Tim Smile 1000

Interview: Tim Smith Designer, Broadcaster, and Coffee Addict

Hey Tim thanks for taking the time to be interviewed. Can you please give us a short description about yourself and what your day to day looks like?

No, thank you! It's an honor. Well, as you already know, my name is Tim Smith. I'm a designer and developer, among other things. I host The East Wing and I write on The Bold Report.

My day to day usually starts with waking up around 8, and I have the bad habit of checking twitter and email from bed. I get up, shower, make myself coffee, feed my cat, and then get to work. Depending on the day, I'm usually doing client work for part of the day and working on a side project for the other. I have dinner around 5, and then keep working on side projects for another hour or so.

You seem to have a lot of side projects. What are your main goals with these, flex your skills, learn, get new work, just because it is fun?

Yes I do. I've cut back on some to focus a bit more and have more of a plan with what I want to accomplish. I don't really have goals with side projects. I'm very much an emotional person, and I often trust my gut. Why do I want to do this? Will it be fun? Will I learn something new? If I have a good feeling about something, and I have the time to do it, I go ahead and do it. Some projects get traction, others don't, but in the end, I'm proud of each of them. They've made me into the designer and developer that I've become.

It looks like you started work as a designer and made your way into front-end development. How did you go about learning front-end code and any suggestions to others looking to make the same transition?

In a way, I feel it happened by accident. I remember being in college and thinking that I needed an online portfolio. A lot of my classmates were just uploading a PDF to their site. I wanted more, so I started looking into this “HTML” thing. I was hooked. I did a lot of reading, a lot of messing around, and a lot of screencast watching. Chris Coyier’s were always my favorite. Without him, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing.

Some projects get traction, others don't, but in the end, I'm proud of each of them.

If you'd like to make the transition into front-end development, the best suggestion I can give you is to dive in. I know it's a pretty generic response, but it's actually the truth. Read documentation, watch screencasts, sign up for something like Treehouse, and most importantly, practice! Dedicate a little time every day to practice what you're learning.

What does your design to development workflow look like these days?

It really depends on the project, but normally, I start with wireframes to address layout and IA, and then I jump into the browser. I try to get into the browser as soon as possible, and for the most part, I like making decisions in code.

To me, Photoshop just isn't a web design tool anymore. I can't have a fluid canvas, I can't use typefaces that I can on the web (although Typekit is starting to fix this for Adobe), and the type rendering continues to be horrible. I hope one day there's a tool that allows for a fluid canvas, and gives me the freedom to drag and drop elements around the page.

This industry is moving so fast, any suggestions on staying on top of it or knowing when to not go down another rabbit hole?

Oh man, that is a tough one. There is so much to learn nowadays, that I can't imagine what it must be like for folks barely entering our industry. I think the key is to follow smart people on Twitter. These people, often help me gauge how important it is to delve into something or not. If enough people are talking about it, it's probably time I look into it.

We can only become better creative professionals when we refine the other aspects of ourselves.

I also have this opinion that sometimes you have to drown out all the noise and just get to work. I think we often like to overcomplicate the work we do. Yes, there are tons of different variables and factors, but sometimes you've got to remember it's just a website, you know? It's extremely important to have great work ethic, but at the end of the day, is someone going to die because you used a div instead of a section element? No.

Any sites lately that really inspire you (design or dev wise)?

I'm in love with The Pastry Box Project. Each entry feels like an appeal to become a better human. When I see writers pour their heart out like that, and ask questions that sometimes we don't have the guts to ask our inner self, it's truly inspiring and motivating to improve. We can only become better creative professionals when we refine the other aspects of ourselves.

Whats one of your big goals for 2014?

I actually wrote about some of goals. The one I'm really looking forward to is collaborating with friends. There is nothing better than coming together with people you really like, and creating something awesome.