What is your typical process for working with a new customer?
I like to learn a little bit about the customer, what they do and how they work, which makes communication easier as if speaking with someone I know rather than a stranger. I try to learn as much as I can about their company (or employer depending on the case) and the project I'm being hired to work on, from it's past to it's present state. I find that getting to know as much as I can about what gets the customer going will usually help me to get them there.
What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?
In addition to college, I have more than 25 years of experience in my fields of design. I've been working in digital design since 1990 and have been using Photoshop and Illustrator since the first releases. While working as an Art Director in the mid 90's I began learning web development and design in my spare time. As the world of web sites evolved and transitioned into the mobile device, I evolved and transitioned right along with it. I started doing UI design in 2008 and have been doing it ever since.
In my free time I do industrial design and engineering, primarily focusing on motorcycles and motorcycle parts. I develop build my own bikes, design and develop my own parts, and love to invent new stuff. I have a U.S. patent on one of my inventions, an adjustable kickstand for street bikes. Although engineering parts for motorcycles seems a bit disconnected from designing marketing campaigns and UI's for mobile apps, the experience has given me a unique insight for designing products and packaging.
My wide range of interests and infinite curiosity has helped me stay in front of the curve for many years.
Do you have a standard pricing system for your service? If so, please share the details here.
The majority of my work lends itself to the hourly rate system. The best way I've found to track time (I use Harvest to track time and manage invoicing, billing and the like) is using a cross-platform service like Harvest, which also allows me to set up different hourly rates based on the service. Occasionally I do take on projects that are based on a flat fee and am always to open to working within the budget of the client.
If I provide an estimate up front, I have almost always able to complete projects within the estimated figure and have only worked beyond the estimate when there were unforeseen circumstances or changes outside of my control.
How did you get started doing this type of work?
I was working on my degree in Graphic Design back in 1990 and was required to take some computer/digital design courses as well as some CAD courses. Before that I was all analog: pencil, pen & ink, and marker rendering and airbrushing were in my future. After spending a lot of time learning CAD and digital rendering on an Amiga, I suddenly found myself on a new path. I found a job designing T-shirt art for a T-shirt company in College Station, Tx, I put down my markers and airbrushes, picked up the mouse and never looked back. I jumped from T-shirt art to comp illustration at Tracy-Locke/DDBNeedham in Dallas, then transitioned to Sr Art Director and finally web & app design. I haven't been on a long, linear path from where I started to where I ended up and wouldn't have it any other way.
What types of customers have you worked with?
Design, Art Direction and UI Design.
Most recent work has been primarily mobile app user interface design for iOS (iPhone/iPad) apps, Android apps and OSX apps, including web design and development.
Other work includes concept, design and digital imaging in marketing & promotions industry, as well as logos, branding and corporate identity.
Describe a recent project you are fond of. How long did it take?
mSecure Password Manager app for mobile and desktop devices. I started the project as a user with no connection to the developer, but I used and loved the app so much that I ended up making contact and offering my services in the UI design. I began working on the project as a freelancer and only updating some existing UI elements. Before too long I found myself involved in the design of the entire iOS UI overhaul, then the Mac OS X version, then the Windows, Android, and Windows Mobile versions. I also redesigned and developed the company's web site promoting mSecure and other apps. In the end I had gone from a freelancer on the project to being hired as a full-time employee over the course of 3 years or so.
It was the ideal project for me. I use mSecure every day so having some involvement in a product that I really like and believe in is an unusual situation for any designer.
What advice would you give a customer looking to hire a provider in your area of work?
Look at the portfolio online, request additional examples if necessary, and discuss projects to make sure project, media, and budgets are agreeable to all parties involved.
What questions should customers think through before talking to professionals about their project?
In my opinion, that's a loaded question. I could say that customers should venture into any professional arrangement totally prepared and with a cache of questions that any good designer would love to expound upon right up front, but that's not fair to either party.
I believe that an open conversation discussing the project, it's past and present state, and the needs and preferences of both parties will go a long way to a mutual understanding of the job ahead, and will likely reveal questions that would otherwise be buried in the details.
Communication is the key to any successful project, and you just can't ask enough questions. Few have failed for asking too many questions!