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Interview With Chris Spooner of Spoon Graphics

by Grant Friedman

on January 29, 2009

in Interviews

This week, I had the opportunity to interview another great design blogger.  Chris Spooner, who runs Spoon Graphics consistently churns out high quality tutorials, articles and freebies on his site.  I’ve always been impressed with the quality of his site’s content and it was a pleasure to interview him on my website.  I hope that you will enjoy this interview and when you’re done, please feel free to visit his websites and connect with him using the social networking site of your choice.

Chris, thanks so much for taking the time to participate in this interview.  I’ve been following your blog for quite some time and have been very impressed with the quality of your content; especially your tutorials and articles.  Can you begin by explaining a bit about your background?  Tell us where you’re from and how you got your start as a designer.

Thanks Grant, it’s a pleasure to be participating! I’m Chris Spooner, a freelance designer from Sheffield, UK. I started out as a designer just before leaving university working with a friend at his local studio. This helped tremendously in gaining experience with real world projects and work for some decently sized clients. After graduating I got my first fulltime position as a designer at another small design studio, working primarily in website design but also producing work for print, as well as large format print and signage.

Mid to late last year I then decided to head off into my freelance career, by then I’d developed a good base of income from my website, which was my little safety net just in case things didn’t go to plan. Fortunately I’ve developed a steady income of projects and am happily working away to this day.


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Most of my readers likely know about your website Blog.spoongraphics.co.uk tell us how your site got its start.  How did you initially envision your site?  Has its direction changed over time?

I remember back in early 2007 I started coming across more and more design related blogs, two of which I can particularly remember are Bittbox and Attitude Design.

I simply decided to give it a go, I installed WordPress on a sub domain of my personal website and published some tutorials and free vector giveaways. Soon a couple of posts gained good exposure from social media such as Stumble Upon. I read up of various articles about SEO, online marketing and making money online and implemented the tips I learned on Blog.SpoonGraphics.

I never expected it to grow like it has, or be any kind of income of earnings or design work, over time it seems to have grown in traffic, user community and subscribers, therefore I’ve tried to up my game in the quality of content, spending more time on tutorials and giveaways.


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As a blogger, I’ve made plenty of mistakes.  In fact, I make mistakes all the time.  If you had a chance to start over again, is there anything you would have done differently on your site?  If so, why?  Can you give any advice on how not to make mistakes in the world of blogging?

I’m not too sure what could be classed as a mistake, but I suppose there’s always something you could look to improve? I was always unsure whether building my blog as an attachment to my personal design portfolio was at a disadvantage to building a separate blog with unique branding. Now I can see the benefits in terms of increased exposure to my work, and myself as a designer, which has helped build my personal brand as well as that of the blog.

In terms of starting over, I’m actually kind of going back to square one with a second blog. Although I do have an advantage with this one as I have the larger audience already established that I can initially present it to!


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I’ve found that there are 2 types of designers; those that are traditionally trained and those who are self-taught.  How has your traditional training helped you to excel in the design field?  Now that you’re out of school, how do you stay on your toes and keep up with current design trends?

While education does give a good background, and the extra leverage when it comes to finding a job, I think most of my design skills are self-taught and from following advice and tutorials of others. My complete knowledge of anything new in the industry comes from following blogs and reading up on the articles of fellow designers.

Running your own website or blog also helps gives you the motivation to be involved with the design community and keep up to date with any trends.


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There are a lot of design blogs out there.  Why do you believe that your site has become so popular?  At what point did you realize that all your work was beginning to pay off?

I’ve always tried to post something a little different on my blog, or something that I would have found useful when learning the ropes. The big milestones when growing a blog are those RSS subscriber counts, from 1000, 5000, 10,000! There’s also the time you get your first advertiser, the first Google check and the addictive game of beating your sites own traffic record! Each one gives that warm feeling of the site developing to the next step.


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Has social networking played much of a role in your blog’s success?  How do you use it to drive traffic to your site?

Twitter has by far been the best social networking tool I’ve ever used. Aside from the wealth of knowledge available and the chance to get to know people on a personal level it’s a good tool to pimp out your latest posts! Even better is the opportunity to ask for a favour when it comes to bumping up votes on social bookmarking sites, although I do only expect people to vote if they find the article truly interesting. In return I try to post interesting and useful links to my Twitter stream and will always drop my votes on similar requests that appear from others.


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What would you consider to be your dream project?  Are there any new and exciting projects that you’re currently working on that you would like to share with my readers?

I enjoy working on most things creative; I like to work on a range of projects to add some variety to the day. My favorite work is when working with web developers or other designers; they often have the same ideas of the modern web which allows for a little more creativity to be used.

One personal project I’m working on is a secondary blog, named Line25. I’m looking to use a similar structure to Blog.SpoonGraphics but with the focus being more towards web design. I’m looking forward to setting aside some time to build up the concept I’ve produced and launching with some interesting posts.


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Aside from the Adobe Suite, are there any plug-ins, web tools or software that you could not live without?

The Firefox browser along with the Web Developer Toolbar and Firebug add-ons make designing for the web so much easier. The ‘Awesome Bar’ in Firefox 3 has also saved me plenty of time searching back for a site I’d found in the past and wanted to refer back to. Otherwise, the Freshbooks invoicing app has helped save some time since moving from my old manual process.


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What advice would you give to an aspiring designer or blogger looking to make it in the industry?

I would say keep experimenting and developing your skills in order to stay on top of the industry changes.


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Finally, do you have a mobile device?  If so, which one?  How do you use it to improve your productivity?

I have a Samsung F700, which is a fairly old model now, but it’s quite handy with a full keyboard and touch screen. I occasionally head online to check emails in an emergency or post a few updates to Twitter.

CHRIS’ WEBSITES

Blog.SpoonGraphics
Line25 – Coming Soon!
Chris’ Portfolio

CONNECT WITH CHRIS

Twitter
Flickr
Digg
Facebook

About Grant Friedman

Grant Friedman is a graphic design, blogger, and author. In addition to being the founder of this website, Grant is also the editor of Psdtuts, one of the world's most popular tutorial websites.