few pages for it, and Designate which was a side project we produced at Buffalo. The Buzz felt very easy-to-use, light and friendly. Designate is a very simple idea but I was happy with the way the site flows and the amount of positive feedback and regular users confirmed this for me.

Which websites do you wish you had developed yourself?

One website which has really stood out for me recently is Hello Monday. I love the use of colour and unique method of browsing the projects that they’ve employed.

I’m also a big fan of the new Typographica website. It feels very ‘now’, is easy to navigate and well constructed.

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