Just before the Christmas holiday I had the opportunity to interview Australian designer and blogger Jacob Cass from Just Creative Design. At the time, Jacob was just about to take his holiday from school and work to celebrate his birthday and the holidays with his family so I really appreciated Jacob setting some time aside for this interview. I think you guys will find Jacob’s insights into the world of designing blogging very helpful. I was especially interested in learning how Jacob balances his time between school, freelance projects and blogging. So take a look at this interview and when you’re done, visit his websites and connect with him using the social network of your choosing.
Jacob, thank you so much for participating in this interview! Let me first start off by wishing you a happy birthday! How old are you now? Did you do anything exciting?
Thank you Grant and thank you for compiling this interview too. My 21st birthday is actually next week (27th December) and yeah I am doing something quite special – a 21st is a big event here in Australia.
I am hiring a massive boat for a 4 hour cruise with my friends & family on Sydney Harbour with a buffet dinner ‘n’ drinks. My father will also be performing some magic (he is a comedy magician). I am then heading out to the clubs to party on. I am extremely excited!
Can you begin by explaining a little about your background? Where are you from? Where did you get your start as a designer?
Well from what I’ve written above you may have picked up that I am from Australia, well my background stems from there too. However, my background as a designer probably started in high school when I took my first design course. This would have been when I was 15. I then got my first client at the age of 16 and for my major work (for high school) I had to redesign my schools web site… of which they are still using today. Then basically it all stemmed from there.
Tell us a little about Just Creative Design. How did it come about? Has its direction changed since you first conceived it?
Just Creative Design (my blog) was started back in November 2007. I use it to share my knowledge in design (and other areas) and I also use it as a leverage to pay the bills… clients find my site and then they hire me for design related services.
JCD actually came about when I came across David Airey’s blog… it really got my inspired. I knew that I could do something similar and make money from it but back then I actually had never even heard about blogging (or social media) for means other than personal use so it was a huge learning curve. It probably took me about 4 months to learn all the ropes.
The direction has not changed since starting the blog… it is still there for sharing knowledge and making money. The only thing that has really changed is the readership.
There are a lot of design blogs out there. Why do you believe your blog has become so popular? At what point did you realize that blogging had really started to pay off for you and your business?
Like I said above, it probably took about 4 months to learn all the ropes and basics behind blogging and it was about this time that I saw the blog start to pay off. But to be honest I probably should have done a bit more research into it before starting as it would have saved a lot of wasted time & effort.
I am not entirely sure why my blog prevailed but my best guess would be the content and my writing style. I also give a lot back to my readers.
What role has social media played in your blog’s success? How do you use social media to promote you and your website?
Like I said in the question previously, when I first started blogging I had NO idea about social media so I was opened up to a whole new world when I came across sites such as Digg, Delicious & StumbleUpon as you can imagine. But I would have to say that social media has played a huge role in the success of the blog, in particular DesignFloat & StumbleUpon.
At present I hardly do any promotion for my blog as I have the community to do that for me now however at the start I really pushed it. I do however have auto tweets & auto note importing on Facebook to promote any of my new articles. I sometimes submit my articles to DesignFloat and other community news sites, in particular CSS Globe.
Tell us a little about your work flow. A lot of my readers are also students in addition to designers and bloggers. I’m interested to know how make the time to do all three. Do you get much time to work on personal projects as well?
Well they are all the same thing really… I am a design student, a design blogger and a designer, so really it is just one focus area but I do get asked that a lot of the time… “where do you get so much time?”
You may be interested to know I am a very basic person in terms of organisation. I use no calendars, programs nor do I even have a to do list. The only system I use is the star & label system in Gmail which I have tweaked out to be pretty time saving. On a similar note this was actually a pretty popular post of mine: 12 Reasons To Switch To Gmail (3400+ diggs).
I also have a fast computer, fast internet connection and a dual monitor setup to help speed things along. I am also an extremely fast touch typist and multi tasker – my browser usually has about 15 tabs open at once so all of these things help with time management.
In regards to personal projects, I don’t work on them as I would like but you could count my blog JCD and Logo Of The Day (my other web site) as personal projects… My next big personal project is most probably going to be a book but that’s under wraps for now ;)
Are you working on any exciting new projects that you would like to share with my readers?
Funny you ask that because of what I just answered in the last question but yes I do have a few exciting jobs coming up (& in progress) that are going to keep me busy… I am designing a luxury refillable water bottle for a client in the US, a logo for a supermarket in Curacao, a logo for a barn maker in the US and I also have got two separate leads for a vodka bottle design and also a rum based liquor bottle.
On the lighter side of life I have a week long holiday up at our holiday unit which is on the beach which I leave for tomorrow and in January I am going for a week long road trip up to the Gold Coast for a festival and I also have a 2 week holiday to Thailand at the end of January. University then starts back in March.
In short, I will be a busy boy. Oh and I also have booked a ski trip over in New Zealand in August so looking forward to that also.
What would you consider to be your dream project?
Good question and one with no real answer… I enjoy all of my projects as they are all new challenges and this is ensured because I only take on work that I want to do but I wouldn’t mind taking on a massive logo design project with a huge budget… maybe I could improve the London 2012 logo? Mind you, it wouldn’t be that hard.
Tell us a little about your workspace. Do you prefer a Mac or a PC? Why do you prefer one over the other? Do you work with a tablet? How many monitors do you use?
I work from a variety of computers because I travel so often but my home office in Newcastle is my home base. I use a PC with a 24″ dual monitor set up and I prefer PC’s purely for their value for money and because that is what I have always used so I am more comfortable with them.
But I also use Mac when at University, but that is purely because there are no PCs. I have a tablet too but I don’t use it very often.
Aside from the Adobe Suite, what are some of your favorite design tools? Are there any plugins or web tools that you couldn’t live without?
I am a pretty basic type of guy… my black felt tip pen and A4 sized paper are my tools. No fancy moleskines or designer pens for me.
But in saying that I also have the whole design arsenal which fills a massive cupboard in my room for when I need it but these days I am finding it less often that I need it.
I also love the 960 grid system for web design but other than that I don’t use any plugins or web tools except PayPal if that counts. Again, I just use the bare bone tools.
Which designers have influenced you the most? Are there any areas of design that you would like to experiment with?
I take influence from all design, nature and the life around me not just any one particular designer(s)… I just do what I do.
I am sure there are many areas of design that I would delve into but the problem is where to start and why?
What advice would you give to any aspiring designer or blogger looking to make it in the industry?
The biggest piece of advice that I would give comes in a ‘package’ based from the little things that I have learned over my short career as a designer. These would be perfect for someone just starting out… Don’t undervalue yourself or your work. Seek criticism, not praise. Always keep learning & don’t be a static learner… do this by reading books, magazines, blogs and by practicing. Collect & share things. Teach others. Never give up. Keep practicing. Again, keep practicing.
Finally, which do you prefer? iPhone or Blackberry? Why?
Neither. I can’t seem to keep a phone for more than 6 months – something always happens to them. So far I’ve had two phones stolen, one fall through a hole in my pocket (cut by the keys that were also in my pocket), two drownings (one drowned when the dingy I was sitting in, sunk and the other time I jumped into a pool with it in my pocket) and this is why I keep to cheap alternatives…. my phone at the moment is the Samsung e250 slide phone.
Thank you again Grant for this interview!
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